The remaining nine players in the Main Event of the 2012 World Series of Poker have been on the sidelines since July waiting for play to resume, but October 29, those last men standing finally sit down to battle for a first place prize of $8,531,853, a gold bracelet, and their place in poker history.
Play resumes at the Penn and Teller Theater in the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, with ESPN2 carrying live coverage. On Monday, October 29, action will play down to three players, then resume Tuesday, October 30, continuing till a winner is crowned.
The field is fairly unknown, so here's a breakdown of the nine players competing.
Seat 1: Russell Thomas
This 24-year-old from Hartford, Connecticut, starts with 24,800,000 chips. Thomas, an actuary for Aetna Insurance, has been playing poker for four years and has three previous WSOP cashes -- his best finish was fifth place in the Six-Handed No-Limit Hold'em event. Thomas is one of only two players at the final table who does not play poker full time, and hired pro Jason Somerville to coach him in the hiatus.
Seat 2: Jake Balsiger
Balsiger enters play with 13,115,000 chips, placing him eighth in the field. This 21-year-old player from Tempe, Arizona, has only had one previous WSOP cash, placing 100th in the $1500 No-Limit Hold'em event. Should he win, he will become the youngest player ever to win the Main Event, at 21 years old, 281 days. Just last year, Balsiger was playing .05/.10 cent stakes poker.
Seat 3: Jeremy Ausmus
This hometown Vegas boy is a professional poker player who has logged 13 previous WSOP cashes, finishing as high as ninth in the 2011 $1500 Seven Card Stud event. He starts the final table with 9,805,000 chips, placing him as the short stack out of the gate. But at 33, he's been playing for eight years, and is one of the more experienced players at the table.
Seat 4: Steve Gee
The Sacramento, California native is the oldest player at the final table at 57, and starts in fifth place with 16,860,000 chips. Gee has been playing poker professionally for 45 years, and holds a bracelet for the 2010 $1000 No-Limit Hold'em, event. If he wins, he will be only the second Chinese-born player to win the Main Event, joining legend Johnny Chan.
Seat 5: Greg Merson
At 24 years old, Merson has the distinction of being the only player at the table besides Gee who has a WSOP bracelet, winning the 2012 $1,000 Six-Handed No-Limit Hold'em event. The Laurel, Maryland native also happens to be friends with swimmer Michael Phelps, who has taken up poker as his latest obsession. Merson is known for his online play, making him a favorite in the field. Merson is also a sentimental favorite due to his open discussions about overcoming his past battle with drug addiction. He starts in third place with 28,725,000.
Seat 6: Jesse Sylvia
The 24-year-old professional poker player resides in Las Vegas, and enters the ring as the chip leader with 43,875,000 chips. He only has one previous WSOP cash, coming in 175th in the 2011 $1,000 Six-Handed No-Limit Hold'em event. When Sylvia first moved to Vegas, he was roommates with fellow final table player Thomas, and they shared dinner breaks during the tournament. Sylvia hired professional Vanessa Selbst to coach him in preparation for this final table.
Seat 7: Robert Salaburu
San Antonio native Salaburu has been a bit of an upstart during play, with trash talk at the table and away from it, but the 27-year-old poker professional starts with 15,155,000 chips for seventh place overall. He has no previous cashes in the WSOP.
Seat 8: Andras Koroknai
The 30-year-old is the only non-US player in the final nine, hailing from Debrecen, Hungary. He is the first Hungarian to reach the final table of the Main Event. Koroknai has two previous WSOP cashes, never finishing higher than 339th place in any event till this one. He starts in second place with 9,375,000 chips.
Seat 9: Michael Esposito
The 44-year-old from Seaford, New York, works as a commodity broker in New York City, and does triathlons in his spare time. He has two previous WSOP cashes, and considers poker a hobby, playing only a couple of times a year. For a hobbyist, he starts in fairly good shape with 16,260,000 chips and sixth place.
ESPN coverage of the Main Event final table begins at 8 p.m. ET Monday night, and at 9 p.m. ET Tuesday, October 30. Coverage is live on 15 minute delay, with commentators including Lon McEachern, Norman Chad, Antonio Esfandiari,and Kara Scott.
Diana Price has been a degenerate poker player for years, although at somewhat smaller stakes than the big guys you see on TV. Sometimes she wins, sometimes she loses, and sometimes she shows you that big bluff, just to put you on tilt by being beaten by a girl.
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