Scott Blumstein Rolls to 2017 WSOP Main Event Championship
You know that old poker cliché where two players are all-in and one of them yells, “Deuce! Deuce!” in hopes that a meaningless Two will be dealt? Well, maybe for the first time early Sunday morning, the Deuce on the river wasn’t meaningless, as it helped Scott Blumstein defy the short-term poker odds and win the 2017 World Series of Poker Main Event, a gaudy bracelet big enough to literally contain his two hole cards, and $8.15 million. Runner-up Dan Ott, who, like Blumstein, was playing in his very first WSOP Main Event (what a way to start!), won $4.7 million.
The final table of the tournament was split into three days; Blumstein went into the three-handed final day as the overwhelming chip leader, holding 226.450 million chips, compared to Ott’s 88.375 million and Benjamin Pollak’s 45.850 million. He entered the final table on Thursday as the chip leader and aside from a short time in which colorful amateur John Hesp took over, he came close to going wire-to-wire.
Unlike many fictional stories and mythology in which the underdog wins or the small hero crushes the giant, in this case, the man with the monster chip stack did what he was supposed to do: he crushed his opposition.
It wasn’t necessarily easy for Blumstein on Saturday night into Sunday morning, though. Actually scratch that – it didn’t look like he was having a particularly difficult time navigating the final day, but it took longer than most people probably thought it would. Play began at 8:30 PM ET and didn’t finish until after midnight. That’s not a marathon poker session or anything (though it felt like it when I was watching after 3:00am on the United States’ east coast), but considering how far ahead Blumstein was, I think everybody expected the proceedings to end quickly.
Though Blumstein played fantastically, wielding his mountain of chips like a club and hitting key cards when he needed them, both Pollak and Ott kept hanging on, surviving several all-ins.
The tournament nearly ended hours earlier. Pollak, now with only 35.2 million chips, moved all-in pre-flop with Q-T and then Ott curiously moved all-in over the top for 45.8 million with K-9. Blumstein was holding A-Q and thought about it, even asking his rail if he should go for “night-night time.” Eventually, Blumstein went for it, calling the bets and looking to end the Main Event right there. It would have been just second double elimination in WSOP Main Event final table history (Scotty Nguyen pulled it off in 1998), and would have been the first to end the tournament.
But the big double elimination wasn’t to be, as Ott hit a King on the flop to triple-up and eliminate Pollak in third place. Pollak played fantastically, but he really went card dead for about the last half of the final table and could never really get things going after Day 8 (aka the first day of the final table).
So it was down to Ott and Blumstein for the title. As was the story of the night, Blumstein had a huge chip lead going into heads-up play, 232.575 million to 128 million, though Ott certainly had enough chips to turn the tournament on his head of one big hand came along.
That hand really never came, though, as Ott also ran fairly card dead through the 65 heads-up hands. And even when he got something, he rarely connected with the flop. In the meantime, Blumstein seemed to make some sort of hand every time. He also played his hands very well, knowing that with his stack, he could control the action. So even when he didn’t have anything, he often took pots away from Ott.
As Daniel Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth said during the ESPN telecast on a break, Ott’s strength is patience, being willing to wait it out until he finds the right moment to strike. Unfortunately, that worked against him heads-up, as he couldn’t find that moment and saw his stack get whittled down. At said break, he was down to 11 big blinds and Negreanu and Hellmuth criticized his play, saying he needed to be bolder if he wanted any chance to win. At the same time, they understood the pressure and that it can be hard to commit to that move when it might be your last.
After the break, Ott did start shoving. On the 64th heads-up hand, he doubled-up with K-9 against Blumstein’s 6-6 (interestingly, the only pocket pair either got heads-up) to take his stack up to 64 million chips, about 21 big blinds. He was still in bad shape, but not necessarily on death’s door.
On the very next hand, Blumstein limped with A-2 and Ott raised to 8 million with A-8 suited, obviously a fantastic position to be in. ESPN commentator and poker pro Antonio Esfandiari said that every time Blumstein had an Ace previously (while holding the monster stack, that is), limped, and got raised, he shoved over the top. And that’s exactly what happened, as he put Ott to the test for all his chips.
Ott looked pained and tanked for a while. It seemed obviously to viewers that he should call, but in his seat, not so much. He finally made the call and was very happy with what he saw.
The flop of J-6-5 kept Ott ahead, as did the 7 on the turn. Blumstein had three outs, a seven percent chance to win the hand on the river, or else Ott would suddenly be up to 128 million chips and back in business. As if it was fate, a big, beautiful Deuce landed on the river, giving Scott Blumstein a pair and completing a dominant performance on his way to becoming World Champion.
Afterward, Dan Ott reflected on his Main Event with ESPN’s Kara Scott, saying, “It’s just been completely amazing. I can’t complain about anything. I’ve been so fortunate. It’s amazing.”
An emotional, stunned Blumstein had trouble at times getting words out. “I’m just in utter shock right now,” he said. “Two weeks ago, I was just a kid who loved playing poker and somehow, here I am, champion of the Main Event.”
At one point during heads-up, the 25-year old Blumstein mentioned to Ott that his life was flashing before his eyes as they battled to the finish. Kara Scott asked him about that and he replied, “I was just thinking about the past six or seven years and just all the events that led up to a moment like this. The good times, the bad times, and honestly, I don’t know. I’m still in shock. I don’t think it’s even going to hit me for at least a couple hours.”
And about waiting for that Deuce. If it didn’t arrive, he still would have had a nice lead, but one more sizeable pot could have swung the pendulum to Ott’s side. Kara Scott asked Blumstein what he was thinking when he saw his hand was dominated:
I’m going to be honest, I was probably not as positive as I wish I was. My mental coach is going to be mad at me that I wasn’t expecting a deuce, but I was just worried. Dan’s a good player and to get him back in the tournament with 40 big blinds and having to battle again, I wasn’t really looking forward to it, honestly, so the deuce…that would be the happiest time a deuce on the river changes my life.
But the Deuce did appear and Blumstein is now the 2017 World Series of Poker Main Event Champion.
“I’m on top of the world and yeah, I’m just living a dream.”
2017 World Series of Poker Main Event Final Table Results
1. Scott Blumstein – $8,150,000
2. Dan Ott – $4,700,000
3. Benjamin Pollak – $3,500,000
4. John Hesp – $2,600,000
5. Antoine Saout – $2,000,000
6. Bryan Piccioli – $1,675,000
7. Damian Salas – $1,425,000
8. Jack Sinclair – $1,200,000
9. Ben Lamb – $1,000,000
Cover photo credit: WSOP.com