“There’s a saying that the only thing more interesting than a poker player is the person sitting next to them,” Matt Maranz said nearly a decade ago about his attitude entering the first World Series of Poker Main Event broadcast he’d be producing for ESPN. “It was a unique breed of person who decided to become a professional poker player. They came from all walks of life, they all were incredibly smart in unique ways, and they all had an interesting story to tell. Everyone had an interesting story how they got to that chair.”
Even the most anonymous of poker players do tend to have a compelling story behind their $10,000 investment in a WSOP Main Event. And it’s a good thing they do, because, unfortunately for the WSOP organizers in 2022, every seat at this year’s final table was filled with a previously anonymous player.
On Saturday, at the end of two weeks of play, Norway’s Espen Jorstad was crowned champion, putting his name in the history books, wrapping a gold bracelet around his wrist, and claiming the $10,000,000 top prize. And the 34-year-old had a need for the latter of those spoils far beyond what would have been the case a few months earlier.
Jorstad, heavily invested in cryptocurrency, saw his net worth decimated in May, changing his approach to the World Series.
Feel good story of the day – @UhlenPoker got smoked on Terra and posted his story in early June. Now he’s in the commanding lead of the top 3 in WSOP $10k main event with a good chance at taking home $10m. I know who i’m rooting for! pic.twitter.com/EByEb3msih
— Roshun Patel (@roshunpatel) July 16, 2022
It was quite a ride from there. On June 17, he tested positive for COVID-19 … on June 29, he and Patrick Leonard won the WSOP $1K Tag Team event, splitting $148,067 … and a few days later, he was playing in the $10K Main Event, buoyed by some added financial cushioning and the confidence that comes with winning your first bracelet.
No, Jorstad’s triumph over eight similarly under-the-radar foes at the final table wasn’t as marketable for the WSOP as an established star going for the gold or a woman reaching the final table for the first time in 27 years. But Jorstad — like most if not all of his tablemates — had an intriguing personal story.
And if nothing else, viewers of the livestreams on PokerGO were treated to some of the wildest action the Main Event has ever produced.
Two pair does not beat a full house
The final hand of heads-up play between Jorstad and Australia’s Adrian Attenborough epitomized the “WTF?!” nature of so much of this year’s competition.
With plenty of chips to work with relative to the size of the blinds (Attenborough had 58.25 times the big blind and Jorstad had him covered with 71.75 bigs), both players hit the 2-4-2 flop, with Attenborough liking his J-4 and Jorstad loving his Q-2. A raising war ensued, taking the pot from 12 million in chips pre-flop to 76 million. Attenborough wasn’t scared by the 8 on the turn and check-called 62M more.
A queen on the river gave Jorstad a full house. Attenborough checked, Jorstad put him all-in, and rather than fold with more than 30 big blinds left to maneuver with, Attenborough went for the “hero call” that could only beat a bluff.
Espen Jorstad puts Adrian Attenborough into the tank once more.
This time, Attenborough cannot find the fold.
With his full house, Jorstad claims victory in the Main Event and the $10M first-place prize.
— PokerGO (@PokerGO) July 17, 2022
“F*ck! I’m out,” declared the Aussie when he saw that Jorstad was very much not bluffing.
Attenborough still had himself a reasonably profitable fortnight, as did the rest of the top nine finishers:
Give ’em a hand
I can’t remember a main event that had so many great hands
— Michael Trivett (@mtrivettpoker) July 14, 2022
The misguided call by Attenborough to clinch the title for Jorstad won’t necessarily even go down as one of the 10 most memorable hands of the event. Among the contenders for the top spot is this correct hero fold by David Diaz:
For poker players, the Main Event is truly a test of skill and endurance.
David Diaz, finding an incredible fold with queens full, shows that the players who have made it this far in the tournament are truly at the top of their game.
This is what the Main Event is all about. pic.twitter.com/mz38SljBzy
— PokerGO (@PokerGO) July 14, 2022
And perhaps even better was this winning play by eventual runner-up Attenborough, who learned in quick succession that you live by the hero call and you die by the hero call:
We've got a new chip leader in the 2022 @WSOP Main Event, and his name is Adrian Attenborough.
Matija Dobric fires three streets and puts Attenborough to the ultimate test with just two tables left in the Main Event.
— PokerGO (@PokerGO) July 14, 2022
Photo courtesy of PokerGO