LAS VEGAS – Ivan Demidov and Peter Eastgate emerged from a marathon session early Monday morning at the World Series of Poker and will meet later in the night to settle the $9.15 million title.
Eastgate, a 22-year-old poker professional from Odense, Denmark, eliminated the last American in the field with a set of threes. Dennis Phillips, who tried to bluff Eastgate with a 10 high, shrugged his shoulders and nodded his head when Eastgate made the call that eliminated him.
"I just want to be alive on the river," Phillips said before an ace came on the turn, officially eliminating the 53-year-old trucking account manager who started the final table with the chip lead.
Phillips, of Cottage Hills, Ill., won $4,517,773 for third place.
Eastgate held 79.5 million chips, nearly 22 million chips more than Demidov, a 27-year-old semiprofessional poker player from Moscow.
"My hands held up all the time — that's the key factor," Eastgate said.
Those big hands, including two full houses and a set, helped Eastgate end the tournament for four players.
Ylon Schwartz finished fourth and won $3,774,974 after failing on a bluff, giving Eastgate a lead over Demidov. Scott Montgomery watched Eastgate hit a full house on the river, after Montgomery picked up three aces on the turn.
"I saw it coming," said Montgomery, 26, of Perth, Ontario. He won $3,096,768 for fifth place, and Eastgate moved just behind Demidov.
Demidov, unlike Eastgate, did not eliminate any players from the final table. But he made plenty of moves from the start, overtaking the lead from Phillips and making a bet that would have put Phillips all-in for the first time at the final table.
"I'm more confident," said Demidov, an online poker whiz who spent four months up to Sunday night getting more accustomed to live poker games.
He finished third at the main event of the World Series of Poker Europe in September.
Darus Suharto failed on a last-ditch effort to add to his short stack of chips when he lost an all-in bet to Montgomery. Montgomery ended Suharto's tournament by hitting a fourth spade on the turn to make a flush. Suharto won $2,418,562 for sixth place.
David "Chino" Rheem, the most well-known poker player coming into the final table, busted out in seventh place when Eastgate hit a pair of queens to upend the 28-year-old poker professional from a dominant hand.
"I put my heart into it and my heart is broken," a visibly upset Rheem said. "This one really hurts."
Rheem won $1,772,650 for seventh place.
The first two players eliminated went out in back-to-back hands. Each bust out brought higher guaranteed paydays and inched those remaining closer to poker's richest crown.
Kelly Kim, a big underdog because of his severely low chip stack coming into the final table, held out one hand longer than Craig Marquis and was rewarded with an extra $387,547.
"You play this game, you take the abuse and you give the abuse," Kim said. "I hung on as long as I could."
Marquis, a 23-year-old from Arlington, Texas, lost with three sevens to Scott Montgomery, who drew a straight on the turn and river to send Marquis home in ninth.
"You got to try to win the tournament," Marquis told Kim as the first two players eliminated from the final table greeted each other away from it.
Ylon Schwartz started the day in the middle of the pack and quickly moved to the top with aggressive raises. Phillips — hoping to salvage a lousy start — doubled up through Rheem on his way back into serious contention. By the time Rheem was eliminated, Schwartz and Phillips were essentially tied in chips, an indication of the big swings in the seesaw battle for the top of the poker world.
Kim, a 31-year-old poker professional from Whittier, Calif., survived two all-in bets after watching his stack slowly whittle away at the start of the final table.
The final players at the World Series of Poker resumed play Sunday morning the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas to determine the champion at this year's no-limit Texas Hold 'em main event.
Fans waited outside the Penn & Teller Theater at the hotel as early as 2 a.m. in hopes of nabbing one of the 1,000 seats inside, a security guard said. Most were taken by friends and family of the players.
The nine players will split $32.7 million — the lion's share of a pool built on the $10,000 entry fees of 6,844 players who began play in July.
The pool accrued $98,179 in interest during the break, which was enough to shift some of the prizes significantly. The top prize, originally $9.12 million, gained $32,899.
The last nine players returned to the table after a break to build up interest in the event with vastly different sized chip stacks. Chips don't have monetary value, but they tell players where they stand compared with their opponents and significantly affect how they can maneuver in the game. A player who loses all his chips is eliminated.