2017 World Series of Poker

Three Remain at 2017 WSOP Main Event, Scott Blumstein Running Away with It

The 2017 World Series of Poker Main Event field was narrowed from seven players to just three last night and it is still Scott Blumstein who is in absolute command of the final table. Blumstein entered seven-handed play Friday with 178.3 million chips, half the chips in play and 100 million more than his closest competitor, Benjamin Pollak. It took Blumstein a little while to get going, as he played fairly conservatively for a monster stack, but he eventually took off, leaving everyone in the dust and ending Day 9 with 226.450 million chips, well more than the other two players combined: Dan Ott (88.375 million) and Pollak (45.850 million).

2017 WSOP Main Event final three: Scott Blumstein, Benjamin Pollak, and Dan Ott
Photo credit: WSOP.com

Ott and Pollak had very different nights from each other. Though Pollak was well behind Blumstein going into the night, he was playing great and was comfortably in front of everyone else. Poker can turn on a dime, though, and Pollak found himself in a rut most of the evening.

His most significant hand pretty much tells the story of his night. And it’s a long story, so the short version is that Pollak had J-9 against Blumstein’s T-9 on a Q-9-9 flop. Great, right? Not when the turn is a Ten, making a full house for Blumstein. On top of that, the river was a King, giving Pollak a straight. If there was a silver lining, it was a) that the river also produced a flush, putting a more threatening hand on the board, and b) Blumstein only bet 8 million into a 40 million chip pot, which was suspicious. Pollak got away from the hand on the river, but his stack was reduced to 44.5 million. He eventually fell to about 30 million, but was able to climb back to make it to the final day.

Ott, on the other hand, found some solid hands and was able to take advantage. He was actually the unsung hero of the group last night, helping his tablemates advance in the money by eliminating Damian Salas in seventh place and Bryan Piccioli in sixth place.

Antoine Saout, who finished third in the 2009 Main Event, bowed out in fifth place. He had top pair on the J-7-6 flop with J-K, but Blumstein couldn’t get rid of his magic poker pixie dust and his 5-3 became straight when a 4 landed on the turn. It got worse for Saout when he made trips on the river, making it harder for him to lay down his hand. Saout checked, but Blumstein put him all-in. Saout pondered his decision for a while – could Blumstein really have a straight? A boat? Better trips? Saout finally relented and made the call, sealing his fate.

But forget everyone else. We’ll have a chance to talk about Blumstein more tomorrow. Can we just induct Englishman John Hesp into the Poker Hall of Fame right now? The only amateur at the final table, Hesp imbued the proceedings with something we don’t actually see all that often in poker: fun and joy. He personified “just happy to be here” and made his opponents actually root for him.

Dressed in a sport coat that looked like it was cobbled together from pieces from the scrap bin at Jo-Ann Fabrics, Hesp was talkative, but not in an obnoxious way. He had fun talking about hands with his tablemates and showed cards more than anyone I’ve ever seen. And he didn’t show his cards to rub it in anyone’s face – he showed them because it was fun. It got to the point where other players began showing their cards in big hands – Piccioli, for instance, showed his Q-T after he flopped a boat and everyone finally folded to him on the river – something you rarely see at this stage of the Main Event.

Hesp would walk around the table to shake hands, high five, or fist bump and opponent who played a great hand. Who does that? It was just genuinely cool to have him at the table. He was eventually eliminated in fourth place by Pollak, who playfully donned Hesp’s trademark hat while they were waiting for the dealer to reveal the cards.

Afterwards, ESPN’s Kara Scott asked Hesp what he felt about his time at the WSOP, to which he replied, “Absolutely wonderful. I’ve said to you several times this week, words can’t explain the incredible excitement and wonderful, fantastic, amazing, delightful time I’ve had. I’ve had a ball. I’ve said it to several people, I’d have paid another $10,000 to you to get this far. I’ve loved it, I’ve lived the dream.”

She followed that up by asking him how his life was going to change after making such an incredible run, winning $2.6 million. With his arm around his wife, Hesp said:

I guess my life will only change if you guys want it to. I said to Scott yesterday when he said to me, “What will you do after this,” and I said, “I can tell you for sure what I won’t do.”

And he said, “What’s that?”

And I said, “I won’t turn professional.”

Because I love the game, I love playing it recreationally, and I would love to continue playing it recreationally, but these guys work very, very hard for the money and I just hope that if they appreciate that I’ve lightened it up a little bit. And if that brings more people to poker, I’ve done a good job in that respect. So I’d love to be invited to be…in different tournaments held in different places around the world, but not too many because I don’t want to leave my wife for too long. And if I do go, she’ll be with me.

One of Blumstein, Ott, or Pollak will win the 2017 WSOP Main Event and make their mark on poker history, but really, it is John Hesp that everyone will remember the most from this final table.

The final table will resume at 5:30pm PDT and will be broadcast “semi-live” at 6:00pm PDT on ESPN.

2017 World Series of Poker Main Event Final Table Chip Counts

1.    Scott Blumstein – 226,450,000
2.    Dan Ott – 88,375,000
3.    Benjamin Pollak – 45,850,000
4.    John Hesp – ELIMINATED ($2,600,000)
5.    Antoine Saout – ELIMINATED ($2,000,000)
6.    Bryan Piccioli – ELIMINATED ($1,675,000)
7.    Damian Salas – ELIMINATED ($1,425,000)
8.    Jack Sinclair – ELIMINATED ($1,200,000)
9.    Ben Lamb – ELIMINATED ($1,000,000)

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