WSOP Final Table Diary, Vol. 3: Long Live The New King

July 17, 2019
WSOP Final Table Diary, Vol. 3: Long Live The New King

Tonight’s the night! Tonight, we find out who will become the latest member of poker’s most exclusive club – the winners of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event.

It is down to one of three men. They are (with starting chip counts):

  • Hossein Ensan (326.8 million)
  • Alex Livingston (120.4 million)
  • Dario Sammartino (67.6 million)

Action begins an hour earlier than the previous evenings. Here we go.

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WSOP Final Table – Hour 1

6:05 p.m. PST – The cards are now in the air! Hossein Ensan holds a massive chip lead and appears to be dressed comfortably in a white T-shirt, albeit adorned in various sponsorships. At the other end of the sartorial spectrum, Dario Sammartino has stepped up his game and come to the final night wearing a tuxedo. Alex Livingston is somewhere in the middle, wearing a dark button-down shirt, and is the only player to eschew sunglasses.

6:16 p.m. PST – Livingston raises from the button with J4c, and both opponents call. Everyone slows down, and checks all the way down to produce a board of 7889A, and no flushes make it.

Livingston bets 7.5 million into the pot, and gets a fold from Ensan. However, Sammartino makes the first play of the night when he calls with K6h. The hero call nets him a nice pot and establishes that the well-dressed man came to play.

6:44 p.m. PST – Ensan looks down at pocket sixes and raises to 4 million. He is immediately raised by Sammartino, who jams his 50 million or so remaining into the pot with AJs. Livingston folds, but Ensan makes the call.

A flop of 998 with only the 8 of spades doesn’t help Sammartino’s chances. However, a 10 on the turn and a queen on the river give him the straight and allow him to double up through Ensan. Sammartino is now above 100 million in chips, and can perhaps sneak a deep breath in.

6:55 p.m. PST – Livingston plays pocket sixes lightly and flops a set against Ensan, who has a rather avant-garde 94. However, the German spikes a 9 and sees fit to raise Livingston’s 13 million chip bet on the turn. Livingston shoves, and Ensan folds – putting Livingston over the 100 million mark.

WSOP Final Table – Hour 2

7:07 p.m. PST – Jeopardy champion and known gambler James Holzhauer visits the broadcast booth. His presence provokes far too many Jeopardy references, which include Lon McEachern humming the Jeopardy theme while Holzhauer considers a question.

7:08 p.m. PST – Ensan raises with 65s and gets three-bet by Livingston, who has pocket 10s. Three Jacks on the board give Livingston a full house, and he takes down a sizeable pot to push above 168 million. Ensan’s stack is bleeding badly right now.

7:11 p.m. PST – A three-way limped pot yields a pair and a straight draw for Ensan’s 56 and a flush draw for Livingston’s Q9s. The flush gets there on the turn, and Livingston draws within 30 million of Ensan.

7:26 p.m. PST – ESPN puts up a graphic showing exactly how badly things have gone for Ensan today. He has lost nearly 100 million from his opening stack.

7:35 p.m. PST – Ensan is just plain running bad. His top pair of Jacks gets outrun by Sammartino’s runner-runner trips, and the German player pays off a pot-sized value bet on the river. This hand is the latest in a series of bad beats or hands not holding up for Ensan.

WSOP Final Table – Hour 3

8:00 p.m. PST – As we enter the break, the chip positions remain the same. Ensan has taken a massive blow but appears to have stabilized after a few modest wins. Sammartino may be dwindling, though – he has lost a few hands, and he really doesn’t have the stack to do so.

8:32 p.m. PST – A pre-flop all-in from Sammartino finally breaks the monotony of a series of small pots. Ensan raises to 4.8 million with pocket threes and immediately faces a 70-million chip shove from Sammartino’s suited Ace. However, Ensan lays down the pocket pair and looks for greener pastures.

8:37 p.m. PST – Livingston opens from the button with 86c and gets called by both players. No player flops anything from the board (K52 rainbow), but Sammartino calls the continuation bet with Ace high.

A 4 on the turn and 3 on the river gives both men a straight, but Livingston the higher end. He bets 21.5 million and gets a check-call from Sammartino. Livingston now has the chip lead.

WSOP Final Table – Hour 4

9:08 p.m. PST – Livingston wakes up with a red pair of Kings and raises to 5.5 million on the button. Ensan folds, but Sammartino calls with 10s6d.

A flop of Qc6h4h gives Sammartino middle pair, and he calls Livingston’s 5 million continuation bet. The turn, however, changes the entire game – the 10 of clubs hits to give Sammartino two pair against Livingston’s overpair.

Sammartino check-raises all-in and gets a snapcall from Livingston. A river J changes nothing, and Sammartino doubles through.

What a difference 30 minutes can make. In that time, Alex Livingston has gone from the chip lead to the definitive short stack.

9:19 p.m. PST – Sammartino has really turned things around. He just won three straight hands and now has the chip lead – 8 million in chips above Hossein Ensan. Meanwhile, Livingston is in free-fall – his stack is now around 66 million.

9:34 p.m. PST – Livingston, whose stack has dwindled to 41 million or so, wakes up with AcJd in the small blind and shoves. Unfortunately, Ensan looks down to see AsQd and snapcalls to put Livingston on the bubble.

The flop is a brutal one – QsJh6d – which eliminates one of Livingston’s outs and matches Ensan’s overcard. The turn and river sometimes provide miracles, but not this time. Alex Livingston busts out and wins $4 million.

Down to two

9:49 p.m. PST – After a fifteen-minute delay, tournament officials have completed arranging the table for heads-up play. The $10 million first prize is stacked in the middle of the table, along with the bracer-like 50th anniversary WSOP Champion bracelet.

Ensan and Sammartino are now seated in fancy gaming chairs. Going into heads-up play, Ensan maintains a modest 48.9-million lead in chips.

9:57 p.m. PST – Sammartino raises to 6 million with Ah9d, and Ensan calls with J9c. The flop comes Jh7d3d, and both players check. The 9 of spades on the turn gives Ensan two pair and Sammartino second pair.

Ensan checks, Sammartino throws out 8 million, and Ensan check-raises to 30 million in chips. After some thought, Sammartino makes the call.

The river is a cataclysmic Ace of clubs, giving Sammartino a higher two pair. Ensan checks, then calls a 55 million chip bet from Sammartino.

What a turnaround. Sammartino now has nearly 330 million in chips, and Ensan is below 200 million for the first time at the final table.

WSOP Final Table – Hour 5

10:38 p.m. PST – And like that, it’s gone. By that, we mean Sammartino’s chip lead. Ensan, in an amazing display of calm and resilience, spent the past half hour chipping away at the deficit.

After three-betting preflop, Ensan pushed in 22.5 million chips on a flop of QcTc5s. Sammartino’s fold meant that the 55-year-old had reclaimed the chip lead.

10:58 p.m. PST – More steady pressure from Ensan widens the gap between the two. He picks up a sizeable pot when he rivers two pair with 36h. Ensan now has a 70-million chip lead on Sammartino.

WSOP Final Table – Hours 6 – 8

The next three hours of play are a blur. Mostly, the game consists of Ensan slowly and gradually wearing Sammartino down.

The pots simply never grow very large, and Ensan never dips below 300 million in chips again.

The Final Hand

Ensan looks down at pocket kings on the button and raises to 11 million. Sammartino called the raise with 84s, and play proceeds to the final flop of the night – though nobody knows that yet.

The flop is 10s6s2d. Ensan’s kings are still tall, but Sammartino has a flush draw. Ensan fires 15 million into the pot, and Sammartino plays along.

The turn is the 9 of clubs, giving Sammartino a gutshot straight draw to go along with the flush draw. Ensan doesn’t slow down, betting 33 million at his Italian adversary.

Sammartino…shoves all-in for 140 million. Ensan quickly calls, and we’re potentially one card from a winner.

The river is the queen…of clubs. No flush. No straight. Ensan’s pocket kings remain the best hand.

And so, Dario Sammartino busts out in 2nd place and wins $6 million. Hossein Ensan is the 2019 World Series of Poker Main Event Champion, and wins $10 million and the gold bracelet.

Long live the new king! It’s 2 a.m. Let’s all go to bed.

(Featured image courtesy of WSOP)

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