Nine earn seats at final poker table

Jesse Sylvia (left) leads with 44 million chips at the World Series of Poker.

LAS VEGAS — The final table for the 2012 World Series of Poker main event has been set.


The field was whittled down to the final nine early Tuesday, with Jesse Sylvia, of West Tisbury, Mass., holding the lead with more than 44 million chips.

“I feel amazing, I can’t believe this is happening,” said Sylvia. “I’m going to take a step back and let this soak in.”

The tournament now takes a break until Oct. 28, when play begins to determine a champion. Play in the $10,000 buy-in tournament began July 7 with 6,598 entrants. The top prize is more than $8.5 million. Overall, the top seven finishers will win at least $1 million.

Asked how he would spend his time during the break, Sylvia said: “I think the first month I’m going to party with all my friends and the second month will be spent resting. The third month I will take my time and do some research on my opponents, I’ll try to find out more about the other players’ tendencies.”

Andras Koroknai, of Hungary, finished second with nearly 30 million chips and Greg Merson finished third with nearly 29 million.

“I’m ecstatic and not a bit tired despite the length of play,” Koroknai said through his translator. “My goal during the tournament was to eliminate any player I could.”

Merson will be the only player at the final table who has won a world series bracelet and he did that just over one week ago, winning the $10,000 six-handed no-limit hold ‘em event.

“I can’t believe I won a bracelet just a week ago,” said Merson. “I was so tired it didn’t even seem real. The amount of play really starts to wear on you.”

The final nine players logged nearly 70 total hours of poker play during this tournament. Joining the top three at the final table will be Russell Thomas, of Hartford, Conn.; Steven Gee, of Sacramento, Calif.; Michael Esposito, of Seaford, NY.; Robert Salaburu, of San Antonio; Jacob Balsiger, of Tempe, Ariz.; and Jeremy Ausmus, of Las Vegas.