A 24-year-old Laurel man won the the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event early Wednesday, earning more than $8.5 million, according to WSOP online.
Greg Merson took home professional poker's biggest prize after a marathon 12-hour session that included two other competitors and saw each player hold the chip lead at some point, although Merson had the advantage most of the night.
The final leg of the World Championship of Texas Hold'em tournament at the Rio All-Suites hotel and casino in Las Vegas was televised on ESPN on a 15-minute delay last night and this morning.
The WSOP Main Event began in July with nearly 6,600 entrants and played down to a final table of nine players.
That group of nine reconvened Monday, Oct. 29, at the Rio when it was reduced to three—Jesse Sylvia, 26, of Massachusetts, and Jake Balsiger, 21, of Portland, Ore. and Merson. Those three met for the showdon beginning Tuesday night, Oct. 30.
Merson sealed the win when his king-high with a pair of 6s on the board bested a stubborn Sylvia, who had queen-high. An hour earlier, Merson had eliminated Balsiger with a king-high hand with three 6s on the board.
In Texas Hold'em, each player receives two cards and five community cards are dealt. From those seven cards, each player makes the best five-card poker hand. Sylvia earned nearly $5.3 million for his second-place finish and Balsiger collected almost $3.8 million for third.
Going into the final table, Merson's story of drug and alcohol addiction and rehabilitation was familiar to viewers, and was repeated again during the ESPN telecast. Earlier this year, Merson went through a detoxification program and says that he hopes others learn from his experience to take responsibility for and fixing whatever gets in the way of realizing their dreams.
In addition to his more than $8.5 million in winnings, Merson—who dropped out of the University of Maryland— took home a custom-designed gold, platinum and diamond encrusted bracelet and was named the WSOP Player of the Year. His win also gave him the World Series of Poker Player of the Year award, which is based on points earned in WSOP tournaments played in America and Europe.
Merson also won $1.13 million during another WSOP tournament just before the Main Event.