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Van Hoof leads at WSOP Main Event final table11 November 2014
A European is guaranteed to win the Main Event after Jorryt van Hoof, Martin Jacobson and Felix Stephensen advanced to three-handed play early Tuesday morning.
Van Hoof has 89.6 million in chips. Jacobson has 64.75 million in chips. And Stephensen has 46.1 million in chips. Final table play resumes at 8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT.
Jacobson’s presence in the final three ranks as the biggest surprise of the night. The Swedish pro began the day seventh in chips, with 14.9 million in chips. Norway’s Stephensen started the final table with 32.78 million in chips. And the Dutch Van Hoof was the chip leader entering final table action with 38.38 million.
The winner of the Main Event will take home $10 million in prize money. The second-place finisher receives $5.15 million and the third-place winner receives $3.81 million.
There’s nothing quite like the restart of the World Series of Poker Main Event final table. When the World Series first began pausing the Main Event tournament in 2008, it was a marketing and TV ratings ploy. The WSOP and ESPN were hoping that ratings for the Main Event final table would go up if the final table was played after the taped TV coverage had built up the drama.
It was a smart bet. With one exception, the Main Event final table has drawn at least 1.2 million viewers each year since the change was made. The marketing ploy worked. The Main Event final table, also known as the November 9, became must-see TV for poker fans.
The pause in the tournament also changed the very nature of the Main Event final table. The late-night, bleary-eyed final tables before a handful of fans are an artifact of what feels like a bygone era. And in its place is something decidedly better.
The November 9 players enter final table play fresh and on top of their games. They’ve had three months to relax, scout and prepare. They’re not operating on fumes as they had in previous Main Events.
Then there’s the rail. The pause in the tournament has allowed players at the final table to fly in friends and family. And these fans are boisterous. They’re wearing gear. They’re chanting. They’re yelling. They’re organized. The Main Event feels more like a college basketball game than a high-stakes gambling event.
This new backdrop imbues the proceedings with a sense of excitement that no other poker tournament can compete with. The quality of play at the final table is higher than ever because the players are fresh. That combination creates a heady sense of drama.
And Monday’s final table action added to the lore.
First came the growing legend of Billy Pappaconstantinou (Pappas). The world foosball champion proved he could play with power and patience on the felt as well.
Pappas started the day with 17.5 million. But over the course of seven hours, he saw his stack dwindle to around 6 million. By his own admission, Pappas wasn’t playing well. Then six-handed play began and lightning struck.
Pappas went all in with Ks-Js. Jacobson called with Qd-3d. Pappas picked up a queen on the flop to double up and get some momentum. A few hands later, Pappas was all in again pre-flop against Andoni Larrabe. This time, his pocket kings held up against Larrabe’s Kd-Qd and Pappas was in contention.
From that point on, Pappas rode the chip roller coaster. Sometimes he was second in chips. Sometimes he was third or fourth. And each step of the way, the crowd at the Rio held its breath, hoping Pappas could spin his way to a fairy tale ending. Pappas’s luck ran out in the wee hours of Tuesday morning.
Pappas found himself all in against pre-flop against Jacobson. Pappas, holding Ax-Jx, had Jacobson covered by about 50,000. Jacobson had pocket fives and then flopped a set, effectively ending Pappas’s night. Pappas won $2.14 million for finishing in fifth. And he’s still not sure what he’s going to do with the money.
“Making the money was just incredible,” Pappas said. “I never thought I’d make it this far.”
“I have no idea (how I’m going to spend it),” Pappas added. “I’m still scared of the money.”
Pappas also said he still hadn’t picked up his ninth-place check, which was issued when he reached the final table.
With Pappas out of the tournament, the last chance for a U.S. title fell on the shoulders of William Tonking. Tonking, who started final table play in seventh place with about 15 million in chips, spent much of the night in second place. But he began leaking chips in six-handed play and fell back to the pack.
On his last hand of the night Tonking thought he’d found a spot to pick up some chips and pushed all in for about 20 million with pocket deuces. Jacobson called with pocket tens and the tens held up, knocking Tonking out of the tournament.
Tonking won $2.85 million for finishing fourth.
The opening levels of Monday’s final table play felt like the opening rounds of a heavyweight fight. Players had plenty of chips relative to the blinds of 200,000 and 400,000. The smallest stack at the table belonged to Bruno Politano, who had 12.125 million in chips.
With no pressure to double up, the final table just played poker -- looking for opportunities to pick up chips, probing for weaknesses and gathering lots of information.
Meanwhile, the fans made their presence felt in the Penn & Teller Theater at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino. Clad in yellow Brasil jerseys, Politano’s rail easily made the most noise. With chants of “ole, ole, ole,” it felt more like a World Cup match than a poker tournament.
Pappas fans tried to keep up with Politano’s rail with chants of “Billy Pappas.” And Stephensen’s rail wore Viking helmets with horns that flashed different colors.
As play wore on, the fans settled down. At the two-hour mark, the field began to bunch up, with five players within 6 million of each other. At the three-hour mark, the crowd grew restless waiting for something -- anything -- to happen. Thirty minutes later, the fans were rewarded. And the outcome was almost unthinkable.
Mark Newhouse finished ninth in last year’s Main Event and won $733,224. This year, Newhouse was back at the final table. Nobody had made back-to-back final table runs since Dan Harrington did it in 2003 and 2004 when the field sizes were much smaller. Yet here was Newhouse, chasing history. Not only had he equaled Harrington’s back-to-back final tables, he was in position to win it all.
Newhouse began play Monday third in chips with 26 million. He was also the only player at the table who reached a Main Event final table. And this summer, he was playing some of the best poker of his life. Things were looking up for Newhouse. And then he ran into Tonking.
The hand began innocently enough, with Tonking raising to 3.75 million. Newhouse called and Van Hoof, who was the chip leader at the time, folded.
On a flop of 2d-4c-Jh, Tonking bet 3.5 million. Newhouse called. A 4h on the turn saw Tonking check and then call a 4.5 million bet from Newhouse. When the Jc came on the river, Tonking checked again. Newhouse went all in with his remaining 10 million in chips and Tonking called with pocket queens. Tonking’s queens beat Newhouse’s pocket tens, and just like that, Newhouse had finished in ninth place again.
“I considered folding on the flop,” a dejected Newhouse said after his elimination. “At that point, a lot of his range had me beat.
“But with my hand, you’ve got to peel one off,” Newhouse explained. “Once he called the turn (bet), I decided I was done. He probably had a bigger pair than me.
“Then the river pairs the jack and that looks like an opportunity for me,” Newhouse said. “I thought he was exactly where he was . . . I decided to take a shot at it and it didn’t work out.”
Newhouse won $730,725 for finishing in ninth this year.
Politano, who started the day ninth in chips, finished eighth and won $947,172. Politano’s night ended when he pushed his final 8.1 million in chips toward the center of the table with Qs-10c. Stephensen called with pocket sevens, and the sevens held up.
“For me, eighth place is not a sad moment, because I have my rail,” Politano said. “Brazilians, everybody is here. Of course, I wanted to get the bracelet, I wanted to (be) a champion, but I'm feeling like a champion, because I have my friends, my family, everybody here. Everybody here is feeling this moment with me.”
At its best, poker can be a vexing game. Bad beats, a bad stretch of cards and bad spots at the table can frustrate the best of players. As Daniel Sindelar found out, a televised final table creates other issues that are hard to plan for.
“It’s like nothing I’ve experienced before,” Sindelar said after he exited the tournament in seventh place. “With all the delays and commercials, it was really tough for me to get focused and in a zone. I had a hard time adjusting to that.”
The final table was averaging about 17.6 hands per hour while Sindelar was at the table.
Sindelar’s frustration wasn’t reflected in his play, however. The 30-year-old from Nebraska kept grinding and found himself in position to double up when he pushed all in for about 9 million with pocket jacks.
Van Hoof called with Ah-3h, and an ace on the flop was enough to eliminate Sindelar.
Sindelar says his first big purchase with the $1.24 million he just won will probably be a house.
The youngest player remaining in the tournament, Andoni Larrabe, finished sixth and won $1.62 million. Larrabe started the day fourth in chips and never gained any traction at the final table.
With a little more than 8 million in chips and the blinds catching up to him late in the night, Larrabe pushed all in with Jc-10c. Van Hoof called with Kh-5h and a king on the flop sealed Larrabe’s fate.
Larrabe said the break between the suspension of Main Event play and the beginning of the final table might have hurt him. “The four months waiting until today were really tough and really (weird) and at the same time difficult to handle,” Larrabe said.
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