November 9th, 2011
09:47 AM ET

German, 22, takes $8.72 million and poker's top prize

A 22-year-old from Germany became poker's newest champion early Wednesday, outlasting eight other finalists and coming away with $8.72 million in the World Series of Poker Main Event.

Pius Heinz of Cologne is the first German to win the event. His winnings are the third-highest in the history of the event, which began in 1970. He had only $83,000 in earnings before his Main Event victory.

Heinz, who entered the finals ranked seventh in chips, survived a six-hour final duel with Czech Martin Staszko, who still came away with $5.43 million as the runner-up.

Heinz won with an ace-high final hand. After the final card was revealed to give him the win, Heinz hugged cheering family and fans at the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas like a football star who had just scored a touchdown. The fans chanted his name and raised a German flag. Watch the final hand on

"It's gotta be the happiest day of my life, but I can't believe what happened. It's so unreal," Heinz said after he was presented with the gold and diamond winner's bracelet.

Also in the final nine at the Rio Hotel and Casino was American Ben Lamb, the World Series of Poker player of the year for 2011, but he fell out in third place, setting up the dramatic final face-off.

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Filed under: Las Vegas • Poker