WSOP review: Ensan, Livingston and Sammartino to face off for WSOP ME title


Day 9 of the World Series of Poker Main Event concludes with two more eliminations bringing an 8,569 player field down to only three with hopes of winning the $10m first prize. 

wsop-review-ensan-livingston-and-sammartino-to-face-off-for-wsop-me-titleThe $10,000 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event is ready for the season finale. It began, almost a fortnight ago, and it ends tomorrow. Eight thousand five hundred sixty-nine people entered, making it the second largest Main Event in history, and only three remain.

Here’s how things looked at the start of Day 9.

 Day 9 starting chip counts

1. Hossein Ensan – 207,700,000
2. Garry Gates – 171,700,000
3. Kevin Maahs – 66,500,000
4. Alex Livingston – 45,800,000
5. Dario Sammartino – 23,100,000

Day 9 highlights

If one player was sitting at the final table that the runaway chip leader, Hossein Ensan, didn’t want to see collecting chips, it was Dario Sammartino, but that’s what happened when after only three hands the best player at the table doubled up.

With blinds at 600k/1.2m/1.2m, Ensan raised to 3.3m from the small blind and called when Sammartino moved all-in for 21.9m. Ensan was ahead with pocket tens facing ace-jack, but a jack in the window and another on the turn gave the Italian hope that there would be more to life than a fifth-place finish.

Ensan wins a big hand from Gates.

PokerStars employee, Garry Gates, began as the overwhelming fans favourite and was nestled snugly behind Ensan, second in chips, after a fantastic Day 8. If there was a moment when things went wrong for Gates on Day 9, this was it.

With blinds at 800k/1.6m/1.6m, Garry Gates opened to 3.5m from the button, and Ensan defended the big blind. The flop of Kd8c5c hit the felt, and Ensan check-called a 2.3m Gates bet. The 6c arrived on the fourth street, and the same action ensued for 6.5m. The final card was the Ts; Ensan led for 8.9m, Gates raised to 24.5m, and Ensan called. Gates showed AdTc for the bluff, and Ensan showed Ks9s for top pair, giving him more than 50% of the chips in play.

Kevin Maahs eliminated in 5th place.

With blinds at 1m/2m/2m, Ensan opened to 4m from early position, and then called when Kevin Maahs moved all-in for 30.3m from the small blind. Ensan had a lot of dodging to do but was ahead with pocket nines versus the AhTh of Maahs, and dodge he did after the board completed Jh5c3sJs4h.

Each year, the poker fans choose a pantomime villain, and this year it was Maahs. Excessive tanking was the reason, and after Maahs’ elimination, he spoke to the press about the criticism he had received on Twitter over his play.

“Usually, I am in tournaments where I don’t show my hole cards,” said Maahs. “You get into your opponents head when you tank that long. If I am going to be hated by everyone, it’s fine. I thrive in that role {the villain}. Hopefully, I can come back another day, and be the villain the whole way through, and take it down.”

When asked why Maah’s likes playing the villain, he said, “I have a controversial and argumentative attitude, and that suits the villain role.”

Garry Gates eliminated in 4th place.

Every story as a villain, but it also has a hero, and the WSOP Main Event lost one as Gates’s incredible journey ended in the fourth position. Nothing went right for Gates, today, and with blinds at 1m/2m/2m, he moved all-in from the small blind for 29.2m, holding pocket sixes, and Alex Livingston called with pocket queens in the big blind. The 7h5s2d flop gave Gates some backdoor outs, but the Th disappointed on the turn. Gates needed one of two sixes to avoid a fourth-place finish, and the Ts wasn’t one of them.

Talking to the press about his fantastic run, Gates referred to it as a ‘whirlwind,’ before suggesting that despite winning $3m, he was expecting a little more.

“When you come into a final table with the number of chips I had you expect a better result, but these are world-class players. I knew I had already won before the day began.”

Remko Rinkema, PokerGO, asked Gates how it felt having so much energy and love in his corner, at which point, Gates broke down crying.

“It wasn’t only that moment; it was all week,” said a tearful Gates. “It meant everything to me. I felt so much love from every corner of the world, and it’s something I will never forget. I know I am crying right now, but deep down, I am so happy.”

Gates’ colleague at PokerStars, Howard Swains, asked Gates if the result will change his life.

“Yeah, Howard {Swains}, I’m a millionaire now. My debt has gone. I can buy a house, buy a ring for my girlfriend, take care of my daughter. My future is a lot brighter now.”

The future is also bright for the three men who will compete for the $10m first prize when play resumes on Tuesday.

Chip counts

1. Hossein Ensan – 326,800,000
2. Alex Livingston – 120,400,000
3. Dario Sammartino – 67,600,000


1. $10m
2. $6m
3. $4m
4. Garry Gates – $3m
5. Kevin Maahs – $2.2m
6. Zhen Cai – $1.85m
7. Nick Marchington – $1.525m
8. Timothy Su – $1.25m
9. Milos Skrbic – $1m