Nothing is ever easy about the World Series of Poker Main Event. And tonight in Las Vegas, the poker fans of the globe witnessed nearly seven hours of grit and patient determination, punctuated with moments of exceptional high drama, before Scott Blumstein, a 25-year-old professional from Morristown, NJ, walked away with $8.15 million and the title “World Champion”.
Blumstein was ecstatic in victory. He clinched it with a dramatic three-outer on the river on the tournament’s final hand. But he will also know his most glorious day might have ended far sooner, without the need for a gruelling three-and-a-half hour heads-up battle against 25-year-old Pennsylvanian Dan Ott.
At around 8:45pm, Blumstein had both of his two opponents–Ott and Benjamin Pollak, of Paris, France–all-in and covered. Blumstein’s A♥Q♠ was beating both Ott’s K♣9♦ and Pollak’s Q♣10♦ and the tournament seemed headed for the most spectacular conclusion: a double knockout to crown its winner. It would have been the first time the Main Event had ended without heads-up play.
But Ott managed to spike a king and fade draws in both his opponents’ hands, sending Pollak out in third, guaranteeing himself at least $4.7 million, and booking a one-on-one showdown with Blumstein for the bracelet.
“That was a little frustrating,” Blumstein said of not winning that hand. “But I knew my heads-up game was going to be good enough.”
The money came out in heaps on the table, with the bracelet duly propped on top. And with 150 big blinds still between them, they set in for a battle of the potential champions.
Ott hit a straight flush on the first hand, and nibbled away at Blumstein’s chip lead. Anyone who saw last year’s 182-hand heads-up marathon knew that they would be wise to settle in for the long haul. But nibbling was all Ott could ever muster, while Blumstein began grinding his opponent down.
At around 12.15am they got it all in with an ace apiece, but Blumstein’s deuce kicker was behind Ott’s eight. And just as it looked like Ott may be extending his stay at the final, the deuce clinched it for Blumstein.
“I’m really happy with how I played tonight,” Blumstein said. “With only 24 hours of turnaround time, it wasn’t easy. But I’m very lucky to have good resources. I’m really happy with the result. I’m really happy with deuce because I was playing good, but I’m pretty tired of poker at this point, honestly, and to have to go back and battle pretty deep again, I wasn’t looking forward to it.”
Ott said that he too was content with the way things panned out.
“This whole think has just been amazing,” Ott said, even in defeat. “I’m the happiest person ever…maybe next to Scott. I can’t complain about $4.7 million. I’ll be back again next year.”
Of course, it had already been a long slog to get us to the stage at which they returned to play today. The tournament reached its final last Monday night, then the schedule gave the remaining nine two days to recuperate. Through Thursday and Friday, Ben Lamb, Jack Sinclair, Damian Salas, Bryan Piccioli, Antoine Saout, and John Hesp departed to leave us with a final three.
All of the aforementioned enjoyed million-dollar paydays, but they would also have accepted condolences at having missed out on the most dramatic stages of the tournament. Only Hesp and Saout returned today to watch the champion crowned, the latter as part of his countryman Pollak’s railing section, the former as a man whose appetite for poker is clearly insatiable. Hesp was bestowed the privilege of uttering the final “Shuffle up and deal!” instruction of the Main Event. He delivered it, then retreated to the stands to watch the only day of play he was not directly involved in.
Blumstein had been a significant chip-leader ever since he doubled through in a 150-million pot against Hesp on Thursday, and by all of the most significant measures, today’s play turned out to be a classy show of big-stack domination. Blumstein didn’t win a pot for the first 10 deals, even folding to a Pollak all-in shove. But then when Blumstein did creak into action, he made a huge three-street power-play, moving all-in on the river with king-high and pushing Ott off a pair of eights.
Blumstein won every pot of significance he entered for the next two hours, but then played the part of either spectator or benefactor for a series of hands featuring Ott and Pollak that might have ended either of their near flawless final-table performances.
Ott doubled through Pollak with A♥Q♥ > 8♠8♥. Then Pollak doubled back through Blumstein with A♦3♦ > 5♣4♣. Then Ott doubled through Pollak again with A♦3♥ > Q♠10♣. And then Pollak tripled through Ott and Blumstein after the former shoved with J♣4♣, Ott called with A♥2♥, but then Blumstein’s re-shove forced Ott out of it.
Had Ott called and Blumstein’s hand had beaten both of them, we might have had a champion without the need for heads-up. But as it happened, Blumstein’s K♣10♣ couldn’t hold, and Pollak was back in contention.
This period of play was all the more noteworthy because it represented the first time that Pollak, the 33-year-old from Paris, had been under threat at the final table. Pollak had impressed all the right people on his run deep in this tournament, including many of those against whom he has crossed swords on the European tour for many years.
Daniel Negreanu said he picked Pollak for success with about 25 players left, while other luminaries queued up to heap praise on him as they watched his canny ability to navigate his way through tricky spots. He then found the double- and triple-up to show he could match good fortune to impeccable timing.
And then, just like that, the run was over. Pollak, with marginally the shortest stack of the last three, open-pushed, Ott re-pushed and Blumstein called. But Ott wriggled free, and Pollak left with the $3.5 million cheque for third.
“I am disappointed,” Pollak said. “Later I’ll probably look back and say, ‘Wow, that was the Main Event…That was insane, getting through 7,000 players.'”
(He soon got over it.)
This is f***ing awesome !! pic.twitter.com/2qCymvjTC3
— Pollak Benjamin (@PollakB) July 23, 2017
So they settled in for the heads-up battle with Blumstein’s lead at 232 million to 128 million. Ott’s move with the K♣9♦ was probably his first mis-step of the final day, even though it is what had earned him the legitimate chance to take on Blumstein’s power.
But the come-from-behind miracle wasn’t to be. Blumstein found his big-stack mojo and was gradually able to crush Ott’s spirits. Ott was down to fewer than 10 big blinds at one point, but scored a double up–again with K♣9♦ over Blumstein’s 6♣6♠.
“I was trying to get back in it,” Ott said. “I wasn’t getting many good cards, but I tried my best and that’s all you can do.”
However it proved to be only the briefest stay of execution. Within another five hands, Ott opened his button, Blumstein three-bet jammed and Ott called it off. Ott was actually ahead with his A♦8♦ against Blumstein’s A♥2♦ all the way until the river.
And then, boom, the 2♥. Blumstein leapt into the arms of his supporters as spotlights suddenly flashed around the Brasilia Room and it erupted in chants of “Scotty! Scotty! Scotty!”
World Series of Poker Main Event
Dates: July 8-23, 2017
Prize pool: $67,877,400
Final table payouts:
1 – Scott Blumstein, United States, $8,150,000
2 – Dan Ott, United States, $4,700,000
3 – Benjamin Pollak, France, $3,500,000
4 – John Hesp, United Kingdom, $2,600,000
5 – Antoine Saout, France, $2,000,000
6 – Bryan Piccioli, United States, $1,675,000
7 – Damian Salas, Argentina, $1,425,000
8 – Jack Sinclair, United Kingdom, $1,200,000
9 – Ben Lamb, United States, $1,000,000
WSOP photos by PokerPhotoArchive.com.