We've come to expect a show at the World Series of Poker final table. Frozen in ice since July, the November Nine format is then thawed out to return months later for an explosive showdown. It's still held in Las Vegas at the Rio, but action shifts to the Penn and Teller theatre, allowing for big crowds, a raucous atmosphere and excitement to send the temperature soaring.
Yesterday was no different. Nine players returned for their shot at the $8,711,956 first prize and title of world champion. PokerStars had its new star on show, Germany's Pius Heinz, who joined Team PokerStars Pro only last week.
He started the day seventh in chips and plenty of work to do. But after 10.5 hours, when play halted with just three players remaining, Heinz was not only still there, he was chip leader.
Here is how the three remaining players will sit down when we play down to a winner tomorrow (Tuesday):
Pius Heinz, Germany, Team PokerStars Pro, 107,800,000
Ben Lamb, USA, 55,400,000
Martin Staszko, Czech Republic, 42,700,000
And here are the final table payouts so far:
4 Matt Giannetti, $3,012,700
5 Phil Collins, $2,269,599
6 Eoghan O'Dea, $1,720,831
7 Bob Bounahra, $1,314,097
8 Anton Makiievskyi, $1,010,015
9 Sam Holden, $782,115
With more than half the chips in play, then, Heinz is in the box seat to return another PokerStars world champion, following in the recent footsteps of Jonathan Duhamel, Joe Cada and Peter Eastgate.
But if he fails to attain the biggest crown in poker, he can be proud of his immense final table performance so far - while the $4,021,138 he's already locked up in prize money will be a rather pleasant consolation.
Good luck tomorrow, Pius!