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September 1, 2014

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Three players still in WSOP head to finale with most info ever

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Jon Boncek/WSOP

Pius Heinz of Germany and Ben Lamb of Las Vegas at the 2011 World Series of Poker Final Table at the Rio on Nov. 6, 2011.

2011 WSOP November Nine at the Rio

The 2011 World Series of Poker November Nine at the Rio on Nov. 6, 2011. Launch slideshow »

LAS VEGAS — The three top finishers at the World Series of Poker are preparing to settle an $8.72 million title armed with more information than ever before, adding a significant new layer to what's already a thinker's game.

The finalists, 22-year-old chip leader Pius Heinz of Germany, 26-year-old Ben Lamb of Las Vegas and 35-year-old Martin Staszko of the Czech Republic, have video access to every hand played at the first part of the final table — a variable previous finalists didn't have. By Tuesday's finale, that could change the game's dynamic.

""It's a whole different form of poker. I have a whole team working to get me information and it's a completely different situation," said Lamb, a poker professional who has been playing for six years and won this year's Player of the Year at the 58-tournament series.

"It definitely changes poker," he said.

Gambling regulators are allowing ESPN to broadcast the action nearly live, with players' cards shown on a 15-minute delay. Previously, players had to wait much longer to find out what their opponents had, as play shown on TV was significantly truncated to only certain hands.

With live coverage, several of the nine finalists were consulting with poker-playing friends during Sunday's session, walking to the tableside audience and peeking at iPads, phones or other mobile devices.

Lamb said it's something other players haven't encountered before, but he hopes the added information will help him get a win.

"I always think that I excel at like a new way to play a game — faster than other people," Lamb said. "I think it benefited me the most. Hopefully tomorrow, you know, goes as well."

To win the $8.72 million top prize and the gold bracelet and glory that comes with winning poker's Super Bowl, Lamb will have to overcome Heinz, who stormed the table on Sunday to amass more than half the chips in play.

Heinz started the day seventh in chips and quickly slid to ninth, but got over his initial nervousness to attack his opponents for their chips — with the help of some cards along the way.

"It was the dream scenario," Heinz said Monday. "I just played as well as I could."

Heinz, who said he received live play and math coaching from poker professional and Epic Poker Tour tournament winner Mike McDonald, said he'd look at the added information but he didn't think it would make a significant difference.

"I had a decent idea about what everybody had," Heinz said. "It's not too important, actually."

He said the mental competition at the table was getting more complex.

"I definitely respect both guys," Heinz said.

Staszko, a chess whiz with significant online experience including a win in a big tournament on PokerStars, said he wasn't planning to spend too much time breaking down footage. He said he knows they're capable of bluffing — and that they know he's capable of bluffing, too.

"I know these players and they know me," Staszko said. "It'll be a different game with three players."

Each player is guaranteed at least $4 million. Second place gets $5.43 million.

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