LAS VEGAS Professional German poker player Pius Heinz won an $8.7 million jackpot in the World Series of Poker championship, the third highest payout for a poker champion in history, organizers said on Wednesday.
Heinz, 22, became the first German to win poker's most prestigious title, coming out on top of a field of more than 6,800 players from 85 countries, a statement on the World Series of Poker website said.
It said Heinz, who has played full-time poker for about four years, was also given a World Series of Poker gold and diamond bracelet, the game's most coveted prize, after his win in the final championship round at the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
"This is the happiest day of my life, obviously. I really am speechless right now. I could not imagine this would ever happen to me," he said after his victory, according to the World Series of Poker website.
Heinz, of Cologne, had entered the final round of the tournament on Sunday with a lower chip stack than all but two of his eight opponents, but ended the night as chip leader, the statement said.
When play resumed on Tuesday, only three players remained. American Ben Lamb, winner of the 2011 World Series of Poker 'Player of the Year' race, was eliminated in the opening moments of the final table's last stages, the statement said.
That left Heinz to battle Czech player Martin Staszko, who had the least live poker experience of the final trio, in a six-hour duel.
"The final hand was dealt when Heinz bested Staszko holding ace-king. Neither player made a pair, which meant Heinz's ace-high played as the winning hand," the statement said.
Staszko came away with $5.4 million for second place while Lamb, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, netted $4 million for third.
(Writing by Cynthia Johnston; Editing by Jerry Norton)