Pius Heinz Wins 2011 WSOP Main Event Championship

Pius Heinz is the 2011 WSOP Main Event Champion

World Series of Poker Official Report

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 pulled off a masterful performance during the two-day final table session, which began on Sunday afternoon inside the Penn and Teller Theatre at the Rio in Las Vegas and ended late Tuesday night on a confetti-splattered stage accustomed to acts of magic.

With his stunning comeback victory, Heinz collected a whopping $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 – which symbolizes poker’s supreme achievement.

The odds were stacked against Heinz from the start. First, he had to overcome the third-largest live tournament field in history, battling 6,865 players from 85 different nations who flooded into the Rio last summer in what was the first hurdle for all aspiring champions. Then, Heinz had to outlast an increasingly tougher field over the initial eight days of play, en route to inclusion in poker’s famed “November Nine” – which refers to the final nine players who ultimately make it to poker’s biggest game. Next came a nearly four-month wait during the interim between July and November, after which Heinz returned to Las Vegas hoping to write the latest chapter of poker history.

Indeed, Heinz’s biggest test was still to come. He arrived at the finale against eight formidable opponents with one of the lowest chip stacks -- ranking seventh in chips out of nine players.

But if ever there was a fairy-tale ending to what was one of the biggest and richest poker tournaments of all time, Heinz was perfectly cast in the unlikely role of this year’s poker Cinderella.

During Sunday's exciting final table session -- which included nearly eight hours of thrilling poker action and the elimination of six players -- Heinz enjoyed the poker rush of a lifetime. He began play ranked seventh in chips. By the time it was over, the German poker pro ended the night as chip leader.

That left just three players still alive in the quest for the world championship – Heinz, along with Ben Lamb and Martin Staszko.

Play resumed on Tuesday night and from the very first hand dealt, the results were stunning. During the opening moments of the final table’s last stages, Ben Lamb, widely-regarded as the world’s top tournament poker player at the moment, and winner of the 2011 WSOP “Player of the Year” title, busted out in shocking fashion.

His elimination was not as stunning as the manner in which it occurred, which many observers would have thought unthinkable.

On the first hand dealt during the three-handed session, Lamb made a baffling move, trying to steal from opponent Martin Staszko in what can best be described as a highly-risky decision. Facing a strong pre- flop raise from his Czech opponent, Lamb re-raised again holding king-jack – considered by many in poker a marginal hand. Staszko, holding pocket sevens, shoved all-in which left Lamb shaking his head pondering a bad situation. Pot-committed to the hand, Lamb reluctantly called. Staszko was all-in for his tournament life.

Lamb found himself only a slight dog to the under-pair. But he knew he’d played the hand way too strongly. When five blanks hit the board, Lamb was left with a severely short stack. He was eliminated just ten minutes later.

Accordingly, Lamb joined the ranks of all those before who were eliminated and are now forced to look forward to next year, and beyond.

Nonetheless, Lamb could certainly take great pride in what was a remarkable accomplishment. He collected his biggest poker payout ever, $4,021,138 for third place. He also became this year’s undisputed “WSOP Player of the Year.” The former gold bracelet winner’s summer accomplishments were so strong that he had the title locked up no matter where he finished at the Main Event final table. As it stands now, Lamb ended up with a gold bracelet, a third-place finish in the Main Event, a runner-up finish in another event, and five top-12 finishes. Even more remarkably, Lamb only entered 14 events this year.

With Lamb’s stunning departure, two Europeans were left to battle for the world championship. 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 history set 28 years ago by Tom McEvoy and Rod Peate in the 1983 finale (which lasted about 7.5 hours). During this final duel, the two Europeans battled back and forth, exchanging the chip lead several times. With an ongoing chorus of chants and songs in the packed gallery normally heard in a World Cup soccer match, the two finalists in poker's world championship were serenaded to play the best poker of their lives. And that's exactly what happened. Both players burrowed in, neither giving the other an inch.

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. The final hand was dealt when Heinz bested Staszko holding ace-king. Neither player made a pair, which meant Heinz's ace-high played as the winning hand.

As runner up, Martin Staszko became the richest Czech poker player in history. He earned a mammoth, if temporarily unsatisfying, consolation prize amounting to $5,433,086. Incredibly, Staszko came into the finale as the player with the least live poker experience. A long-time successful chess player, Staszko used his expert gamesmanship to learn a new trade and will be a player to watch for many years ahead.

Heinz’s championship victory was memorable for other reasons, too. The final table was watched in more countries and in a live format than ever before. For the first time in history, poker players and fans everywhere tuned in and watched all the action via a live stream as well as on the ESPN network. Comprehensive coverage included expert analysis and player hole cards being shown to viewers – a WSOP first.

No doubt, just as the sun was rising back in Europe, many blurry-eyed Germans were awakening to the big news that one of their own had done what only 36 others have done in history. Heinz will return to his native Germany in a new role – as poker ambassador and the reigning world champion.

THE WINNER – PIUS HEINZ

The winner of $10,000 buy-in WSOP Main Event Championship was Pius Heinz, from Cologne, Germany.

Heinz is a 22-year-old professional poker player. He has been playing full-time for about four years.

Heinz was born in Euskirchen, Germany.

Heinz’s parents are divorced. His mother works as a civil servant. She accompanied him to Las Vegas and cheered his victory.

Heinz is single.

Heinz attended a university for two semesters, but did not complete his college degree. He decided to focus on poker and put himself to the test at this year’s WSOP. Prior to making it to the final table, Heinz stated that he was going to re-evaluate his career decision and perhaps return to school or take another job at some point.

This was the first year that Heinz attended and played in the WSOP.

This was Heinz’s second time to cash in a WSOP event. He finished seventh in a $1,500 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament (Event #48), which paid $83,286.

With this victory, Heinz now has one win, two final table appearances, and two cashes at the WSOP. Heinz’s career WSOP earnings now total $8,798,924 in prize money.

Heinz is to be classified as a professional poker player, since he has been playing full time for about four years. He has played much more online poker than live poker during his lifetime.

Prior to playing at the final table, Heinz was asked if he would hypothetically take second place if it were offered to him (he started play at the final table ranked in seventh place). Heinz conveyed that he would have accepted the runner up position, which paid $5.4 million.

This is only the second time in history that a player from mainland Europe has won poker’s world title. The only previous mainland European winner was Peter Eastgate (2008). However, players from Great Britain (Mansour Matloubi -- 1990) and Ireland (Noel Furlong -- 1999) have also won.

Heinz is the first WSOP Main Event champion in history from Germany.

Heinz is the seventh German player in WSOP history to win a gold bracelet, which is the eighth WSOP victory for a player from Germany (Eddy Scharf has two wins). The other German players with WSOP

victories include – Matthias Rohnacher, Thomas Bihl, Michael Keiner, Sebastian Ruthenberg, and Katja Thater.

Young players have done exceptionally well in the WSOP Main Event. With Heinz’s win, the last four world champions were aged 22, 21, 22, and 22 respectfully at the time of their victories.

Heinz collected $8,715,638 in prize money. He was also presented with the game's most coveted prize -- the custom-designed WSOP gold and diamond bracelet.

Heinz was presented the gold bracelet by defending world poker champion Jonathan Duhamel, who won his title on the same stage one year ago.

As the WSOP Main Event Champion, Heinz achieves instant fame, fortune and immortality. Heinz is now universally acknowledged as the reigning world poker champion.

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