After heading off on an unknown road a couple of weeks ago – and, instead of having to wait 100 days to come back as in year’s past – the final table of the 2017 World Series of Poker’s $10,000 Championship Event is ready for action on Thursday night. In front of the cameras of ESPN, poker’s next World Champion will be determined. But who will it be? Let’s break it down and determine who will eventually emerge as the “last man standing” in poker’s premiere event.
Because there is no longer a “November Nine,” momentum is going to count for something when the players come back. Those players who were cruising on Monday when the final table was determined are still going to be feeling good about their chances. But, as any good poker player knows, “feeling good” isn’t the same as playing good. Thus, this is how the Poker News Daily Crystal Ball sees the action breaking down over the next three nights.
Just to update those who have come to the party late, here’s the breakdown (by seat) of the players remaining:
Seat 1: John Hesp, 85.7 million
Seat 2: Scott Blumstein, 97.25 million
Seat 3: Antoine Saout, 21.75 million
Seat 4: Benjamin Pollok, 35.175 million
Seat 5: Jack Sinclair, 20.2 million
Seat 6: Damian Salas, 22.175 million
Seat 7: Ben Lamb, 18.5 million
Seat 8: Bryan Piccioli, 33.8 million
Seat 9: Dan Ott, 26.475 million
And now, the predictions:
Ninth Place: Damian Salas
Salas is one of the unknown factors at the final table, but he’s surrounded by a slew of sharks. With Lamb on his left and Pollok on his right, he will be under siege almost from the starting gun. I see Pollak being the beneficiary of most of Salas’ chip stack in knocking him out, but Salas will get the nice parting gift of a $1 million payday on his way out of the Rio.
Eighth Place: Jack Sinclair
Sinclair has a similar problem that Salas has, bereft of ammunition while the armies mass around him. He also doesn’t have a great deal of experience in this situation; he has a grand total of three cashes in his poker career, with two coming at this year’s WSOP and the other (and previously his largest payday) coming at the partypoker Millions Live in April, where Sinclair made £7500. For his departure, I see a race situation between he and Saout, with Saout emerging on top as Sinclair heads to the door in eighth for $1.2 million.
Seventh Place: Ben Lamb
Lamb is arguably one of the best players at the table, but you can’t last on the short stack that he’ll start the day with on Thursday. People know Lamb’s history and talent and aren’t going to mix it up with him unless they have a monster, meaning that Lamb will have little opportunity to pick up chips to bolster his stack. With both Salas and Sinclair out, I see the chips heading to the stack of Pollak, who also is a veteran of the international poker wars who can trade chops with Lamb without breathing hard.
Sixth Place: Dan Ott
Ott will be able to squeak through the Thursday segment of the final table – playing down from nine to six – but that’s where the road will end. He won’t be too disappointed, however, with the $1.675 million that he will take home for his two weeks of work. His only other cashes came at this year’s WSOP in two preliminary events for career earnings of slightly more than $3500.
Fifth Place: Bryan Piccioli
Piccioli has the experience to come from the pack, but it is going to be tough to get any action with both the big stacks Hesp and Blumstein on his left. As such, his ability to get chips by stealing from the late positions – the button, the cutoff, and the hijack – is going to be severely limited. It will wear on his stack and, while Piccioli will get through Thursday’s play, I can’t see him going beyond Friday.
Fourth Place: John Hesp
Everyone loves Hesp because of his freewheeling attitude, his age, and the fun he’s having on the felt during his run to the Championship Event final table. These are all great, but the inexperience he has on the table – he’s never played a tournament larger than £100 prior to this – and the pressure will eventually catch up with him. Hesp will be having fun all the way to the bank with the $2.6 million he’ll get for his finish on Friday night.
Third Place: Antoine Saout
Saout will be one of the shorter stacks to start the day on Thursday, but his experience will be able to carry him to the final night of action on Saturday. He’ll be the third-place stack, however, with Blumstein and Pollak having vacuumed up sizeable stacks of chips through the first couple of days. It won’t be such a bad thing for Saout, who finished in the same position back in 2009, and he’ll earn a similar payday ($3.5 million versus the $3,479,670 in 2009) for his second trip to the WSOP Championship Event final table.
Second Place: Scott Blumstein
Blumstein seems to have the magic touch to this point in the tournament, but the heat eventually has to cool. The heads-up battle between he and Pollak will be epic – I can even see Blumstein entering the mano y mano fight with the chip lead – but Pollak’s overall skills will allow him to eventually wear down Blumstein. All it takes in heads up play is a couple of mistakes and I don’t see Pollak making them.
First Place: Benjamin Pollak
The Frenchman is a veteran of the international tournament poker battles, thus he won’t be unnerved by the situation. He’s battled the biggest names in the world, won almost $3 million and been to the Winner’s Circle across Europe. Pollak came into Day 7 back on Monday as one of the shorter stacks and he only ratcheted up his play and his chip stack as he motored through the field that day. He should keep the ship steaming forward – all the way to the WSOP Championship Event title.
Whether the Crystal Ball’s predictions come true or not, it promises to be an exciting three days of poker coming from the Rio starting on Thursday night. By the time Saturday comes around, we will know who poker’s next World Champion will be.