Three-and-a-half months after action was paused following Gaelle Baumann's dramatic elimination in 10th place, the final table of the 2012 World Series of Poker Main Event is finally about to begin. Play resumes on Monday afternoon in the Penn & Teller Theater at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, where the nine survivors from the 6,598 who started the event will determine who among them will claim the winner's prize of $8,531,853 and the WSOP Championship Bracelet.
Las Vegas resident Jesse Sylvia will begin play on Monday afternoon with the lead with a stack of 43,875,000 chips, with Andras Koroknai of Hungary his nearest challenger with 29,375,000. Play will pick up in the middle of Level 34 (blinds 150,000/300,000, ante 40,000).
Here's a look at the current seating assignments and chip counts:
Seat 1: Russell Thomas -- 24,800,000
Seat 2: Jake Balsiger -- 13,115,000
Seat 3: Jeremy Ausmus -- 9,805,000
Seat 4: Steven Gee -- 16,860,000
Seat 5: Greg Merson -- 28,725,000
Seat 6: Jesse Sylvia -- 43,875,000
Seat 7: Robert Salaburu -- 15,155,000
Seat 8: Andras Koroknai -- 29,375,000
Seat 9: Michael Esposito -- 16,260,000
The schedule on Monday, October 29 has players reconvening in the afternoon and cards going in the air at 4:45 p.m. Pacific time, from which point they will play down to three players before concluding for the night. The final trio will return on Tuesday, October 30 and the tournament will restart at 5:45 p.m. with play continuing until someone emerges as the winner.
As was the case last year, the entire final table -- both Monday and Tuesday nights -- will be broadcast on a 15-minute delay. Coverage will be shown over cable television on ESPN2 and streaming via the web at ESPN3 and WSOP.com. Lon McEachern and Norman Chad will be on hand once again as commentators, with Antonio Esfandiari providing analysis and Kara Scott handling interviews and additional reporting. Following last year's format, hole cards of involved players will be shown after the conclusion of each hand.
There remains over $27 million worth of riches to be divided among the final nine. That's nearly 44% of the overall prize pool of more than $62 million.
In fact, the final nine players have all already been awarded ninth-place money ($754,798), with the remaining $20,454,658 placed in a money market account in July where it managed to earn $10,185 in interest -- i.e., just a little more than one Main Event buy-in. The interest was added to the 1st-8th place prizes on a percentage basis, thus creating the following adjusted payouts:
1st place: $8,531,853
2nd place: $5,295,149
3rd place: $3,799,073
4th place: $2,851,537
5th place: $2,155,313
6th place: $1,640,902
7th place: $1,258,040
8th place: $971,360
9th place: $754,798
Many who will watch the coverage on Monday and Tuesday will be relatively unfamiliar with the final nine players. Even so, the group brings several interesting stories to the final table.
Russell Thomas (Seat 1, 24,800,000) is a 24-year-old graduate of Temple University who presently works as an actuary for an insurance company. "Run Good Russell" hired poker pro Jason Somerville -- who finished 69th in this year's Main Event -- to help him prepare for the final table.
Jake Balsiger (Seat 2, 13,115,000) is a senior at Arizona State University where he is studying Political Science. Just 21 years old, Balsiger has a chance to break Joe Cada's record as the youngest-ever winner of a WSOP Main Event. Cada was just a few days shy of 22 at the time of his win, about three months older than Balsiger.
Jeremy Ausmus (Seat 3, 9,805,000) is a 33-year-old graduate of Colorado State University whose wife gave birth to their first child in September. (The birth was early, as the due date had actually been right about the time of the ME final table!) Ausmus had nine cashes at this summer's WSOP.
Steven Gee (Seat 4, 16,860,000) is a 57-year-old poker pro from California, the oldest remaining player in the Main Event. Gee is one of only two players at the final table with a WSOP bracelet, having won one in 2010 in a $1,000 no-limit hold'em event that featured a field of more than 3,000 players.
Greg Merson (Seat 5, 28,725,000) is the other player at this year's final table with a bracelet, having won his this summer in Event #57, the $10,000 six-handed no-limit hold'em event. Thanks to his performance during the summer, the 24-year-old from Maryland has a chance to win 2012 WSOP Player of the Year, although he must win the Main Event in order to gain enough points to pass current leader Phil Hellmuth.
Jesse Sylvia (Seat 6, 43,875,000) is a 24-year-old poker pro who actually roomed with fellow "Octo-Niner" Russell Thomas during part of the summer at this year's WSOP. From Day 2 onward, the pair had dinner every night during the Main Event.
Robert Salaburu (Seat 7, 15,155,000) is a 27-year-old poker pro from San Antonio, Texas. This marks his first-ever WSOP cash.
Andras Koroknai (Seat 8, 29,375,000) is from Debrecen, Hungary. Not only is the 30-year-old poker pro the only non-American at the final table, he's the first player from Hungary ever to make it this far in the Main Event. Koroknai won the World Poker Tour L.A. Poker Classic in 2010 for a $1,788,001, the biggest previous score of any player among the final nine.
Michael Esposito (Seat 9, 16,260,000) is a 44-year-old commodity broker and avid triathalon competitor from New York City. Like Thomas (and perhaps the college student Balsiger), he's an amateur player.
Of course, by Tuesday night the poker world will become plenty familiar with the "Octo-Niners," with the winner in particular earning not just the bracelet and cash, but a permanent spot in poker history as one of the few to win poker's most prestigious tournament.
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