After a nearly 4 month break, the final 9 players at the World Series of Poker Main Event from a field of 6,737 descended on Las Vegas to battle it out to see who could outlast the rest and take home the first prize of over $10 million AUD.
After 2 day full days of play, the final table of 9 had been whittled down to just 3. Entering the third and what would be the final day of play, Qui Nguyen was odds-on favourite to take the title with almost 60% of the 336,600,000 chips in play in his possession. Behind Nguyen was Gordon Vayo with 89,000,000 chips and playing the short stack was Cliff Josephy with just 50,000,000 in chips.
There was action on the very first hand of the day when Josephy doubled up through Nguyen. Josephy moved all in pre-flop and was called by Nguyen whose A4 off suit was dominated by Josephy’s AQ of diamonds. Josephy made a full house and all of a sudden had 100,000,000 in chips, making the 3 stacks a lot more even.
Unfortunately for Josephy, his double up did not go far when he ran into trouble just 4 hands later. Josephy found himself with pocket 2’s and a set on the flop, but was ultimately beaten when he ran into Vayo’s pocket 3’s who had also flopped a set. All the chips were in the middle by the turn and after missing the case 2 on the river, Josephy was left with just 8 big blinds. Despite a couple of handy double ups through Nguyen, Josephy was unable to mount a serious comeback and finished in 3rd place taking home a tidy $4.5 million AUD.
After 182 hands to knock out 7 players and get to heads up, it would eventually be a further 182 hands before there was a winner. This set a new record for longest heads up battle in a World Series Main Event, and after nearly 10 hours of gruelling heads up play, we would have a winner. Early on in heads up play, Nguyen’s aggression payed off and he was able to win 7 of the first 9 hands and as a result, took the chip lead and never looked back.
After a couple of big hands, Nguyen opened up a 5-1 chip lead over Vayo and continued to bully and pressure Vayo by raising with almost any two cards and forcing Vayo to make tough lay downs with good hands. Vayo did manage to double up a couple of times but it would prove fruitless in the end as Vayo shoved for the final time with J10 spades and was snap called by Nguyen with K10 clubs after raising to 8.5 million on the button. The flop kept it interesting, with Nguyen picking up a pair of Kings but Vayo also giving himself 8 outs in the form of a queen or an eight for a straight. The turn and river were both blanks and after 362 hands at the final table, Nguyen collected the cash, the bracelet, and the bragging rights as the 2016 World Series of Poker Main Event Champion. Vayo still had a profitable day, taking home over $6 million AUD for his 2nd place finish.
In what will go down as one of the longest and most memorable final tables in history, Nguyen’s aggression, commitment to pressure, and sometimes unconventional style of poker, paid off and after 10 full days of poker, he outlasted 6,736 of the world’s best poker players to claim the title.