Greg Merson Wins WSOP 2012 Main Event - Full Review

Our Congratulations to 24 year old Greg Merson for taking down this years WSOP main event

At long last the 2012 WSOP Main Event has been decied as yesterday the "October 9" as they are this year took their seats for the biggest prize in Poker. The line up and chip counts as play resumed were as follows;

Player Country Chips
Russell Thomas USA 24,800,000
Jacob Balsiger USA 13,115,000
Jeremy Ausmus USA 9,805,000
Steven Gee USA 16,860,000
Greg Merson USA 28,725,000
Jesse Sylvia USA 43,875,000
Robert Salaburu USA 15,155,000
Andras Koroknai Hungary 29,375,000
Michael Esposito USA 16,260,000

With the exception of Koroknai from Hungary it was an exclusively USA inhabited table, althogh Koroknai was going to be a threat starting the final table 2nd in chips only to 26 year old Jesse Sylvia who had around 50% more chips than his nearest rival with nearly 44 million chips.

After a cagey start to proceedings (understandably when there is $27.25 million to be played for at the table) we finally saw an elimination a good two hours into the match. Happily for some of the shorter stacks at the table it was Steven Gee (who started the day in 5th place and had very slightly chipped up in the first two hours) who took the long walk back to the rail after some aggressive play with pocket 8's. He raised pre-flop and bet on every street against Russell Thomas after Greg Merson released after the flop, including a massive 11.5 million bet on the river on a board which ran out 7c 4h 5d Jc 3s. The massive bet put Russell deep into the tank although he eventually arrived at the right decision, calling with his pocket Queens and sending 2010 $1000 NLHE Bracelet winner Steven Gee to the cashiers desk out in 9th place for his $755k payout.

The next elimination came along a little over thirty hands later when a short stacked Robert Salaburu called off his final c.8 million chips in a blind vs blind confrontation and was looking very good for a double up as his pockets 7's were ahead of his opponent (and chip leader) Jesse Sylvia's Q5 off suit through the AA4 flop and 2 turn, only for the Queen of Hearts to break the heart of Salaburu on the river. Robert Salaburu exited in 8th place, which was good for $971k.

The next to go was Michael Esposito whose starting stack of just over 16 million had been whittled down to under 6 million before he embarked on a series of shoves either pre-flop or on the flop, which, at 1 million chips a time (with blinds at the 250k/500k with a 50k ante) chipped him p to jst shy of 11 million. He then woke up with AJ o/s. Unfortnately his 3 bet shove over Greg Merson's opening raise was met by a pretty swift call from Merson whose dominating AsKs held up and was good for the 22 million chip pot. Esposito's 7th place meant he became the first player to walk away with a seven figure win, his 7th spot good for $1.258 million.This elimination gave Merson a slender chip lead over Sylvia but around 3/4 of an hour later it was to become a much bigger lead.

At this point Hungarian Andras Koroknai made a quite unfathomable decision. Sitting pretty in 3rd spot with over 40 million chips he thought it might be prudent to 6 bet shove over chip leader Greg Merson's 5 bet over over 9 million chips holding just KhQh. A snap call from Merson who couldn't believe his luck when he saw just how good shape his KK was in. The board offered Koroknai no solice and he will live to regret a decision that almost certainly cost him a seven figure increase on the $1.64 million Koroknai walked away with for his sixth place finish. Merson now stood with a massive 86.6 million stack and as the most highly regarded pro at the table obviously shot into position as a big favourite for the title.

Interestingly Merson has to win the Main Event to take the 2012 WSOP Player of the Year honors from Phil Hellmuth, who had set Merson this toughest of challenges after taking a substantial lead in the race after winning the WSOPE Main Event last month in Cannes.

One person who must have been smiling to himself at this point was short stacked Jeremy Ausmus who had started the day the shortest of short stacks with under 10 million chips and now found himself guaranteed a $2.16 million payday - helped no end by Koroknai's implosion. Fifth place it was to be for the 32 year old Jeremy Ausmus who before today had only ever had one live six figure cash to his name (a $190k 3rd place at the 2011 Big Event in LA) who was next to fall after trying his luck with an open ended straight draw only to be looked up by Jesse Sylvia's top pair, a hand which ultimately held up and send Ausmus packing.

The final hand of the night occurred just 6 hands later as another blind vs blind encounter resulted in an elimination. This time it was a short stacked Russell Thomas who was in danger after calling off the last of his 17 million chips after his raise from the small blind had been met with a shove from Jacob Balsiger in the big blind. Thomas's A9 was no match for Balsiger's AK and he duly headed to the rail. The 4th place finish made Russel Thomas $2.85 million richer.

So just three players entered the arena of play today and they were Greg Merson (88.35m), Jesse Sylvia (62.75m) and Jacob Balsiger (46.875m). With blinds at 300k/600k with a 75k ante there was still quite a bit of play at this table.

And so it proved as the final day lasted much longer than anyone had anticipated as these three wily competitors thrashed it out for over thirteen hours before a champion was finally crowned.

The day started with WSOP POY contender Greg Merson in poll position with 86.6m of the 198m chips in play in front of him and looked to press this advantage early doors as he chipped up to over 100 million within the first hour of play. We also saw third placed Jacob Balsiger double up as his JJ bested Jess Sylvia's 99 as the two swapped places in 2nd and 3rd spots with Merson now holding close to double the chips of second placed Balsiger.

Over the next couple of hours Merson's lead slipped somewhat as both Balsiger and Sylvia gaines ground, at one point Sylvia, who had doubled his chip stack by this point, was within 6 million of Merson's now slender lead. Merson however showed good character to pile the pressure on once more and slowly but surely moved away from his two rivals to establish a huge lead as went over 120 million with his rivals now way off the pace. Merson's huge lead was helped no end by a spectacular bluff which resulted in a +50 million pot being shipped his way.

Balsiger raised from the big bling to see Merson look up his 3.7m bet. Balsiger bet out on the turn (4.5m) and the river (13 million) but snap folded to a river shove from Merson. As it turned out Merson had merely been chasing a flush draw with a gut shot as his Qh Jh came to nothing on a 9h 8s 3c 4h 6s board. He correctly summised however that Balsiger wouldn't risk his tournament life on such a board and he was proved right. A stunningly good and brave play when facing a large river bet.

Over the next couple of hours Balsiger saw his chip stack dwindle ever further and it looked all over for the 21 year old when he got his last 18 million or so chips in the middle holding A 10 to Jesse Sylvia's A Q. The gods were smiling on Balsiger this time though as he duly spiked a 10 on the turn to keep his hopes alive.

Sylvia didn't have too much time to feel sorry for himself however as on the very next hand a huge slice of good fortune handed him the biggest pot of the tournament so far.

He found himself in rotten shape as he called Merson's all in pre-flop for over 42 million chips and seeing his AK miles behind Merson's pocket Kings. The board ran out 3 5 2 8....4! to give Sylvia an unlikely wheel a Kinand the chip lead, which slipped away from Merson for the first time during the five hours of final day play.

Merson however was not to be denied and over the course of the next 4 minutes or so took enough small/medium pots to regain a slight lead after 273 hands of play. He was soon over 100 million again as he took a +35 million pot from Sylvia, calling him down on all streets to take the pot with J 9 for top pair against Sylvia's pair of 6's.

For the next few hours the chip counts moved slightly back and forth with Merson dropping a little to around 90 million before bouncing back again. However, the chip lead was destined to change a few more times b efore the tournaments eventual conclusion. Firstly Sylvia grabbed top spot from Merson after taking a 35 million chip pot from him in a 4 bet pre-flop pot as his Q 9 made two pair. Then on the very next hand Balsiger doubled up to take the lead taking a huge 92 million chip pot after his all in on a 9 3 3 flop was called by Jess Sylvia - Sylvia was looking for a two outer he couldn't find as Balsiger's KK had his K9 crushed.

Just a few hands later it was Merson who regained the lead, although he had very little to do with it as Sylvia doubled up courtesy of an unfortunate Balsiger as his K9 was outflopped by Sylvia's 8 2 on a K82 flop. A 2 on the turn filled Sylvia up and he dodged a King on the river to take the 69 million pot and give Merson back the lead. The very next hand however Sylvia retook the lead winning a 22 million pot from a now short(ish) stacked Balsiger after making a straight.

Sylvia held the lead for around 3/4 of an hour before a flop shove from Merson in a pot worth around 40 million chips put him back over 100 million yet again. All the while Balsiger was getting shorter and shorter and eventually fell, after putting up a tremendous fight in hand 382 when his sove with Q 10 was called by Merson's KQ and the youngest player Balsiger at the final table exited in 3rd for a $3.8 million payday.

Heads up play lasted just 17 hands even though Merson's lead was by no means out of the reach of Sylvia as they entered heads up with 117m to 80m in chips. Merson made a little headway over the next 16 hands but things ended with a huge 140 million chip pot as Sylvia elected to call Merson's all in pre flop bet holding QsJs. He was behind Merson's Kd5d and the board blanked to eliminate Sylvia in 2nd place for $5.295 million leaving Merson to pick up poker's biggest title, $8.5 million and to amazingly grab the Player of The Year title from under Phil Hellmuth's nose, needing this, the ultimate victory to usurp the 13 time bracelet winner.

After some murmuring about a final table devoid of big names or interest we were in fact treated to a fantastic two days of poker and a riveting final days play.

Our congratulations go to Greg Merson, WSOP 2 time bracelet winner, Main Event Champion and Player of the Year!


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