Sylvia, Merson, Balsiger Battle for $8.5 Million in Main Event Final

Jake Balsiger Jesse Sylvia
Jake Balsiger and Jesse Sylvia speak to the press.

After months of waiting, world-champion status is within grasp for Jesse Sylvia, Jake Balsiger and Greg Merson.

Yesterday Steven Gee, Robert Salaburu, Michael Esposito, Andras Koroknai, Jeremy Ausmus and Russell Thomas all fell short in their bids for the $8.5 million first-place prize.

Merson, the most established poker pro at the final table, put on an impressive performance yesterday busting Koroknai in the biggest hand of the final table. He will take the chip lead into the final three with 88 million chips.

“I was definitely more nervous than I thought I would be,” said Merson in press conference prior to the final playdown. “It made it easier that I had ace-king like 10 times.”

If the $8.5 million first-place prize wasn’t enough motivation for Merson he can also pass Phil Hellmuth to win the 2012 WSOP POY by outlasting Sylvia and Balsiger.

Merson, who is wearing a Poker Players Alliance patch at the final table, also wants to win the Main Event so he can campaign for the return of online poker in the U.S.

"I think it's important we get online poker back up and running and regulated as soon as possible," said Merson.

Jesse Sylvia
Jesse Sylvia

Former Chip-Leader Sylvia's Biggest Test Comes Today

Jesse Sylvia wasn’t able to take control of the final table to the degree he wanted but still managed to finish with a respectable 62 million chips yesterday.

“It’s all good,” said Sylvia. “Yesterday I let Greg deal with everyone."

Sylvia has received the most fan support out of all the remaining players and mentioned he was inspired every time he looked up and saw 200 people from his hometown of Martha's Vineyard.

"I want to put on the best performance I can for my friends and family," he said.

Perhaps the biggest surprise in the final three is the appearance of Jake Balsiger, who entered the final table second-to-last in chips.

“I didn’t even think this was a possibility,” said Balsiger. “I was just aiming to place somewhere around fifth.”

The 21-year-old Balsiger will break Joe Cada’s record as the youngest Main Event winner in history if he takes home poker's ultimate prize today.

Play resumes at 5:45 pm PT today with blinds at 300,000/600,000 with a 75,000 ante.

Check out our WSOP live updates for up-to-the-minute coverage. Here’s a look at the chip counts to start the final day of the 2012 WSOP:

1. Greg Merson – 88,350,000
2. Jesse Sylvia – 62,750,000
3. Jake Balsiger – 46,875,000

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