LAS VEGAS -- The 2017 World Series of Poker main event is down to its final three players, with Morristown, New Jersey, native Scott Blumstein seemingly on pace to steamroll the final three days.
Blumstein, who has held the chip lead for all but a few brief moments of the final table, weathered a few dips in his stack and several lengthy stretches where play slowed to a crawl to finish play Friday with 226.45 million -- nearly 63 percent of the total chips in play. It'll be up to Altoona, Pennsylvania's Dan Ott (88.375 million) or French pro Benjamin Pollak (45.85 million) to try to derail Blumstein's momentum as all three men pursue poker's world championship and $8.15 million.
Play came to a close on the second day of the final table when the Cinderella story of John Hesp finally came to an end in fourth place. After losing the bulk of his chips in an almost unavoidable spot Friday night, Hesp fought his way through a long day and three other opponents before his stack got short and he was forced to take a chance with a 9c-7c. Pollak's Ad-Js was only ace-high on the end of a Ks-Ts-6h-4c-4h run out, but it was good enough to end the kindhearted Brit's run.
"I said to Scott yesterday, 'I can tell you for sure what I won't do -- I won't turn professional,'" Hesp said. "I love the game, I love playing it recreationally, and I would like to continue to play recreationally... I just hope that they appreciate how I've lightened things up a little bit. If that brings more people into poker, I've done a good job in that respect."
It was a much-needed boost for Pollak's stack, as the most established pro remaining in the field had an uphill climb during three-handed play. For Blumstein, who has enjoyed the lethal combination of strong play and strong cards during two days of final table play, he hopes that his stack will be enough to carry him past a pair of tough opponents.
"If you had to ask me, probably the two guys I would least want to get three-handed with," Blumstein said. "But with that being said, I have a lot of chips and I'm confident we're going to go home, work on some three-handed poker and come back ready to play tomorrow."
Ott, a 25-year-old who was the youngest player coming into the 2017 WSOP main event final table, managed to fly under the radar for the bulk of this tournament. Having locked up a payday of at least $3.5 million for third place, with the possibility of $4.7 million for second or $8.15 million for first, everything else is just icing on the cake for Ott.
"It's kind of been the dream day -- there's no way this day could have gone any better," Ott said. "Scott's great, Ben's amazing, I'm honored to be playing at the same table with them. ... I never thought I would come this far, to be honest. I never thought I would be sitting at this table. ... I'm already guaranteed a lot of money, nothing I can do but play my best."
With the dramatic disparity in chips to start play Friday, no one could have forecasted that it would take well over two hours for the first player to fall. Ultimately, Argentina's Damian Salas' stack dwindled to almost nothing before he got his last few chips in good. Ott found some good fortune in making a straight on the river, though, and Salas' tournament was over in seventh.
The chips continued to splash back and forth around the table until the final three eliminations of the night came in short order. Bryan Piccioli, who made four queens in a big pot early in the day, ran ace-seven offsuit into Ott's pocket kings. Antoine Saout, who had previously doubled through Blumstein twice on the day, lost with three-of-a-kind against a turned straight. This was Saout's second career WSOP main event final table, and he added a fifth-place finish to his third-place result in 2009.
Finally, it was Hesp's turn to fall out, and he did so with the same jovial nature and grace that he brought throughout the first two days of the WSOP main event final table.
Blumstein, Ott and Pollak return to the Brasilia Room inside the Rio All Suite Hotel & Casino on Saturday evening at 5:30 p.m local time (8:30 p.m. ET), with the 30 minute-delayed broadcast beginning at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN and WatchESPN. Play will continue until the 2017 world champion of poker is crowned.
2017 WSOP main event final table -- End of Day 2 chip counts:
Scott Blumstein -- 226.45 million
Dan Ott -- 88.375 million
Benjamin Pollak -- 45.85 million
John Hesp -- $2.6 million (Out in fourth place)
Antoine Saout -- $2 million (Out in fifth place)
Bryan Piccioli -- $1.675 million (Out in sixth place)
Damian Salas -- $1.425 million (Out in seventh place)
Jack Sinclair -- $1.2 million (Out in eighth place)
Ben Lamb -- $1 million (Out in ninth place)