Tournament director Jack Effel, center holding the coveted World Series of Poker gold bracelet, poses with the nine players who reached the final table. They are, from left, Russell Thomas, Jacob Balsiger, Jeremy Ausmus, Steven Gee, Greg Merson, Jesse Sylvia, Robert Salaburu, Andras Koroknai and Michael Esposito. They made it after a week of playing long, grueling hours at the Rio in Las Vegas at the 43rd annual WSOP. The “Octo-Nine,” as they’re being called, will return to Las Vegas on Oct. 28 to determine a winner, who will earn nearly $9 million and a place in poker history.
LAS VEGAS — The final table for the 2012 World Series of Poker Main Event has been set.
The field was whittled down to the final nine late Monday night, with Jesse Sylvia of West Tisbury, Mass., holding the chip lead with a massive stack of nearly $44 million.
“I feel amazing, I can’t believe this is happening,” said Sylvia, who started play Monday in 13th place. “I’m going to take a step back and let this soak in.”
The tournament now takes a break until Oct. 28, when play begins to determine a champion. Play in the $10,000 buy-in tournament began July 7 with 6,598 entrants.
In the last two years, the final table was played out in November as the lucky nine players were dubbed the “November Nine.” However, in an effort to not compete with the 2012 U.S. Presidential election in November, the final table was moved up a month this year, and this year’s group is being called the “Octo-Nine.”
The top prize is more than $8.5 million. Overall, the top seven finishers will win at least $1 million.
The final table was nearly historic in that France’s Gaelle Bauman would’ve become just the second woman to ever make it that deep in poker’s annual Super Bowl. But Bauman was eliminated in 10th place when her Ace-9 offsuit was called down by Koroknai’s A-J shortly after the players were merged to one table. Bauman didn’t improve, and she was sent packing, picking up a pay day of nearly $800,000.
In 1995, Barbara Enright became the first woman to reach the final table of the WSOP Main Event. She placed fifth, winning $114,180. No woman has made it to the final table since. Poker pro Annie Duke, who was pregnant at the time, came close in 2000 when she finished 10th, as well.
Asked how he would spend his time during the break, Sylvia said: “I think the first month I’m going to party with all my friends and the second month will be spent resting. The third month I will take my time and do some research on my opponents, I’ll try to find out more about the other players’ tendencies.”
Andras Koroknai of Hungary finished in second place with nearly 30 million chips, and Greg Merson of Maryland — who has already won a gold WSOP bracelet at this year’s series for more than $700,000 and will be the only player at the final table to hold the honor — finished third with nearly 29 million. His win came a little more than one week ago, winning the $10,000 six-handed no-limit hold ’em event.
“I can’t believe I won a bracelet just a week ago,” Merson said. “I was so tired it didn’t even seem real. The amount of play really starts to wear on you.”
Koroknai is ready to play now.
“I’m ecstatic and not a bit tired despite the length of play,” Koroknai said through his translator. “My goal during the tournament was to eliminate any player I could.”
The final nine players logged nearly 70 total hours of poker play during this tournament alone. Joining the top three players at the final table will be Russell Thomas of Hartford, Conn., Steven Gee of Sacramento, Calif., Michael Esposito of Seaford, N.Y., Robert Salaburu of San Antonio, Jacob Balsiger of Tempe, Ariz., and Jeremy Ausmus of Las Vegas.