Now down to the final three players in the 2014 World Series of Poker Main Event Championship, Jorryt Van Hoof remains in command and continues to be the master of his own destiny.
The poker pro, online instructor, and businessman from Eindhoven (The Netherlands) has high hopes of becoming the first Dutch world poker champion in history. He arrived at this year's November Nine finale with a significant advantage over his opponents, enjoying the chip lead when play began on Monday afternoon. That good fortune continued for most of the 11.5 hour duration of play during Day One of the finale, which is the first of two playing sessions which will determine this year's world champion. Van Hoof widened his lead and currently stands within just two players of achieving poker immortality to go along with a $10 million (USD) top prize.
His remaining rivals, Martin Jacobson (with 64,750,000 in chips) and Felix Stephenson (with 46,100,000 in chips) have no intention of letting Van Hoof walk away without a fight. In fact, both have played spectacularly, battling back at times from points where elimination might have seemed to be a possibility. Both players were low in chips at various points, but managed to not just stay alive but now enter the final session very much as threats and in contention to steal the title.
The trio of Van Hoof, Jacobson (Sweden), and Stephensen (Norway) guarantees a European world champion for 2014. This is the first time a European player will win the title since Pius Heinz, from Germany, accomplished the feat in 2011 on this same stage.
Day One of the November Nine was full of surprises, and even a few shocking developments.
Just as many predicted, play was cautious during the initial three hours of play. It took even longer for the first bust out to take place. That happened when Mark Newhouse was eliminated in 9th place, earning $730,725. Newhouse's early exit was stunning for a number of reasons. Incredibly, he also made the championship final table last year, finishing in 9th place. Although Newhouse remains the only player ever to make the November Nine in back-to-back years since the concept was first adopted in 2008, he took no satisfaction in the feat, overcome with obvious disappointment and dejection afterward. When asked what the legacy the back-to-back finishes will leave upon poker history, he said curtly, "nothing." Poker historians and fans are very likely to disagree. Newhouse certainly remains on of this year's most amazing stories and will be a player to watch again, when 2015 comes around.
About 45 minutes later, Bruno Politano finished in eighth place. The first Brazilian player ever to make the final table of the Main Event, Politano had the strength of an entire nation behind him. He brought along a large and vocal cheering section numbering about 150 South Americans who assembled inside the Penn and Teller Theater. Unfortunately, the crowd favorite was never able to move up much from lingering among the lowest stacks. He ended up collecting $947,172, the most amount of money ever won at the WSOP by a player from Brazil.
Next, Dan Sindelar finished in 7th place. The Las Vegas poker pro was the only local to make this year's November Nine. He entered the final table ranked 5th in chips and then climbed the leaderboard early, but stalled out around the 30-million mark. After slowly losing his chips for a couple hours, he three-bet previous a raise from Jorryt van Hoof with . Van Hoof called with , and Sindelar was in good shape. The flop changed things sigificantly however, as the dealer spread , giving Van Hoof top pair and a flush draw. Sindelar was drawing to a single out (the ), and it didn't come. Seventh place paid $1,236,084, the biggest cash prize of Sindelar's poker career.
Then Andoni Larrabe from Spain went out in sixth place. He was the first Spanish player to make the Main Event finale since fellow countryman Carlos Mortensen won the Main Event championship back in 2001. Larrabe, the youngest player at the final table at age 22, was unable to build on his stack to any sizable threat. The trouble started about five hours into play when Larrabe lost a big hand against Billy Pappas, who doubled up on what turned out to be a decisive hand. Pappas raised, and Larrabe, who had about twice as many chips as Pappas, three-bet all in with . Unfortunately for Larrabe, Pappas held and called instantly. The pocket kings held up, and Larrabe lost about half his stack. The final nail came in the proverbial coffin about an hour later. Jorryt van Hoof raised from the button, and Larrabe three-bet all in. Van Hoof called with . Larrabe held . Van Hoof paired his king on the flop, and the board missed Larrabe completely, ending his Main Event run.
After another hour of play, William Pappaconstantinou, better known as Billy Pappas, finished in 5th place. The professional foosball player and winner of 14 different world championship titles and countless other titles was aided no doubt boosted by his vast experiences competing under pressure in another game arena. Jovial yet focused during his entire ten-hour stay at his first WSOP final table, Pappas fit right in among players with far more substantial resumes and bigger chip stacks. He doubled up twice and reached a high point of about 26 million in chips at one point. However, with five players left, he got into an all-in coin flip against Martin Jacobson, and lost. He was eliminated on the next hand. "This was a real rush for me just to be here," Pappas said. "I wouldn't change anything. Sure, I would loved to have won. But this whole year for me has been amazing. I can't wait to come back again."
Down to four players, William Tonking was the next player to go out. The professional poker player from Flemington, New Jersey entered the final table ranked seventh in chips. At one point, he gained the chip lead and was the first player across the 50 million chip mark. Tonking and Dutch player Jorryt van Hoof battled back and forth for the chip lead for quite a while, but then the players moved in completely opposite directions. Van Hoof continued to climb, taking a clear lead for much of the night, while Tonking's stack slowly but surely got smaller over the second half of the finale's opening session. The death knell came in a hand against Martin Jacobson at about 3:30 am in front of a weary but loyal audience still watching the action at the Rio. Tonking moved all in with , and Jacobson called with . The board gave Tonking hope. The flop was , giving him a flush draw, holding a club. Then, the turn was the , giving him an inside-straight draw. The river was a complete brick, though, and Tonking was eliminated.
With just three players remaining, play continued for another half hour before officials called the action on an early morning, which ended at about 4:30 a.m. A weary crowd filed out of the arena, buzzing over what to expect when play resumes later today.
That leaves the trio of Van Hoof, Jacobson, and Stephensen to play for the famed WSOP gold and platinum bracelet, valued at nearly $500,000 to go along with the eight-figure payday.
Play continues at 5:30 pm PST at the Rio Las Vegas, inside the Penn and Teller Theatre. Seating is free and open to the public. Doors open at 4 pm. The heads-up finale will also be televised nearly-live by ESPN. The broadcast (on a 30-minute delay) begins at 6 p.m. locally in Las Vegas.
Here are the final table results so far:
1st - - $10,000,000
2nd - - $5,147,911
3rd - - $3,807,753
4th - William Tonking - $2,849,763
5th - Billy Pappaconstantinou - $2,143,794
6th - Andoni Larrabe - $1,622,471
7th - Dan Sindelar - $1,236,084
8th - Bruno Politano - $947,172
9th - Mark Newhouse - $730,725