On Monday, the October Nine were reduced to just three players who then took center stage the following day at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas to decide the 2012 World Series of Poker Main Event champion.
Making it through to the last day was eventual champion Greg Merson, 24, from Laurel in Maryland, who started the final table in 3rd place before taking a chip lead into three-handed play. Helping to propel him to the lead was an unforced error by Andras Koroknai eliminated in 6th ($1,640,902), who gave up all his chips after 5-betting his K-Q all-in into the A-K of Merson. As Koroknai explained later:
“Greg Merson had real wide ranges and with K-Q I thought I had the perfect blocker to represent strong hands like kings, queens, A-K and there was already a lot of chips in the pot..I’m not sure if it was a good move, but it happened.”
Joining Merson (88.35m) in three-handed play was the initial October Nine leader Jesse Sylvia now on a 62.75m stack, and last amateur at the table Jacob Balsiger, originally an 8th place starter.
However, Greg Merson is an online shorthanded cash game poker pro and seemed confident going into the final stretch, explaining at the time: “When short-handed play starts, I think that’s my game because a lot of players either play too tight, or they over-adjust.”
Added to the fact Merson also benefited from some strong hands during three-handed play, he was then able to take control from the outset with probably the gutsiest play and build his stack to over half of all tournament chips.
Nevertheless, Merson’s two opponent’s weren’t going to be outmaneuvered easily, as attested by more than 11 hours of play on Tuesday. Sylvia, for instance, was able to fold strong hands, including a nine high flush to Merson’s queen high flush, which likely kept him in the competition after Merson bet almost 3 million chips into him.
On the other hand, Merson senses were firing on all cylinders and at one stage moved up to a 100 million in chips after holding just queen high and re-raise bluffing Balsiger off a huge pot. Soon after, Balsiger gave Merson his last chips holding Q-10 to Merson’s dominating K-Q to go heads-up against Sylvia.
At this stage, Merson held a 113.9m to 84.3m chip advantage, and was able to chip away early. As Daniel Negreanu noted at the time: “I don’t like what Sylvia is doing in this HU at all. His 3 bet sizing seems too small and he isn’t getting full value on the button. Sylvia did say he never wants this to end so maybe that’s why he is limping buttons. Bigmistake.”
Consequently, just 17 hands later, Merson forced Sylvia’s hand (Qs-Js) after being dealt Kd-5d and 4-betting him all-in. Sylvia then decided to make the call based mostly on price, and in the end Merson’s king high held as the board rolled out 9-6-3-6-7, to claim the WSOP Main Event title.
Here are the final payouts for the final table:
1 Greg Merson $8,531,853
2 Jesse Sylvia $5,295,149
3 Jake 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