WSOP Final Table Diary, Vol. 1: What We Saw During The First Night Of The Final Nine

July 15, 2019
WSOP Final Table Diary, Vol. 1: What We Saw During The First Night Of The Final Nine

It has come down to this — the final table of the World Series of Poker (WSOP). As has been the case for several years, ESPN provided coverage of the event on a 30-minute delay.

So, we are proud to bring you a diary of all the things the broadcast revealed.

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The nine remaining competitors represent six countries (USA, Canada, UK, Serbia, Germany and Italy) and range in age from 21 to 55. They are (in order of chip stack):

  • Hossein Ensan
  • Garry Gates
  • Zhen Cai
  • Kevin Maahs
  • Alex Livingston
  • Dario Sammartino
  • Milos Skrbic
  • Timothy Su
  • Nick Marchington

Each broadcast will narrow the field by three players. WSOP will crown the champion sometime on Tuesday night.

The ESPN hosts are, as always, Lon McEachern and Norman Chad. They are joined by poker pro Jamie Kerstetter, who will provide expert insight. Poker pro Kara Scott is the “sideline” reporter for the evening.

Each player at the final table is guaranteed to win at least $1 million. The eventual champion will pocket 10 times that amount.

WSOP Final Table: Hour 1

7 p.m. PST: We are live at the World Series of Poker Main Event Final Table. Well, almost live because gaming regulations require a 30-minute delay. Anyway, it has come down to the final nine, and one of these men will become the newest member of poker royalty: the 2019 world champion.

7:05 p.m. PST: The 2018 champion, John Cynn, who appeared not to have spent any of his $8 million on a haircut or shave since last year, gives a short homily to the final tablists and commanded that the dealer shuffle up and deal. Cynn went out on Day 3 this year.

7:09 p.m. PST: Sammartino shoves all-in on the second hand of the night with pocket 8s. The overshove comes as a three-bet to a raise from Skrbic, who raised with K6 of diamonds.

Skrbic folds quickly. Sammartino’s cheering section is wearing shirts with “Super Dario” on them.

7:12 p.m. PST: Marchington shoves all-in on the very next hand with pocket 10s. The shove is also a three-bet, but initial raiser Cai isn’t out of line and calls the shove with AdQh.

Marchington spikes a 10 on the flop, however, and doubles up through Cai, who loses about a third of his stack on the hand. Kerstetter explains the early fireworks as a byproduct of modest early pay jumps.

The first eliminations come quickly

7:26 p.m. PST: Gates shoves with AQ in the small blind and is snap-called by Skrbic in the big blind…with AJ. So, Skrbic is dominated and at-risk going to the flop. He picked up a gutshot straight draw on the flop, but no saving card came in. Skrbic is the ninth-place finisher and wins $1 million.

7:31 p.m. PST: Gates comments on how well-dressed Sammartino is. He also did an interview about the value of his rail. His position within the poker industry and his personality would make him a great ambassador for the game. He’s easy to root for.

7:39 p.m. PST: Short-stacked Su gets it all in with pocket 3s. Chip leader Ensan makes the call with AdJs. Maahs woke up with pocket 4s but folds to the call from Ensan. A Jack on the flop (along with two fives) put Su on the bubble, and no miracle three on the river sent Su to the rail. Su is the eighth-place finisher and wins $1.25 million.

7:53 p.m. PST: Gates has the early run-good. He flops a straight with 85s against Marchington’s KQs, and a Q on the turn allows him to get two streets of value. Marchington relegates to the short stack with 21 big blinds.

WSOP Final Table: Hour 2

8:02 p.m. PST: Ensan takes down a hand pre-flop with a three-bet. He is nearing 200 million in his stack and, frankly, looks incredibly strong right now. Of course, anything can happen, but the oldest player at the table is going to be difficult to eliminate. At this point, it seems to be his tournament to win.

8:19 p.m. PST: Ensan takes another hand with some steady pressure, but the bigger story is Maahs. Maahs is the heavy favorite to win the Drying Paint Award, which is an award I just made up for the player who takes an inordinate amount of time to act. Maahs asks how much people have left in every hand he plays, which is as annoying as it sounds.

8:27 p.m. PST: Sammartino folds his ace-high against a river bet from Ensan, who has nines full. However, Sammartino also gets chastised by both the dealer and the floor for talking about his hand with Ensan. It’s hard to know what he would’ve done if left alone, but Ensan would undoubtedly have preferred that Sammartino talk himself into a hero call.

8:46 p.m. PST: Cai wins the blinds, but his facial expression suggests that an increasing percentage of his inner monologue is comprised of swear words. He has found himself on the receiving end of three bets behind fairly often so far, and his stack is roughly half as large as when the night began. Still, he likely feels better than Skrbic and Su right now.

8:52 p.m. PST: Cai is on the good side of the night’s first cooler. He spikes Aces up on the turn to take the lead against Ensan’s now-lower two pair. No flush or straight hits the board on the river, so Cai picks up 12 million in chips from the chip leader. At this point, these kinds of runouts are the only danger to Ensan.

WSOP Final Table: Hour 3

9 p.m. PST: A 20-minute break for the players allows for commentary from Scott, Maria Ho and Phil Hellmuth. Hellmuth thinks that Marchington could have gotten away from top pair, the top kicker in his hand with Gates. The three then relive Sammartino’s blowup about an unfavorable floor ruling on Day 7.

9:27 p.m. PST: Action resumes with Gates’s pocket 8s going heads-up to the flop against Ensan’s A2s. This hand represents the first collision between the two nine-digit stacks.

However, both players shut down after Ensan calls Gates’s continuation bet on the flop with bottom pair. Ultimately, Gates’ 8s prove to be the best hand.

Marchington will not be the young king

9:34 p.m. PST: Marchington shoves his small stack as a three-bet with A7. Unfortunately, the first raise in the hand came from Ensan, who has pocket kings.

The young Brit does not improve on any of the five streets, and thus, Joe Cada’s status as the youngest main event champion remains intact. Marchington is eliminated in seventh place and wins $1.525 million.

9:35 p.m. PST: Play continues because people busted too fast. They’re playing until the next bust or the end of the level, whichever comes first.

9:48 p.m. PST: Cai continues to try and make Q9s happen. Stop trying to make it happen, Zhen — Q9 is never going to happen.

WSOP Final Table: Hour 4

10 p.m. PST: Cai plays K7 like AA, three-betting Maahs pre-flop and shoving all-in on a 6 high board. Maahs goes into the tank with AJs but eventually folds after a called clock.

The clock call comes as the result of Maahs tanking unnecessarily in earlier hands. Thanks to the delay, players are now aware that he has been Hollywooding on easy decisions.

10:09 p.m. PST: Crowd favorite Gates picks up a sizeable pot when his pocket 4s make a set against Cai’s pocket 7s. Gates missed some value on the river with a check but still added quite a few of Cai’s chips to his stack. Gates closing on Ensan for the chip lead.

10:24 p.m. PST: Cai continues to bleed. Ensan makes a loose play with 85s but takes the lead after hitting a 5 on the flop.

Cai’s AJ does not improve, but that doesn’t stop him from peeling a 3 million chip bet from Ensan. Then, he folds the turn and only about 20 big blinds left.

10:27 p.m. PST: A big hand develops with three players waking up with pocket pairs. A three-bet from Gates’ pocket 10s actually managed to push out Livingston’s queens, which rightfully shocked the commentators.

Sammartino also folded his pocket 8s to the pressure. A really strange hand, especially for Livingston.

10:31 p.m. PST: There was talk earlier in the broadcast about the need for a scoreboard. After watching the numerous hands where players are asking for a count (especially Maahs), a chip count board certainly makes a lot of sense, at least for final tables.

WSOP Final Table: Hour 5

Cai couldn’t catch a break tonight

11:02 p.m. PST: Cai finally ships it in for the last time. Ironically, his last hand to raise is the best one he used all night: AK offsuit.

Unfortunately, the hand comes as Maahs finds pocket 9s for himself. Despite a QJ8 flop, Maahs manages to knock out Cai with a clean runout. Cai is eliminated in sixth place and wins $1.85 million.

So, we are down to five players after a single night of competition. Players seemed more inclined to gamble with the steeper pay structure for the final table.

The next player to be eliminated will only receive $2.2 million, a small increase from Cai’s payout. However, after that, the situation figures to tighten up considerably.

We will be watching tonight, so make sure to read tomorrow for our next installment of the WSOP Final Table Diary.

(Featured image courtesy of WSOP.)

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