It's over. Heads-up play took well over 100 hands and over six hours, but the World Series of Poker main event is over.
And Pius Heinz is your 2011 champion.
We've seen some pretty entertaining final tables over the years, but this one was a marathon that was hard to take your eyes off of. For Tuesday night and the early part of Wednesday morning, Pius Heinz and Martin Staszko simply wouldn't budge.
All the while, the chip lead went back and forth and back and forth. Shortly after midnight local time, Heinz went all-in and won a huge breakthrough hand to wrest the chip lead from Staszko. A few hands later, he went all-in one more time, and he won again.
Just like that, he had himself a championship bracelet and a $8,715,638 payday.
So then...what did we learn?
Good question. Let's discuss the matter, shall we?
I'd like to show you a short passage real quick:
When the final three sit down at the table Tuesday, fans around the world won't be watching Pius and his monstrous chip lead. They won't be watching Martin and his cordial, quiet nature. They'll be watching Ben Lamb because, after all, this has been his year. With everyone watching, Lamb will put on a show.
Andrew Feldman wrote this on ESPN.com, and it was published as part of the worldwide leader's prelude to Tuesday night's main event final table.
I'm kinda throwing Feldman under the bus to make it, but you probably get the point. The final table was supposed to be Lamb's to control, and he lasted just four hands.
A disappointment? Undoubtedly.
But anything more than a disappointment? Nope.
Listen, at the end of the day poker boils down to the luck of the draw, and Lamb's was bad. He could have chosen to pick his spots better, but that's easy for us to say in hindsight.
Lamb played and he got beat. It happens.
This may seem like kind of a silly point to make, but I think what we saw on Tuesday night (and Wednesday morning) was a damn good example of prime-time television.
Which, to be honest, caught me by surprise. I was expecting a fight, but not a 15-rounder that lasted into the wee hours of the morning.
As for how many people managed to watch the event in its entirety, I can't say for sure. My guess is that not many made it all the way from the beginning to the end, and that those who did needed a few energy drinks to pull it off.
I can vouch.
In any case, I'm inclined to say that anybody who didn't stick around for the whole thing missed out. This was not just great television. It was a great sporting event, and one that the sport of poker should be proud of.
When you think of chess players, you think of people who are calm, cool and calculating. More often than not, they're actually kinda creepy.
It is therefore no surprise that Martin Staszko comes from a chess background. He turned to poker at a relatively late age, but the transition proved to be an easy one for him. Poker is, after all, very much like a chess match.
What we found out about Staszko at the final table is something we've known about him all along: He's one of the most cerebral players you're going to come across. He thinks, he never blinks, and you wouldn't know from looking if he's been at a table for five minutes or five hours.
It's unfortunate that Staszko will be remembered for losing the main event. The fact that he was even there in the first place was remarkable, and it looked for a good portion of the proceedings that he was going to walk away a champion.
Rest assured, Staszko will be back.
Pius Heinz came into the main event with a certain reputation. Put simply, he was known to be a very aggressive player who preferred to force opponents into making plays. Not necessarily a new strategy, but certainly one that served him well.
At the main event final table, Heinz changed things up a bit. There were times when he stuck to his guns, but it was clear after Ben Lamb left the table that Heinz wasn't about to do anything reckless. He knew full well that he was going up against a thinking machine in Martin Staszko, and he didn't push his luck.
This is a big reason why the final table turned into a marathon. Staszko stuck to his guns, and Heinz more or less settled in to play his game.
Who says young people can't sit still these days?
I mentioned earlier that it looked like Martin Staszko was going to walk away from the WSOP main event a winner. By the other side of that token, it looked like Pius Heinz was going to walk away a loser.
No joke. While Staszko remained stoic at the table, there were times when Heinz looked like he was going to pass out from exhaustion.
Next thing you knew, he made a critical all-in bet, won the hand, and was on his way.
Of all the ways Heinz could have won, I don't think anybody expected him to win the way he did. He'll get credit for bullying Staszko into submission with a series of clutch plays, but he deserves more credit for outlasting him.
Knowing this, it's clear that there's no game Heinz can't play.