The biggest single-day starting field to hit in the history of the World Series of Poker took place with two starting flights on June 3rd, when 6,343 runners ponied up $1,500 and built a prize pool of $8,563,050. Four days later, after playing through 35 one-hour levels, it all came down to one player — Benny Chen!
Ten players took their seats when Day 4 started and Chen was the Chip leader but that changed many times during the 195-hands that were played at the final table.
Dan Kelly started the carnage by taking out Joe Kuether in 10th place: Kuether open shoved all-in from middle position for 1,325 million with and Kelly answered with a call to show . The flop brought the and Kuether's only out was a queen. That didn't happen when the and the followed. Kuether left in 10th place with $82,205.
Kelly was also responsible for sending Theron Eichenberger home in 9th place. Eichenberger pushed in his short stack of 405,000 in response to Kelly's standard opening bet of 160,000 from under the gun. Kelly called with the and Eichenberger showed the . The board peeled off: . Eichenberger's lead on the flop turned to smoke that blew away in the wind when Kelly made his backdoor flush.
Robert McVeigh couldn't make it through hand #29. Upeshak Desilva opened from early position for 225,000 and McVeigh's stack was only good for 10 big blinds so he three-bet shoved for 1.06 million with the . Bad luck stomped on his cards; he was up against Desilva's when the smoke cleared. The board brought no help for Desilva and he was gone after the board came .
Upeshak Desilva didn't volunteer for 7th place but it was his after he raised to 265,000 from the hijack; Justin Liberto bet enough to put Desilva all-in and away they went when Desilva called with around 2.1 million to show . Liberto was clearly the underdog with the . The board ran out and Desilva was gone, destroyed by a runner-runner straight.
Chris Hunichen fell shortly after when Liberto opened for 320,000 under the gun and Hunichen went all-in for 875,000 more. Liberto called and turned over the and was behind the in Hunichen's hand. The dealer put up the board: and Hunichen finished out his tournament run with 6th place and $229,575.
Dan Kelly busted on Hand #80 when Chen opened from the cutoff for 325,000. Liberto called from the small blind and Kelly pushed his last 2.95 million to the middle. Chen folded and Liberto finally called after a bit, showing down . Kelly had . The back-door flush came rolling in and Liberto was the benefactor with a board of . Fifth place and $302,104 was all Kelly had to show for his hard work.
Four-handed play lasted 95 hands but on Hand #175 Justin Liberto headed for the cashier's cage in 4th place. Chen opened for 800,000 from the under the gun and Liberto pushed for 3.05 million. Chen called to show to Liberto's . The board brought a brief window of hope when the showed but the next card put a damper on the two outs Liberto would need to stay alive. The board ran out . It was over for Liberto.
Twelve hands later Jonathan Gray was out of the competition. Michael Bennington opened for 800,00 and Chen called from the small blind. Gray shoved for close to 5.5 million and Bennington folded while Chen called with only to have Gray table . The board sealed Gray's fate: . Gray left in 3rd place with $534,505.
Chen held close to a 3:1 chip lead over Bennington when heads-up play started and on the eighth hand, Bennington limped on the button, Chen raised from the big blind. Bennington topped it up and Chen raised all-in.
Benny Chen scooped a massive 1st place prize and a gold bracelet to become the winner of the inaugural 'Millionaire Maker' and write his place in history. Congratulations Benny!
Sarah Grant catches up with Benny:
The full tournament report can be found here.