Benba runs straight to WSOP Main Event final three
7 Nov 2011
By Dan Igo
By Dan Igo
Lamb is the only November Nine member to also be named the WSOP Player of the Year. His final table appearance is the culmination of an incredible 2011 Series, which included his first gold bracelet, a second-place finish and two other top-15 finishes. He was the chip leader following Day 2B of the Main Event, and he continued his run through to the final table.
"Run like Benba" became a common phrase in the poker community when describing someone on an epic heater. And in true Benba fashion, his epic heater continued Sunday, with two ridiculous all-in survivals adding to the Benba legend.
Lamb’s tournament hung in the balance twice on Sunday. Both times he went into the hand with the worst hand. And both times he emerged victorious. Lamb is just two spots away from completing the greatest World Series of all time.
His first “Run like Benba” hand occurred midway through the afternoon. Holding a little more than 14 million in chips, Lamb moved all-in and was called by Eoghan O’Dea, who had him covered by 2.6 million chips. Lamb showed Qd-8d and was behind O’Dea’s Ac-9d. The flop came out Js-Jd-6d, giving Lamb a flush draw. The 4c on the turn was a blank, and now Lamb’s tournament life was on the line coming down to one card.
The river showed an 8h, which gave Lamb a pair and the win. Instead of hitting the rail, Lamb now had nearly 30 million chips and was right back in the thick of things. He ran to his rail, which exploded in “Benba! Benba!” cheers. O’Dea, who entered Sunday second in chips, would be eliminated two hands later.
The second “Run like Benba” hand was even more epic. When play was four-handed, Lamb had a little more than 25 million chips when he reraised Matt Giannetti all-in. Giannetti called and showed pocket jacks, which dominated Lamb’s Ah-7h. Of course, two hearts hit on the flop. The 4h on the turn sealed the pot for Lamb, and he pushed his chip stack to over 55 million.
In true Benba fashion, he eliminated Giannetti a few hands later when he flopped quad kings. You can’t make this stuff up.
The first three editions of the November Nine have all been unique, but there have been some similar themes that united each of them. One “everyman” will capture the attention of the general public. At least one European will make some major noise. And there will be one major poker professional who will demand all the attention.
In 2008 that honor was bestowed on Chino Rheem. In 2009 it was Phil Ivey. Last year it was Michael Mizrachi. All three had terrific Main Events, and all three fell short of the ultimate goal: The World Championship.
Lamb came into the final table with the most experience and most respect of any of the November Nine members. In 2009 he finished in 14th place in the Main Event, which was until this year the biggest cash of his career. The fact that two years later he was able to best that result is almost miraculous, considering how large and skilled the fields have been at the WSOP.
The WSOP's Nolan Dalla conducted interviews with all nine players left in the Main Event, and it was clear that Lamb was the man people had their eye on.
Phil Collins: "I would say I respect Ben Lamb the most. He plays poker at a very elite level and has more experience under the lights than I have. So he is definitely going to be a force to be reckoned with."
Martin Statsko: "This year, Ben Lamb had a great WSOP. I think I have to say Ben Lamb [is the greatest threat]."
O’Dea: “Ben Lamb always seems to know where he’s at. I saw him do some things that were pretty impressive, like when he was holding pocket kings against two aces. He lost some chips, but any other player would have lost a lot more or would have doubled his opponent up. Ben played it just right.”
With a ton of momentum and plenty of attention, it wouldn't have been surprising to see Lamb get aggressive early and assert his table dominance. But that wasn't the case. In fact, it was the complete opposite. He only played one hand through the first 26 dealt. The aggressive player early on was Germany’s Pius Heinz, who was able to chip up while his opponents played tight.
Even Sam Holden, whom Lamb knocked out shortly after the first break, thought Heinz was the toughest player at the table.
"Pius was playing the best,” Holden said after he was eliminated. “He was the most aggressive opponent at the table and he really came out with guns blazing. He seems to be really well so I guess he's playing the toughest of the nine.”
Ukrainian Anton Makiievskyi, who was eliminated by Heinz in eighth place, echoed that thought.
"For sure Pius [played the best],” he said. “I said it before the November Nine started and I say it now."
Heinz is entering Tuesday’s action as the dominant stack with 107.8 million in chips. Lamb has 55.4 million and Staszko has 42.7 million. Despite Lamb’s heroics, Heinz was the player who was in complete control on Sunday. Heinz will make history if he wins as he would become Germany’s first Main Event champion. He is the surefire favorite and the gold bracelet is his to lose.
But in a World Series that has played out like a dream for Ben Lamb, chances are he’ll be involved in a few sizable pots with Heinz. And perhaps he’ll be an underdog in those pots.
But Sunday proved more than ever that betting against Benba, at least in 2011, is still a bad bet.