The 43rd annual World Series of Poker (WSOP) $10,000 No-Limit Hold’em Championship, commonly referred to as the Main Event, is down to its final nine players. The “Octo-Nine” is all that remains of the massive field of 6,598 players who entered the iconic tournament seeking poker’s most coveted title and a top prize of more than $8.5 million.
Although players from 83 countries entered the contest, the final nine players represent only two – the United States and Hungary. The players will return to Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in late October to vie for poker’s ultimate trophy – a WSOP gold bracelet – and the lion’s share of the Main Event’s $62,021,200 total prize pool.
The winner will receive a first-place prize of $8,527,982, with the other eight players sharing another $18 million-plus.
The Octo-Nine and their respective chip counts are as follows:
1. Jesse Sylvia – 43,875,000
Sylvia, 26, is a professional poker player from Las Vegas. Born in Malden, Mass., he spends his time away from the felt snowboarding, reading, writing and longboarding. A graduate of Cal Lutheran University, Sylvia credits his success to surrounding himself with positive friends and family at all times. Prior to making this year’s Main Event final table, Sylvia had one prior WSOP cash as well as a WSOP Circuit cash for total WSOP earnings of $7,244. He enters the 2012 Main Event Final Table as the big stack.
2. Andras Koroknai – 29,375,000
Koroknai is a 30-year-old poker pro from Debrecen, Hungary. The graduate of the University of Debrecen won the LA Poker Classic in 2010, taking home more than $1.7 million.
3. Greg Merson – 28,725,000
Merson is a 25-year-old high school graduate from Laurel, Md. The young poker pro made a splash earlier at this year’s World Series of Poker when he won more than $1 million and a gold bracelet for taking down Event 57, a $10,000 buy-in No-Limit Six Handed. In all, Merson has more than $1.2 million in WSOP winnings, not including his guaranteed payday of at least $754,798 for making the Main Event final table.
4. Russell Thomas – 24,800,000
Thomas is a 24-year-old actuary from Hartford, Conn. Born in Bryn Mawr, Penn., he graduated from Temple University in Philadelphia and made Day 5 of the WSOP Main Event last year, finishing in 248th place. He posted two additional cashes at the 2011 WSOP, including a fifth place finish in a $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em Six-Handed tournament. Excluding the ninth-place prize money he is guaranteed for reaching the Main Event final table this year, Thomas’ total WSOP earnings are $126,796. He enters the final table fourth in chips.
5. Steven Gee – 16,860,000
Born in China, Gee is a 57-year-old professional poker player now residing in Sacramento, Calif. The father of one holds a degree in accounting, which will come in handy as he manages the financial windfall that has come with his appearance at the Main Event final table.
6. Michael Esposito – 16,260,000
Esposito earned his place at the Main Event final table just three days prior to his 44th birthday. Born in West Islip, N.Y., the Manhattan commodity broker resides in Seaford, N.Y. A triathlete, Esposito, who is single, has earned five cashes on the World Series of Poker Circuit, winning $22,341 – a mere fraction of the $754,798 he is guaranteed for making the “Octo-Nine.”
7. Robert Salaburu – 15,155,000
Salaburu is a 27-year-old poker player from San Antonio, Texas. The graduate of Alamo Heights High School has posted a number of previous tournament cashes totaling more than $20,000. The guaranteed ninth-place prize money for the 2012 WSOP Main Event will eclipse that total. Salaburu enters the final table seventh in chips.
8. Jake Balsiger – 13,115,000
Balsiger, 21, is a rising senior at Arizona State University. Born in Portland, Ore., he will work to complete his studies while coming back to participate in the biggest poker tournament in the world. He has the chance to become the youngest-ever WSOP Main Event champion, eclipsing 2009’s world champion Joe Cada, who was just shy of his 22nd birthday when capturing the crown. He has posted one previous WSOP cash for a little more than $3,500. He enters the final table eighth in chips.
9. Jeremy Ausmus – 9,805,000
Ausmus is a 32-year-old professional poker player whose hobbies include chess, guitar and piano. Married with one child and another on the way, Ausmus cites being a father as his life’s greatest accomplishment. Born in Lamar, Colo., he earned a bachelor’s degree from Colorado State University. He will enter the final table as the short stack. Gaelle Baumann, 29, of Sliema, Malta by way of France, finished 10th, coming within one place of becoming only the second woman to ever make a WSOP Main Event final table. For the first time ever in Main Event history, women finished in both 10th and 11th place, with waitress Elisabeth Hille of Bergen, Norway, taking 11th place.
In addition to the first-place prize of $8,527,982, prize money for the remaining eight spots is as follows*:
Second place: $5,292,889
Third place: $3,797,558
Fourth place: $2,850,494
Fifth place: $2,154,616
Sixth place: $1,640,461
Seventh place: $1,257,790
Eighth place: $971,252
Ninth place: $754,798
When play resumes Oct. 29, the players will pick up with 1 hour, 9 minutes and 45 seconds remaining in Level 34. The antes will be $40,000 and blinds will stand at $150,000 and $300,000.
Comprehensive WSOP television coverage will begin airing Tuesday, July 31 at 8 p.m. Eastern on ESPN. Coverage will continue in two-hour blocks each Tuesday at 8 p.m. for 16 weeks, culminating with Main Event final table coverage on Oct. 30, 2012.
The 2012 Main Event capped the largest-ever WSOP in terms of prize pool. A total of 74,766 players from 101 countries entered the 61 events on this summer’s WSOP schedule, generating a total record prize pool of $222,035,192.
The 2012 Main Event was the fifth-largest in the tournament’s illustrious history, drawing 6,598 players from 83 nations.
*The final nine players of the World Series of Poker each received ninth-place prize money upon reaching the final table; the remainder of the prize pool will be placed in an interest-bearing account to be added to the prize pool on a percentage basis for the final eight finishers. Photo credit: JOE GIRON/WSOP
Bill Cody is an entertainment, technology and luxury travel reporter in Las Vegas. He reports on celebrities, events, tech, food, Las Vegas and luxury travel.