Three and a half hugely tense hours at the final table of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event have just ended with the elimination from the tournament in fifth place of Kevin Maahs. He takes $2.2 million, and his departure ends one of the most nervy periods of this tournament so far.
The atmosphere inside the Amazon Room today has been markedly different to how it was yesterday, with four men essentially being forced to dance to the tune of runaway chip leader Hossein Ensan. Although Ensan hasn’t won every pot, his stack is such that even when others have doubled through him, it has barely made a dent — and when they lose the race, they are out.
Such was the case with Maahs, who endured a real short-stack grind for much of the day as all the action seemed to take place away from him. Afterwards he lamented that he maybe didn’t pick enough spots today, but ultimately he got his last 20 big blinds in facing a flip. His A♥10♥ whiffed against Ensan’s 9♠9♥. “Maybe I should have got more aggressive in other spots,” he said.
Maahs is the latest player to say he had a pressure-free blast at the final table, disappointed only that the fun is now over. He also addressed head on the controversy that has blown up about the length of time it has taken him to make his decisions.
“Usually I’m in tournament where I don’t show my hole cards, and when you don’t show your hole cards you get into opponents’ heads when you tank that long,” he said. “If they’re going to get angry at that, more power to me.”
He added: “If they’re going to blow me up on Twitter, and get angry at me, I’m going to be hated by everyone, that’s fine. I’m cool with it.”
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He said he “thrived” in the role of the villain, and said: “Hopefully I can come back here and do it again. I’ll be the villain the whole way and just take it down.
“I have a contrarian mind-set. I’ve always tried to argue with people, be the opposite. I’ve always just like cotroversy and had an argumentative attitude. That plays really well with the villain role.”
Maahs’ elimination left four players battling for the crown, with Ensan miles ahead of everyone.
Whereas yesterday’s opening stages of this final table was characterised by a series of hands that all but played themselves (and resulted in the eliminations of some of the shorter stacks) the dynamic coming into today was something different. After Dario Sammartino doubled up very early, winning a flip with A♦J♠ against Ensan’d 10♠10♥, there were three men tightly packed behind Garry Gates and Ensan at the top.
They all had stacks affording wiggle room, which meant a battle of nerve and wits would commence, and a few shocks would invariably follow. Ensan managed to keep breathing space between him and his closest challengers, while Gates was forced to endure a downturn in fortune.
Yesterday Gates said that he had it all the time. Today, the cards tended to fall for his opponents. A pot of more than 75 million went toward Ensan when Gates’s A♦10♣ rivered a pair of tens, but Ensan’s K♠9♠ had flopped top pair. Gates raised Ensan’s river bet but was picked off.
As Gates slipped, Alex Livingston was moving in the opposite direction. Yesterday, much was made of Livingston’s decision to fold pocket queens when faced with a raise from Gates (who had tens). But Livingston was far more active today and chipped steadily upward, then edging ahead of Gates just after the first tournament break.
Gates tried to stem the bleeding when he called Livington’s under-the-gun raise in the big blind and the pair took to a 7♠4♣5♥ flop. They checked and saw the 8♣ turn, at which Gates bet 3.8 million. Livingston called and the A♥ fell on the river.
Gates tried to steal it with a sizeable bet, 16 million into a pot not much bigger. Livingston picked him off with A♣J♣, forcing Gates to show his K♠J♥. It put Livingston to more than 100 million, while Gates joined Maahs at the foot of the leader board.
Four-handed stack sizes:
Hossein Ensan, Germany – 302,300,000
Alex Livingston, Canada – 108,700,000
Dario Sammartino, Italy – 61,600,000
Garry Gates, USA – 42,200,000
WSOP photography by PokerPhotoArchive