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Day 7 play decides final nine players at the WSOP

18 July 2017

(LAS VEGAS) -- The starting field of 7,221 has been whittled down to just nine players, and the 2017 World Series of Poker Main Event has reached its final table. The nine finalists in the world's biggest poker tournament are all guaranteed to earn at least $1,000,000 apiece, while they continue the battle for the $8,150,000 first place prize on Thursday, 20 July.

Two of the players taking their seats at the final table on Thursday have been there before. Former November Niners Antoine Saout and Ben Lamb have both sat in the Main Event final table spotlight before, both have performed under pressure already, and both return to poker's biggest stage in three days' time. Michael Ruane, who reached the November Nine last year, just came up short, bubbling the final table in 10th place.

Scott Blumstein leads the finalists, bringing 97,250,000 to the table on Thursday, good for 27% of the total chips in play. Fan favorite John Hesp is second in chips, bagging 85,700,000 chips, or 24% of the total. Lamb will be the shortest coming in with 18,050,000, just behind of Saout's 21,750,000.

"I feel amazing, I can't believe it's real," Blumstein said afterward. "I have a great group of guys, and we're going to get to work and prepare for Thursday. This is one of the biggest moments of my life. And I'm super excited."

Here's a taste of what all nine players were thinking right after the final hand was dealt.

Day 7 of the Main Event started with 27 players remaining — three tables, each with a massive rail. There were the haves and the have-nots, with Christian Pham, Valentin Messina and Jack Sinclair in the former category, and Jake Bazeley, Marcel Luske and Michael Sklenicka part of the latter.

Pham started out as the chip leader with a massive stack of 31,440,000. Things didn't go his way, though, and he was eliminated before the first pay jump. Pham first lost a ton of chips in a pot against Dan Ott, then he doubled Michael Krasienko, and he eventually crashed in a hand against Benjamin Pollak. Pham got it in with top pair and a flush draw, but he wasn't as live as he might have hoped, looking at the top set of his French opponent. A blank on the river saw Pham exit in 19th place, worth the $263,532 he was already guaranteed for making Day 7.

By that time, a small legion of players had already departed. German player Robin Hegele had been the first to exit. The Day 5 chip leader got it in ahead with queens to Sinclair's ace-ten, but an ace hit the turn to end his dreams of millions. Czech player Sklenicka (ace-six to ace-nine), Bazeley (tens to ace-king), and Florian Lohnert (sixes into nines) also hit the rail around that time.

Marcel Luske, the Dutch rounder who made deep runs in 2003 (14th, $65,000) and 2004 (10th, $373,000), came close again but had to say his goodbyes in 23rd place when his ace-eight didn't improve against jacks. This time, his Day 7 run was worth $263,532.

Like Pham, Luske and the others — David Guay, too — had to settle for a just over a quarter million dollars. Guay dropped out in 22nd place as his deuces did not hold up against ace-king. Canadian player Jonas Mackoff (ace-nine to ace-jack) and Randy Pisane (queens to ace-nine, ace on the turn) were the others to bow out before the prospective prize went up to $340,000.

Hesp quickly became a fan favorite.

Hesp quickly became a fan favorite.

Richard Gryko was the first to receive that amount when his king-queen didn't improve against the pocket tens of Saout. Krasienko (queens into kings) and Alexandre Reard (ace-queen into ace-king) had to settle for the same payout as the next two casualties.

With $450,000 now locked up, Messina made his exit. He, too, got it in behind, and he didn't catch up, either. Messina's queen-jack couldn't outrun Lamb's ace-jack, and that was it for the Frenchman. Karen Sarkisyan signed for the same payout, losing queen-eight to the pocket deuces of Sinclair.

As the 13 remaining players had guaranteed themselves over a half million dollars and had the final table in their sights, one might have expected play to tighten up a bit and the players to get a bit more serious. The contrary is what happened, though, as Scott Stewart ordered a beer and chugged it right in front of the ESPN camera, getting cheered on by his fanbase in the stands, shouting, "U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!"

While Stewart had the most vocal rail and seemed to enjoy his deep run the most, 13th place was to be the final station for him. He got it in good with ace-nine to the king-queen suited of Blumstein and even flopped an ace, but Blumstein made a flush on the river to send Stewart home.

While a part of the rail followed Stewart out the door, the atmosphere was anything but dead inside the Brasilia Room of the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino. Stewart's fans' roars were replaced by those from supporters of the other players. Especially when Bryan Piccioli hit a miracle eight on the river to come back from behind against the trips of Antoine Saout, one must have been able to have heard the uproar from the other side of the Strip.

By that time, the tournament was already down to 11 players, though, as Richard Dubini had lost with queens to Blumstein's ace-deuce suited when the latter hit an ace on the flop. The last Portuguese player, Pedro Oliveira, departed in 11th place, and the two tables were merged to just one. Oliveira got it in with two pair to John Hesp's flush and did not find a full house on the river to save him.

With 10 players remaining, just one more player had to go for the final table to be set. While that took only a couple hands last year, this year, it took a bit more play to get down to the final table.

The Main Event structure made for a ton of big blinds in play when ten-handed play began, but that didn't make for a dull situation. Action was fierce, and the hands were as interesting as they could come. Chip leaders clashed, short stacks doubled, and a big confrontation eventually provided the most impactful hand.

Last year's November Niner Michael Ruane got it in with ace-king to Piccioli's pocket tens and failed to hit. Two hands later, the dream of back-to-back final tables was over for Ruane; he lost with ace-six to jacks to become the final table bubble boy.

The nine remaining players return to action on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. local time to commence the final table. When play gets under way, the clock will have eight minutes and 30 seconds left in Level 37 (400,000/800,000 with a 100,000 ante). Play is scheduled to continue Thursday until six players remain, with Friday reserved for playing down from six to three. On Saturday, the three remaining players will play down to a winner.

Who are you rooting for? The former November Niners, now aiming to one-up their last score in the Main Event? The recreational player who's not afraid to take on the big guys? One of the solid pros looking to make a name for themselves? Take your pick.

PokerNews will be your primary source for live updates of all the action, so be sure to check back for your minute-by-minute poker fix. Before the final table gets under way, player profiles of all finalists, quotes, interviews and more will be posted straight from the heart of the poker world — the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas.

Former November Niner Antoine Saout.

Former November Niner Antoine Saout.

Here's the lineup for Thursday's final table:

Seat - Player - Country - Chip Count - Big Blinds
1. John Hesp, U.K. - 85,700,000 - 107
2. Scott Blumstein, U.S. - 97,250,000 - 122
3. Antoine Saout, France - 21,750,000 - 27
4. Benjamin Pollak, France - 35,175,000 - 44
5. Jack Sinclair, U.K. - 20,200,000 - 25
6. Damian Salas, Argentina - 22,175,000 - 28
7. Ben Lamb, U.S. - 18,050,000 - 23
8. Bryan Piccioli, U.S. - 33,800,000 - 42
9. Dan Ott, U.S. - 26,475,000 - 33

Career earnings and more stats for the finalists
Player - Country - WSOP Cashes - WSOP Bracelets - Career Earnings - GPI Ranking
Antoine Saout, France - 13 WSOP cashes, 0 WSOP bracelets, $5,551,412 career earnings, 341 GPI ranking
Ben Lamb, U.S. - 14 WSOP cashes, 1 WSOP bracelet, $7,207,830 career earnings, 16,828 GPI ranking
Benjamin Pollak, France - 16 WSOP cashes, 0 WSOP bracelets, $2,967,781 career earnings, 116 GPI ranking
Bryan Piccioli, U.S. - 30 WSOP cashes, 1 WSOP bracelet, $1,909,374 career earnings, 471 GPI ranking
Damian Salas, Argentina - 14 WSOP cashes, 0 WSOP bracelets, $919,525 career earnings, 494 GPI ranking
Dan Ott, U.S. - 2 WSOP cashes, 0 WSOP bracelets, $3,656 career earnings, 64,460 GPI ranking
Jack Sinclair, U.K. - 2 WSOP cashes, 0 WSOP bracelets, $13,500 career earnings, 14,761 GPI ranking
John Hesp, U.K. - 0 WSOP cashes, 0 WSOP bracelets, $2,208 career earnings, 21,184 GPI ranking
Scott Blumstein, U.S. - 3 WSOP cashes, 0 WSOP bracelets, $312,142 career earnings, 1,682 GPI ranking

(Article courtesy of World Series of Poker.)

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Day 7 play decides final nine players at the WSOP is republished from