18 June 2017 (Las Vegas) –  After 10 days, the 2017 World Series of Poker Main Event final table is finally set, and it's one for the history books. For the first time poker's modern era, two players are making a repeat appearance at the final table. Antoine Saout's first appearance was in 2009, the first time a French player made the November Nine. And Ben Lamb was a November Niner in 2011. They both ended up finishing third in their respective years.

The 2017 Main Event started with 7,221 players on July 8th. Now only nine remain, Saout and Lamb among them. Saout is currently seventh in chips, and Lamb is at the bottom of the leaderboard in ninth. They were nearly joined by another November Niner, Michael Ruane. Ruane was at the final table just a year ago, and after another impressive performance this year, he eventually bowed out in 10th place. Had he survived past one more player, he would have become the first player to make back-to-back Main Event final tables since Mark Newhouse achieved the rare feat in 2013 and 2014.

This year, there is no November Nine. The three month hiatus has been removed from the schedule, and the final table players will return to the felt after a break of just two days. From July 20th through 22nd, the nine remaining players will play the rest of the tournament under the bright lights of ESPN's cameras until a new champion is crowned.


Antoine Saout made the Main Event final table for the second time


Ruane's close call emphasizes how difficult it is to make the final table twice in an event with such a big field, and the pressure of poker's most prestigious prize on the line. But Saout, for his part, took the achievement in stride. When asked what it takes to make it so far for a second time, he just shrugged, chuckled a bit, and said, "Seven days of poker." He quickly added, "I played great, I had some luck. It's amazing. I also did great last year" (he finished in 25th place in 2016). Lamb, also had another deep run, in addition to his November Nine performance. In 2009 - the same year Saout finished third - Lamb was eliminated in 14th place.

Ben Lamb really put the achievement in perspective: "

“You play a 7,000-player field; to make the final table, obviously, the odds are staggering. I don't care if you're ten times better than the second best player in the world, the odds are staggering to make the final table once, let alone twice, with six years in between."

Both Saout and Lamb will face an uphill battle once the final table begins. The chip leader after Monday night is Scott Blumstein, who finished the day with 97,250,000 in chips. He's followed by John Hesp with 85,700,000. They have a big lead over Benjamin Pollak, who sits in third with 35,175,000. Saout and Lamb are both close to 20,000,000. After play concluded for the night, Blumstein said it hasn't really sunk in yet that he's the chip leader. "It’s amazing. Surreal. I don’t even know how it happened. It’s been a crazy ride. Seven days, I somehow bagged more chips than I started with every day by a significant amount and I just keep going up in chips. Today, I started with 18 million and now I got 97. I don’t even know how it really happened, but here we are."



Chipleader Scott Blumstein (r) with Kara Scott


Pollak, like Saout, hails from France, making 2017 the first time ever two French players have made the final table. "It's very big," Saout said, expecting a large show of support from the French poker community.

Also at the final table is Bryan Piccioli, Daniel Ott, Damian Salas, and Jack Sinclair. Piccioli already has a WSOP bracelet on his resume. He earned it at the first ever WSOP Asia-Pacific tournament, in 2013. And Salas represents the first player ever from Argentina to make the Main Event final table.


The entire final table will be broadcast virtually live (on a 30-minute delay due to gaming regulations) on ESPN or ESPN2. Here’s the schedule. (All times EDT):

  • Wednesday, July 19: 10:00 p.m. Final Table Preview show
  • Thursday, July 20: Starts at 9:00 p.m. on ESPN2
  • Friday, July 21: Starts at 9:00 p.m. on ESPN
  • Saturday, July 22: Starts at 9:00 p.m. on ESPN


The 2017 Main Event started with 7,221 players, the third-largest Main Event in WSOP history, and the biggest field since 2010 (7,319 players). The all-time record is still 2006, with 8,773 players. This year’s tournament set the record for the biggest single-day starting field. Day 1C (July 10) drew 4,262 players, besting last year’s total of 4,240. Day 1A and 1B drew 795 and 2,164 players, respectively. This year’s Main Event set one additional record: 1,084 players made the money, the most in WSOP Main Event history. The previous record was 1,011, set in 2016.


Day 7 started at noon on Monday, and it was full of wild and crazy action. It was almost an hour before the first elimination of the day (Robin Hegele in 27th place), but three more players were eliminated within the next 30 minutes. Then after Marcel “The Flying Dutchman” Luske was eliminated in 23rd place, action slowed for quite a bit.

Then about an hour after the first break, there was another flurry of bustouts, culminating in the elimination of Christian Pham in 19th place. Pham, who started Day 7 with the chip lead, found himself in a hand against Benjamin Pollak. On the turn, Pham held top pair with a flush draw, but Pollak held top set. Pham called Pollak’s all-in bet, and when a blank fell on the river he was eliminated. Pham was a bit of a wildcard among the final 27; he infamously won a bracelet in 2015 after claiming he had registered for the event accidentally, and brought an equally unpredictable presence to this year’s Main Event.

After Pham’s elimination, the remaining 18 players redrew to two tables. There were about three hours left before dinner break, and four more players were eliminated in that span, leaving 14 in contention. At the time, Jack Sinclair of London held the chip lead with about 62,000,000, well ahead fellow Englishman John Hesp, who had about 38,000,000. The 64-year old Hesp has become quite a fan favorite over the past few days. He stands out with his flashy, colorful blazer and his panama hat. But more importantly, he’s the rare true amateur making a deep run in the Main Event, and he’s obviously loving every minute of it. For fans who like to see players having fun at the table, Hesp is a pleasure to watch, and his attitude at the table is infectious.


John Hesp


After dinner, the action slowed quite a bit. Karen Sarkisyan was eliminated in 14th place about an hour after play resumed. No players busted for about 90 minutes after that, but after Scott Stewart's elimination in 13th place, it was only about half an hour before they were down to the final 10 players. A little more than an hour later, Ruane was eliminated in 10th place, and the 2017 Main Event final table was officially set.


After the three Day 1s there were still 5,519 players remaining – 576 from Flight A, 1,642 from Flight B, and 3,300 from Flight C. Advancing players from Day 1A and 1B played on July 11, and players from Day 1C on July 12. After another five levels of poker, 2,572 players remained.

At that time, Artan Dedusha was the chip leader, followed by Lawrence Bayley and Mickey Craft. All three of them would go on to make the money, and Craft much like Hesp, became a new fan favorite along the way. With a combination of a charming table presence and a wild style of play, Craft made sure the game was fun for viewers and other players alike. The fun-loving presence he brought to this year’s Main Event was encapsulated after he finally busted out on Day 5 (146th place for $53,247), just before the dinner break. After the break, he returned to the tournament room carrying a tray full of congratulatory tequila shots for all his former tablemates.


Mickey Craft


For each of those 2,572 remaining players, Day 3 was a key day in the tournament. It was the first time players from all starting flights combined into a one field, and it was the day that would separate players who made the money from those who’d leave emptyhanded. After another five levels, there were 1,102 players remaining, and play would continue until the money bubble burst. The field was soon reduced to 1,086 players, and two players – Roger Campbell and Quan Zhou – were eliminated at the same time. The remaining 1,084 players were officially in the money, and they were each guaranteed a minimum payout of $15,000. It’s become tradition for the player eliminated on the bubble to receive a free buyin to next year’s Main Event. Campbell and Zhou were dealt one hand of hold’em to see which one of them would receive the entry. Zhou ended up with the best hand, and he’ll play again in 2018.


On Days 4 and 5, those 1,084 players were reduced to only 85, and a pattern started to emerge among the remaining players – former November Niners were faring extremely well. At the start of Day 5, nine November Niners were still in contention (out of 297 players to start the day). Five of them were eliminated before the day ended: Matt Giannetti (294th), Tom Cannuli (285th), Chino Rheem (284th), Eoghan O’Dea (172nd), and Jake Balsiger (107th).

The other four November Niners advanced to Day 6, and as 85 players were reduced to 85, the November Niners continued to make waves. Only one of them was eliminated that day, Kenny Hallaert in 64th place. Ben Lamb ended the day fourth in chips, putting himself in a great position to make the Main Event final table again.

The three others – Ben Lamb, Antoine Saout, and Michael Ruane – advanced to Day 7, when there were only 27 players to start the day, and each had a shot at becoming the first player since Mark Newhouse (2013 & 2014) to make a second appearance at the Main Event final table. Antoine Saout and Michael Ruane were in the middle of the pack, in 15th and 16th place, respectively, and Ruane had a shot at making the final table in consecutive years. Also in the mix was Marcel Luske, who’d come achingly close to the final table twice in his career (10th place in 2004 and 14th place in 2003). But they were all chasing the chip leader, Christian Pham

Play resumes Thursday at 5:30 local time. There is 1:07:01 left in Level 37, with blinds at 400,000/800,000 and a 100,000 ante.