Greg Merson won the 2012 WSOP Main Event in spectacular fashion early Wednesday morning, taking down $8.5 million and the Player of the Year title.
The final table ended up being the longest in Main Event history in Las Vegas lasting an astounding 399 hands.
Starting at 5:45 p.m. on Tuesday it was nearly 6 a.m. Wednesday morning when Merson finally won poker’s ultimate prize. Much of it was due to Merson, Jesse Sylvia and Jake Balsiger playing for over 11 hours three-handed.
“You can’t let fatigue get in the way,” explained Merson. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I had to just keep grinding it out. You can’t give up.”
Maryland Native Respected, Recovered
Sylvia, Merson and Balsiger all spent time as the chip leader during the 11-hour three-handed playdown but it was eventually Merson who busted Balsiger in third place to start heads-up play.
The 24-year-old Merson, who hails from Laurel, Maryland, is a very well-respected player in the online poker community and his level of experience certainly paid off at the final table.
It was also well-publicised during the lead up to the final table that Merson suffered from drug addiction in the past.
He said it was part of the reason he was so emotional after winning the Main Event.
"I could possibly not even be alive right now and that's no exaggeration," said a thankful Merson. "We live such a fast-paced lifestyle it's so easy to get caught up in the wrong stuff."
Sylvia Runner-Up, Balsiger Busts in Third
Balsiger, who entered the final table second-to-last in chips, showed an amazing amount of resiliency at the final table and received $3.7 million for coming in third place.
Even Balsiger admitted he didn't expect to place higher than fifth, so finishing third was a remarkable achievement.
It was even more impressive considering Balsiger is a full-time student at ASU and does not consider himself a professional poker player.
Meanwhile Sylvia, who had some of the best fan support in the history of the Main Event final table, finished in second place for $5.2 million.
Merson Triumphs with K-5
In the final hand of the tournament Merson 4-bet shoved all-in and Sylvia called for his tournament life with Q♠ J♠.
Merson ended up being weak, but not weak enough as he had K♦ 5♦. The board bricked and the 2012 Main Event, which began back in July, was over.
Sylvia entered the final table as the chip leader but there’s a good chance he wasn’t too disappointed with the second-place finish as his biggest previous cash in a poker tournament was $33k.
With his victory Merson also passed Phil Hellmuth to become the 2012 WSOP Player of the Year.
It was also Merson’s second bracelet of the year as he won the $10k Six-Handed Event earlier this summer for $1.1 million.
For a full recap of the Main Event action, check our live updates.