It took nearly 13 hours of play and 400 hands, but finally a 2012 World Series of Poker champion has been crowned. Walking away with the gold bracelet and a whopping $8,531,853 first-place prize is Greg Merson!
After a handful of eliminations yesterday set the stage for Day 9 of the Main Event today, Merson was joined by Jesse Sylvia and Jake Balsiger to battle to a winner. Merson took the chip lead into three-handed play, but it was far from over.
The three players battled and battled. Several short stacks doubled up, the chip lead changed hands numerous times, and at times, no one thought the competition was going to end. Then, on the 382nd hand of the final table, Balsiger's tournament came to a close.
With the blinds at 1,000,000/2,000,000/300,000, Sylvia raised on the button to four million. Balsiger moved all in from the small blind for 20.3 million, and Merson called. Sylvia got out of the way, which left Balsiger at risk with the to Merson's .
After the and the turn, Balsiger needed help on the river to stay alive. When the finished off the board, it also finished off Balsiger's amazing Main Event run. With his elimination, Balsiger failed to become the youngest player ever to win the Main Event, but he earned a massive payday of $3,799,073 to take home with him.
Heading into heads-up play, Merson had the chip lead over Sylvia, but both had plenty ammunition to play with. Merson chipped away early, and then all the money went in on the 399th hand.
During the same level as Balsiger's elimination, Merson opened the pot with a raise from the button to four million. Sylvia reraised from the big blind to 9.5 million, but then Merson announced that he was all in. Sylvia started the hand with 69.3 million and tanked for a couple of minutes. Eventually, he made the call and put himself at risk holding the . Merson held the . The two crowds rose to their feet and began chanting for their respective player. Then, it was time for the flop.
On the flop, the rolled out, and Merson's hand stayed in front. The turn brought the , and the river completed the board with the . Merson's king high held up to give him the victory as his cheering section rushed the stage.
Merson was quick to push his fans away as he made his way around the table to congratulate Sylvia on his effort. For his runner-up finish, Sylvia took home $5,295,149. Merson's rail returned to their seats to wait for the champ, but then they chanted "Jesse! Jesse! Jesse!" over and over as a salute to Sylvia.
Final Table Payouts
As stated above, Merson earned the most coveted prize in poker with the WSOP Main Event gold bracelet along with over $8.5 million, but he also won another prize with this victory. With his win, Merson overcame Phil Hellmuth to win the 2012 WSOP Player of the Year. It's been quite the year for Merson, and he will forever go down in the poker history books for his performance.
Congratulations to all of the winners, and especially Greg Merson on becoming the 2012 WSOP Main Event champion! And until next time, goodnight from Las Vegas!