WSOP: Battle for 2012 Main Event bracelet down to final three

The opening day of the 2012 WSOP Main Event final table has concluded with only three players in contention for the USD $8,531,853 first prize.

Greg Merson, Jesse Sylvia and Jake Balsiger will all carry plenty of chips into the final session later today in Las Vegas although, based on his cool and confident display yesterday, Merson is the popular pick to go all the way.

After the usual fanfare that has greeted the start of play at the final table since the November Nine concept was introduced in 2009, it took less than four orbits for Steve Gee to depart the Penn and Teller Theater in the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in ninth for $754,798.

Robert Salaburu was KOed in eighth after calling off his chips with pocket sevens in the big blind against the shove of Jesse Sylvia with Qc-5c. Sylvia found a Q on the river to eliminate Salaburu, who took home $971,360.

Merson claimed the next victim after his A-K held against the A-J of Michael Espisito, who earned $1,258,040 for his troubles. The only non-American at the final table, Hungary’s Andras Koroknai was sensationally eliminated in sixth after he six-bet his stack with Kh-Qd only for Merson to reveal A-K once again.

Jeremy Ausmus was the confident short stack when play began, and he managed to steer his way to fifth for $2,155,313. He moved all-in on the turn of 3s-8s-9c-3d holding 10s-7d and needing help against the Ac-9h of Sylvia, which didn’t eventuate.
Russell Thomas committed his chips with Ah-9d with another Big Slick, this time held by Jake Balsiger, holding firm. Thomas earned $2,851,537 for fourth.

Speaking to at the conclusion of play, Merson said he was always feeling good during yesterday’s play: “I never fell under 20 million (in chips), which is a very nice comfort zone. As soon as Steven Gee blew up and a few other players got coolered, I was up to over 30 million and never looked back, after that.

“When short-handed play starts, I think that’s my game because a lot of players either play too tight, or they over-adjust. I even told Jesse (Sylvia) on one of the breaks that just before Andras Koroknai bluffed off his chips, that it was exactly what he was going to do, and that’s what he did. A lot of tournament players don’t know what to do after the flop comes down.”

“As long as I play well, I think I can win. I think I played 95 out of 100, if that’s the scale. So, if I play my A-game, I’m going to be tough to beat. But if I play well tomorrow – whatever happens, happens. I can accept that, as long as I play well.”

Play will resume later today (AEDST) with blinds at 300,000/600,000 and antes of 75,000. Local coverage will again be available on ESPN.

WSOP Main Event final table chip count

Greg Merson 88,350,000
Jesse Sylvia 62,750,000
Jacob Balsiger 46,875,000


1 $8,531,853
2 $5,295,149
3 $3,799,073

4 Russell Thomas $2,851,537
5 Jeremy Ausmus $2,155,313
6 Andras Koroknai $1,640,902
7 Michael Esposito $1,258,040
8 Robert Salaburu $971,360
9 Steven Gee $754,798

• Additional reporting, pic, with thanks to

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