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It was the final night of the final table for the final three players of the World Series of Poker Main Event. Only one player would emerge from the green felt as the champion, the WSOP World Champion, with $8 million and the gold bracelet that make up the ultimate prize in poker.

After many hours of action, it was over, and Qui Nguyen posed for the cameras with a large pile of money and that shiny piece of WSOP jewelry.

From 6,737 Players to Three

The WSOP $10K No Limit Hold’em World Championship began in July at the Rio in Las Vegas as the culmination of the summer’s World Series of Poker. Three starting days of poker drew 6,737 players to the action, each ponying up $10,000 to compete in the biggest and most prestigious tournament of the year to create a massive prize pool of $63,340,268.

After seven full days of action, only nine players remained seated with chips, and they became the November Nine. Each departed with $1 million, and they then returned to Vegas on October 30 to play out that final table. With more than $25 million still on the line, the nine men were ready to play under the bright lights and ESPN cameras set up in the Penn & Teller Theater.

On October 30, they played for about six hours. During that time, initial chip leader Cliff Josephy (also known as Johnny Bax) eliminated short-stacked Fernando Pons, Vojtech Ruzicka ousted Jerry Wong, and Gordon Vayo busted Griffin Benger. Later, new chip leader Qui Nguyen eliminated Kenny Hallaert to leave just five players in the tournament.

The following night started with action-packed poker that led to a surprising exit from Ruzicka at the hands of Vayo and Nguyen, the former crippling Ruzicka and the latter officially sending him out on the next hand. A while later, Nguyen eliminated Michael Ruane in fourth place. When play stopped after nearly 70 hands, three players held the remaining chips.

The payouts thus far were:

4th place:  Michael Ruane (New Jersey, USA) – $2,576,003

5th place:  Vojtech Ruzicka (Prague, Czech Republic) – $1,935,288

6th place:  Kenny Hallaert (Hansbeke, Belgium) – $1,464,258

7th place:  Griffin Benger (Ontario, Canada) – $1,250,190

8th place:  Jerry Wong (New York, USA) – $1,100,076

9th place:  Fernando Pons (Palma, Spain) – $1,000,000

Turning a Trio into a Duo

The three players who entered the theater on November 1 to continue play had the following chip stacks:

  1. Qui Nguyen (Nevada, USA) – 197,600,000
  2. Gordon Vayo (California, USA) – 89,000,000
  3. Cliff Josephy (New York, USA) – 50,000,000

The first hand of the night was the 167th of the final table, and it was a big one. Nguyen raised, and Josephy reraised. Vayo folded his big blind, and Nguyen four-bet to 20.9 million. Josephy responded with an all-in move holding Ad-Qd. Nguyen called with As-4c. The board delivered Ac-Qh-7c-3s-Qs to give Josephy the full house and a double-up to 101.4 million chips.

And the action did not let up. Four hands later, Josephy raised and Vayo called. Nguyen then three-bet from the big blind, and both players called. The flop came Kd-3c-2s, and Vayo checked. Nguyen bet, and Josephy and Vayo both called. With more than 53 million in the pot and a 4d on the turn, Vayo and Nguyen checked, but Josephy bet 21 million. Vayo pushed all-in for 75.1 million. Nguyen folded out of the way, and Josephy called with 2d-2c for the set. But Vayo turned over 3d-3s for the better set. The river of 6d gave Vayo a massive double-up to the chip lead with 203.6 million chips. Josephy was left with just 9.8 million, just a few big blinds.

Josephy risked it all on the next hand with Ad-Td, and Nguyen was there with Kd-8h. The board blanked and doubled Josephy to 19.8 million. A few hands later, Josephy pushed with Ks-9d against Nguyen’s Ah-Qd, but the board of Qs-Ts-7d-9s-3s gave Josephy a flush and another double, that time to 46.2 million.

The short-stacked player won a few and lost a few small hands, but then Josephy got involved with Nguyen in a significant hand holding Jh-3h against the Ad-8d of Nguyen on a Ac-Ts-3s-9h-6c board. Josephy was down to 18.9 million after losing that hand.

On the very next hand, Josephy pushed all-in with Qd-3d, and Vayo called with Kh-6d. The dealer gave them Kc-8c-3h-4c-2c, and that was enough to give the pot to Vayo. Josephy was gone in third place.

Heads-Up for a Few Million

The heads-up chip counts for the big showdown were:

Gordon Vayo – 200,300,000 (125 big blinds)
Qui Nguyen – 136,300,000 (85 big blinds)

The 183rd hand of the table kicked off the battle, and Nguyen took the first six hands to even the stacks. Eight hands into the match, Nguyen had taken the lead and climbed over 188 million.

Vayo quickly reclaimed that lead, however, by the 200th hand of the final table, but Nguyen was more than determined. Nine hands later, Nguyen had the lead and the two got involved in a big hand that drew a board of Ac-Ts-9c-Ks-Kc with 83 million chips already in the pot. Nguyen moved all-in with Qc-5c, and Vayo thought for quite a long time before finally folding his Ad-9h. While Vayo made the correct move, Nguyen climbed further up to 229.7 million chips, leaving Vayo at 106.9 million. In subsequent hands, Nguyen continued to chip away at his opponent, and Vayo dipped below 100 million.

After 39 hands of heads-up play, the duo took a break before the level change.

Upon their return, Vayo fell to 57.6 million chips at one point, and Nguyen put Vayo to the test with an all-in move on the next hand. Two hands later, however, Vayo took control. He made the initial raise, and when Nguyen reraised, Vayo moved all-in with As-Jd. Nguyen called with Kh-9h, and the board came 8h-5s-3c-Qc-Th. Vayo garnered 117.8 million in the double-up.

Vayo took a few pots and climbed over 120 million, but Nguyen pushed him back down. The pattern repeated itself for hours and hours, and Vayo occasionally doubled to stay in contention. But finally, on the 364th hand of the final table, the biggest hand of the night developed. Nguyen raised to 8.5 million, and Vayo pushed his last 53 million chips all-in with Js-Ts. Nguyen called with Kc-Tc. The board delivered Kd-9c-7d-2s-3h, and the tournament was over at 3:30am local Las Vegas time.

Vayo graciously accepted second place, and Nguyen smiled as the new WSOP Main Event champion.

Final Main Event November Nine Payouts

1st place:  Qui Nguyen (Nevada, USA) – $8,005,310

2nd place:  Gordon Vayo (California, USA) – $4,661,228

3rd place:  Cliff Josephy (New York, USA) – $3,453,035

4th place:  Michael Ruane (New Jersey, USA) – $2,576,003

5th place:  Vojtech Ruzicka (Prague, Czech Republic) – $1,935,288

6th place:  Kenny Hallaert (Hansbeke, Belgium) – $1,464,258

7th place:  Griffin Benger (Ontario, Canada) – $1,250,190

8th place:  Jerry Wong (New York, USA) – $1,100,076

9th place:  Fernando Pons (Palma, Spain) – $1,000,000

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Jennifer Newell

Jennifer has been a freelance writer in the poker industry for a decade. She left a full-time job with the World Poker Tour to tell the stories of poker. She now lives in St. Louis, writes about poker while pursuing other varied interests, and speaks her mind on Twitter… a lot.