It's over! The third and longest day of the 2016 World Series of Poker Main Event final table finally completed just a few hours ago, with Qui Nguyen being the one to top the 6,737-player field to win the title and $8,005,310 first prize.
Nguyen won after outlasting Gordon Vayo in a grueling, eight-hour heads-up duel. That marathon contrasted sharply with the action-packed start to the final night, kicked off in the very first hand with a big double-up by Cliff Josephy through leader Nguyen.
Then just four hands later Josephy suffered a big setback when Vayo doubled through him, making Josephy the short stack again. "JohnnyBax" battled gamely thereafter before going out in third after pushing a stack of just under 12 big blinds with , getting called by Vayo with , then failing to outrun Vayo's hand.
That was just 16 hands into the night, with Josephy being knocked out on Hand #182 of the final table. Coincidentially, Vayo and Nguyen would then play exactly 182 more hands of heads-up before Nguyen finally used to best a short-stacked Vayo's and claim the title.
Here are three hands chosen from last night's action as shown on ESPN — one of the most intriguing from three-handed play plus just a couple from the long heads-up portion. Put yourself in the seats of the players on the stage of the Penn & Teller Theater in the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino and think about how you might approach each of these hands.
As you do, here's a reminder of those massive pay jumps reflected in the payouts for the final three spots:
Hand #171: Josephy vs. Vayo vs. Nguyen
Players left: 3
This hand involved all three players, with Nguyen starting the hand with 141 million, Josephy next with 102.7 million, and Vayo third with 92.9 million.
Dealt on the button, Josephy opened for 2.5 million and got a caller in Vayo in the small blind. Nguyen then three-bet to 7.7 million from the big blind, and after a bit of study Josephy called the reraise. Vayo also called, making the pot 23.7 million.
The flop came , giving Josephy a set of deuces. Nguyen led with a bet of 9.9 million. Josephy chose to call, and after looking at Nguyen afterwards turned to look at Vayo who'd yet to act. Vayo called as well, producing a response from the crowd as the pot had suddenly reached 53.4 million.
The turn was the . Vayo checked quickly, and Nguyen took just a short while before calling as well. Acting deliberately, Josephy pushed out a bet of 21 million (about 40% of the pot).
There was 74.4 million in the middle, and after sitting quietly for a copule of minutes Vayo shoved all in with the 75.1 million he had behind. Nguyen got out, and Josephy had a decision.
The pot was 149.5 million, and with 63.9 million left in his stack it would cost Josephy 54.1 million of it to call.
Folding perhaps seems all but impossible for Josephy here, although the fact that he took a minute to consider what to do suggests he at least entertained the idea. After he called Vayo turned over the bad news for Josephy — he had for a better set — and Josephy went to his rail.
"I knew he had it. I can't fold it," he said, noting how Vayo's flatting of the pocket threes in this hand was different from how he'd previously played a hand at the final table.
The river was the , Vayo became the chip leader, and Josephy was down to 9.8 million. He'd double-up twice to nearly get back to where he'd started the day before ultimately getting knocked out by Nguyen.
Hand #209: Vayo vs. Nguyen
Players left: 2
We'll just pick two of the many intriguing heads-up hands between Nguyen and Vayo to consider.
Starting with 148.5 million, Vayo raised to 4 million from the button with . Nguyen had 188.1 million to begin the hand, and he made the call.
The flop came , giving Vayo two pair, and Nguyen checked. Vayo continued with a bet of 3.7 million, and Nguyen check-raised to 9.7 million. Vayo paused a short while and called, bringing the pot to 27.8 million.
The fell on the turn, and Nguyen fired a huge, almost pot-sized bet of 27.7 million. Vayo thought a full minute, then called. Pot 83.2 million.
The river was the , putting a third club on the board and counterfeiting Vayo’s flopped two pair, and Nguyen didn’t waste too much time before announcing he was all in.
With the effective stacks, the bet made the pot 190.1 million, and Vayo had to decide whether or not to commit his last 106.9 million with a call.
Vayo tanked for some time, noting at one point how bad that river card had been for him. Finally he found a fold, and as we saw he’d avoided ending the tournament right there as Nguyen had rivered a flush with .
Hand #300: Vayo vs. Nguyen
Players left: 2
Here's one more, coming much later in the night. With about a 2-to-1 chip lead, Nguyen (226 million) raised to 7 mllion from the button, and Vayo (110.6 million) called with .
The flop was a good one for Vayo, coming , and he chose to check and let Nguyen continue with a bet of 7.9 million. Vayo just called, bringing the pot to 30.6 million.
The turn was the . Vayo checked again, and Nguyen fired once more, this time 17.9 million.
There was 48.5 million in the middle, and Vayo had about twice that behind.
Vayo chose just to call, then when the river brought the to give Vayo a full house he checked again. Nguyen gave up with a check behind, mucking his , and Vayo took the 66 million-plus pot.