Greg Merson won the 2012 World Series of Poker Main Event at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. Hailing from Laurel, Md., Merson had to fight through a field of 6,598 players to claim the title and $8,531,853 and poker's most coveted piece of jewelry - the WSOP Main Event bracelet.
The final table was an epic marathon that lasted 398 hands and claimed the record of being the longest all-time at the World Series of Poker. Three-handed play lasted 197 hands and more than 11 hours.
Merson defeated Jesse Sylvia heads-up and Sylvia, 26, took home $5,295,149 for his runner-up finish.
Merson became the first player since Chris Ferguson (2000) to win a preliminary WSOP bracelet and the Main Event in the same year; his two 2012 bracelets sent him past Phil Hellmuth in the 2012 WSOP Player of the Year race.
Monday night brought the elimination of six players and the final three returned to the Penn & Teller Theater on Tuesday evening to compete for the title. The chip counts when the action resumed:
On Hand #382, Jacob Balsiger's dream of becoming the youngest WSOP Main Event champion ever ended. From the button Sylvia raised to 4 million on the button, Balsiger moved all-in for 20.3 million from the small blind. Merson asked for a count before calling from the big blind, and Sylvia folded.
Merson showed which dominated Balsiger's . The flop brought some noise from the crowd and gave Balsiger a few chop outs. The on the river was a blank, and the on the river ended the tournament for Balsiger. Balsiger collected $3,799,073 for his third place finish and the experience of a life time measured in poker speak.
Then it was down to Merson (117.6 million) and Sylvia (80.6 million) playing for World Series of Poker glory. Merson leaned on Sylvia during the first 16 hands of heads up play by winning several small pots and increased his stack to around 130 million.
Hand #398 put the finishing touches on the final table.
Merson min-raised to 4 million from the button, Sylvia three-bet to 9.5 million and Merson moved all-in, having Sylvia's stack of 69.3 million covered. Sylvia had a tough decision; he riffled a stack of chips with his left hand and moved back and forth in his chair.
"Wow," Sylvia said to no one. He looked over the pot, stared down Merson who sat motionless, and finally Sylvia called.
Merson was in front, but Sylvia had plenty of ways to win the massive 139.2 million-chip pot and reclaim the lead.
The flop came .
The turn brought the . and Merson was one card away from claiming everything he set his sights on back in July.
The Penn & Teller Theater waited for the river that brought the ...and it was over. Greg Merson was offically crowned the 2012 World Series of Poker Main Event champion.
Merson's story is one filled with perseverance and determination. Earlier this year he was recovering from a drug relapse that happed after his career was stripped away from him on Black Friday. Merson refocused his efforts on poker, he won his first bracelet in WSOP Event #57, the $10,000 six-handed no-limit hold'em event for $1.1 million.
Merson joined Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, Stu Ungar, Phil Hellmuth, and others in the elite class of World Series of Poker Main Event champions.
The results of the 2012 World Series of Poker Main Event final table:
PokerNews.com's Kristy Arnett interviews Greg Merson after his win:
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