Seriously, did you really believe Ben Lamb wouldn't be among the three remaining participants in the final table of the World Series of Poker's Main Event?
The tournament's 2011 Player of the Year has seemingly lived a charmed life at the Rio since June.
Come tonight , Lamb will face Pius Heinz and Martin Staszko for the title in the $10,000 buy-in No Limit Hold'em World Championship. Play starts at 6 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN on a 15-minute delay.
A victory for Lamb, 26, would cap what has been one of the best runs by a poker player in recent history. The winner takes home more than $8.715 million and the world championship gold bracelet.
"I feel fortunate every day when I wake up," Lamb said Sunday night. "I could have finished sixth or fourth, but now that we're down to three players, I really feel like I have a shot at winning this thing."
On Sunday, when competition was whittled from nine players to three, no one was surprised Lamb twice avoided elimination.
The 178th hand, when Lamb knocked out Matt Giannetti to solidify his spot in the event's top three, the cards were symbolic of both his night and tournament.
Giannetti shoved his final 12 million in chips to the center of the table, holding an ace of diamonds and three of spades. Lamb called with pocket kings. When the other two kings in the deck were turned over on the flop, Lamb made his quads, Giannetti was out, and the poker deities seemed to be smiling down.
Four hands earlier, Lamb, who was in fourth place among the four remaining players, crippled Giannetti's chip stack when he pushed all in with 26.8 million and ace of hearts, seven of hearts. Giannetti had pocket jacks, but the flop produced the king and five of hearts. The turn card was the four of hearts, giving Lamb his flush.
Admittedly, following the dinner break, Lamb said he hadn't been playing his best poker.
"I played much better before dinner," Lamb said. "I feel like I made a few mistakes after the break. I just didn't play well."
Heinz, 22, from Germany, and Staszko, 35, of the Czech Republic, felt like spectators for the night's final hands.
"I respect Ben's game and I respect him as a player, but I think I got the better of him today," said Heinz, who will enter play tonight as the chip leader with 107.8 million, almost twice Lamb's stack of 55.4 million.
Heinz started Sunday in seventh place and wasn't sure he was going to survive the first 30 minutes of competition. He was admittedly nervous, having reached the final table of the Main Event and playing in front of ESPN's television lights and a boisterous crowd of some 2,000 poker fans and supporters of each of the nine players.
"It wasn't the crowd or the atmosphere, so much. I really enjoyed that," Heinz said. "It was just being at the final table. The day didn't go as planned . It went much better than I expected."
Staszko came into Sunday as the chip leader but saw his starting stack of more than 40 million cut in half by the dinner break. On the 156th hand, he doubled up on Heinz to avoid elimination.
"It was difficult and I knew I needed to double up somewhere," Staszko said.
The loud theater and nearly live television coverage didn't affect his play.
"I enjoyed it. My fans helped me out," said Staszko, who has 42.7 million in chips going into tonight .
Both Heinz and Staszko admitted Lamb will be tough to beat.
Coming into the Main Event, Lamb had already secured first-, second-, eighth- and 12th-place finishes in events at this year's World Series. His career earnings in the tournament are more than $2 million. He now hopes to quadruple that figure tonight .
Lamb is also hoping to use the "almost live" television coverage of the Main Event to his advantage. On Sunday, Lamb consistently came over to the stands to consult with members of his "team" who were following the coverage on iPads and iPhones. ESPN would reveal the hole cards of each contested hand.
"It's a whole different form of poker and I have a whole team working for me," Lamb said. "It's a lot of information and it definitely changes poker. I'm not going into detail, but I have a lot people working hard for me in the tournament."
The 2011 Main Event began in July with 6,865 entrants. The event's prize pool was more than $64.5 million with almost $28.3 million going to the final nine players. A total of 693 entrants cashed in the event.
In addition to the winner's share, second place earns $5.433 million while third takes home nearly $4.021 million.
Contact reporter Howard Stutz at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3871. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.