Hossein Ensan of Germany Wins World Series of Poker and $10 Million First Prize

Posted on: July 17, 2019, 07:42h. 

Last updated on: July 17, 2019, 09:41h.

Hossein Ensan is the new WSOP Champion. At around 1:29 am PT Wednesday morning, the Iranian-born German’s pocket kings survived a check-raise river jam from his opponent, “Super” Dario Sammartino, who held a flush draw and inside straight draw, and the Rio erupted. Ensan becomes only the second German WSOP Champion, after Puis Heinz in 2011.

Hossein Ensan
Hossein Ensan is the oldest WSOP champion since 1999 and only the second German to take the title. He defeated Italy’s Dario Sammartino heads up. (Image: Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

From the moment Ensan and Sammartino faced off for the heads-up match — after Canadian Alex Livingston had been dispatched in third place — the atmosphere at the Rio was like the soccer World Cup with Germany versus Italy, complete with flag-waving and good-natured chanting.

While Ensan had maintained a healthy chip-lead on each of the previous two days of final table play, his path to glory was not secure, and never less so than when Sammartino took control on the first hand of heads up.

Sammartino Takes the Lead

The two players entered the final stage with closely sized stacks, but with Ensan just edging it, at 279 million compared to Sammartino’s 232 million.

Ensan got unlucky on the first hand of heads-up, and when Sammartino rivered a superior two-pair, Esnan duly paid him off. Suddenly, the most experienced player of the final nine was out in front and on the home stretch.

The Italian had amassed $8 million in live tournament earnings prior to the Main Event and is a mainstay on the elite high-roller circuit. In 2018, he took some time off from poker and had come back to the WSOP with a vengeance. Before the Main this year, Dario cashed seven times and reached two final tables, including a third-place finish in the prestigious $10,000 H.O.R.S.E. Championship for $184,854.

Having spent much of the final table with a relatively short stack, were we about to see the tuxedo-clad Italian begin to express himself?

Ensan Hits Back

But it seemed Sammartino had used up all his luck on that two-pair hand, as Ensan acknowledged afterwards.

Shorthanded, you need cards, you need hands and for sure, luck. And luck and hands was [sic] on my side. Otherwise, I was second,” Ensan told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Over the next four hours, Ensan gradually chipped back. Then, the Poker Gods dealt him pocket kings.

And so ends the 50th World Series of Poker. At 55, Ensan becomes the oldest player to win the event since Irish carpet salesman Noel Furlong achieved the feat back in 1999 at the age of 61.

Ensan describes himself as an amateur poker player — but a professional gambler — for the past six years. Nevertheless, before his incredible run here, his results were already impressive. He boasted over $2 million in tournament winnings, including a 2017 WSOP International Circuit Main Event win for €184,812 ($219,036) in the Czech Republic.