Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2011 | 8:31 p.m.
LAS VEGAS — Las Vegas poker professional Ben Lamb was eliminated from the World Series of Poker main event Tuesday night in four hands — leaving Pius Heinz of Germany and Martin Staszko of the Czech Republic battling for the $8.72 million title.
Lamb pushed all-in on the first hand of play with a king-jack, hoping to induce Staszko to fold pocket sevens.
But Staszko called and kept his marginal advantage as the five community cards were dealt.
"I got the sense he wasn't like super strong, but he actually was stronger than I thought he was," Lamb said.
That left Lamb very short on chips, and he pushed all-in again three hands later with a queen-six. This time, Staszko had pocket jacks and eliminated Lamb.
The 26-year-old Lamb won $4 million for finishing in third place. The hands pushed Staszko to a chip lead over Heinz.
Heinz, 22, of Cologne, Germany, and 35-year-old Martin Staszko of Trinec, Czech Republic, were each guaranteed a payday of at least $5.43 million.
Heinz led at the start with just over half the chips in play, but both Staszko and Lamb had enough chips for him to be wary.
Each player must lose all his chips to be eliminated from the no-limit Texas Hold 'em tournament, and win all the chips in play to take the crown.
Heinz, who said he had a rough six-month run in poker before the series and was thinking about whether to go back to college, aggressively stormed from seventh in chips to first at the nine-hand final table on Sunday.
He went from 16.4 million in chips to 107.8 million in just more than 7½ hours of play, propelling to a higher finish than at least six of his competitors.
Lamb, an experienced professional who made his mark at the 58-tournament series this year by winning Player of the Year honors, had a large contingent of rowdy supporters and a smaller group of friends and poker experts feeding him information about his play and his opponents.
He didn't last long Tuesday.
For the first time, every hand at the final table was playing out nearly live on ESPN, including tense stretches of several minutes during which players mull difficult decisions.
The play was being aired on a 15-minute delay with hole cards revealed once hands ended — enough time to ensure gambling regulators that players couldn't cheat.
Staszko said it was an element that wouldn't affect play too much — the game had already changed with three players left compared to nine, he said.
Carnival lasts all year at the Rio. With a float occasionally passing overhead and dropping beads while feathered dancers fire up the gamblers below, the Rio tries to keep its 120,000-square foot casino jumping with excitement. Special Brazilian mixed-drinks are also served throughout the casino. The hotel suites tend to be larger than similar priced rooms on the Strip and many offer excellent views with floor to ceiling windows.
The Rio offers some quality shows like "Penn & Teller" and "Chippendales." Many come to the Rio for the nightlife at the VooDoo Lounge, located on the 51st floor, or McFadden's Irish Pub on the casino level.
Others come for a bit relaxation at the Rio Spa or pool area and still others come to shop at the hotel's 60,000 square feet of shops. In each of these endeavors, the Rio attempts to make the experience a bit more fun and spontaneous.
The Rio also offers guests a variety of dining choices from all-American food at the All-American Bar & Grille to Gaylord India Restaurant for something a little spicier and even Carnival World Buffet for the indecisive.