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Germany's Pius Heinz makes history with Main Event win

9 November 2011

LAS VEGAS -- Germany’s Pius Heinz made history early Wednesday morning after winning the World Series of Poker Main Event at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, and he might have started a fashion trend in the process.

The 22-year-old professional poker player is the first German to win the Main Event gold bracelet. He will be taking home $8.7 million for his performance, which included a six-hour heads-up duel with Martin Staszko.

He is the fourth player in a row to win the Main Event under the age of 24, joining Peter Eastgate, Joe Cada and Jonathan Duhamel. Duhamel, the 2010 champion, presented Heinz with his new gold bracelet.

And Heinz once again competed by wearing his trademark white-hooded sweatshirt, which was also worn by many of his supporters in the crowd. Even WSOP Tournament Director Jack Effel tried on a white hoodie after play was over to pose for photographs.

Heinz’s white-hooded supporters were much more vocal then they were on Sunday, helped by the fact that Ben Lamb's shocking early exit meant the dozens of people in green shirts chanting "Benba! Benba! Benba!" would be doing so at the bar and not at the Penn and Teller Theater. He said afterwards the support he got from his rail was incredible.

“It was just awesome,” he said. “It's unreal to have all your friends and family following you and cheering you on. It's just an amazing feeling.”

The night started off with a bang, as Lamb moved all-in on the very first hand of play. He lost to Staszko, and was eliminated shortly thereafter. It was a turn of events that stunned the eventual champion.

“I thought three-handed play would go for a fairly long time,” he said. “It ended up going five minutes. Obviously it was really surprising. That meant we were in for a pretty long heads-up grind, which it ended up being.”

The heads-up battle between the two is being discussed as one of the best in recent Main Event history. Both Heinz and Staszko took turns as the chip leader as heads-up play progressed, as each played the role of the aggressor. The chip lead changed hands eight times in the six hours they faced off and played out like a chess match, which isn’t surprising considering Staszko is considered an expert chess player.

Staszko was cool, calm and collected at the final table. In fact, someone on Twitter claimed that "there is an outside shot Staszko is the least electrifying man on earth." He didn't shuffle his chips. He was deliberate in his reads and decisions. And while he tanked after some decisions, most of his tanks were reasonable, and not of the nine-minute variety.

Heinz said nothing seemed to be going right for him when play got to heads-up.

"The heads-up for the most part just didn't go my way,” he said. “I basically never made a hand and Martin played really well. I just thought I was going to be playing my game and play as good as I can and the cards will eventually fall my way.

“I just tried not to lose my nerves basically,” he added. “At some point when I wasn't making a hand I was pretty frustrated. I just tried to still play my best game and I think I did and in the end I got lucky.”

The turning point occurred in the first hand of level 43. On a board reading 10c-7c-Ks, Heinz moved all-in after trading bets with Staszko. Staszko tanked for about a minute before calling the all-in. He showed Qc-9c for a flush draw. Heinz was actually ahead with only ace-high, as he held Ah-Qh. He was able to dodge a nine and a club to double-up, and all of a sudden had a commanding chip lead.

He said he wasn’t surprised Staszko called his all-in bet.

“He's got a pretty strong hand with a flush draw and a gutshot. The hand is pretty standard actually,” he said.

The German took home the championship a few hands later when his As-Kc was able to fade the Czech’s 10c-7c. Heinz’s reaction was what you’d expect from a 22-year-old who just saw his life change forever.

“I was just happy and fist-pumping and running to my rail,” he said. “I just disappeared into a crowd of arms basically. I almost couldn’t get any more air.”

So what’s next for Heinz? It doesn’t seem like the $8.7 million is burning a hole in his pocket, at least not yet. He said he planned on buying a couple of gifts for his family, but that was it. The brand-new member of Team PokerStars will be wearing the PokerStars patch for the first time next month at an EPT event in Prague.

For now, however, Heinz can celebrate his historic win. And should anyone in Las Vegas spot a gang of 30 people wearing white hoodies tearing up the town, let them be. Their buddy just won the World Series of Poker Main Event.
Germany's Pius Heinz makes history with Main Event win is republished from