WSOP Main Event Heads-Up Flashback: Martin Staszko vs. Pius Heinz


In 2011, two players that weren't known at all in the poker scene before making the November Nine headlined the WSOP Main Event.

Despite their low profiles, though, German Pius Heinz and Czech Martin Staszko battled it out one of the most exciting heads-up-matches the Main Event has seen.

When the confetti flew the two had claimed $8.7 million and $5.4 million, respectively, and dramatically altered their future lives - both on the felt and off.

Where Did They Come From?

Heinz, 22 back then, was the typical young internet poker whiz kid.

Pius Heinz
Epitome of online whiz kid.

He had played thousands of tournaments online and had cashed for a few hundred thousand on PokerStars and Full Tilt since he was 18.

With his age (young), background (student, but not spending much time studying) and playing style (uber aggression with mathematical precision) Heinz was the archetype of the young successful online player five years ago.

The 2011 WSOP Main Event was his first big live event and his first recorded cash was 7th-place in a $1,500 WSOP Event one week before the Main.

Heinz's opponent, Martin Staszko, was 13 years older and had a very different background.

While playing poker professionally since 2010 and having some success online, he was still working in the paint shop of an auto plant in the Czech Republic.

In his younger years he played chess competitively and transitioned to poker like many other chess players did back then. Staszko's style was a bit more down to earth than his German opponent's.

On the bubble of the tournament Staszko allegedly folded 40 hands in a row, just to ensure he made the money. But he switched gears easily and demonstrated on the final table that he had the moves and could be almost as aggressive as his whiz kid opponent.

Constant Fireworks

Staszko began the November Nine as chip leader but Heinz took the lead after just a couple of hands. The two began the heads-up similarly with almost even stacks. 

Martin Staszko
Surprising gearswitcher.

Their battle lasted 119 hands and was filled with plenty of action and incredible bluffs, re-bluffs and impressive reads.

Viewers got to see 4-bets with 9-high by Heinz, 5-bets with ace-rag by Staszko, Heinz turning two pair into an all-in-bluff, in return an all-in-bluff with a gutshot by Staszko and double floats and reverse floats by both players.

In a nutshell, the duel was constant fireworks with two players both at the very top of their games at the time.

They demonstrated what deep-stacked, heads-up poker is supposed to look like. If you didn't see it then, check out the videos below.

The Deciding Hand

The key hand of the duel was hand #110 and it was a huge flip that decided the tournament. The flop showed       and after a bet and a raise the German moved all-in.

Pius Heinz
Flip turned the tide.

Staszko made the call. Showdown:

Heinz: A Q   (gutshot, ace-high, 53% equity)

Staszko: Q 9 (straight & flush draw, 47% equity)

Turn and River: 3, 6

Heinz got it in as a slight favorite, dodged a lot of Staszko's outs twice, doubled up and was henceforth in a commanding position for the (very short) remainder of the duel.

A few hands later a short stacked Staszko went all-in with T 7, Heinz called with A K and the board didn't improve the Czech's inferior hand.

Heinz became the first German WSOP Champion and took home $8.7m – his 2nd-ever recorded live cash.

Heinz vs. Staszko Heads-Up Part 1

Heinz vs. Staszko Heads-Up Part 2

Where Are They Now?

For Pius Heinz the huge Main Event scoop remains the only big score of his career.

Pius Heinz in 2015
Appearances few for Heinz.

He had some side event results in the years afterwards but never lived up to the hopes the German poker community had set on him.

PokerStars made him a sponsored player but dropped him after one year. Heinz made a few appearances on the German poker show German High Rollers but was one of the biggest losers in the televised cash games.

By now Heinz is very rare sight at any poker table and it's unlikely we'll see much of him in the future.

Staszko, on the other hand, became a regular on the circuit after 2011. To this day he plays almost every EPT and comes to Vegas each year to play the WSOP.

He also spends a lot of time in the Kings Casino, the biggest European poker room, playing the local tournaments and cash games.

Martin Staszko
Still grinding.

While Staszko didn't have any seven-digit cashes after his 2nd place in the Main Event, he has accumulated dozens of results over the years and is well respected among his peers.

Online, where he plays as filfedra, he's managed to win some of the biggest and toughest tournaments on PokerStars – the Sunday 500 in 2015 and the Sunday Warm-Up in 2014.

Staszko is playing the 2016 WSOP right now, in fact. So far he's managed three cashes, and who knows? Maybe after 5 years it's time for his next huge score.

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