In 2017, Morristown’s Scott Blumstein was crowned the world champion of poker, beating a field of 7,221 players to win that year’s $10,000 buy-in World Series of Poker Main Event and an $8.15 million payday.
What are the chances of the WSOP championship bracelet taking up residence in New Jersey twice in four years?
The 2020 Main Event has been split into two sub-tournaments: one for international players that began online on GGPoker, and one for U.S.-based players that began online at WSOP.com. Play in the latter took place Sunday and Monday, available only to online poker players located in New Jersey or Nevada. And the final table of nine — which is scheduled to take place in person, in a COVID-tested “bubble” at the Rio casino in Las Vegas on Dec. 28, with ESPN televising it on a delayed feed with hole cards — includes five players from the Northeast, three of whom call Jersey home.
The chip leader is Louisiana’s Joseph Hebert, but his challengers include these locals:
|NAME||CHIP POSITION||CHIP COUNT||HOMETOWN|
|Shawn Stroke||2nd||5,252,000||Lawrence, N.Y.|
|Ryan Hagerty||3rd||5,071,572||Somerset, N.J.|
|Michael Cannon||5th||4,408,847||Harrisburg, Pa.|
|Gershon Distenfeld||6th||3,475,481||Bergenfield, N.J.|
|Harrison Dobin||9th||1,581,392||West Long Branch, N.J.|
Big names bust, final nine sipping tea
New Yorker Stroke’s A-8 held up against short-stacked Anthony Spinella’s K-J to eliminate Spinella in 10th place and clinch the final TV table at about 10 p.m. ET on Monday.
NJ pro Hagerty was feeling pretty good after that bustout:
— Ryan Hagerty (@Hags_Ryan) December 15, 2020
Play will resume in two weeks with blinds at 80,000/160,000 and a 16,000-chip ante, meaning Stroke has about 33 big blinds and Hagerty has almost 32, while Dobin has just under 10 bigs.
They’re all looking up at Hebert, who has just over 13 million chips, which equates to almost 82 big blinds.
The most well-known name at the final table is Texas pro Upeshka De Silva, a three-time WSOP bracelet winner who made a memorable run to 36th place in the 2015 Main Event.
Other than De Silva, this won’t be a star-studded final table coming ESPN’s way. There was plenty of hope in the later stages of play, as the following notables all cashed:
- Matt Affleck, 97th place
- Daniel Negreanu, 92nd
- Greg Merson, 90th
- Ryan Laplante, 68th
- Nick Schulman, 55th
- Galen Hall, 53rd
- Darren Elias, 50th
- Ryan Riess, 47th
- Freddy Deeb, 46th
- Matt Salsburg, 41st
- Scott Seiver, 39th
- Mohsin Charania, 35th
- Joseph Cheong, 33rd
- Jason Somerville, 32nd
- Taylor von Kriegenbergh, 23rd
- Maria Ho, 22nd
$2.5 million, give or take a few bucks, up top
That list of names gives an indication of what a professional-heavy field this was. To the surprise of many, the U.S. tournament actually drew a slightly larger field than the international counterpart, with 705 entrants creating a $6.78 million prize pool and a first place payout of $1,553,256. All the remaining players have locked up at least $98,813.
The GGPoker version drew 674 players from all over the globe, good for a $6.47 million prize pool and a top prize of $1,550,969.
The winners of the domestic and international tournaments are slated to play heads-up in Vegas on Dec. 30 for the bracelet and for $1,000,000 that the WSOP is adding to the prize pool.
So whoever wins will pocket about $2.55 million, slightly exceeding the $2.5 million that Chris Moneymaker famously won in 2003. With 1,379 combined entries in the two sub-tournaments, this is the smallest WSOP Main Event, and the smallest top prize, since that iconic ’03 event.
Shortly before 3 p.m. ET on Tuesday, the in-person final table of the international tournament concluded in Rozvadov, Czech Republic. Argentina’s Damian Salas prevailed, defeating Bruno Botteon of Brazil heads up when he picked off a bluff with top two pair.
Salas is no stranger to WSOP Main Event final tables, having finished seventh, for $1,425,000, at the Rio in 2017 — the same year New Jersey’s Blumstein captured the title.
Whoever wins the Dec. 28 final table will have his work cut out for him two days later.