Rainer Kempe's 2015 was a breakout year for the German upstart, but still not many knew his name. Now, thanks to a massive $5 million win in the 2016 Super High Roller Bowl, Kempe has claimed an unforgettable place in poker's history books.
The final day of play began with seven players remaining from a 49-player field. Everyone left was guaranteed an in-the-money finish worth at least $600,000 after Dan Smith bubbled on Tuesday night with an eighth-place result.
First to go was Dan Shak in seventh place, falling to Fedor Holz when his failed to come from behind against Holz's .
Next up was Bryn Kenney's elimination, also falling at the hands of Holz who held the versus the . Thanks to a run out of , Kenney was relieved from the field in sixth place for $800,000.
Matt Berkey then hit the rail in fifth, becoming the first player to bust since the payouts reached seven figures. Berkey was one of the under-the-radar players on this event's roster sheet, but his performance and final-table run should make him much more of a notable name going forward. He busted to Kempe when his failed to win a flip against Kempe's . Berkey scored $1.1 million.
At the point, Kempe had only increased upon the powerful lead he had when he entered the final table, moving over 8.3 million from busting Berkey and then flirting with 10 million. He did take a slight dip back during four-handed play, but thanks to busting Phil Hellmuth, Kempe moved back to 9.3 million.
For Hellmuth, he can only be proud of his fourth-place result. It's no secret that Hellmuth has a knack for holding onto a short stack, but having entered the final day at the bottom of the pack, his expectations were low. He was able to turn his run into a fourth-place finish worth $1.6 million, though, bowing out to Kempe when his couldn't win against the .
The second shortest stack to enter the final table was Erik Seidel, and, like Hellmuth, he held on for dear life as the others fell by the wayside. After he doubled through Holz to get back over 1 million, Seidel jammed in for 1.2 million from the small blind during the 50,000/100,000/10,000 level. He had the , but was dominated by the . The flop, turn, and river ran out , and Seidel finished with a payday of $2.4 million.
For both Seidel and Hellmuth, their scores now stand as the second largest of their long and illustrious careers. Seidel also jumped from third to second on poker's all-time money list for live tournament earnings thanks to his finish. Hellmuth also moved up one spot, jumping from eighth to seventh on the same list.
Heads-up play was an all-German affair, with Kempe starting with 9.23 million to Holz's 5.47 million.
Kempe began by extending his lead, but then Holz doubled up before he worked his way into the lead. It was then turn for Kempe to double back in front before a couple more lead changes occurred.
Kempe was eventually able to grind Holz down and finish the deal when his pocket eights held against the pocket twos of Holz just before 1 a.m. local time in Las Vegas. And while Holz fell short of another huge victory, the $3.5 million he earned for second place will help keep a smile on his face.
With that, PokerNews' coverage of the 2016 Super High Roller Bowl has come to an end. Next up is the World Series of Poker just down the road, and we'll see if Kempe can add a gold bracelet to go along with his new gold ring.
*Photo courtesy of Joe Giron/PokerPhotoArchive.com.