Earlier this year, Pius Heinz was deciding whether to play cards full-time. Now that the 22-year-old German has won the $8.72 million prize at the World Series of Poker, he can steer his life in pretty much whatever direction he wants. “Honestly I’m not sure what I’m going to do with the money,” Heinz said early Wednesday after winning the main event in a marathon session of Texas Hold ’em. “Probably my family is going to get a couple gifts.”
Heinz won with an ace high, just nine hands after using the same hand to boost himself from a nearly insurmountable disadvantage against 35-year-old Martin Staszko. Heinz called an all-in bet from Staszko with an ace and a king. Staszko held a seven-10 of clubs. The board was a five of clubs, deuce of diamonds, nine of spades, jack of hearts and four of diamonds, helping neither player but cementing Heinz’s win in the $10,000 buy-in tournament that started in July.
Staskzo won $5.43 million for second place, a nice consolation prize, but it comes without a bracelet — the prize given to WSOP event winners and coveted by all serious card players. Asked before the final table began whether they’d accept second place money right then and forgo a shot at the title, Heinz said yes; Staszko said no.
Now, Heinz is happy they played the game. Once it was down to the two players, they exchanged the lead nine times over 119 hands. At one point, Staszko had a nearly 4-1 chip edge on Heinz. But Heinz, who started the day with just over half the chips in play, convinced Staszko to gamble with less-than-ideal hands in an attempt to put the no-limit Texas Hold ’em tournament away. “I tried not to lose my nerve,” Heinz said. “At some point I was not making a hand. I was getting frustrated, honestly. I just tried to play my game.”
The play was aired on a 15-minute delay with hole cards revealed once hands ended — enough time to ensure gambling regulators that players couldn’t cheat. The game was played in front of a crowd of hundreds at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino near the Las Vegas Strip, in the same theater where magicians Penn & Teller regularly perform. “It was just awesome to have so many of your friends and family following you, cheering you,” Heinz said.
Damn, we would settle for 2nd place too. “Must be nice.”