Jesse Sylvia is the favorite to become the next world champion of poker.
The 2012 World Series of Poker Main Event crowns a world champion in two days with chip leader Jesse Sylvia enjoying the shortest betting odds at Las Vegas bookmakers.
With over 43 million in chips Sylvia is going off at 3/2, marking him the favorite among the nine final-table players.
The second-safest bet to win is Hungarian Andras Koroknai, the lone non-American with a shot at the world championship.
PokerListings.com will be in Las Vegas reporting the WSOP Main Event final table live starting Monday, but before we do we’re bringing you up to speed on what to expect.
Keep reading to re-introduce yourself to the final nine players and how Las Vegas bookmakers expect the final table to play out.
Jesse Sylvia (USA)
Chip Stack: 43,875,000
Betting Line: 3/2*
Jesse Sylvia’s combination of experience and big stack make him the favorite but at 3/2 you’re not getting much of a deal.
No-Limit Hold’em events are anything but predictable, and since Sylvia could potentially go from chip lead to short stack in one hand, it’s ridiculous to think he’s going to win even half the times he plays this final table.
Sylvia is originally from Martha’s Vineyard but he’s been living in Las Vegas for the last few years playing live cash games professionally.
He got his bankroll in large part with a $100k online MTT score while playing from the computer lab at Cal Lutheran University so he’s got tournament experience.
Check out our latest news interview with Jesse Sylvia.
Go here for our latest video with Jesse Sylvia.
Andreas Koroknai (Hungary)
Chip Stack: 29,375,000
Betting Line: 3/1*
The only non-American at this final table, Andras Koroknai is one of the most successful players gunning for the world championship.
Koroknai won the WPT’s LA Poker Classic in 2010 for more than $1.7 million. He’ll have to finish fifth-place or better to top that.
Koroknai’s English isn’t great so information on the Hungarian is limited.
We do know that he got lucky with 14 players left, all-in with A-9 against Danny Wong’s A-T. Koroknai flopped a flush draw and nailed it on the river to double up.
He was also the player to break the final-table bubble, busting France’s Gaelle Baumann in tenth-place.
Check out our profile of Andras Koroknai for more info.
Greg Merson (USA)
Chip Stack: 28,725,000
Betting Line: 5/2*
Based on available information Greg Merson is probably the best player sitting down in front of the ESPN cameras next week.
Merson proved he’s got what it takes to win tournaments just a few weeks before making this final table when he took down the $10,000 Six-Max championship for $1.13 million.
In addition to that bracelet he’s cashed at the WSOP on five other occasions.
Amazingly, when there were 150 players left in the Main Event Merson was down to just three big blinds. He managed to rebuild and enter the final nine third in chips.
Check out or profile of Greg Merson for more info.
Go here for our latest video with Greg Merson.
Russell Thomas (USA)
Chip Stack: 24,800,000
Betting Line: 4/1*
Since the final table was set back in July we’ve gotten to know Russell Thomas better than any of the other players.
For the last couple months Thomas has been training with WSOP bracelet winner Jason Somerville, and filmed the process in an ongoing documentary series “The Final Table”.
Unlike most of his opponents, Thomas has a day job working as an actuary in Hartford Connecticut.
But if he was lacking experience before, he’ll have had time to pick it up during his pre-final table training.
Click here for our latest news interview with Russell Thomas.
Click here for our latest video with Russell Thomas.
Steve Gee (USA)
Chip Stack: 16,860,000
Betting Line: 6/1*
Steven Gee has been playing poker since the ‘70s so it’s hard to deny him the advantage in the experience department.
Gee took a hiatus from playing poker professionally to pursue other business interests before returning to the felt and winning his first WSOP bracelet in 2010.
At 56 years of age Gee is the second oldest player at the final table.
And while Gee is going off at 6/1 if you want to bet in Las Vegas, there’s substantially more money riding on whether he or Michael Esposito win. (More on that in the next section)
Click here for more information on Steven Gee.
Michael Esposito (USA)
Chip Stack: 16,260,000
Betting Line: 6/1*
Michael Esposito is the clear dark horse at this final table.
At 58 years old Esposito has a long list of small tournament cashes, most from Atlantic City and Las Vegas, but his biggest score before making the October Nine was just $47k for a WSOP Circuit final table.
He’s already guaranteed 16 times that much for making the final table of this year’s main event.
As we mentioned before, if Esposito or Steven Gee wins this tournament, some serious money will be changing hands in the poker community.
Heavy wagers were made between players like Mike Sexton, Doyle Brunson, Barry Greenstein and Brian Hastings on whether this year’s main event would be over 40.
Check out our profile of Michael Esposito for more information.
Robert Salaburu (USA)
Chip Stack: 15,155,000
Betting Line: 7/1*
Robert Salaburu is from San Antonio, Texas and has been playing poker for the last 10 years. He picked up the game at the young age of 16.
Salaburu started playing online poker while going to college but ended up dropping out and pursuing poker full time.
Salaburu is sixth in chips and is going off at 7/1 at the sportsbooks in Las Vegas.
Check out our profile of Robert Salaburu for more information and video.
Jake Balsiger (USA)
Chip Stack: 13,155,000
Betting Line: 8/1*
At just 21 years of age Arizona State University student Jake Balsiger has the chance to become the youngest-ever world champion of poker.
He’s got the second-smallest chip stack and 8 to 1 odds against him winning.
The odds on Balsiger aren’t even close to a good deal. If everyone was on equal ground he’d win one in nine times. With less than seven per cent of the chips in play and far less experience than everyone else at the table Balsiger has his work cut out for him.
Check out our latest interview with Jake Balsiger.
Go here for our latest video with Jake Balsiger.
Jeremy Ausmus (USA)
Chip Stack: 9,805,000
Betting Line: 11/1*
Every year one Main Event final-table player is patched with the badge of the shortstack. This year that dubious honor belongs to Jeremy Ausmus.
Yet another local Las Vegas cash-game pro, Ausmus might be short in chips but he’s long in experience. Besides the three-quarters of a million dollars he’s guaranteed at the Main Event, Ausmus has cashed at the WSOP thirteen other times.
Ausmus is a family man, with two kids and a wife for whom he provides by playing poker.
His biggest cash before this was a $190k score for third in a $5k event at the Bike in Los Angeles.
Check out our profile of Jeremy Ausmus for more information.
Check out our latest video with Jeremy Ausmus.
* All odds provided by Caesars Entertainment, owners of the World Series of Poker.
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