Chris Moneymaker, Greg Raymer, Joe Hachem, Peter Eastgate, Joe Cada, Jonathan Duhamel. Now you can add Pius Heinz to the list of PokerStars players to win the World Series of Poker Main Event since 2003. This morning, the young Team PokerStars Pro lifted the WSOP crown in Las Vegas, winning $8,715,638 and proving once again that PokerStars really is the home of world champions.
This was a marathon of a tournament, and while no one can deny there is an element of luck in poker, the results showed it was skill and raw nerve that won through. Most commentators believed Heinz, from Cologne, to be a worthy champion.
"It's got to be the happiest day of my life. I can't believe what happened - it's unreal," said Heinz just moments after his victory. "I just tried to focus and not make mistakes." Moments earlier, he revealed his news on his Twitter account (@MastaP89) "I hearby proudly announce that I am the 2011 World Champion of Poker!! I did it for Germany."
You have to wind all the way back to July to see how this story began. Then, 6,865 players showed up at the Rio dreaming of winning the biggest tournament on earth. The agony and joy of the Main Event was chronicled by the PokerStars Blog as players ate each other until just nine were left. That took a strength-sapping 12 days, and then the whole tournament was put on hold until this week's November Nine in the Penn and Teller Theater.
Heinz, just 22, had made it through. The first German to make it that far, he started on Sunday seventh in chips and, according to the bookies, was a long shot for glory. But by play's close, he was leading the final three who sat down last night to play to a winner.
Here's how they stood:
Pius Heinz, Germany, Team PokerStars Pro, 107,800,000
Ben Lamb, USA, 55,400,000
Martin Staszko, Czech Republic, 42,700,000
Within just one hand, Staszko had crippled Lamb, his 7♠7♣, all-in pre-flop, holding up against Lamb's K♥J♦. That sent Staszko, from the Czech Republic up to 85.6 million and left the American on just 12.6 million. Heinz, meanwhile, looked on. If he was licking his lips, he did well to hide it.
But Heinz would soon fall to second, his K♥Q♦ running into Staszko's monster K♣K♦. And then Staszko polished off Lamb, taking the rest of his chips when he woke up with J♦J♣ in the big blind and made an easy call to Lamb's shove with Q♠6♥. Lamb got $4,021,138 for his third-place finish.
Then began a marathon heads-up duel with Staszko on 117.3 million to Heinz's 88.6 million. With $5,433,086 for second, there was more than $3 million on top for the winner. This, after all, was no ordinary tournament. A pattern soon emerged: Heinz would apply constant pressure, chipping up to within striking distance of Staszko before letting a big one slip.
Then, a defining hand. Staszko limped in from the button and Heinz raised to 7.9 million in the big blind. Staszko called to see a T♣7♣K♠ flop, and Heinz made a continuation bet of 8.2 million before Staszko raised to 17.5 million total. That seemed to send the Team PokerStars Pro into the tank, but after a few minutes he emerged to announce he was all-in for about 70 million total. Call!
"He's ahead!" Heinz's fans yelled from the noisy rail. They were right, but Staszko had an awful lot of outs to take the championship. The turn, however, was 3♥, changing nothing, and the river was a harmless 6♠. That gave Heinz a big chip lead of 161.5 million to Staszko's 44.4 million.
It was all over just a few hands later. Pre-flop, Staszko shoved with T♣7♣ and Heinz was able to make probably the easiest call of his whole tournament - he held A♠K♣.
The board ran 9♠5♣2♦J♥4♦, and Staszko had missed. He was finished, and could only watch as Heinz rushed to the rail to be mobbed by his supporters.
It would be the beginning of one of the biggest parties in Las Vegas this year. As he prepared for a life of riches beyond his dreams, Heinz was asked how this would go down in Germany. "I can only imagine. I think it's going to be huge when I get home," he said.
Congratulations to Team PokerStars Pro Pius Heinz. Here's a summary of the the big final in glorious moving pictures...