My reflections from the Rio:
• The WSOP November Nine has become poker’s version of “The Hunt For Red October.” The final table convenes Oct. 29-30 at the Rio. Hungary’s Andras Koroknai, currently second, is the only international player left.
• Chip leader Jesse Sylvia continues a growing trend of poker pros re-locating to Las Vegas. The 2012 Main Event capped the largest-ever WSOP in terms of prize pool. It was the fifth-largest in the tournament’s illustrious history, drawing 6,598 players from 83 nations. First place will be worth more than $8.5 million. A total of 74,766 players from 101 countries entered the 61 events on this summer’s WSOP schedule, generating a total record prize pool of $222,035,192.
• The Poker Players Alliance showed in its Town Hall meeting prior to the Main Event that it is strong and united toward making online betting legal. Also, names like Ferguson and Lederer are not welcomed figures around these parts right now.
• French born Gaelle Baumann, who finished 10th, came within one place of becoming only the second woman to ever make a WSOP Main Event final table. For the first time ever in Main Event history, women finished in 10th and 11th place, with waitress Elisabeth Hille of Norway, taking 11th position.
• Actor Kevin Pollak topped the celebrities, finishing 134th in his first WSOP main event. Pollak bested Jason Alexander.
• Comprehensive WSOP television coverage will begin Tuesday, July 31 at 5 p.m. PT on ESPN. Coverage will continue in two-hour blocks each Tuesday at 5 PT for 16 weeks leading into the final table showdown Oct. 30.
Here’s a capsule look at the only ones left who can claim the prestigious gold bracelet.
1. Jesse Sylvia – 43, 875,000
The Massachusetts native, 26, is a graduate of Cal Lutheran University. Sylvia had one prior WSOP cash and a WSOP Circuit cash for total earnings of $7,244.
2. Andras Koroknai – 29,375,000
Koroknai, 30, is a graduate of the University of Debrecen. He won the LA Poker Classic in 2010, taking home more than $1.7 million.
3. Greg Merson – 28,725,000
Merson, 25, grew up in Laurel, Md. The young pro made a splash earlier at this year’s WSOP when he won more than $1 million and a gold bracelet in Event 57, a $10,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold‘em/Six-Handed. Merson had more than $1.2 million in WSOP winnings.
4. Russell Thomas – 24,800,000
Thomas, 24, graduated from Temple University. He made Day 5 of the 2011 WSOP Main Event, finishing in 248th place and was fifth in a $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em/Six-Handed tournament at the Rio last year. Thomas will see his total WSOP earnings of $126,796 increase significantly.
5. Steven Gee – 16,860,000
Gee is a 57-year-old pro residing in Sacramento, Calif. He holds a degree in accounting. He is originally from China.
6. Michael Esposito – 16,260,000
Esposito earned his place at the Main Event final table just three days prior to his 44th birthday. The Long Island, N.Y. resident has five cashes on the WSOP circuit, winning $22,341.
7. Robert Salaburu – 15,155,000
Salaburu, 27, is from San Antonio and has posted a number of previous tournament cashes totaling more than $20,000.
8. Jake Balsiger – 13,115,000
Balsiger, 21, is a rising senior at Arizona State. He has the chance to become the youngest-ever WSOP Main Event champion.
9. Jeremy Ausmus – 9,805,000
Ausmus, 32, is a pro with interests in chess, guitar and piano. He has a BA degree from Colorado State.