Fri, Jul 21, 9:30am by Staff Writer
After seven gruelling days on the felt, the 7,221-player field which began the World Series of Poker (WSOP) $10,000 Main Event has been whittled down to the final table.
That leaves nine players on the precipice of poker immortality, with a World Championship – not to mention the USD$8.25 million top prize payout – tantalisingly close at hand.
As is usually the case at the WSOP, the Main Event final table forms a cross-section of the eclectic poker community, including grizzled veterans, pure recreational players, first-timers to Las Vegas, and a wide range of nationalities included in the mix.
The final table resumes on July 20 at 6 p.m. Las Vegas local time 11am Friday AEST) , with continuous coverage provided by ESPN, before shifting to ESPN-2 over the next two days.
And ESPN-2 will also air a one-hour Final Table Preview Show giving the audience a chance to meet the players and learn about their personal path to poker’s most prestigious final table.
Below you’ll find bio capsules for the top-four players on the chip leaderboard, along with a short introduction to their Main Event story, while Part II will cover the remaining five players.
Chips (Big Blinds): 97,250,000 (122)
As a longtime tournament player, Blumstein is well-known on America’s East Coast circuit, having accumulated $312,142 in career cashes (not including his winnings from the Main Event).
He enjoyed a career-high score last July, and with his bankroll sufficiently boosted, he let a few friends in on a little secret: he’d be playing the WSOP for the first time in 2017.
And before making his way to Sin City for his first WSOP Main Event, Blumstein even offered a bold prediction, telling his pals in the poker world that he’d return home as World Champion.
In poker, as in life, the best laid plans seldom come to fruition, but after building the biggest stack in play entering the final table – Blumstein’s grand ambitions may just be attainable after all. As one of only two players with more than 100 big blinds – while the other seven players are all under 45 – Blumstein is poised to play the bully role.
Chips (Big Blinds): 85,700,000 (107)
As an older gentleman who readily admits he plays poker solely for fun, the jovial John Hesp looks to be what the poker world once termed “dead money.”
After all, his best career cash playing tournaments is just USD$1,000 – just one-tenth of the total buy-in for the Main Event. In fact, Hesp has just seven cashes to his credit, all coming in £10 rebuy events at his local casino.
But poker truly is an egalitarian affair, and the old saw that says “anybody can win” still holds up – as evidenced by Hesp’s miraculous run. Even as he shows opponents his cards, talks his way through hands, and generally has the best time at the table, Hesp has also displayed a surprising level of poker acumen.
His stack shows as much, with Hesp holding the only stack in play at the moment which poses a challenge to Blumstein’s supremacy.
Chips (Big Blinds): 35,175,000 (44)
One of the quieter players at the table, Benjamin Pollak has flown under the proverbial radar en route to poker’s most coveted final table.
The Frenchman is veteran tournament player, piling up 85 cashes over the last decade for USD$2,967,782 – and he’s guaranteed to add at least USD$1 million more. And while his bigger-stacked opponents are experiencing the Main Event grind for the first time, Pollak has been here before.
Back in 2013, he went deep with a 27th place finish in the Main Event, good for his second-largest career score of $285,408.
Chips (Big Blinds): 33,800,000 (42)
Anybody who tuned into the PokerGo / ESPN coverage of Day 7 knows Bryan Piccioli by now, thanks to one of the tournament’s most dramatic moments.
Nursing a short-stack with just 11 players left, and the final table bubble perilously close, Piccioli woke up with pocket eights after action folded to him in the small blind. Shoving all in was the natural play, and Piccioli had to be pleased when Antoine Saout called him down with ace-four offsuit from the big blind.
He was a big favorite to double up, but five board cards stood in his way, and after the A-A-9 flop he appeared to be doomed. The turn card brought a blank, and Piccioli was left hoping for an unlikely two-out hit to survive. When an eight fell from heaven on the river, the audience went absolutely bonkers, as did Piccioli – whose heartfelt cheers of “Let’s go!” could be heard echoing throughout the Rio.
After his brush with elimination, Piccioli built up to the fourth-largest stack entering the final table – but he’s been on a freeroll ever since making that momentous set on the river.
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