WSOP 2017: Blumstein leads cosmopolitan final nine seeking poker's biggest prize

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Final nine for the 2017 WSOP Main Event (l-r): John Hesp, Scott Blumstein, Antoine Saout, Benjamin Pollak, Jack Sinclair, Damian Salas, Ben Lamb, Bryan Piccioli, Dan Ott

The $10,000 Main Event of the 2017 World Series of Poker reached its final late tonight in Las Vegas, leaving nine players, from a starting field of 7,221, still in contention for the $8.15 million first prize.

Four nationalities are represented in the final table players, led by the 25-year-old World Series first-timer Scott Blumstein, from Morristown, New Jersey, with 96.95 million tournament chips.

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Scott Blumstein: Leads the final nine

There are two Frenchmen, two Brits, one Argentinian and four Americans--but Hoboken's Michael Ruane missed out on a second consecutive final table by the narrowest of margins.

Ruane's elimination in 10th place, at around 1:20 a.m., sealed the final table, and ended one of the most exceptional back-to-back achievements of the modern era. Ruane placed fourth last year and seemed set for another final until his A♥K♦ lost to Bryan Piccioli's T♣T♠ to leave him short stacked. Ruane was out two hands later.

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Michael Ruane was knocked out in 10th

Ben Lamb, a former World Series Player of the Year, did make it to his second Main Event final (he finished third in 2011), as did Antoine Saout, who finished third in the tournament in 2009. Lamb sits in ninth place (19.95 million chips) and Saout is seventh (21.75 million chips).

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Ben Lamb: Back to the final

The full line-up of the final table is as follows:

Seat 1: John Hesp, UK - 85.7 million
Seat 2: Scott Blumstein, USA - 96.95 million
Seat 3: Antoine Saout, France - 21.75 million
Seat 4: Benjamin Pollak, France - 35.17 million
Seat 5: Jack Sinclair, UK - 20.2 million
Seat 6: Damian Salas, Argentina - 25.75 million
Seat 7: Ben Lamb, USA - 17.95 million
Seat 8: Bryan Piccioli - 33.8 million
Seat 9: Dan Ott - 26.375 million

Few stories are spectacular as that of 64-year-old British amateur John Hesp, who sits in second place with 85.7 million chips and led the tournament for long periods on its seventh day. Hesp, who comes from Bridlington, on England's eastern coast, is a recreational poker player, who visits card clubs in the U.K. about once a month and usually only parts with about £10 ($13 approx) to play.

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British amateur John Hesp is playing the biggest tournament of his life

He is now guaranteed at least $1 million as the tournament plays to its conclusion over three days from Thursday through Saturday.

Having long cited the World Series as a "bucket list" ambition, Hesp flew to Las Vegas this summer to finally live his dream. He was by far the most animated and active player during Monday's play, when the returning 27 were were reduced by two thirds.

"I just hope I've entertained some people," Hesp, dressed in his trademark multi-coloured suit, told PokerStars Blog this week. "I've had a ball... a real ball."

Monday's action was typically full of high drama as players were eliminated and the field condensed around one central table, surrounded by spectators. As the night wore on, the volume duly rose as the tensions--and the prize money on offer--increased.

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Bryan Piccioli hits his river card to survive in the Main Event

The overnight leader Christian Pham was eliminated by French pro Ben Pollak in 19th place, joining a long list of players unable to convert a big stack into a seat at the final table.

The eliminations of Michael Sklenicka, of the Czech Republic, Marcel Luske, of the Netherlands, and Germany's Robin Hegele and Florian Lohnert ended their countries' interest in the tournament. Similarly Pedro Oliveira, who was knocked out in 11th, was the tournament's last Portuguese player.

There were representatives of 111 nations at the World Series this year and 83 in the Main Event.

Saout will have a chance to make amends for his disappointment in 2009, when he lost two crucial pots to eventual champion Joe Cada and missed out on becoming the first French WSOP winner. Jack Sinclair is the room-mate of Anton Morgerstern, the German player who lost a huge chip lead at the 2015 World Series to finish in 22nd.

Damian Salas becomes the first Argentinian player to reach the final of poker's flagship tournament and played the last periods of the day draped in the flag of Argentina.

Players now take two days off before returning to the Brasilia Room of the Rio Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, to determine who wins the title and the jewel-encrusted platinum bracelet.


WSOP photos by PokerPhotoArchive.com.