It’s as though we’re reporting from a baseball game. What has happened?
Two doubles, a triple, and an out.
All that’s trivia for the box score as far as Benjamin Pollak is concerned, as now he’s on the rail as the third-place finisher of the 2017 World Series of Poker Main Event.
First a small blind shove from the big-stacked Scott Blumstein with 5♣4♣ was met with a call by Benjamin Pollak who had 16 big blinds and A♦3♦ in the big, and a clean board kept Pollak in the game.
Ten hands later Pollak was the SB shover with Q♠10♣, and Dan Ott was the one calling from the BB to put himself at risk with less than 14 bigs and A♦3♥. The better hand held again, and Ott survived.
Then came a triple for Pollak, the hand starting with his all-in push for seven-and-a-half big blinds from the button with J♣4♣. Ott called from the small blind — later we learned he had A♥2♥ — then Blumstein shoved with K♣10♣, and eventually Ott stepped aside.
A Q♦J♠7♣ flop gave Pollak a pair but also an up-and-down draw for Blumstein. A six turn and seven river were safe, though, and Pollak persevered again.
Next comes the out, although to be accurate that hand also involved a double — or more-than-double, really — but that totally messes up our scorecards.
In fact, we nearly saw history here tonight — the first ever WSOP Main Event to end on a three-way all-in (and no heads-up).
The hand began with Pollak pushing from the button for 35.2 million (not quite 15 BBs). Ott followed with an all-in of his own from the small blind for 45.8 million (about 19 BBs).
The action was on Blumstein. And he wasn’t folding right away. As more time passed, it began to look more and more like he wasn’t folding at all.
Then he called!
The three cheering sections all erupted at once, sending the Brasilia into a momentary frenzy as the cards were tabled. Pollak had Q♣10♦, Ott showed K♣9♦, and Blumstein nodded to his supporters as he tabled A♥Q♠.
Could it happen? Is this how it was going to end?
The K♦J♠3♦ flop crazily helped everybody — a pair for Ott, an open-ender for Pollak, and a gutshot for Blumstein. But the 4♣ turn and 6♠ river were no good for Pollak, and his incredible tourney journey was over.
Afterwards when discussing the hand and the tournament as a whole, Pollak seemed as calm and relaxed as he had been throughout the Main Event.
“I was surprised when Dan decided to shove with king-nine offsuit,” said Pollak before quickly reviewing the expected equity Ott would have with such a move.
Blumstein’s call with ace-queen he fully understood, and agreed that for three cards the board was not just exciting, but promising for him.
“The flop was amazing,” he grinned. “King-jack-three with two diamonds, and I had the ten of diamonds.” Alas the draws didn’t pan out.
Pollak received deserved praise from many quarters during his Main Event run, and although he showed characteristic humility referring to hands he might have played differently, he knew as well that his studied approach throughout the tournament had been a sound one.
“I am disappointed,” he admitted. “But all through the Main Event, whenever I was playing, I wasn’t thinking of the final table or anything. I was playing against the other players, making decisions against this player, that player… . Even today, I’m not thinking about the [bracelet], I’m thinking about Dan and Scott.”
Pollak equals the best ever finish by a French player — that of Antoine Saout in 2009 who also took third (then fifth this year) — and earns $3.5 million for his achievement.
“Later I’ll probably look back and say, ‘wow, that was the Main Event… that was insane, getting through 7,000 players.'”
As we look back over at the table, there’s now a mountain of money on it as heads-up play begins — with an extra special prize on top.
Blumstein starts with just over 232 million, while Ott sits behind 128 million to begin. The winner gets the bracelet and $8.15 million, while finishing runner-up pays $4.7 million.
Last year heads-up took 182 hands, with lots of bunts, walks, and singles and a few doubles along the way. We’ll see how these two play it, and whether any more curves await.
WSOP photos by PokerPhotoArchive.com.