None of the nine players to outlast a total field of 6,598 players in the world’s greatest poker tournament are well-known professionals but a few already have some impressive results to their names. Get to know them a little better with this short rundown of the nine most envied poker players this year – the WSOP Main Event October Nine:
Seat 1: Russell Thomas
Chips: 24,800,000 (4th place)
Russell Thomas hails from Hartford, Connecticut and has a full-time job as an actuary at an insurance company. The 24-year-old started playing poker in college after watching his brother win money playing online. His previous biggest live tournament cash to date came when he finished 5th in the 2010 WSOP $1,500 NLH Six Handed event for USD $84,256. Thomas is also good friends with chip leader Jessie Sylvia and they were even roommates two years ago during the WSOP.
Seat 2: Jacob Balsiger
Chips: 13,115,000 (8th place)
The youngest player to make the final table this year, 21-year-old Jacob Balsiger comes from Tempe, Arizona and is currently studying political science at Arizona State University. He has just two small live cashes on his poker résumé, the biggest of which came at this year’s WSOP in the $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em when he came in 100th place for USD $3,531 in prize money.
Seat 3: Jeremy Ausmus
Chips: 9,805,000 (9th place)
The short stack going into the final table is 32-year-old Jeremy Ausmus. The married father of one is a professional poker player and already has quite a few tournament cashes under his belt, including a USD $190,000 3rd place in a tournament at the Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles in 2011.
Seat 4: Steven Gee
Chips: 16,860,000 (5th place)
Born in China but hailing from Sacramento, California, Steven Gee is the oldest member of the Octo-Nine and is one of two players left with the experience of having already won a WSOP bracelet. In 2010, the 56-year-old poker pro took out the WSOP $1,000 No-Limit Hold’em event to snare USD $472,479 in prize money. He is now looking to become the first Main Event winner to own two WSOP bracelets since Carlos Mortensen.
Seat 5: Greg Merson
Chips: 28,725,000 (3rd place)
Greg Merson has already had a cracking WSOP series so far, coming 5th in the $2,500 No-Limit Hold’em Four Handed for USD $70,280 and winning a gold bracelet in the $10,000 No-Limit Hold’em Six Handed event for a massive USD $1,136,197 payday. In fact, Merson has already overtaken Phil Ivey in the WSOP Player of the Year standings and will be looking to play every event he can at WSOP Europe to stay on top. As with all remaining players, his Main Event deep run hasn’t come without a little luck. Merson was down to just over two big blinds at the dinner break on Day 5 and managed to pull off an epic comeback to still be in the running.
Seat 6: Jesse Sylvia
Chips: 43,875,000 in chips (1st place)
Having moved to Las Vegas just before Black Friday hit, current chip leader Jesse Sylvia had to make the switch from playing online poker to live cash games. Although the 26-year-old actually has under USD $25,000 in live tournament cashes to his name, he’s the only player on the final table to have a sponsorship deal after he signed with 888poker.
Seat 7: Robert Salaburu
Chips: 15,155,000 (7th place)
From San Antonio, Texas, Robert Salaburu has less than USD $45,000 in live tournament cashes to his name, none of them coming in WSOP events. Currently one of the shorter stacks on the table, it will certainly be an impressive WSOP cash debut should the 27-year-old poker pro come back and go all the way.
Seat 8: Andras Koroknai
Chips: 29,375,000 (2nd place)
As the only player on the final table that isn’t American, Andras Koroknai might not be the crowd favourite come October in Las Vegas – unless he flies in a 747 plane load of his Hungarian compatriots. The 30-year-old poker pro is the first player from Hungary to make a WSOP Main Event final table but is no stranger to tournament success. In 2010, he took out the WPT LA Poker Classic for a life-changing USD $1,788,040 in prize money.
Seat 9: Michael Esposito
Chips: 16,260,000 (6th place)
A 43-year-old commodity broker from Seaford, New York, Michael Esposito has tournament earnings of around USD $170,000 stretching all the way back to 2002. He has three previous WSOP finishes on his record including a min-cash in the 2006 WSOP Main Event when he came in 540th place.
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