After a 109-day hiatus, the 2012 World Series of Poker Main Event Final Table recommenced at the Rio’s Penn and Teller Theater in Las Vegas Monday night. It took nearly nine-and-a-half hours of play, but the final nine players of a 6,598-player field was reduced to the final three. Greg Merson, Jacob Balsiger and Jesse Sylvia will return on Tuesday to compete for the $8,527,982 first-place prize.
Here’s how things stacked up at the start of the final table:
It took nearly two hours for the first elimination to occur, and it finally happened on Hand #30. It began when Steve Gee opened to 900,000 under the gun, Merson called, and Russell Thomas came along from the button. On the flop, Gee led out for 1.6 million, Merson folded, and Thomas called, bringing about the on the turn. Again Gee fired another bullet — this one was worth 3.25 million — and Thomas called.
The completed the board and Gee moved all in for 11.35 million. After over five minutes in the tank, Thomas called. Gee stood up from the table and turned over , but it was no good as Thomas turned over to eliminate Gee in ninth place for $754,798.
The next elimination occurred on Hand #65 when action folded to Sylvia in the small blind and he raised all in to put the pressure on a short-stacked Robert Salaburu in the big blind. The latter quickly called off to put himself at risk with , and he was ahead of Sylvia’s .
The flop kept Salaburu in front, as did the turn; however, when the river completed the board with the , the Penn & Teller Theatre went ballistic. Sylvia made the best hand on the river to put an end to Salaburu's night in eighth place for $971,360.
Five hands later, Merson opened to 1 million under the gun, and short-stacked Michael Esposito moved all in for 10.7 million. Action folded back to Merson and he snap-called.
The flop was uneventful, but the gave Esposito an ace-high flush draw. Unfortunately for him, the river did not complete it and he was eliminated in seventh place for $1,258,040, while Merson took over the chip lead.
Merson put it too good use, albeit hours later on Hand #109 when action folded to him on the button and he raised to one million. Sylvia then reraised to 2.6 million from the small blind, and Andras Koroknai four-bet to 5.3 million from the big. Merson responded with a five-bet to 9.2 million, Sylvia folded, and Koroknai moved all in. Merson quickly called and he had Koroknai dominated.
The board ran out and Merson's cheering section erupted in joy as their man pulled away with 80 million in chips while Koroknai was eliminated in sixth place for $1,640,902.
The next to go was Jeremy Ausmus when he opened to 1.2 million on the button and Sylvia defended his big blind. The flop fell and both players checked. Sylvia checked the on the turn, opening the door for Ausmus to bet 1.5 million. Sylvia proceeded to check-raise to 3.6 million and then called when Ausmus moved all in for 14.5 million.
Sylvia was ahead with a pair or nines, but Ausmus was drawing to an open-ended straight draw. The dealer burned one last time and put out the — the last card Ausmus would see before making his way to the payout desk in fifth place for $2,155,313 for his fifth-place finish.
On Hand #136, Sylvia was on the button, and the action folded to Thomas, who raised to 1.5 million from the small blind. Balsiger then moved all in from the big blind for effectively 15.825 million, and Thomas tank-called.
Balsiger's rail exploded at the site of his hand, and became even louder after the flop fell . Thomas could double with a nine or running straight or flush cards. The took away a lot of Thomas' outs, but he could chop with any queen or eight. The river was the and eliminated Thomas in fourth place for $2,851,537 while setting the final three: Merson (88,350,000), Sylvia (62,750,000) and Balsiger (46,875,000).
Tune in on Tuesday: A champion will be crowned Tuesday. Action resumes at 9 p.m. EDT on ESPN, so be sure to check your local listings. You can also check out hand-for-hand coverage right here on PokerNews.