It took a lengthy 12 hours of play on the final day of the 2012 World Series of Poker Main Event to get down to a final nine, but it wasn’t without excitement. We almost had our first female ever at the Main Event final table, and we also have a field of rising amateurs that should excite any new observer to the world of tournament poker.
Out of the 6,598 players that began this event, the 2012 October Nine now consists of (in order of chip count) – Jesse Sylvia, Andras Koroknai, Greg Merson, Russell Thomas, Steven Gee, Michael Esposito, Robert Salaburu, Jacob Balsiger and Jeremy Ausmus.
For the first time in the history of the WSOP the Main Event almost featured two women, both beautiful and talented. Nobody prefers to be the bubble boy, or in this case the bubble girl as Gaelle Baumann from France was the unfortunate victim who exited just short of the October Nine. It wasn’t because of a lack of talent, but instead a matter of luck as Baumann couldn’t catch a needed nine as her A-9 didn’t improve against the A-J of Andras Koroknai.
The second woman who was in the field, a Norwegian named Elisabeth Hille also played a very tough Day 7 as she was consistently amongst the middle of the pack for most of the day. Looking very strong and destined to reach a Main Event final table, it was the case of a tumultuous round of folded hands and massive showdowns that cost Hille her chance at becoming the first female Main Event winner.
In her final hand, her A-Q couldn’t win a coin flip against the pocket sevens of Koroknai, who seemed poised to eliminate everyone he could on his way to becoming second in chips overall when play commences in October.
But while Koroknai is ready to take down a multi-million dollar pay day for first place and the coveted gold bracelet, he’ll have to contend with the massive chip leader Jesse Sylvia if he wants to etch his place in the annals of WSOP history.
Sylvia is an professional poker player who resides in Las Vegas, NV, and is also a sponsored poker pro for the online site 888 Poker. He was particularly active on Day 7 which led to his fortunate chip accumulation, but he also managed to win some big pots which should secure him a great finish in the next 3 months.
The most pivotal moment of Sylvia’s tournament life came when he flopped a set of sevens against the top-pair and flush draw of Scott Abrams, and he managed to fade all the outs to the massive draw to supplant himself as the player to look for at the final table.
But there are other players remaining in the field that are worth mentioning, and we’ll try to give you a few updates on each of the players that remain:
Greg Merson – An established an reputable poker grinder from Laurel, Maryland, this online player known as gregy20723 now resides in Toronto, Canada and plans on making a splash at this year’s Main Event. He’s 24 years of age, and in 2012 won his first WSOP bracelet by winning the $10,000 No-Limit Hold’em Six-Handed event for a staggering $1,136,197.
This is Merson’s second Main Event cash, and his poker upbringing is reminiscent of so many other pros in the fact that he dropped out of college with the decision to play poker full-time. But despite his story being trite, his game is anything but, and should be one of the most dangerous players once the cards are “shuffled up and dealt.”
Russell Thomas – Currently 4th in chips, this player from Connecticut is looking to make a name for himself by making the final table of the most prestigious event in tournament poker. Playing poker part-time, you wouldn’t guess because the savvy poker player has a real shot at taking down an $8.5 million first place prize.
Steven Gee – At 16.8 million in chips, it’s nice and also a subtle advantage to have a nice middle stack that can take heat in either direction. Gee will be looking to take moderate chances at this Main Event, and utilize him tournament experience.
Gee isn’t a stranger to the big stage, and the Sacramento, California native has already won $472,479 in first-place prize money for winning a bracelet back in 2010 for No-Limit Hold’em. Predominately a draw-lowball player when he began his poker career, Gee has now excelled to new heights and is looking to do the same thing for his financial records.
He’s an avid cash game player, and continues to have success in that forum as well.
Michael Esposito – The 58-year-old player from Seaford, NY isn’t a novice, he’s had experience winning Seven-Card Stud events in his earliest years and is now looking to transfer that success to No-Limit Hold’em and the WSOP.
He has a modest $170,000 in overall tournament earnings, but will be hoping to become one of the top 10 earners in tournament history by winning the 2012 Main Event.
Robert Salaburu – He’s 7th in chips, and has 15 million heading into the final table. He’s a full-time poker professional with a particular set of skills – he will dissect his opponents, and then destroy them.
Rounding out the short stacks:
Jacob Balsiger – There always has to be one young fella’ at the Main Event final table, and it’s Jacob Balsiger. Not to his detriment, he has little to lose and a ton to gain by being young, fearless and entertaining. Balsiger’s exposure in the Main Event should help him propel his career even further.
Balsiger currently attends Arizona State University studying political science, but he’ll be the first to admit that his major doesn’t lend itself to great poker play. While this 21-year-old student certainly has a bright mind, he’s also admitted that he hasn’t become proficient at poker until this year. However, now he spends most of his time in-between studying thinking and focusing on improvement his poker prowess.
“When I started out in the Main Event I figured I would play until I busted but I just kept getting more chips and people just kept folding to me, which was nice.”
Hopefully Balsiger can inspire a few more folds, and then he will have to figure out a way to fold $8.5 million dollars into his tiny wallet.
Jeremy Ausmus – The unfortunate short stack, Ausmus will need to chip up early to have a shot at winning the gold. But what’s great about his position is that he can dictate the action, and put bigger stacks in tougher and tighter positions with his aggressiveness. 9.8 million chips isn’t anything to sneeze at, but he’ll need to use it wisely if he wants any chance at finishing first.
The movie Rounders served as an inspiration for Ausmus’ poker career (not surprisingly) and he’s showed a level of maturity and willingness to gamble reminiscent of the movie. He’s graduated from Colorado State University with a degree in Economics, and now lives in Las Vegas, NV to pursue his dream of playing poker professionally.
He now primarily plays cash games in Vegas and has $1.2 million in career tournament earnings. Let’s also subtly throw in that Ausmus has already cashed eight times this season at the WSOP.
The 2012 WSOP Main Event will resume October 29th-30th at the Rio in Las Vegas, NV. We’ll have all of the information for you, as well as up-to-date action, when play resumes.