Pius Heinz, a 22-year-old German college student, won the World Series of Poker’s Main Event World Championship shortly after midnight Wednesday, collecting $8.715 million.
Martin Staszko, 35, from the Czech Republic, finished second and earned $5.43 million.
Twice, Heinz used the same unusual hand – ace high - to take home the title in the $10,000 buy-in No Limit Hold’em World Championship.
On the night’s 123rd hand, Staszko pushed his last 39.5 million in chips to the center of the table and Heinz called. Staszko turned over a 10 and 7 of clubs while Heinz had ace of spades and king of clubs.
The flop was a five of clubs, 2 of diamonds and 9 spades, the turn came jack of hearts and the river was a 4 of diamonds. The last card set off loud cheers from Heinz’s German supporters.
The ace high hand helped Heinz on the 115th hand, which turned events in his favor. He had spent several hours trailing Staszko and was several times close to elimination.
Heinz took down a monster 162 million chip pot for the night’s ninth lead change and a commanding lead.
On the hand, Staszko limped in from the button and Heinz raised to 7.9 million in the big blind. Staszko called and the flop came up 10 of clubs, 7 of clubs and king of spades.
Heinz bet 8.2 million and Staszko raised to 17.5 million.
Heinz spent several minutes considering his options and suddenly announced an all-in reraise for 72.95 million. Staszko called and flipped over a queen of clubs, 9 of clubs — one card short of a flush.
Heinz showed ace of hearts, queen of hearts.
The turn card – 3 of hearts — and the river card – 6 of spades – made Heinz’s ace high the winning hand, giving him 78 percent of the chips in play.
Earlier, on Tuesday night, after 15 minutes of American-style fireworks, Heinz and Staszko settled in to play some poker because of crowd favorite Ben Lamb's quick exit from the final table after the evening's first four hands, sending shock waves through the Rio's Penn & Teller Theater.
The pro-Lamb crowd, which included several well-known professional poker players and a guy dressed in a sheep costume, quickly exited the theater.
Lamb's exit allowed Heinz and Martin Staszko to trade chip leads several times over the next six hours in the $10,000 buy-in No Limit Hold 'em World Championship.
The heads-up action, which came quicker than many expected, had Heinz and Staszko fighting for a payout of more than $8.715 million for first place and $5.433 million for second.
The unlikely duo had earned a combined $106,161 at the World Series of Poker in their careers before Tuesday: $83,286 for Heinz and $22,875 for Staszko.
The pair were the survivors from a field of 6,865 players who began play in July, the World Series of Poker's third-largest Main Event.
By the 50th hand, Staszko, who lives in Trinec, Czech Republic, collected a pot worth almost 52 million, giving the one-time worker in an automotive paint shop more than double the chip count of Heinz, who lives in Cologne, Germany.
On the delayed television replay, it was revealed that Staszko had picked up a full house on the river card and Heinz, holding a small pair, made the correct call to fold.
But five hands later, Heinz had cut the margin to less than 20 million. Three hands later, the players were nearly even. By the 62nd hand, Heinz took a less than 1 million chip lead.
The seventh lead change occurred on the 67th hand when Staszko risked an all-in move, but Heinz folded, propelling the Czech back into the lead.
By 11:30 p.m. and 112 hands in the book, Staszko maintained a lead over Heinz, 126 million in chips to 79.9 million.
But Heinz regained the lead, and about 12:15 a.m., he captured the title with an ace high.
With Lamb's estimated 300 supporters gone, the much smaller groups of Heinz and Staszko fans began to trade songs and chants, alternating between German and Czech as the theater took on a World Cup-type feel.
Lamb, 26, who lives in Tulsa, Okla., and Las Vegas, blew through his 55.4 million stack of chips in four hands, or roughly 15 minutes. He hit the rail in third place, winning $4,021,138.
Lamb said he decided to come out aggressively in the first few hands of play, thinking he could slice into Heinz's nearly 2-to-1 chip lead. Heinz started Tuesday with 107.8 million.
The separation in payouts, more than $8.715 million for first and $5.433 million for second, were the reason for the aggressive play.
"I was trying to give myself the best place I could in the tournament," a dejected Lamb said as he walked through the back halls of the theater toward the lobby. "There was about $1.3 million between second and third place and about $3 million between first and second."
The fast and furious action moved Staszko into the lead for the first time since he began a downward spiral on Sunday before the dinner break and faced elimination.
Staszko accomplished the task with three straight pocket pairs: 7s, kings, and jacks.
Lamb said his all-in move on the first hand, with a king-jack off suit, seemed like the correct read. He also thought he would pair the board for the win, especially because Staszko showed a pair of 7s.
"I thought I had a decent hand, but it obviously wasn't good enough," Lamb said.
One hand later, Staszko took the chip lead, taking a pot of more than 14 million from Heinz, raising and reraising through the flop, turn and river, and nursing what turned out to be a winning hand of pocket kings. The move gave him a chip stack of 106.2 million.
On the third hand, Lamb was eliminated.
After Heinz folded, Lamb raised all in for 10.9 million and Staszko quick called. Staszko showed pocket jacks to Lamb's queen six.
He was surprised that Staszko pulled three pocket pairs in the first four hands.
"He was a lot more aggressive than I expected," Lamb said.
Contact reporter Howard Stutz at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3871. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.