22 July 2017 (Las Vegas) – The poker world has crowned a new champion! Saturday was the biggest night of the year for poker players and fans – the conclusion of the World Series of Poker Main Event. When the last river cards was dealt, Scott Blumstein of Brigantine, New Jersey held all the chips. Blumstein earned $8,150,000 for first place and now holds the most coveted prize in poker, the WSOP Main Event bracelet. The victory puts Blumstein in select company in poker history, placing him alongside legends of game like Johnny Moss, Stu Ungar, Johnny Chan, Carlos Mortensen, and Martin Jacobson.
After the event, Blumstein was the picture of humility. One of his first remarks in the post-tournament press conference was to thank his parents for their support, as well as friends who helped him improve his skill set and prepare for the final table. And when asked if he'd now start playing high roller events, he shrugged and said most likely not. "I don’t have an ego in this game," he added "I know where I stand. I know two weeks ago I was just a New Jersey online grinder and nothing’s really changed [...] This is just one poker tournament. It takes variance and luck and playing your best. And all those things came together."
This was Blumstein's first time ever playing the Main Event, and it was a memorable performance. He jumped into the chip lead on Day 7, and led the final table almost wire to wire. "I feel pretty fortunate throughout the whole tournament to have a big stack. That’s what the Main Event allows you to do […] I definitely think having a big stack allows you put pressure on and increases your chances of winning."
Daniel Ott, also playing in his first Main Event, finished runner up for $4,700,000. Ott, a 25-year old from Altoona, Pennsylvania, followed a much different path at the final table than Blumstein. Ott was in the middle of the pack when the final table started Thursday night, and he was much closer to the bottom than the top of the leaderboard. But he made a strong push during Friday's session, entered the last night second in chips, and made a valiant effort to catch Blumstein. But once they were heads up, Blumstein pulled away, and secured his victory at 12:10 a.m.
Daniel Ott (r) faces off against Scott Blumstein (l).
The final session of the final table – Day 10 of the Main Event – began Saturday evening at 5:30 PDT. Blumstein entered the day with a substantial lead, holding 226 million in chips. Ott had 88 million, and Benjamin Pollak had about 46 million.
Play got off to a slow start for the night, with only gradual chip movement. The first time a player was at risk of elimination was about two hours after play started. During those two hours, Blumstein extended his lead, moving from 226 million up to 269 million in chips. Then Ott and Pollak got all their chips in the middle. Ott held Ace-Queen against Pollak’s pocket eights. A queen fell on the flop, and Ott doubled up to about 68 million. Pollak fell to under 24 million.
That seemed seemed to burst the dam, and a flood of action followed. Pollak regained some chips, and about 20 minutes after his confrontation with Ott, he doubled through Blumstein to get back up to 63 million. About half an hour later, Ott and Pollak went at it again with another all-in battle preflop. Ott came out on top again, doubling up to 67 million, while Pollak dropped to 18.3 million. But on the very next hand, Pollak tripled up.
The action didn't stop there. Just six hands later, there was a three-way all-in confrontation. Pollak moved all in with Q-10, Ott moved all in over the top with K-9, and Blumstein called with A-Q. He had a chance to bust both opponents and win it all. But a king fell on the flop to give the pot to Ott. He tripled up to 128 million, Blumstein was left with 232 million, and Pollak was the first elimination of day. He finished in third place, earning $3,500,000.
Benjamin Pollak - 3rd Place
Heads-up play started as a real back-and-forth battle, but Scott Blumstein soon starting pulling away. After a while, Ott seemed stuck with a stack of about 10 to 15 big blinds, unable to make any progress. Then Ott called an all-in bet preflop. He held K-9 against Blumstein's pocket sixes. A nine fell on the flop, and Ott doubled. After the hand, he had 64 million in chips (with the big blind at 3,000,000).
The comeback was short-lived, however. Just a few hands later they were all-in preflop again. This time Blumstein was behind with A-2 against Ott's A-8. For a few moments it looked like Ott might double up again, but a deuce on the river gave Blumstein the pot and the last of Ott's chips."It’s a dream come true," Blumstein said afterwards. "That river was the best card you could have asked for [...] A normally inconsequential deuce just changed my life."
Ott finished in second place, earning the biggest payout of his live tournament career in his first ever WSOP Main Event.
When the 2017 Main Event began, there were 7,221 entries, making this the third-largest Main Event in the history of the World Series of Poker and the biggest field since 2010. The tournament got underway on July 8. After seven days of poker over ten calendar days, only nine players remained, the official final table. Blumstein was already ahead of the field. Here’s how the players stacked up as the final table began:
1 - Scott Blumstein – 97,250,000
2 - John Hesp – 85,700,000
3 - Benjamin Pollak – 35,175,000
4 - Bryan Piccioli – 33,800,000
5 - Daniel Ott – 26,475,000
6 - Damian Salas – 22,175,000
7 - Antoine Saout – 21,750,000
8 - Jack Sinclair – 20,200,000
9 - Ben Lamb – 18,050,000
When the final table began on Thursday, only one other player was even close to Blumstein, John Hesp of Bridlington, UK. Over the course of the Main Event, Hesp became a crowd favorite, and seemingly a favorite of poker fans everywhere. He was already a conspicuous presence in the tournament room thanks to his fashion sense. He was always decked out in a flashy, colorful blazer and a panama hat, and he garnered even more attention with his genial, welcoming personality. He seemed to become instant friends with every other player at his table. A true amateur player (this is his first WSOP cash and his first recorded tournament cash for more than $1,000), Hesp’s main goal in the tournament was to have fun, and everyone he played with had fun, too.
John Hesp finished in 4th place last night, but returned
to deliver today's ceremonial "Shuffle Up and Deal"
His attitude was infectious, and it resonated with spectators and with viewers watching the tournament on ESPN or PokerGo. No one, except his opponents who were playing for millions of dollars, wanted to see Hesp eliminated. But eventually, he was. Hesp lost the last of his chips on the last hand Friday night, finishing in fourth place and earning $2,600,000. Yet his presence remained. He graciously returned on Saturday to perform the traditional “Shuffle Up and Deal” before play began for last session of the final table. As he awaited the ceremonial announcement, fans in the crowd – strangers who’d never before met him – frequently called out to him. “We love you, John!” “Please move to America!” He responded to each fan with a wave or a blown kiss. He stayed to watch the three-handed table and the heads-up battle, posing for selfies with any fan who asked.
Soon after play began on Thursday, Ben Lamb became the final table’s first casualty. He finished in ninth place, earning $1,000,000. This is Lamb’s second career Main Event final table (his first was in 2011), an accomplishment that’s only been matched by two other players in poker’s modern era. One of the others joined him at the final table this year. Antoine Saout made the final table in 2009, and finished in fifth place this year.
Not too long after Lamb’s elimination, there was a crucial hand that altered the course of the tournament. By this time Hesp had taken over the chip lead, and Blumstein had lost quite a few chips. The two of them butted heads, getting involved in an all-in confrontation. Hesp had top two pair, and Blumstein had top set to win the hand and double up. He surged back into the lead, and Hesp was left among the short stacks. Hesp hung on valiantly, but never truly recovered. Blumstein, meanwhile, now had a huge lead on the field
Only one other player busted on Thursday night – Jack Sinclair finished in eighth place for $1,200,000 – and the seven remaining players returned for the second session of the final table Friday night. Blumstein had almost half the chips in play, about 178 million. Benjamin Pollak was second with 77 million, and no other player had more than 36 million.
Four of the seven players were short-stacked when play resumed on Friday, but none of them busted out quickly. It was almost two hours into the session before the night’s first elimination. Damian Salas of Buenos Aires is the first Argentinian ever to make the Main Event final table. He’d been at the bottom of the leaderboard almost the entire session. He finally got his chips all-in with a good chance to double up against Daniel Ott, but the river card gave Ott a winning hand, and Salas became the first casualty of the night. He finished in seventh place, earning $1,425,000.
About an hour later, Ott also eliminated Bryan Piccioli (sixth place, $1,600,000). Then toward the end of the night, Saout (fifth place, $2,000,000) and Hesp (fourth place, $2,600,000) were eliminated within a span of 10 hands. Ott was Friday night’s biggest winner. He started the day with only 16 million in chips, but when play concluded for the night, he was up to 88 million. Blumstein still held a solid lead with 226 million, and Pollak rounded out the top three with 46 million. They returned Saturday evening for the final day, and Blumstein secured his spot in poker history.
Where Blumstein goes from here is anyone's guess, but it's a sure bet his newfound wealth won't change his outlook on life. "Money doesn’t motivate me, it doesn’t drive me," he said. "I didn’t want to win this thing for the eight million dollars. But it’s nice to have some freedom now. That was the goal, to get to the point where I can do what I want. And I think I’m going to have that opportunity now, whether it’s poker, whether it’s business, whether it’s going back to school, whatever it is, I have the freedom to do that now."