Greg Merson, 2012 WSOP Champion
by Jennifer Newell
For a few months in 2012, the name Greg Merson was known in the wider poker world because of his 2012 World Series of Poker preliminary bracelet and his subsequent place in the October Nine, the final table of the WSOP Main Event. As of October 31, 2012, he was known as the WSOP Main Event World Champion.
The 24-year old is a professional poker player hailing from Laurel, Maryland. The young player began his profession as a hobby when he played some online poker during his college years. His original goal was to find his way through college, and he started with some community college classes but soon transferred to the University of Maryland. At the same time, though, he was playing in live cash games and online, the latter being where he made most of his original bankroll. He quit school to focus on poker, and though he experienced setbacks in the way of bankroll mismanagement, he learned from those mistakes, returned to his $1/$2 limit roots, and rebuilt his bankroll.
Despite his ability to earn a living at the live poker tables, online poker was his passion, and after Black Friday in the United States, he moved to Toronto to continue playing online. Cash games were his strong suit through the years, whether online or live.
Merson did play tournaments, though. His first victory came in Verona, New York, in a $200 NLHE tournament, where he won $18,053. He went on to cash in the WSOP Main Event in 2009 and other tournaments like the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure and on the World Poker Tour.
Then came the 2012 WSOP. He cashed in a $3K NLHE Six-Handed event for $16,850 and then in the $2,500 NLHE Four-Handed tournament, the latter of which was a fifth place finish, bubbling the final table but winning $70,280. Two weeks later, he won the $10K NLHE Six-Handed tournament for his first WSOP gold bracelet and $1,136,197 in cash. Days after that, he played in the $10K NLHE Main Event, the largest tournament in the world. He fought through a tough spot on Day 5, when his stack was reduced to less than three big blinds, but he finished that night with 950K chips and continued to climb from there. When play stopped in July with nine players remaining, Merson was third in chips with 28,725,000, guaranteed at least $754,798, and on hiatus until the end of October.
Merson had no tournament poker results before returning to the Rio in Las Vegas on October 29, but he was grateful for the time spent with family and friends during the break. He received support from friends like Olympic medalist Michael Phelps, another Maryland native, and he began working with Phil Ivey. After launching a new website called IveyPoker.com, a free poker training site, Ivey approached Merson to sponsor the young pro. Not only was Merson given a patch to wear during the final table, but he became a member of Team Ivey, with Phil Ivey even attending the final table playdown to watch Merson compete. Ivey said of Merson, "He's very talented. I've played with him in a couple tournaments and I've always been impressed with the way he's played. … One thing I really love about Greg is his demeanor. I love the way he handles himself when he wins and when he loses. He doesn't have much of an ego. I think he's going to be around poker a long time and be very successful -- that's why I chose Greg."
Wearing his lucky Baltimore Orioles sports jersey, Merson made it through the first day of final table action and took the lead into three-handed play on October 30. After about 12 hours of three-handed play, Merson eliminated Jake Balsiger in third place, then went to work on Jesse Sylvia. Merson extended his lead and then took K-5 suited into battle against the Q-J suited of Sylvia, and that proved to be the final hand of action when the board came 5-3-9-6-7. Sylvia took second place, and Merson became the 2012 world champion. In the moments following the win, he waved off his fans in order to calmly congratulate Sylvia, then took a moment to hug his family members. In the excitement of accepting the bracelet and being interviewed, Merson showed emotion but calm in his expression of feelings of that moment.
Merson was awarded the special WSOP Main Event gold and diamond bracelet and $8,631,853 in prize money.Read Greg Merson's Profile for more information including his tournament results and total winnings.
Jennifer Newell is a freelance writer, originally from St. Louis but now living in Los Angeles. She fell in love with poker while working at WPT and began writing about it in 2005.