At around 7:05pm Las Vegas time, Jack Effel told tournament players at the 2017 World Series of Poker Main Event final table that they now had no choice but to part with 1 million if they wanted to play.
“OK guys, we’re at a new blind level,” Effel said. “Five hundred thousand, one million.”
Yes, we have reached that point in this tournament where every big blind has six zeroes on it and an ante is three starting stacks.
For John Hesp, that’s no problem. Hesp has extended his chip lead over the past hour, moving up to 132 million and refusing to back down from any confrontation. When Hesp turned trip jacks with K♥J♦ against Scott Blumstein’s A♣J♣, the latter dipped below 100 million for the first time today, while Hesp put more than 100 million between him and the third-placed player.
Soon after, Hesp pushed out a four-bet of 20 million after a raise/three-bet combo between him and Blumstein. Blumstein folded, and suddenly Hesp had more chips than six of the other players combined.
At this stage, the man in third happens to be Benjamin Pollak (see update below), but even he can’t exactly be totally comfortable with a stack of 30 big blinds. ICM calculations must be entering into the minds of all of Pollak, Jack Sinclair, Bryan Piccioli, Dan Ott and Damian Salas now as none of them has a big stack to play with, but the pay jumps will soon escalate.
All of the above were in better shape for most of the past hour than Antoine Saout, however. His tournament was hanging by a thread.
In 2009, when he finished third in this tournament behind Joe Cada and Darvin Moon, Saout was an irresistible force and managed to run up his short stack into the kind of shape that had many commentators thinking he could (and perhaps should) have won the whole thing.
But he struggled to find any early traction today and slumped to around 9 million, which was only 9 BBs. When action folded to Saout on the button, he open-pushed and Sinclair called in the big blind. Saout was facing the prospect of elimination in eighth, while Sinclair had the potential to score a second knockout of the evening.
But suddenly Saout got a foothold. His 10♦9♦ trailed Sinclair’s K♥8♣ pre-flop, but two tens on the flop catapulted Saout ahead. It meant that even though Sinclair turned an eight and rivered a king, it was not enough.
Saout pushed up to a stack of 21 million, roughly the same size stack as the one with which he started the day. It left Salas assuming short-stack duties, but really one pot against Hesp could spell the end for absolutely anyone.
Hesp is in the mood to steam-roller this table.
Tournament update: As this post was being published, Ott found a double up through Blumstein. Ott flopped top-pair jacks and got his chips in, but Blumstein called him with an over-card and a straight draw, which then added a flush draw on the turn. Blumstein missed on the river and Ott doubled to 37 million, further slicing Blumstein down. Blumstein now has 83 million, which is still second place.
WSOP photos by PokerPhotoArchive.com.