Almost two weeks of tournament poker – 12-hour grinds with nearly 8600 players battling it out for supremacy – have brought us to arguably poker’s finest moment. The 2019 World Series of Poker Championship Event final table will begin on Sunday evening, looking to crown the next World Champion of the sport and the people who will divvy up the lion’s share of the over $80 million prize pool that has been created. But who has the best shot at winning the whole shebang? We’ve pulled out the Poker News Daily Crystal Ball, wiped the dust off it and looked into the future; hopefully the Crystal Ball is tuned up!
First, the Basic Information
There are some things that must be laid out first…basically, where we are in the tournament. When the players come back to the felt on Sunday afternoon Vegas time, this is the way they will line up by seat:
Seat 1: Hossein Ensan (Germany), 177 million
Seat 2: Nick Marchington (United Kingdom), 20.1 million
Seat 3: Dario Sammartino (Italy), 33.4 million
Seat 4: Kevin Maahs (United States), 43 million
Seat 5: Timothy Su (United States), 20.2 million
Seat 6: Zhen Cai (United States), 60.6 million
Seat 7: Garry Gates (United States), 99.3 million
Seat 8: Milos Skrbic (Serbia), 23.4 million
Seat 9: Alex Livingston (Canada), 37.8 million
There will be one hour, 31 minutes and 35 seconds left on the tournament clock in Level 37, with the blinds at 500K/1M and a one million big blind ante for the table.
An initial look at the final table shows that there are two players that might be known to the general poker fan and both are from Europe. Ensan and Sammartino have been strong players on the European Poker Tour, with Ensan earning an EPT Main Event title in Prague in 2015 and all but $14,467 of his career earnings coming from European events. Sammartino has also been a strong player “across the Pond,” racking up over $8 million in career earnings to rank second all time on the Italian money winners list (behind only Mustapha Kanit).
The rest of the table, save for poker industry veteran Garry Gates, is a bit of a mystery. Gates has worked in the past with PokerNews.com and currently works with PokerStars. Skrbic has $1.6 million in career earnings but has no major titles on his resume. Livingston ran deep in this event back in 2013 to make up for more than half his career earnings. The rest don’t even crack the six-figure amount in career earnings, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have some chops.
Now let’s look at how the three days will play out. Remember, the Crystal Ball hasn’t been pulled out since last year about this time, so it may be a bit out of whack!
Sunday – Nine to Six
This is the day that could be the quickest of all. With three guaranteed “shorties” on the table – the shortest Marchington (20.1 million), second shortest Su (20.2 million) and third shortest Skrbic (23.4 million) – they aren’t going to be able to sit around and wait for a big hand to get it in. With Marchington with a big stack that will put pressure on his to his immediate right (Ensan) and Skrbic with his own problem of a similar nature (Gates), one of these men will be the first to head to the exit.
Ensan and Marchington have a bit of a history against each other. If you’ll recall, it was a mistimed Marchington bluff on Day 7 that gave Ensan much of his massive stack, so I would expect a clash here first with Ensan emerging victorious. He’s got a wealth of chips that he could afford to gamble with and, as such, Marchington will be the first to go.
Next out will be Skrbic, although he has shown a propensity for playing off the short stack. He was as high as 70 million during play on Friday, so it may be a bit harder to shake him. Look for Gates or Cai to take him down.
Su has been on or around the lead since seemingly the start of the Championship Event, but he’s going to finally run out of steam here. I see Sammartino getting his chips in against him and knocking him off in seventh place.
7. Timothy Su
8. Milos Skrbic
9. Nick Marchington
Monday Night – Six to Three
This is where it gets a bit cloudy in the Crystal Ball. Any of the six players left – Ensan (don’t look for him to leave the lead), Gates (picked up chips from Skrbic), Cai, Sammartino (moved up), Maahs and Livingston – has the capability to make a run at the title, but do they have the chips? It is a long run to get up to the rarefied air that Ensan is in, and I do think someone will make that run.
The sixth-place finisher will be Livingston. After losing the buffer (Skrbic) between him and the Gates/Cai combination and having Ensan on his immediate left, there’s just too many big stacks around him that will wear him down. It is likely that Cai takes him out, as he will be on the button when Livingston is in the big blind.
Fifth place will go to Maahs, who has shown that he can battle his way through the tournament with a minimal stack. At one time on Day 7, he barely had 10 big bets in his stack, but was able to push his way to the final table. It will end here, however, and Ensan will probably be the executioner.
I am going to go with Sammartino leaving the event in fourth place. He’s arguably the strongest player at the final table, but he’s shown a propensity for letting his emotions to momentarily take control of him. Once again, it will be Ensan who will take him out as the “rich get richer” in the tournament.
4. Dario Sammartino
5. Kevin Maahs
6. Alex Livingston
Tuesday Night – On to the Champion!
Your top three will be Ensan, Cai and Gates, with the only guarantee that Ensan will be the chip leader. Cai and Gates will be thrust into the pit to fight it out for the right to play against Ensan for the title and the Ball sees Cai coming out on top in the fight. That will set up an epic fight between Ensan, who has just the right mix of gamble and skill in his game, against Cai, who has shown some excellent reading abilities and doesn’t make big mistakes.
In an upset, our Crystal Ball is going to pick Cai to defeat Ensan for the title. It isn’t anything against the Iranian-born Ensan, it is just at a certain point the magic must wear off his game and he returns to Earth. Cai, on the other hand, has been a steadily rising player through the last few days of the tournament and seems to be hitting his stride at the right point.
1. Zhen Cai
2. Hossein Ensan
3. Garry Gates
We’ll look next week as to how the Crystal Ball does and who will walk off with the 50th Anniversary WSOP World Championship bracelet and the $10 million first place prize.