Iranian-born and longtime German resident Hossein Ensan has closed out a historic 50th running of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) by capturing the world championship in the WSOP Main Event (officially Event #73) and the gigantic $10,000,000 first place prize and the diamond-encrusted World Series of Poker gold bracelet (Photo credit: Joe Giron/WSOP).
Though he started the tournament on July 5 with just 60,000 in chips, he ended up capturing all 514,140,000 of them, by outlasting the second-largest Main Event field in history – 8,569 entrants.
The $10,000 buy-in WSOP Main Event is globally recognized as poker’s world championship and this year was a special edition, the 50th running. The event created the second-largest prize pool ever — $80,548,600, of which the final nine players split up more than $30 million of it.
The 55-year-old Ensan becomes the oldest Main Event champion in 20 years, since Noel Furlong won the title in 1999 at age 62. He also becomes the third Iranian-born WSOP Main Event champion and the first in 27 years, joining Mansour Matloubi in 1990 and Hamid Dastmalchi in 1992.
Ensan captured his very first World Series of Poker (WSOP) gold bracelet and the top prize in gaming’s richest and most prestigious event after a three-day finale telecast live on ESPN that concluded at 1:24am in the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino’s Amazon Ballroom on Wednesday morning.
He had zero previous cashes at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas heading into this event and was playing the WSOP Main Event for the very first time. He had cashed once at WSOP Europe in 2017 for 2,824 euros, and also won a WSOP ring at a WSOP International Circuit event at King’s Casino in Rozvadov, Czech Republic, near his home country in 2017, which earned him 184,812 euros. His total live tournament winnings sat at $2,673,206 leading into this year’s WSOP Main Event and he managed to nearly quadruple that with his signature win in the 2019 WSOP Main Event. Born in Ahvaz, Iran, Ensan moved to Germany at the age of 25, where he has resided since.
“I am so happy. I am so happy. I thank my fans at home in Germany, also in Iran and my fans, my buddies here,” said a smiling Ensan after the event. “This is the best feeling in my life. Unbelievable! I am so happy, I’m here with the bracelet in hand. What can I say?”
The runner up was 32-year-old Dario Sammartino of Naples, Italy now living in Vienna, Austria. Sammartino, entered the final table as the most accomplished player, but was the short stack when play began Tuesday night. He managed to surge to the chip lead a couple times, but couldn’t ultimately finish off Ensan. Sammartino does earn the largest payday of his career, a hefty $6,000,000 for his second place finish. He had more than $8,000,000 in tournament winnings entering this tournament, including 35 previous WSOP cashes for more than $3.3 million, and now adds the best finish by an Italian-born player in Main Event history.
On the final hand of this 11-day poker game – the 301st hand of the final table — in the wee hours at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Ensan was dealt pocket kings and after a flop of ten of spades, two of diamonds and six of spades, and a nine of clubs on the turn, Sammartino check-raised, putting his remaining 140,000,000 chips in holding an eight and four of spades, drawing to a flush and a straight. But the river was a Queen of clubs, giving Ensan the victory. It was the first time in history pocket kings was the winning hand in the WSOP Main Event.
From an event that began way back on July 3, 2019 with 8,569 hopefuls who each ponied up the $10,000 entry fee and received 60,000 in starting tournament chips, Ensan ultimately outlasted them all – the second-largest starting field in the 50-year history of the tournament. The total prize pool up for grabs in the event was $80,548,600.
The event ended with 67 minutes and 56 seconds left in Level 43 of the tournament, which equated to 84 hours, 52 minutes and four seconds of poker play to reach a victor. In real time though, the event took 10 playing days, spread out over 14 calendar days to become the champion. When play began on July 3, players started with 60,000 in chips and the blinds were at 100 and 200 with a 200 big blind ante. When play completed early Wednesday morning at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, blinds were at 2,000,000 and 4,000,000 with the big blind ante at 4,000,000.
Three-handed play began Tuesday evening at 5:35 pm PT in Level 40 with blinds at 1,000,000-2,000,000 with a 2,000,000 big blind ante. At 8:58 pm, after more than three hours of three-handed play, Alex Livingston from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada was eliminated. Livingston got his remaining 41,100,000 chips in the pot in Level 41 with blinds at 1,200,000-2,400,000 with a 2,400,000 big blind ante when he shoved all in from the button holding Ace-Jack. Ensan made the call from the small blind with Ace-Queen, and though the flop brought a Jack, it also brought a Queen. The turn and river were no help to Livingston, who missed out on his first WSOP gold bracelet, but still walked away with $4,000,000. The former chess champion has done quite well in this event previously, finishing in 251st place last year for $42,980 and 13th in 2013 for $451,398. The pizza shop owner and poker professional attended Tufts University outside Boston where he studied Economics. This marked his 16th cash at the WSOP in Las Vegas, and brings his WSOP winnings to more than $4,650,000.
Heads up play lasted 101 hands with Ensan holding 279,800,000 chips at the beginning while Sammartino started with 235,000,000. The end came on hand number 301.
Rounding out the final table was:
4th place: Garry Gates, 37, from Henderson, Nevada, $3,000,000
5th place: Kevin Maahs, 27, from Chicago, Illinois, $2,200,000
6th place: Zhen Cai, 35, from Lake Worth, Florida, $1,850,000
7th place: Nick Marchington, 21, from Hornchurch, United Kingdom, $1,525,000
8th place: Timothy Su, 25, from Boston, Massachusetts, $1,250,000
9th place: Milos Skrbic, 30, from Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia, $1,000,000
Monday’s action was carried on a 30-minute delay on ESPN, to conform to local gaming regulations. Tonight’s finale was carried on ESPN as well. More than $30 million of the $80 million+ prize pool was divvied up amongst the final nine players. A record total of 1,286 individuals cashed in the event.
The WSOP Main Event play was paused on July 12 when the tournament reached its final nine players. It resumed on Sunday, July 14 with 91 minutes and 35 seconds remaining in Level 37, with blinds at 500,000 and 1,000,000 with a 1,000,000 big blind ante. Play lasted 3 hours and 55 minutes in real time on Sunday, but consumed 3 hours and 4 minutes of actual tournament time and led to the elimination of four players.
Monday’s play started in Level 38 with 28 minutes and 8 seconds left in the level with blinds at 600,000 and 1,200,000 with a 1,200,000 big blind ante. Two more players were eliminated over the course of 2 hours, 56 minutes of poker play and ended in Level 40 (Blinds at 1,000,000 and 2,000,000 with a 2,000,000 big blind ante), with 92 minutes and 5 seconds left in the level. In real time, play began at 6:35 pm in Las Vegas and concluded for the night at 10:27 pm when we lost October 1 Las Vegas shooting survivor and Henderson, Nevada resident Garry Gates, when his pocket sixes couldn’t overcome Livingston’s pocket Queens.
The 2019 WSOP has attracted a record 187,298 entrants this year, exceeding last year’s record of 123,865 by an astounding 51 percent.
A record prize pool has been awarded – more than $293 million. This year’s WSOP featured participants from more than 100 different nations.