After a two-day break from the grueling task of making the World Series of Poker main event final table, the nine remaining survivors took their seats in the Rio All-Suites Hotel & Casino for the first of three days of coverage.
In years past, viewers were forced to wait months until the WSOP main event crowned a winner, but tournament officials decided to axe that short-lived tradition in favor of a summer resolution.
Thanks to one of the most entertaining final tables in recent memory, the move looks like it’s going to pay off. Fans of the game got to see just 75 hands of play, but instead of silent, statuesque players, the audience was treated to action flops, and players unafraid to show emotion.
In fact, on the very first hand of the day, fan-favorite John Hesp eagerly showed a bluff that he pulled off against Antoine Saout. It was a great start for the Englishman making his first career WSOP cash, but it didn’t last long.
Before Hesp could get involved again, however, former WSOP main event final tablist Ben Lamb made his final move with AHeart Suit 9Heart Suit, only to run into the AClub Suit QHeart Suit of Jack Sinclair. The board offered no help to Lamb and he was awarded with $1,000,000 for his ninth-place finish.
It looked like Sinclair was poised to keep running up the leaderboard, but he gave up some chips when he doubled up Saout.
Then came the hand of the night, a clash between the two biggest stacks at the table. Scott Blumstein raised from under-the-gun and Hesp called in the big blind. The flop came down AClub Suit 7Diamond Suit 5Heart Suit and both players checked.
The turn was the 10Spade Suit and Hesp checked again. This time Blumstein bet 3 million. Hesp check-raised to 7 million, and Blumstein reraised to 17 million. The raise prompted Hesp to jump out of his chair, take a few steps away from the table, and then return with an all-in.
Blumstein immediately called, producing the largest pot of the tournament. Hesp held AHeart Suit 10Heart Suit for top two pair, but he was drawing dead against the ADiamond Suit ASpade Suit for top set. Blumenstein doubled up, giving him 43 percent of the chips in play. Hesp was left in the middle of the pack, searching for answers.
Sinclair, still recovering from a few wayward pots, made his final move with KSpade Suit JSpade Suit, only to run into the pocket aces of Bryan Piccioli. The flop of KHeart Suit 4Club Suit 3Heart Suit gave Sinclair some hope, but the turn and river were bricks to send him to the rail in eight place, good for $1,200,000.
After another orbit, played ended for the evening. The final table will resume at 5:30 p.m. local time on Friday.
Here’s a look at the overnight chip counts.
For more coverage from the summer series, visit the 2017 WSOP landing page complete with a full schedule, news, player interviews and event recaps.