They called them the Million Dollar Men, the November Nine and the PokerStars Six. But everyone knew that when the smoke cleared there could only be one of them left standing. And now we know his name.
The 2008 World Series Main Event champion is 22-year-old Peter Eastgate, from Odense, Denmark.
It took four hours of tense heads up competition against Ivan Demidov, from Moscow, Russia to reach this point, with records being smashed left and right along the way. The World Series Main Event has never had two players from outside of the United States going heads up for the title; there's has never been a final table lasting so long; tournament blinds have never before reached one million; and perhaps most impressive of all, Eastgate is the youngest ever world champion. At just 22 years old, he has knocked two years off the previous youngest mark set by Phil Hellmuth in 1989.
At around about 2.30am Vegas time, Demidov announced that he was all in looking at a board of 2d-Ks-3h-4c-7s. He might have felt good about doubling his dwindling stack as he table 4h-2h for two pairs. But Eastgate was going nowhere except into the winners' enclosure. He flipped Ad-5s for the wheel -- a straight ace through five -- to take the title and a first prize of $9,152,416.
"When I got my opponents all in, my hands held up every time; I was very fortunate," said Eastgate. "They were eight tough opponents," he added, referring to the vanquished competitors through two days of final table competition. Craig Marquis, Kelly Kim, David Rheem, Darus Suharto, Scott Mongomery, Ylon Schwartz and Dennis Phillips all hit the rail in yesterday's titanic struggle. But that's to say nothing of more than 6,700 others who came to Vegas clutching $10,000 back in July, whose chips are now all in front of Eastgate.
In truth, this heads-up battle was one way traffic, with Eastgate admitting that the deck was definitely with him today. In two key pots, he made a diamond flush with 7-4 and he turned a full house with pocket threes in another pot worth upwards of 10 million. Yesterday he'd also found small pocket pairs to oust opponents, beating Schwartz with pocket fives that made a full boat on the river, and removing the final table chip leader Dennis Phillips with pocket threes, flopping a decisive set.
That brought us to the final two, and most commentators agreed that Demidov and Eastgate deserved to be the ones to go head-to-head for the bracelet. Demidov, who also made the final table of World Series Europe this year, clearly remains a class act despite finishing second today. "I was trying to get my opponent to make mistakes. He makes very few mistakes," said Eastgate. "We will see a lot more of him in the coming years."
Demidov took his defeat as you might expect. He was crushed to take second, but comforted by the $5,809,595 he will cash out of the Rio cage. Demidov final tabled the World Series Europe Main Event this year while waiting for the Main Event of the World Series in Las Vegas to finish in November.
"When someone runs good like me, it helps," he said tonight after his finish. "I felt a lot more confident."
The deck did not treat him as well tonight. "I couldn't connect with a hand," he said. "I lost every big pot, when I tried to bluff, he had always had a hand."
For now, though, it's all about this young record breaker from Denmark. It was his first cash in a World Series event, and only his second final table in a major tournament. But he's already shooting for the very top: "I'm going for 11 bracelets," he said.
Why not 12?