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September 5, 2015

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Ben Lamb justifies hype at World Series of Poker Main Event final table

No well-known professional has made it as far as Lamb in recent years

Image

Steve Marcus

Phil Collins, left, gets a hug from fellow Las Vegan Ben Lamb, center, after being knocked out by Pius Heinz, right, of Germany during the 2011 World Series of Poker Main Event final table at the Rio on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011. Collins received $2.2 million for the fifth-place finish.

2011 WSOP Final Table: Day 1

Ben Lamb of Las Vegas yawns as he competes during the 2011 World Series of Poker Main Event final table at the Rio Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011. Launch slideshow »

Chip Counts

  • Pius Heinz — 107,800,000
  • Ben Lamb — 55,400,000
  • Martin Staszko — 42,700,00
  • Matt Giannetti — 0
  • Phil Collins — 0
  • Eoghan O'Dea — 0
  • Badih Bounahra — 0
  • Anton Makiievskyi — 0
  • Sam Holden — 0

2011 WSOP Main Event Final Table Payouts

  • 1st — $8,711,956
  • 2nd — $5,430,928
  • 3rd — $4,019,635
  • Matt Giannetti (4th) — $3,011,665
  • Phil Collins (5th) — $2,268,909
  • Eoghan O'Dea (6th) — $1,720,000
  • Badih Bounahra (7th) — $1,313,851
  • Anton Makiievski (8th) — $1,009,910
  • Sam Holden (9th) — $782,115

Ben Lamb has already succeeded where his predecessors failed by advancing to the final day of the World Series of Poker Main Event.

Since the WSOP implemented a November final table for its championship tournament in 2008, one well-known professional has captivated audiences by advancing to the final nine in each year.

Lamb follows in a line of David “Chino” Rheem in 2008, Phil Ivey in 2009 and Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi last year. But none of those players finished better than fifth in the event.

Lamb is guaranteed at least third — and $4 million — after navigating through Sunday’s field of nine successfully.

“A lot of the pressure on me is off already,” Lamb said. “Getting ninth, eighth or seventh would have been pretty heart-breaking. But top three, I’ve got to be happy with.”

Lamb returns to the Rio at 6 p.m. Tuesday for a shot at poker’s world championship and the $8.7 million prize that accompanies it. The 26-year-old local will come in trailing Germany’s Pius Heinz but ahead of the Czech Republic’s Martin Staszko.

Heinz and Staszko were unknowns before their runs through the Main Event. Lamb was a decorated player, meaning he’s possibly on the verge of becoming the first big name professional to win the Main Event since Juan Carlos Mortensen a decade ago.

Lamb has already clinched WSOP Player of the Year honors. He made $1.4 million in preliminary events this summer, advanced to two final tables and won his first bracelet.

He partly chalked it up to “being on a heater” earlier this summer but wanted to take more credit for himself Sunday.

“That was four months ago,” Lamb said when reminded of the comment. “I haven’t won a tournament in like four months.”

Lamb played exceptionally during 10 hours of action in the Penn & Teller Theater but also found luck in significant spots.

He twice risked all of his chips with an inferior hand to the one his opponent called with and survived. Lamb’s Queen-8 caught the Ace-9 of Eoghan O’Dea, who was left with minimal chips and met his exit one hand later, on the river.

Lamb also doubled up late when his Ace-7 of hearts turned a flush against Matt Giannetti’s pocket Jacks.

“I feel fortunate to still be in this tournament,” Lamb said. “I could have got sixth place. I could have gotten fourth place. Now we’re down to three and I have a pretty decent shot at winning this.”

Lamb knocked out Giannetti without a sweat to end play for the evening. Lamb had pocket Kings against Giannetti’s Ace-5 and promptly flopped the two remaining Kings in the deck to make four-of-a-kind.

Heinz and Staszko were probably unhappy to see Lamb end play with a personal high in chips. Both expressed admiration for Lamb’s accomplishments in the game.

Staszko, who doesn’t speak much English, called playing against Lamb difficult and described his game as “very good."

“He played good as always, but I think today I may have gotten a bit the better of him,” Heinz said. “I probably just had better cards than he did.”

That’s a fact, because no one played better or had more superior cards than Heinz. The 22-year-old rocketed from ninth early in the day to first with an aggressive style that led him to winning the majority of large pots he played in.

Heinz knocked out two players and bluffed both Lamb and Staszko out of hands in different spots. He got as low as 12 million chips but finished with 107 million — some 52 million more than Lamb.

“It went much better than planned obviously,” Heinz said.

Heinz and Staszko felt great about their respective performances. Lamb remembered some negatives about his.

“I thought I played great until dinner and then after dinner, honestly, I didn’t play very well,” Lamb said. “I made three mistakes that I can remember, but I’m still in the tournament.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or case.keefer@lasvegassun.com. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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