Player from Germany Wins Poker World Championship for the First Time in History

Pius Heinz
is the 2011 World Series of Poker Main Event Champion.

The 22-year-old professional poker player from Cologne stunned the poker world by becoming the first player in history from Germany to win poker’s most prestigious title.  Heinz pulled off a masterful performance during the two-day final table session, which began on Sunday afternoon inside the Penn and Teller Theatre at the Rio in Las Vegas and ended late Tuesday night on a confetti-splattered stage accustomed to acts of magic.

With his stunning comeback victory, Heinz collected a whopping $8,715,638 in prize money – the third-highest payout for any poker champion in history.  He was also presented with the game’s most coveted prize, the WSOP gold and diamond bracelet -- which symbolizes poker’s supreme achievement.

The odds were stacked against Heinz from the start.  First, he had to overcome the third-largest live tournament field in history, battling 6,865 players from 85 different nations who flooded into the Rio last summer in what was the first hurdle for all aspiring champions.  Then, Heinz had to outlast an increasingly tougher field over the initial eight days of play, en route to inclusion in poker’s famed “November Nine” – which refers to the final nine players who ultimately make it to poker’s biggest game.  Next came a nearly four-month wait during the interim between July and November, after which Heinz returned to Las Vegas hoping to write the latest chapter of poker history.

But Heinz’s biggest test was still to come.  He arrived at the finale against eight formidable opponents with one of the lowest chip stacks -- ranking seventh in chips out of nine players.

But if ever there was a fairy-tale ending to what was one of the biggest and richest poker tournaments of all time, Heinz was perfectly cast in the unlikely role of this year’s poker Cinderella. 

During Sunday's exciting final table session -- which included nearly eight hours of thrilling poker action and the elimination of six players -- Heinz enjoyed the poker rush of a lifetime.  He began play ranked seventh in chips.  By the time it was over, the German poker pro ended the night as chip leader.

That left just three players still alive in the quest for the world championship – Heinz, along with Ben Lamb and Martin Staszko

Play resumed on Tuesday night and from the very first hand dealt, the results were stunning.  During the opening moments of the final table’s last stages, Ben Lamb, widely-regarded as the world’s top tournament poker player at the moment, and winner of the 2011 WSOP “Player of the Year” title, busted out in shocking fashion.

His elimination was not as stunning as the manner in which it occurred, which many observers would have thought unthinkable.

On the first hand dealt during the three-handed session, Lamb made a baffling move, trying to steal from opponent Martin Staszko in what can best be described as a highly-risky decision.  Facing a strong pre-flop raise from his Czech opponent, Lamb re-raised again holding king-jack – quite a marginal hand.  Staszko, holding pocket sevens, shoved all-in which left Lamb shaking his head pondering a bad situation.  Pot-committed to the hand, Lamb reluctantly called.  Staszko was all-in for his tournament life.

Lamb found himself only a slight dog to the underpair.  But he knew he’d played the hand way too strongly.  When five blanks hit the board, Lamb was left with a severely short stack.  He was eliminated just ten minutes later.

Accordingly, Lamb joined the ranks of all those before who were eliminated and are now forced to look forward to next year, and beyond.

Nonetheless, Lamb could certainly take great pride in what was a remarkable accomplishment.  He collected his biggest poker payout ever, $4,021,138 for third place.  He also became this year’s undisputed “Player of the Year.”  The former gold bracelet winner’s summer accomplishments were so strong that he had the title locked up no matter where he finished at the Main Event final table.  As it stands now, Lamb ended up with a gold bracelet, a third-place finish in the Main Event, a runner-up finish in another event, and five top-12 finishes.  Even more remarkably, Lamb only entered a dozen or so events this year.

With Lamb’s stunning departure, two Europeans were left to battle for the world championship.  Staszko (Czech Republic) began heads-up play holding a slight chip lead over Heinz (Germany).

Heads-up play lasted for more than six hours, falling somewhat short of the longest duel in history set 28 years ago by Tom McEvoy and Rod Peate in the 1983 finale.  During this final duel, the two Europeans battled back and forth, exchanging the chip lead several times.  With an ongoing chorus of chants and songs in the packed gallery normally heard in a World Cup soccer match, the two finalists in poker's world championship were serenaded to play the best poker of their lives.  And that's exactly what happened.  Both players burrowed in, neither giving the other an inch.
The final hand was dealt when Heinz bested Staszko with ace-king.  Neither player made a pair, which meant Heinz's ace-high played as the winning hand.

As runner up, Martin Staszko became the richest Czech poker player in history.  He earned a marvelously satisfying consolation prize amounting to $5,433,086.  Incredibly, Staszko came into the finale as the player with the least live poker experience.  A FIDE chess expert, Staszko used his expert gamesmanship to learn a new trade and will be a player to watch for many years ahead. 

Heinz’s championship victory was memorable for other reasons.  The final table was watched in more countries and in a live format than ever before.  For the first time in history, poker players and fans everywhere could tune in and watch all the action.  Comprehensive coverage included expert analysis and player hole cards being shown to viewers – a WSOP first.

to see the live log of every final table hand.

To see the final results of all those who cashed in this year’s WSOP Main Event Championship, CLICK HERE.