After Ben Lamb and Jack Sinclair fell on Day 8 of the 2017 World Series of Poker Main Event, the remaining seven players from a 7,221-player field returned to play down to the final three. After Damian Salas, Bryan Paccioli, Antoine Saout, and John Hesp all saw their runs come to an end, only chip leader Scott Blumstein, Dan Ott, and Benjamin Pollak remained in contention for the $8.15 million first-place prize.
Cry for Me, Argentina
It took a while for the first elimination of the day. On Hand #102 of the final table in Level 40 (800,000/1,600,000/200,000), Dan Ott raised to 3.4 million from early position holding 4♦4♠. Argentina’s Damian Salas, who drew the ire of poker fans on Twitter for his slow play, just called from the big blind holding the A♣10♥.
When the flop fell A♥3♥2♦, Salas checked and Ott bet enough to put his short-stacked opponent all-in. Salas quickly called with the best of it, and while he held on the 6♦ turn, the 5♠ spiked on the river to give Ott a winning wheel.
“It was a great honor for me to represent Argentina and Latin America,” said Salas through an interpreter in his post-elimination interview. “I’m very proud of the way I played, and I hope that everybody in Latin America are happy with their representative.”
Salas took home $1.425 million for finishing seventh.
WSOP Bracelet Winner Falls
On Hand #122, still in the same level, the last remaining bracelet winner in the 2017 WSOP fell. It happened when Piccioli, who captured gold at the 2013 WSOP APAC, moved all in from the small blind for 14.95 million holding the A♣7♥ when Ott woke up with K♠K♣ in the big. The board ran out a dry Q♦5♥2♦8♣7♠ and 28-year-old Piccioli exited with his third straight WSOP Main Event cash, this time sixth place for $1,675,000.
“Once you make it, you’re so exhausted from all the playing,” Piccioli said of his WSOP final table experience. “You aren’t human if you don’t need at least a little bit of rest and relaxation before all that. I wanted to study and prepare and do all these things, but it felt like there weren’t enough hours in the day. But I’m always ready to keep it going and going … I like let’s get to business, no coaching, no funny business, let’s just play cards.”
Less than a half hour later, in Level 41 (1,000,000/2,000,000/300,000), WSOP Main Event final table veteran Saout busted on Hand #126. Blumstein, sitting on a huge chip lead, raised to 4.2 million from the button with the 5♠3♠. Saout called from the small blind holding K♣J♦.
A J♣7♦6♣ flop saw both players check. Saout checked for a second time on a turn of 4♣. Blumstein, who made a straight, bet 5.6 million and Saout called with what seemed to be a well-disguised top pair, only to trip up and think his hand was even better thanks to a J♥ on the river. He checked, Blumstein moved all in, and Saout called off his remaining 26.1 million.
“So much difference in this one,” Saout told the media after his bustout. “At the beginning of the finale was two big stacks, and everyone else was short. So basically, there was no play since the beginning, everyone’s folding. There’s no flop, nothing, nobody defends blinds. It was this almost all the time. I survived most of it.”
The 33-year-old Frenchman notched his third impressive WSOP Main Event cash, this time $2 million for placing fifth, after taking third in 2009 for $3,479,669 and 25th last year for $269,430. Unfortunately for him, his first gold bracelet will have to wait.
Meanwhile, Blumstein, who started the day as the odds-on favorite, extended his chip lead.
Amateur Hero Checks Out
Just 20 minutes after Saout fell, WSOP fan favorite John Hesp, who was on the wrong end of a cooler flop the night before, followed him out the door in fourth place. On Hand #135, after nursing his short stack for a while, the senior Brit in a colorful coat finally made his move, pushing all in with less than six big blinds for 11.95 million holding 9♣7♣ in the cutoff.
Pollak then moved all in over the top from the small blind with the A♦J♠ and Ott folded from the big.
Hesp, the fan favorite who had already won himself an extra million dollars by waiting out the previous eliminations, was behind but drawing live. A flop of K♠10♠6♥ gave him a gutshot straight draw, and after a nothing 4♣ on the turn, Hesp and his fans held out hope for any 7, 8, or 9 to keep him alive.
Alas, a 4♥ on the river saw his inspiring run come to an end. Hesp, who went from playing $10 bar tournaments to checking an item off his bucket list, walked away with $2.6 million and the admiration of the entire poker world.
“I’ve lived the dream. I absolutely loved it, and I just hope that I’ve spread a little bit of light, happiness, and fun in the game,” Hesp said addressing the media one last time. “I play poker recreationally and I’ll continue playing it recreationally. I won’t be turning professional poker player. I want to stay an amateur, I want to stay having fun.”
The Final Three
The remaining three players will return at 5:30 pm PT on Saturday to play down to a winner. Each is guaranteed at least $3.5 million in prize money. Action will resume in Level 41 (1,000,000/2,000,000./300,000) with 1:33:23 remaining on the clock.
Final Table Chip Counts & Results
1 Scott Blumstein (USA) 226,450,000
2 Dan Ott (USA) 88,375,000
3 Benjamin Pollak (France) 45,850,000
4th Place John Hesp (UK) $2,600,000
5th Place Antoine Saout (France) $2,000,000
6th Place Bryan Piccioli (USA) $1,675,000
7th Place Damian Salas (Argentina) $1,425,000
8th Place Jack Sinclair (UK) $1,200,000
9th Ben Lamb (USA) $1,000,000