Blumstein, who began Day 3 of the final table as the overwhelming chip leader, defeated Dan Ott and Benjamin Pollak en route to the title. It took him 110 hands and just under seven hours to complete the task Saturday night.
The key hands of the WSOP final table
Blumstein began all three days of the final table as the chip leader, but his lead on Day 1 was anything but secure. Fan favorite John Hesp took over the chip lead for much of the first day of action, but one hand changed the whole table and tournament.
According to the WSOP.com live updates, on hand #47 of the final table, Blumstein raised under the gun with A♠️A♦️. All players folded until it got around to John Hesp, who called the raise with A♥️T♥️.
At the time, the two players were first and second in chips. Hesp had roughly 100 million checks in front of him, and Blumstein had around 75 million.
The fateful flop was A♣️7♦️5♥️. Both players checked. The turn brought the T♠️, giving Hesp top two pair fruitlessly against Blumstein’s set.
Eventually, both players got all the chips into the middle and Blumstein took the 156 million chip pot down, which gave him the overwhelming chip lead.
From that point, only Ott threatened Blumstein in any significant way. For a time on Saturday night, it appeared that Ott had the momentum, and might be poised to overtake Blumstein as chip leader.
However, Blumstein killed that charge on one hand with an exceptionally courageous play.
On hand #146, as detailed by the WSOP.com live updates, Blumstein found himself with K♣️T♦️, and Ott had 8♣️8♥️. At this point, Blumstein still had the chip lead, but Ott had built his stack into nine figures as well, around 120M.
The flop brought three clubs: the Ace, the four, and the three. Blumstein bet 16 million, and Ott called.
The turn was the 9♦️. Blumstein bet 20 million, and Ott called.
The river was the 2♠️ – no help to anyone – and meant that Ott had the winning hand. However, Blumstein responded by bluff-shoving all his chips into the middle of the table.
Ott deliberated for a moment, then folded his eights. From that point, Blumstein’s victory was all but assured.
The combination of his now-huge stack, his excellent play, and an excellent run of cards made it only a matter of time before the affable New Jerseyan became the 2017 Main Event Champion.
An excellent new ambassador for poker
Affability, humility, and good cheer were the themes of this tournament. All three finalists seemed to be genuinely good people who were having fun in the biggest tournament of their lives. The camaraderie between all the competitors at the final table was plain to see.
Blumstein spoke humbly about the freedom to choose his own way as the real prize, rather than the money.
“Just two weeks ago, I was a New Jersey online grinder, and nothing really has changed…the goal was to get to a point where I can do whatever I want to do. That’s the American Dream, in my eyes, and finding happiness is part of that,” he said, shortly after the final card was dealt.
Poker remains an American game
In addition to Scott Blumstein, three other American players made the final table. Of course, the most notable of these players was Ott, who finished second to Blumstein after 65 hands of heads-up play. For his efforts, Ott took home $4,700,000.
Bryan Piccioli, who complimented Hesp’s effervescent spirit on Day 1 and Day 2, finished in sixth place and pocketed $1,675,000.
Ben Lamb, who entered the final table as the short stack, finished in ninth place and took home $1,000,000, the same amount that was awarded to the champion for several years back in the day. Each player at the final table this year was guaranteed at least a million-dollar payout.
The poker Messiah wears terrible suits
Without a doubt, the other major story from this year’s tournament was Hesp.
Hesp, a 64-year-old business owner from Hull, United Kingdom, charmed the players, the professionals, and anyone else he met during the tournament. His signature look – suits that appeared to be made of scraps of other materials – was symbolic of his good cheer and infectious attitude that he brought to the poker table.
For many years, poker has become a game of serious study and robotic action. Twentysomething savants have boiled the game down to its sparest of parts.
They have made impenetrable sunglasses, noise-canceling headphones, a shroud-like hoodie sweatshirt, and a minimum of social interaction the uniform of poker players. This movement translated to almost dirge-like final tables in years past, with long decision times, no smiles, and certainly, no fun.
However, what John Hesp brought back to the forefront is that poker is, at heart, a game, and a damn fun one at that. Good hands are a cause for celebration, and so are good bluffs.
Hesp was constantly showing down his cards, giggling about the hand he made or the bluff he pulled. He was usually the first to race around the table to high-five players who won big pots.
In essence, Hesp reminded the poker world that poker is a celebration, and shouldn’t be treated otherwise. He finished in fourth place and won $2,600,000.
Fellow Brit Jack Sinclair finished in eighth place and took a prize of $1,200,000.
Two French players also made the final table. Pollak finished third, good for $3,500,000. Antoine Saout, a former November Niner, pocketed $2,000,000 for his fifth-place finish.
Finally, Damian Salas, the lone player from Argentina, finished in seventh and scored $1,425,000 for his efforts.
Congratulations are certainly in order for Scott Blumstein. Even if he hadn’t experienced such a fortuitous run of cards, he would’ve had an excellent shot to become champion.
As it was, he seemed to always have the hand, even if he was behind before the flop. When a good player is getting good cards, they are awfully hard to stop, and this final table was no exception.
However, the poker community should also not forget the lessons of John Hesp. The movement towards the sterile game in the last few years cannot be a good long-term strategy for the survival of the game.
Poker is fun. Let’s keep it that way.
Lead photos courtesy of PokerPhotoArchive / WSOP
Inside photos courtesy of Jessica Welman