Top of the world

Written by Ben Blaschke

The 2017 World Series of Poker (WSOP) attracted record numbers and huge prize pools, with this year’s Main Event champion taking part for the very first time.

As the world’s most prestigious poker tournament, the 2017 World Series of Poker Main Event attracted the largest field in seven years and the third largest of all time. But by the time the dust had settled on the two-week marathon, it was a 25-year-old debutant who emerged victorious.

New Jersey product Scott Blumstein arrived at the final table as chip leader and produced a dominant performance to claim the WSOP gold bracelet and US$8.15 million top prize.

Describing himself as a typical cash game grinder, Blumstein never looked like relinquishing the title but needed a slice of luck on the final hand to vanquish headsup opponent and fellow WSOP rookie Daniel Ott. Holding A2 to Ott’s A8 in a pre-flop confrontation, their battle looked destined to continue until a 2 on the river sparked wild celebrations from Blumstein.

“Is there a better way to win the Main Event than by hitting a three-outer on the river?” Blumstein laughed afterwards. “A normally inconsequential deuce has changed my life.”

To etch his name in the history books, Blumstein first had to wade through a mammoth field of 7,221 players – the third largest Main Event in its 48-year history, trailing only 2006 and 2010.

Incredibly, the final table also featured two players returning for the second time, as Ben Lamb finished third in 2011 and Frenchman Antoine Saout third in 2009. Neither could better their previous efforts, hitting the rail in ninth and fifth respectively.

Main Event aside, this year’s WSOP, held at the Rio in Las Vegas, attracted a record 120,995 players, representing 111 different countries across 74 bracelet events.

The combined prize pools for all events exceeded US$200 million and pushed the total amount awarded over the history of the WSOP past the US$2.5 billion mark.

And as usual, there were plenty of famous faces to be seen at the tables, including football stars Neymar and Max Kruse, Olympic swimming legend Michael Phelps, three-time Super Bowl champion Richard Seymour and actors Brad Garrett, Ray Romano, James Woods and Jennifer Tilly.