WSOP: Germany celebrates its first WSOP Main Event champion

2011 WSOP Main Event champion Pius Heinz (pic courtesy wsop.com)

Pius Heinz is the 2011 World Series of Poker Main Event champion. The 22-year-old professional poker player from Cologne stunned the poker world by becoming the first player in history from Germany to win poker’s most prestigious title.

Heinz turned in a masterful performance during the two-day final table session. He collected a whopping USD $8,715,638 in prize money – the third-highest payout for any poker champion in history. He was also presented with the game’s most coveted prize, the WSOP gold and diamond bracelet.

“This is the happiest day of my life, obviously. I really am speechless right now. I could not imagine this would ever happen to me. I think this does a lot of poker back in Germany. It is very big already there, especially with people my age. But I really can’t imagine what’s happening right now. I am just so happy to come here and win. It’s really a dream for me,” Heinz said.

The odds were stacked against Heinz from the start. First, he had to overcome the third-largest live tournament field in history, battling 6865 players from 85 different nations who flooded into the Rio last summer in what was the first hurdle for all aspiring champions. He arrived at the final table against eight formidable opponents with one of the lowest chip stacks – ranking seventh out of nine. By the time the first day of the final table had ended, he was chip leader.

That left just three players still alive in the quest for the world championship – Heinz, along with Ben Lamb and Martin Staszko. Day two of the final table started in sensational circumstances. On the first hand, Lamb faced a strong pre-flop raise from his Czech opponent, and he re-raised with K-J. Staszko, holding pocket sevens, shoved all-in. Pot-committed to the hand, Lamb reluctantly called. When five blanks hit the board, Lamb was left with a severely short stack. He was eliminated just 10 minutes later.

Staszko (Czech Republic) began heads-up play holding a slight chip lead over Heinz (Germany). Heads-up play lasted for more than six hours, falling somewhat short of the longest duel in WSOP history set 28 years ago by Tom McEvoy and Rod Peate in the 1983 finale (which lasted about 7.5 hours).

The two Europeans battled back and forth, exchanging the chip lead several times. After Heinz regained the chip lead on what was the ninth and final chip-lead change of the duel, a short time later he began to pull away and was ahead by about a 5 to 1 margin. On the final hand (the 301st of the final table), it was the As-Kc of Heinz against 10c-7c for Staszko. The board ran out 9s-5c-2d-Jh-4d.

As runner-up, Martin Staszko became the richest Czech poker player in history. He earned USD $5,433,086. Incredibly, Staszko came into the finale as the player with the least live poker experience. A chess master, Staszko used his expert gamesmanship with great aplomb.

Heinz is the seventh German player to win a WSOP gold bracelet. The other German players with WSOP victories are Eddy Scharf (two), Matthias Rohnacher, Thomas Bihl, Michael Keiner, Sebastian Ruthenberg and Katja Thater.

WSOP Main Event final table payouts

1 Pius Heinz (Germany) USD $8,715,638
2 Martin Staszko (Czech Republic) USD $5,433,086
3 Ben Lamb (USA) USD $4,021,138
4 Matt Giannetti (USA) USD $3,012,700
5 Phil Collins (USA) USD $2,269,599
6 Eoghan O’Dea (Ireland) USD $1,720,831
7 Bob Bounahra (Belize) USD $1,314,097
8 Anton Makiievskyi (Ukraine) USD $1,010,015
9 Sam Holden (UK) USD $782,115

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Additional reporting, Nolan Dalla for wsop.com

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