22-year-old becomes youngest champ; pockets $9.15 million
The 2008 World Series of Poker had a fairy-tale ending for a young Danish poker pro who shares a hometown with Hans Christian Andersen.
Peter Eastgate, 22, became the youngest World Series main event champion in the tournament's 39-year-history on the strength of a masterful performance in the heads-up portion of the competition Tuesday morning at the Rio.
Eastgate outlasted runner-up Ivan Demidov to win $9.1 million in first-place prize money and the gold-and-diamond bracelet emblematic of the championship of the richest and most prestigious event in poker.
"It was a great final table ... it was great for me because I won," Eastgate said, not even trying to suppress a wide grin.
Eastgate and Demidov started their head-to-head duel Monday night at the Penn & Teller Theater before a crowd of about 1,000 fans. They were the last two standing from the 6,844 entrants in the $10,000-entry no-limit Texas hold 'em tournament that started in July. They also survived a final table of nine players who reconvened Sunday after an unprecedented 117-day hiatus.
On the hand that clinched the title, Eastgate made a "wheel," or a 5-high straight, to beat Demidov's two pair, deuces and 4s. After a flop of 2-king-3, a 4 fell on fourth street to give Eastgate, holding an ace and a 5, his straight. A harmless 7 fell on the river. Demidov went all-in and Eastgate made the easy call.
Demidov, of Moscow, Russia, collected $5.8 million for second place.
"We'll see a lot more of Ivan," said Eastgate, of Odense, Denmark. "He played great, and that goes for the other guys too. I'm very proud."
Demidov, 27, acquitted himself well at the final table, establishing an image of a fearsome -- and fearless -- competitor before Eastgate pulled away with a late rally.
"I'm not really satisfied with the way I played," Demidov said. "I learned I have some work to do on my heads-up game."
Eastgate surpassed Phil Hellmuth's record as the youngest player to win the World Series championship event. Hellmuth won the 1989 tournament at age 24. Hellmuth wished Eastgate good luck Monday when he advanced to the final two.
"It's a great accomplishment," Eastgate said. "Beating Phil Hellmuth makes it even better."
Eastgate takes commanding lead (2:20 a.m.):
Peter Eastgate snapped off a bluff by Ivan Demidov to win a huge pot and take a commanding lead of $108 million to $28 million in tournament chips.
With a board reading 10-king-7-jack-3 with three diamonds, Demidov bet $12 million on fifth street and was called by Eastgate. Demidov had only ace-9 for a hand of ace high. Eastgate, holding the 4-7 of diamonds, won a pot of more than $40 million with his flush.
Moments later Eastgate put Demidov deeper into the hole when the Dane turned a full house, 3s full of 8s, and coaxed Demidov into calling bets of $2.5 million and $4.5 million on fourth and fifth streets.
Two hands later, a scheduled 20-minute break was announced. The crowd groaned, correctly sensing a massive shift in momentum in Eastgate's favor.
Eastgate went into the break holding a chip lead of $120.4 million to $16.4 million, a ratio of 7.5 to 1.
Demidov fights back as blinds escalate (2:00 a.m.):
The blinds increased to $500,000 and $1 million with an ante of $150,000 at 1:18 a.m. Tuesday. In other words, $1.8 million goes into the pot on each hand before a card is dealt. That amount represents about 1.3 percent of the $136 million in tournament chips in play.
The size of the blinds marks a record high in the history of the World Series of Poker.
Demidov has narrowed his chip deficit as the blinds have escalated, demonstrating he won't go down without a fight, and rebuilding his chip stack to $52 million in tournament dollars. Eastgate, whose chip total had exceeded $100 million, dropped to $84 million.
Picking his spots to show aggression, Demidov challenged Eastgate with a couple of crucial preflop re-raises that could have led to the building of a big pot. Each time, the Dane elected to back off and allowed Demidov to take down the pot.
The two finalists have been playing heads-up poker at its highest skill level, treating the fans at the Rio to a taut and cerebral duel. Regardless of the outcome, both men figure to be major forces in tournament poker for years to come.
Setting a new record (1:15 a.m.):
Just before 1 a.m. Tuesday the final table, which began Sunday morning, broke the record for the longest main event final table in the 39-year history of the World Series of Poker.
The 2008 final table surpassed the old mark of 14 hours, 2 minutes set in 2005, when Joe Hachem won the championship.
Tournament director Jack Effel's announcement of the milestone drew only lukewarm applause from the crowd despite his gallant attempts to sell it: "Always breaking records. It's all about the numbers."
The timekeeping includes short breaks but excludes longer interruptions such as dinner breaks.
Meanwhile Peter Eastgate, playing textbook big-stack tournament poker by applying consistent pressure on his opponent, had opened a chip lead of approximately $107 million in tournament chips to Ivan Demidov's $29 million. Eastgate won a series of small pots, causing a look of frustration to flicker across the face of Demidov, who otherwise had been virtually unreadable to the point of stoic.
Play resumes with Eastgate in control (12:35 a.m.):
Play resumed at 12:25 a.m. Tuesday after a brief break with Peter Eastgate holding the chip lead against Ivan Demidov, $86.3 million to $50.5 million in tournament chips.
Eastgate proceeded to stretch his lead by winning a couple of key hands, including a large pot in which he caught Demidov bluffing. With a dangerous board reading 6-7-9-jack-queen, Demidov made a $7 million bet holding nothing but ace high. Holding 8-jack, Eastgate "insta-called" without even taking a moment to think it over and took down the pot with his pair of jacks.
Final two playing for national pride (12:20 a.m.):
An hour and a half into the heads-up portion of the World Series of Poker final table, Peter Eastgate has maintained his chip lead against Ivan Demidov in a closely contested match marked by tactical yet selectively aggressive play by both men.
The two finalists contested a pot exceeding $30 million in tournament chips, but ended up splitting it because they both had a straight. Ivan, holding the 6-8 of clubs, flopped his straight when the first three community cards came 5-7-4 with two diamonds. The flop gave Eastgate, holding 4-6 offsuit, an open-ended straight draw, and he completed it when an 8 fell on fourth street. A third diamond, the 3, put the brakes on the betting. Both players checked and chopped the pot.
Just before the players left to take a short break, Eastgate won a sizable pot when he made two pair, aces and queens, on the river and Demidov mucked his hand at showdown.
Eastgate is attempting to become the second Dane to win a World Series of Poker bracelet. Jesper Hougaard won his in a $1,500-entry no-limit hold 'em tournament at the Rio in June, and followed that victory by taking down a 1,500-pound-entry tournament at the World Series of Poker Europe in London three months later. Hougaard, of Copenhagen, is sitting with Eastgate's cheering section at the final table.
If Demidov wins, he'll join 2008 World Series women's tournament winner Svetlana Gromenkova as a Russian reigning champion. Gromenkova, a Russian national who lives in New York, won her bracelet in June.
Former champs in the house (11:00 p.m.):
Between hands, tournament director Jack Effel has introduced former world champions Chris Ferguson, Chris Moneymaker and Jamie Gold, who are on hand to watch the match between Demidov and Eastgate. Ferguson and Gold are sitting in the front row with fellow popular pros Erick Lindgren and Daniel Negreanu, just in front of Barry Greenstein.
Also stage-side are Madeline and Stephanie Ungar, widow and daughter of poker great Stu Ungar, who won the World Series main event in 1980, 1981 and 1997. This month marks 10 years since Stu Ungar's death at the age of 45.
Final table underway (10:50 p.m.):
Michael Buffer, the famed boxing ring announcer also known for his haunting performance in the role of Walbridge in "You Don't Mess with the Zohan," introduced the two finalists and intoned, "Let's get ready ... to shuffle up and deal!"
Play resumed with the blinds at $300,000 and $600,000 with an ante of $75,000. Eastgate entered heads-up play with an official count of $80.3 million in tournament chips to Demidov's $56.6 million, slightly different figures from the estimates posted early Monday morning just after the final table of nine had been pared to two players.
The first hand, which began at 10:35, went all the way to the river. With two 10s and three kings on the board, Eastgate folded to Demidov's bet after fifth street.
The big pile of cash and the bracelet remain on the table as the players compete.
Nine minutes into play, the blinds were raised to $400,000 and $800,000 and the ante to $100,000.
Electric atmosphere fills Rio (10:30 p.m.):
Spectators were still filing into the Penn & Teller Theater at the Rio at 10 p.m. Monday, the scheduled starting time for the final night of the 2008 World Series of Poker main event.
A capacity crowd of about 1,000 fans was expected for the heads-up match between Ivan Demidov and Peter Eastgate, with a top prize of $9.1 million and poker's world championship at stake.
On stage, millions of dollars in cash and the gold-and-diamond championship bracelet sat on the final table itself awaiting the players' arrival.
In a promotion in the Rio casino Monday afternoon, both finalists showed they did not regard the treasured bracelet with superstition, the way hockey players do with the Stanley Cup. Demidov and Eastgate each hoisted the bracelet in the air for photographers during the appearance on the Rio's Masquerade Stage to hype the final showdown. (Hockey players, by contrast, famously refuse to handle the Cup unless they have won it on the ice.)
Boxing ring announcer Michael Buffer is milling around on stage. Predictably, his appearance has generated more than one impersonation of his signature phrase, "Let's get ready to rumble!" from the audience.
Tournament director Jack Effel is preparing to wish the players good luck in their native languages. In Danish, it's "held og lykke." The Russian version involves foreign characters but phonetically it roughly translates as "udachee."
World Series of Poker commissioner Jeffrey Pollack presented Erick Lindgren with the 2008 World Series player of the year award. Lindgren, of Las Vegas, won the World Series $5,000-buy-in mixed hold 'em tournament and cashed in four other events, including a third-place showing in the $50,000-entry world championship HORSE mixed-games tournament.
Lindgren offered the two finalists his congratulations, then passed along a message from former world champ Doyle Brunson: There will be a big cash poker game in progress on the Strip after the final table, and Demidov and Eastgate are more than welcome to join in.
Demidov, Eastgate play for poker’s biggest prize (3:30 p.m.):
Having secured at least second-place prize money of $5.8 million, both World Series of Poker main event finalists said they'll be competing Monday night for the prestige of winning the game's most revered tournament.
Ivan Demidov of Moscow, Russia, and Peter Eastgate of Odense, Denmark, will square off head-to-head for the no-limit Texas hold 'em world championship beginning at 10 p.m. at the Rio.
First place in the $10,000-buy-in tournament, which drew 6,844 entrants, pays $9.1 million. The winner also receives a gold-and-diamond championship bracelet, considered the most coveted prize in poker.
"It's about the bracelet and about winning the biggest poker tournament in the world," Demidov said Monday at the Rio.
Demidov enters heads-up play at the Penn & Teller Theater with $57.7 million in tournament chips to Eastgate's $79.5 million. Spectators are welcome, with doors scheduled to open to the general public at 9:30 p.m.
"We already know we're getting the paycheck, so it's pride that's on the line," Eastgate said.
As players were eliminated from the final table Sunday, which reconvened after an unprecedented 117-day hiatus, nearly every one of them mentioned Demidov, Eastgate or both as the toughest competitors in the event's endgame.
Both finalists became professional poker players after honing their skills online, moving up through the ranks to high-stakes play as they conquered each succeeding level.
Demidov, 27, entered play at the final table with a burgeoning reputation for "live" (that is, live and in person) tournament play as well. During the 117-day break, he finished third in the World Series of Poker Europe main event in London.
Eastgate, 22, became serious about poker in 2006 when he went on a major "heater," or winning streak, in online play. He was asked Monday at the Rio what he did before he embarked upon his lucrative career as a poker pro.
"Before that," Eastgate said, "I was in high school."
(Credit: Las Vegas Sun)
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