LAS VEGAS -- After nearly four hours of 10-handed bubble play, the 2011 WSOP main event final table has been set.
John Hewitt became the biggest bubble boy of the year when he was eliminated by Eoghan O'Dea late in Level 36. With the blinds at 250,000/500,000 and a 50,000 ante, Hewitt moved all-in for his last 3.8 million after an open to 1.1 million from O'Dea. Without hesitation, O'Dea called and they were racing, with O'Dea holding K-J to Hewitt's 3-3. The flop came Q-10-7, giving O'Dea more outs. When the ace of spades hit on the turn, the November Nine was set.
The nine players ran to their friends and fans, then immediately sought out each other for hugs, handshakes and the expected questions of, "What did you have on that hand?" These nine now share a bond that only 27 other players have ever felt before. For the next four months, the focus will be on this group; on this night, nine new poker stars were born.
As for Hewitt, he'll unfortunately be remembered for his passive tendencies. Hewitt didn't voluntarily put one chip into the pot for the first 49 hands on the bubble. On the 50th, he raised and the entire table folded as quickly as possible. He opened up his game in the third and fourth hour, but doubled up two of his opponents (Matt Giannetti, losing A-10 to J-J, and Badih Bounahra, losing K-Q to K-K) to put him in a rough chip position before his final shove. For his efforts, he earned $607,882 and the sympathy of the other nine individuals who are just beginning their journey to the final table.
During the bubble, Martin Staszko was the impressive standout, and by the time he reaches his home in the Czech Republic, he'll already be seen as a star. He played with incredible patience and selective aggression in order to chip up with minimal confrontations. On the opposite side of the spectrum, O'Dea, who entered the final 10 with the chip lead, failed to capitalize on the tight nature of his opponents, who were afraid of making a mistake during those key moments. The two biggest stacks offer two different styles, and it will be interesting to see how they'll do come November.
There are seven countries represented at the final table (Czech Republic, Ireland, Belize, Ukraine, Great Britain, Germany, United States) and the top American is Giannetti. For most of the final hours, many wondered when Giannetti would either make his move or hit the rail. He was very short throughout most of the bubble play, and once players came back from their final break, he more than tripled his stack. His first key double came against Hewitt to give him some breathing room. Giannetti's second double came again with jacks against a pot-committed Ben Lamb, who had to make the call with K-9. Out of nowhere, Giannetti became a force, and he'll begin November's final table third in chips.
Lamb will bring in the fifth-place stack and enough WSOP success this year to make it a summer to remember. He's already earned one bracelet this summer, but winning a second one in the main event would make this fairy tale nearly unbelievable.
"It feels amazing," said Lamb. "I think you can officially call it a heater &133; this made it official. It feels really, really good. After coming so close in 2009 and getting back so quickly and actually achieving it, it's an amazing feeling. I couldn't be more happier and blessed."
Now, the waiting begins. For these nine players, the next four months will bring opportunities and exposure they've never experienced before. Endorsements, media and autographs are on the horizon, and no matter where they go or what they're doing, there will always be the upcoming main event final table in the back of their minds.
After two weeks of poker, the Amazon Room is finally closed. The venue that once held 128 tables is now empty. The feature tables have been removed and the seating for the media, my home during the WSOP, is now just a vacant corner that will be filled with the next convention. For the most part, the 2011 WSOP in Las Vegas is over and it's been one incredible ride.
Here's a look at the final table chip counts:
Martin Staszko (40.1 million in chips)
Eoghan O'Dea (33.9 million)
Matt Giannetti (24.7 million)
Phil Collins (23.8 million)
Ben Lamb (20.8 million)
Badih Bounahra (19.7 million)
Pius Heinz (16.4 million)
Anton Makiievskyi (13.8 million)
Samuel Holden (12.3 million)