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Strong Finish by 888 Poker Pros at WSOP Main Event Final Table

The 2012 WSOP Main Event final table began on Oct. 29 and featured three players, chip leader Jesse Sylvia, Jake Balsiger, and Russell Thomas, who were representing Team 888 Poker in their quest to win the championship and the coveted WSOP gold bracelet.

Those three were among the “Octo-Nine” who outlasted the 6,598 players that started the tournament in July and resumed play after a 3 and 1/2 month pause in the action. The delay in playing the final table began in 2008 and is sometimes hard to endure for poker fans who are itching for play to resume. But this year’s final table turned out to be well worth the wait.

The Team 888 Poker pros proved to be a formidable trio, with all three still alive with only four players still seated at the table. Russell Thomas, a 24-year-old actuary, was the first of Team 888 to be eliminated. Thomas’ A-9 ran into the A-K of Balsiger, sending Thomas to the rail $2,852,537 richer for his fourth place finish. Thomas’ fine performance at the Main Event prompted him to leave his actuarial position and devote his attention to playing poker full-time. Prior to this year’s final table, Thomas had cashed in three previous WSOP events, winning a combined $126,796.

Play resumed again with the final three players on Oct. 30, who each dreamed of winning the title. What followed for the next more than 10 hours was a delight for poker enthusiasts the world over. Greg Merson, Sylvia and Balsiger engaged in intense poker-playing that saw chip stacks shift a number of times until Balsiger pushed all his chips in with Qh-10d, but could not overcome the Kc-Qs of Merson. Balsiger, a senior at Arizona State, pocketed $3,799,073 for third place. An incredible finish for the youngest of the final tablists.

That left Merson and Sylvia in a heads-up match for the championship. The two battled it out for a couple of hours until the tourney’s final hand culminated with Merson going all-in with Kd-5d and Sylvia making the call with 35 big blinds remaining in his stack of chips and holding Qs-Js. The board showed 9d-6c-3h-6s-7c and history was made with Greg Merson victoriously winning $8.5 million and the bracelet for the 2012 WSOP Main Event.

Sylvia won $5,295,149 for his second place finish and stated, “I was happy with my performance and feel I played some of my best poker. This was an amazing experience.”

The total prize pool for the Main Event was $62,031,385 and was paid out to the top 666 finishers. Of that $62 million, $27,258,025 was divided among the final table. The payouts for the Main Event final table were as follows:

1. Greg Merson — $8,531,853

2. Jesse Sylvia — $5,295,149

3. Jacob Balsiger — $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. Steve Gee — $754,798

Congratulations to Greg Merson, Team 888 Poker for its solid showing in winning three of the top four places, and all of the Octo-Niners for a remarkable and exciting final table! Watch for Sylvia and the rest of the Team 888 players in 2013. For those who may have missed the final table action, tune into




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Charles Rettmuller

Charles has been an avid poker player for a number of years, both live and online. He holds a degree in journalism and previously worked as a reporter for a Chicago-based newspaper. Charles joined the PokerUpdate team in early 2012 and writes daily news articles for the site.