And then there were nine. The 43rd Annual World Series of Poker Main Event is now down to its final nine after competing against 6,598 players in hopes of winning the title and top prize of $8.5 million. The nine lovingly referred to as the “Octo-Nine” will return to the Rio All Suites Hotel in October to play for the tournament’s ultimate prize – a WSOP gold bracelet and a whopping $8,527,982 prize. Without further ado, here are the “Octo-Nine,” who in their own right have now become Las Vegas poker celebrities:
• In first place is Jesse Sylvia. Sylvia is a professional poker player from right here in Las Vegas. Prior to making this year’s final nine, Sylvia had one prior WSOP cash as well as a WSOP Circuit cash for total WSOP earnings of $7,244.
• Andras Koroknai leads up second place. He is a 30-year-old poker pro from Debrecen, Hungary and has won the LA Poker Classic in 2010, taking home more than $1.7 million.
• Greg Merson sits in third and is one of the youngest in the final nine. He made headlines earlier when he won more than $1 million and a gold bracelet for winning Event 57, a $10,000 buy-in No-Limit Six Handed.
• The Main Event is nothing knew to Russell Thomas who made it to Day 5 of the WSOP Main Event last year. He posted two additional cashes at the 2011 WSOP, including a fifth place finish in a $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em Six-Handed tournament. He now sits in fourth place.
• Steven Gee is a 57-year-old professional poker player who holds a degree in accounting, which will no doubt come in handy after he makes thousands for his role as 5th place in this year’s Main Event.
• Michael Esposito is currently in 6th place and earned his place at the Main Event final table just three days prior to his 44th birthday. He has earned five cashes on the World Series of Poker Circuit, winning $22,341, which is nothing compared to the $754,798 he is guaranteed for making the “Octo-Nine.”
• Robert Salaburu, in 7th place is a 27-year-old poker player from San Antonio, Texas. He has won a number of other tournaments totaling more than $20,000.
• Eighth place, Jake Balsiger has the chance to become the youngest-ever WSOP Main Event champion, beating out 2009’s world champion Joe Cada, for the title of youngest. He has posted one previous WSOP cash for a little more than $3,500.
• The ninth Main Event player, Jeremy Ausmus is a professional poker player from Lamar, Colo. He will enter the final table as the short stack.
Stay tuned for more details on the “Octo-Nine” as they return to the Rio in October.