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November Nine 2011 - Champion
09 November 2011

Ben Lamb moves in on the first hand of the day

Ben! We hardly knew ya!

It looked like Ben Lamb could win it. He had 2011 WSOP Player of the Year cred, he had high-stakes mixed cash game breadth, he had poker experience far beyond his years, and he had that Ivey-ish look-through-you staredown. But for some reason he thought his run-good would let his KJo beat Martin Staszko's 77. It didn't. Ben lost most of his stack on the very first hand of the day.

That hand also vaulted Martin from a close 3rd to a close 2nd behind chip leader Pius Heinz. Ben had his work cut out for him if he were to come back and have any chance. But it didn't happen. Just two hands later, Ben shoved with Q6o and Martin called with JJ. The jacks held, Ben stood up, expressionless, and mechanically went through the motions of shaking Martin's and Pius' hands before leaving the stage.

We can only imagine the disappointment at ESPN headquarters as Ben made his exit. The WSOP Main Event would be won by a European. The WSOP and ESPN are American institutions. Ratings must have immediately plummeted.

Jack Effel makes the ominous "3 outs" call on Ben's last hand

Ben makes his exit after just a few minutes of play

Inside the actors' studio

Let's just say it: Martin Staszko is an actor. He constantly tried sending reverse tells to Pius, and once in a while they actually worked. He'd meekly slide out a stack of chips, then he'd pretend that he was a little worried about what he'd done. We've all seen the phony "please don't call lil' ole me" look. Martin did that a lot, because it certainly seemed like he was catching more cards than Pius.

Pius did a little play-acting of his own, but not nearly as much, and not in such an obvious way. He managed to maintain a blasé detachment for most of heads-up play. Until he got way down in chips.

Pius and Martin square off to battle for the win

Steam control

Both players lost some painful hands. But Pius showed it more. Martin won a big pot when he bet a king-high straight on the river and took Pius to Valuetown. Pius tanked for several minutes, called, and got the bad news: he'd lost a big pot and Martin had extended his lead. Pius was visibly shaken, and he pushed his hoodie up over his forehead as though to help release steam. He looked tired for the first time, as though he were resigned to hours more hard work.

Martin, on the other hand, never lost his game face. After Pius doubled through him to regain a commanding chip lead, Martin played and looked exactly the same. With possibly slightly less acting. And we need to mention that his habit of 1-bullet bluffing and giving up to a raise largely disappeared on the final day. Possibly because he was finally getting cards and he didn't need to fold.

Kara Scott does a spot during heads up play

Swing time

The lead changed many times over the 7 hours of play, as you'd expect. But one decisive hand put Pius over the top for good. Pius shoved with AhQh on the Tc7cKs flop. Martin called with Qc9c and missed all of his outs. Neither player improved, AQ was good, and Pius took a nearly 4:1 chip lead. He never looked back.

Just a few hands later, barely past the 300 hand mark of final table play, Martin made his fatal mistake. He shoved with T7 to try and steal preflop, but Pius called with AK. Neither player improved and the dealer shipped it all to Pius. Game over.

Pius Heinz at the moment of victory

The new champion hoists his WSOP bracelet for the first time

Gracious in victory and defeat

Pius Heinz began his reign as WSOP Main Event Champion with class. He gave a shout out to Ben Lamb, who finished 3rd so abruptly and painfully. And Martin Staszko, who had several chances to put away Pius when he had him on the ropes, seemed almost as relieved and happy as Pius himself.

We're extremely happy for Pius, and we're thankful that such an interesting, diverse, talented, and likeable bunch of people were able to make the November Nine this year. We'll be back next year for more, and we hope they will be too.

Pius begins his reign as WSOP Main Event Champion

Next: Random Vegas photos - November 2011...

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