It took about seven hours to go from nine players down to the final three with Merson now taking the overall chip lead into battle tomorrow.
Russell Thomas was the final player to bust on an action-packed day that saw Andras Koroknai come close to the chip lead before imploding in spectacular fashion against Merson.
Every player left at the final table is now guaranteed at least $3.7 million.
Merson, considered by many poker pros as the most skilled player at the final table, put on a fantastic display of poker that saw him finish the evening with 88.3 million chips.
Sylvia entered the final table as the chip leader and played a solid game. He finished the night with 62 million chips.
The 21-year-old Balsiger is perhaps the biggest surprise of the final three. He entered the final table second-to-last in chips but was aggressive from the beginning and scored two massive double-ups to secure a spot in the final three.
Koroknai Blows Up in Epic 84 Million-Chip Pot
Without a doubt the hand that had everyone buzzing on the first day of the WSOP Main Event final table occurred between Andras Koroknai and Greg Merson.
At the time of the hand both players have massive stacks and had been playing numerous pots against each other. Nothing could prepare fans for what was about to occur, however.
A hand that saw Merson make the first bet would eventually see Koroknai six-bet all-in for about 40 million. Merson called with Ace-King.
Amazingly, Koroknai could only offer King-Queen.
The board bricked and Merson eliminated Koroknai in sixth place while dragging in the 84 million-chip pot to take the overwhelming chip lead.
Gee, Salaburu, Esposito, Ausmus and Thomas Hit the Rail
Steven Gee had the unfortunate distinction of being the only player at the 2012 WSOP Main Event final table to not win any more money.
Gee busted in ninth place when he made a huge bluff on a dangerous board that Russell Thomas would eventually call with pocket queens.
Robert Salaburu was the next player to go as he had the misfortune of losing with pocket sevens to Jesse Sylvia’s Q-5.
Amateur Michael Esposito was getting severely short-stacked at this point and eventually shoved with A-J.
Merson called him down with A-K. There were no miracles on the board and Esposito hit the rail in seventh.
Following Koroknai’s incredible meltdown Jeremy Ausmus finally busted with a straight draw against Sylvia’s top pair. Ausmus was the short stack heading into the final table so fifth place was a very decent finish for the Las Vegas native.
Finally Russell Thomas would set the final three when his called-off A-9 failed against Balsiger’s shoved A-K. Thomas was active throughout most of the day but couldn’t keep pace with the surging Merson and Sylvia.
Check our live updates to get more detailed information on how the first day of the final table played out. Action resumes at 5:45 PST tomorrow.
Here are the chip counts of the final three and prizes for the other six players:
1. Greg Merson – 88,350,000 chips
2. Jesse Sylvia – 62,750,000 chips
3. Jake Balsiger – 46,875,000 chips
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. Steven Gee – $754,798