2018 WSOP Main Event Final Table Set After Bonkers Elimination

The problem with living on the east coast of the United States and writing about poker for a living is that I always have to stay up until unhealthy hours to watch the World Series of Poker Main Event final table. But boy, am I glad I didn’t doze off last night as the unofficial final table of ten became the official final table of nine thanks to one of the wackiest hands we have ever seen at this point in such an important tournament.

The 2018 WSOP Main Event began with 7,874 players at the beginning of July, making it the second largest Main Event in series history. Just 26 players still had chips entering Wednesday’s action and as Thursday approached, the field was down to ten. One more elimination was needed to determine the final table.

At the start of the hand that will be talked about years from now, Michael Dyer was the runaway chip leader, holding 109.275 million chips (per ESPN’s tracker at the top of the screen), more than a quarter of the chips in play. Antoine Labat was second with 51.250 million, while Tony Miles and Nicolas Manion were nearly tied with a bit over 43 million a piece. The rest of the players ranged from about 37 million down to 15 million or so.

If This Was Online, People Would Claim It Was Rigged

Nicolas Manion
Photo credit: WSOP.com/Joe Giron

Manion, who had played tight all night, but had recently won a couple hands, was dealt A♠-A♥ and raised to 1.5 million (blinds were 300/600). The action folded to Labat, who had K♦-K♣. At that point, everyone watching, including the television commentators Lon McEachern, Norman Chad, and Maria Ho, felt that things were probably about to explode. Labat only flat-called.

The action was then on Yeuqi Zhu, who had won a bracelet earlier in the 2018 WSOP; prior to that win, he had the fourth-most WSOP cashes of all-time for a player who had not won a bracelet.

When Zhu’s K♠-K♥, you could hear the jaws of the ESPN broadcast team hit the desk. Mario Ho called the situation “tragic” and after Zhu moved all in for 24.7 million chips, she said her “heart was breaking” for him.

It folded back to Manion (Alex Lynskey, by the way, folded pocket tens), who thought about it for a moment and then declared himself all in for 43.1 million, an announcement which drew raves from the live audience. The decision was now on Labat, who, sitting with a wonderful hand, just saw two players move all in ahead of him. Though he had them both covered, losing to Manion would cripple him.

Labat did think it over and while he was doing so, Ho said, “It feels like you can’t get away from pocket kings, but you can.”

Labat, of course, did decide to go all in, and when the cards were revealed, nobody in the room could believe it. According to the percentages ESPN presented, Manion was a 96 percent favorite to win. Labat had a 2 percent chance and Zhu quite literally could not win the hand outright. Since all the kings were gone, the only way Labat could win would be if four diamonds or four clubs were dealt to give him a flush. He could also chop with Zhu with a straight, which would also require four cards. Because Zhu’s kings were the exact same suits as Manion’s aces, he could not win with a flush and therefore had to hope for a straight for a chop.

The flop did deliver two clubs, giving Labat some hope for a backdoor flush (and likely making Manion a bit nervous that he could become one of the unluckiest players in WSOP history), while eliminating straight draws, therefore resulting in Zhu already drawing dead. A spade on the turn, though, closed the door on Labat and made Manion the unexpected big stack at the table. Zhu was knocked out in tenth place and the final table was set.

Joe Cada Looking for His Second Main Event Triumph

Even without that nutso hand, the final table has some very interesting story lines. Most significant, arguably, is the presence of 2009 World Series of Poker Main Event champion Joe Cada. Cada is the first Main Event champion in poker’s “modern era”* to make another final table after his Main Event victory. There have been players who have won multiple Main Events and Dan Harrington (1995 champ) did make two consecutive final tables in 2003 and 2004 less than a decade after his win, but Cada is the first to win a Main Event in the modern era and then make a Main Event final table again.

Cada almost didn’t make it this far. With just a dozen players remaining, he bluffed on the flop, turn, and river with just ace-high against Lynskey, who had top pair. His final bluff was an all-in which Lynskey had covered fairly easily. A losing call would have hurt Lynskey, but would not have been devastating, and it really looked like he wanted to make the call, but he eventually folded, allowing Cada to remain alive.

Cada is the fourth-shortest stack with 23.675 million, so he has quite the hill to climb, but if he is able to win, it will quite easily be the greatest accomplishment in poker history. Hell, it might be even if he doesn’t win (though don’t tell that to Phil Hellmuth and his 15 WSOP bracelets).

If it wasn’t for Cada at the table, John Cynn (37.075 million chips) might be the biggest story. Cynn finished 11th in the 2016 WSOP Main Event, a field of 6,737 players, and now he will finish no worse than ninth.

There are loads of interesting stories at the final table; no doubt we will hear plenty of them in the days to come on the way to determining the next champion of the poker world.

ESPN will have all the action beginning at 9:00 pm ET each of the next three nights. The field will be whittled from nine to six Thursday night, then down to three Friday night, and Saturday will be the night the champ is crowned.

2018 World Series of Poker Main Event – Final Table Chip Counts

1. Nicolas Manion – 112,775,000
2. Michael Dyer – 109,175,000
3. Tony Miles – 42,750,000
4. John Cynn – 37,075,000
5. Alex Lynskey – 25,925,000
6. Joe Cada – 23,675,000
7. Aram Zobian – 18,875,000
8. Artem Metalidi – 15,475,00
9. Antoine Labat – 8,050,000

*I actually haven’t seen “modern era” defined anywhere, but I take it to mean post-Chris Moneymaker, when the WSOP exploded. The field for Moneymaker’s win in 2003 was 839, but a year later, thanks in large part to the attention Moneymaker brought to online poker, registrations jumped to 2,576. The next year was 5,619 and the Main Event has never seen fewer than about 6,300 entrants since.

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