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Best of Vin Narayanan
LAS VEGAS -- Denmark's Peter Eastgate beat Russia's Ivan Demidov in four hours of heads-up play Monday night to win the World Series of Poker Main Event and $9.1 million.
Demidov won $5.8 million for finishing in second place.
With the victory, the 22-year-old Eastgate became the youngest WSOP Main Event champion. Phil Hellmuth, the previous record holder, was 24 when he won the prestigious event in 1989 by beating Johnny Chan.
Immediately after his victory, Eastgate said he was happy the way the final table went, "especially because I won."
Eastgate also showed grace in victory. "Ivan was a very tough opponent. He's an excellent player and we'll see a lot more of him in the coming years."
Demidov thought his inexperience showed up during heads-up play. "I had no idea how Peter was going to play," Demidov said after being closed out on the 274th hand of the final table. "He has a lot more experience than me in heads-up play and I think that helped. Looking back, there were times that I called when I should have folded and that cost me."
The match between Eastgate and Demidov was billed as the biggest night in poker, and Harrah's pulled out all the stops to make it so.
Shortly before 10 p.m., the players arrived backstage at the packed Penn & Teller Auditorium at the Rio All Suite Hotel and Casino. After admiring the custom Harley that was being given to Erick Lindgren for winning the Player of the Year award, Eastgate and Demidov proceeded to the table to unbag their chips. Because the two players had more than 137 million in chips between them, WSOP Tournament Director Jack Effel and a WSOP dealer helped the players count and stack their chips.
After the players arranged their chip stacks at opposite ends of the table -- with the $9.1 million in cash offset between them, Michael Buffer stepped forward to introduce the players -- heavyweight fight style. Buffer, who was editing his script until just minutes before the introduction, finished off his trademark introduction with a poker twist -- "Let's get ready toooo shuffle up and deal."
Eastgate began heads-up play with 79,500,000 chips, while Demidov began with 57,725,000 chips. And with the blinds at 300,000-600,000 with 75,000 antes, Demidov started the night on fire.
On the 11th hand of the night, Demidov took the chip lead and appeared to be comfortable at the table despite having to take an emergency bathroom break.
After the bathroom break, Eastgate reclaimed the lead as both players settled into a comfortable playing rhythm.
The crucial hand in heads up play came at 1:54 a.m. when Eastgate, holding 4d 7d saw a Kd 10d 7c flop. A jack of diamonds hit on the turn, giving Eastgate a diamond flush. Demidov, holding Ac 9s in the hole, raised to 8 million on the turn and Eastgate called. The river saw a three of spades and a 12 million bet from Demidov. Eastgate called and won a pot of over 44 million in chips and elicited the first "Ooba, Ooba" song from his fervent supporters.
After taking down the monster pot, Eastgate led Demidov 109 million to 27.9 million and proceeded to take control of game. Two hands later, Eastgate pushed Demidov out of the hand with a sizable bet on the turn. Moments later, Eastgate parlayed pocket threes into a full house -- threes full of eights -- to win another major pot. And on the very next hand, Eastgate pushed all in pre-flop and induced a fold from Demidov. At the end of this furious flurry of activity, Eastgate led Demidov 120.45 million to 16.45 million and the players went on a 20-minute break.
On the very first hand after the break, Eastgate ended the tournament when Demedov went all in with two pair, only to see Eastgate finish Demidov off. Eastgate limped in on the button and Demidov checked in the big blind. The flop came out 2d Ks 3h. Demidov checked and Eastgate bet 1.25 million. Demidov called and the 4c hit on the turn. Demidov checked again and Eastgate bet 2 million. Demidov then check-raised Eastgate to 6 million. Eastgate called the raise and a 7s hit on the river. Demidov then moved all in and Eastgate instantly called. Demidov flipped up 4h 2h for two pair. Then Eastgate revealed Ad 5s for the wheel and the title.
Demidov and Eastgate, who both admitted to being fatigued after the tournament played down from nine players to two on Sunday, appeared fresh and alert when play began.
And the presence of poker royalty like Lindgren, Daniel Negreanu, Chris Ferguson and Jamie Gold, along with showgirls and 1,000 people in the crowded auditorium didn't seem to unsettle them.
The 2008 World Series of Poker marked the first time the event was paused to allow taped TV coverage to air. The goal was to generate interest and drama surrounding the final table and provide the opportunity to create a "plausibly-live" same-day final table telecast. And early results indicate the TV strategy has paid off.
The Oct. 21 WSOP episode that showed the field of 6,844 get down to 27 players was the most-watched poker show on ESPN in more than two years. Overall, household ratings for the 2008 coverage is up 23% compared to last year.