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Final Nine Set In World Series of Poker Main Event

High-Stakes Cash Game Pro Greg Merson Eying Second Bracelet Of Year


Despite a first-place prize of $8.5 million looming in October, it didn’t take a long day 7 for the final 27 players to become just nine. Shortly after midnight on Tuesday, the final table was set in the World Series of Poker main event — a tournament that is as prestigious as it is dramatic.

Most of the finalists may have existed in obscurity just a week ago, but they are now on the verge of becoming poker-household names by outlasting 6,589 players in the $10,000 buy-in.

Leading the way with 43.875 million is 26-year-old Las Vegas pro Jesse Sylvia. His chip stack is dominating, but he’ll have to work hard to fend off 2010 L.A. Poker Classic champion Andras Koroknai (29.375 million), online cash game pro and 2012 bracelet winner Greg Merson (28.725 million), 2010 bracelet winner Steve Gee (16.86 million) and live cash game pros Robert Salaburu (15.155 million) and Jeremy Ausmus (9.805 million).

The amateurs at the table include actuary Russell Thomas (24.8 million), commodity broker Michael Esposito (16.26 million) and Arizona State senior Jake Balsiger (13.115 million).

Here’s a look at a handful of the top stories from the seventh day of play:

Gaelle Baumann Bubbles Final Table

Gaelle BaumannWith the elimination of Elisabeth Hille in 11th, the opportunity for a female poker player to make the gender’s second-ever final table in the main event rested with France’s Gaelle Baumann. Baumann was also looking to outdo Annie Duke’s 10th place finish in 2000.

Baumann, a 29-year-old professional, entered the ten-handed table around midnight Tuesday as the shortest stack. She doubled up less than 15 hands in, but still sat with the fewest amount of chips.

Again she got her stack in, but her A-9 ran into A-J, and she was gone. She has major regrets about going with her final hand. “I could have waited,” said the visibly dejected Baumann.

The drought for women at main event final tables was never on her mind, she said.

Despite coming up short of history, Hille was very happy about her performance. “To make it far in this tournament you have to win flips,” she said, “and when you lose them, what can you do?”

Hille, who has been playing poker as an amateur for four years, grinds mostly on the Internet in her home country of Norway. When asked what she’s going to do with the prize money, Hille said: “We’ll see. I’m not quite sure what the payout is, and I’m going to have to pay some taxes to you guys, so we’ll see how far the money will go.”

Greg MersonGreg Merson Wins Money For Long-Time Friend

Merson, a high-volume online cash game grinder, won the $10,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em six-max earlier in the summer for more than $1 million. He said that tournament was his personal main event, since he has put in millions of hands at the format. He was emotional after his win.

Fast forward to the actual main event, and Merson said that he would love to win in October, but he realizes that it’s much more of a “crap shoot” than the six-max. Merson also admits that he’s on a freeroll, as he miraculously came back from just two big blinds with about 150 left.

With some luck and lots of skill, Merson is now one of the game’s stars, but he doesn’t really care about the fame. “The people who are good at poker online know who I am, and that’s all that matters to me.”

He pursued poker because he wanted to be the best, and that’s it. “I’m still working to get there,” he said. “It’s my ultimate dream.”

Merson’s forward-thinking also benefited him when he sold his Full Tilt Poker money for 80 cents on the dollar — just three weeks after the site went down. The defunct company still owes hundreds of millions to former customers.

The 24-year-old, who has played as big as $100-$200-$400-$800 no-limit hold’em, came into the Series on a massive online upswing. However, he still has a live-only backing deal with good friend and fellow poker pro Anthony Gregg.

“I don’t play live that much, and the swings are so huge,” said Merson, who resides in Toronto. “On the Internet you work real hard to make a good living, and then you go play live and drop six figures in a session. It’s just disgusting. I got tired of doing that. I wasn’t having a very pleasant lifestyle.”

Merson was actually in slight makeup to Gregg prior to the 2012 Series.

“I will be writing him a big check,” Merson said. “But, I am not bitter at all. He has done so much for me in my career. To repay him like this is so cool.”

Gregg said watching one of his best friends shine is “the most amazing experience of my life.”

“The six-max victory validated him as a live pro, and the main event is making him a legend,” Gregg added. “He is this year’s Ben Lamb. It’s crazy. It doesn’t seem like real life.”

Andras KoroknaiAndras Koroknai On $8.5 Million Freeroll

The 30-year-old poker pro ran better than most at the end of the main event. He was short at one point before doubling up with A-9 versus the A-10 of 14th-place finisher Danny Wong, and then won a massive cooler when his ace-king made the nut flush versus Marc Ladouceur’s ace-king.

However, no hand on day 7 was quite like the one he played against Baumann on Sunday.

Baumann started the action by raising under-the-gun with two kings. It was folded to Koroknai in the small blind. He shoved, and the big blind got out of the way. The Hungarian mucked without realizing Baumann was in the hand. The problem was that one of Koroknai’s cards was irretrievable.

After much deliberation, the floor ruled that Koroknai, rather than be eliminated from the tournament, would simply lose 60,000, the size of Baumann’s bet.

Koroknai said that after the blunder and fortunate ruling he was “freerolling” the tournament.

“I’m so lucky,” Koroknai said of his run of cards.

Robert SalaburuRobert Salaburu Looks To End Cycle Of Going Broke

The 28-year-old from Texas came into the main event with just $10,875 in career tournament earnings, but has managed a living on the felt for years in $5-$10 no-limit hold’em cash games. For him, a huge score in the main event is about making life easier.

“The main reason why I go broke is because of poor bankroll management,” he said. “Now I have enough money where I don’t have to be worried.”

His goal is to win the main event, snag some capital and invest in some businesses.

“I’m not going to walk away from poker,” Salaburu said. “But, I’m not going to be an 80-hour per week grinder like I’ve been. Poker is swingy. It can emotionally mess with you. You have to become numb almost.”

When asked if he felt “numb” while playing in the main event, Salaburu said he tried to block out all outside distractions and play well. He said he also never paid attention to the pay jumps.

Jamie Robbins Falls Short Of Final Table Again

The player entering the day with the most valuable prior main event experience was 38-year-old Jamie Robbins, who finished 11th in 2009.

“I’m final table or bust,” he said after day five. “I said that on the first day of play, and I’m sticking to it. Anything short of that goal will be a major disappointment for me. The money is great, but I need to be in that final nine to consider this tournament a success.”

Robbins entered day 7 with a top-10 stack, but fell short and eventually busted in 19th when a semi-bluff ran into a set. Fortunately for Robbins, he has confidence to get back again.

Danny WongDanny Wong Returns To Tournament Poker Scene

Long-time pro Danny Wong hadn’t been around tournament poker for quite some time, taking a break to peruse cash games around the world, but he made a splash in his return to the circuit by notching a deep run in the main event.

Arguably, Wong had as much poker experience as anyone at the final two tables. However, he suffered a crippling beat when his A-10 was victimized by A-9. Before the river card, he had a shot at poker’s most coveted, yet improbable, title.

Despite doubling up once, Wong was still a short stack and eventually hit the rail in 14th place for a score of $465,159. He now has more than $2.5 million in career earnings.

“You never know when it’s your time,” Wong said of the deep run. “I never doubted myself. Other people may say things that you don’t like to hear, but you have to brush that off. You know yourself best. You know what you’re capable of.”

Follow Brian Pempus on Twitter — @brianpempus



over 6 years ago

That ruling just doesn't seem right in regards to that hand with Baumann's pocket Kings and Koroknai's shove/muck.
Seems like that's a hand that could've changed the tournament for both players, but Koroknai only loses 60k. So Koroknai actually gets rewarded for not paying attention and protecting his hand.


over 6 years ago

Agreed, a genuinely ridiculous ruling that changed a tournament for Baumann.
Sitting for hours waiting for a premium hand and to that a player shoves in front of you, nice..... but no the players amateurism and complete lack of attention is rewarded by having his chips pushed back to him with a minor dent.
Koroknai could have easily seen the tell of joy or anticipation on Baumanns face post shove then knowing she had a monster and mucked his 9's or 10's.


over 6 years ago

This ruling is absurd. You have to protect your hand at all times. If your chips are in and your cards get folded.... then that's on you. You have to wait for the pot to be shipped. This is one of those rulings that a local might get from a "friendly" floor person. I know it takes some luck to get to the final table but that isn't luck.... that's charity. I feel bad for Baumann. Didn't do one thing wrong in the hand... most likely would have won the pot and through no fault of her own she loses value.


over 6 years ago

The ruling isn't a bad one. It's up to the player to protect their hand but if it was a mistake he should have been given his chips back and only lose what the last bet was. The floor should have given out a warning or even a penalty but not take a player out of the main event. The rules always have the ruling in there to do what is in the best interest of the game. The floor could have even made him make the raise and lose those chips since he was trying to raise. Then he would have lost 120K. If it happens again his chips will be gone but not the first time.


over 6 years ago

Putting money on Jarrett Nash final tabling this event was a poor idea...what a waste.


over 6 years ago

So if I shove, and then feel someone is going to call I can just muck and not lose my whole stack? Bad ruling in my opinion unless it was a dealer error. If the dealer announced Baumann's raised, I think that is binding. You are responsible for your own hand, and if you muck then thats your own fault. With that being said, its hard to be too upset about a 10th place finish, winning that hand does not necessarily equal final table, she should be proud of her accomplishment.