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Jesse Sylvia, Poker Biography

by Jennifer Newell

Jesse Sylvia is best known today as the chip leader of the 2012 World Series of Poker $10,000 No Limit Hold'em Championship Main Event final table. The 24-year old will take a stack of 43,875,000 chips to that table when it resumes in October 2012 to play for one of the largest first prizes in poker history.

Sylvia was born in Malden, Massachusetts, and lived much of his life on Martha's Vineyard. His father is an engineer on a scientific research vessel, and his mother multitasks in areas like clothing design and landscaping. Sylvia has been inspired by both parents; his mother's creative nature and his father's scientific mind inspired their son to want to be an inventor when he was younger. His sister is a civil engineer and a clothing designer, and Jesse takes after her analytical side. The family is a close-knit one.

Sylvia attended Cal Lutheran University and began playing poker during that time. He was learning online poker but not making money. In fact, he was a losing player. During his senior year, he took a side job to make money, deposited it back into online poker, but lost most of it due to an admitted bankroll management problem. He did well at online tournaments, though, and cashed in a major online event as one of the three final players and won more than $100K. He had been playing on a computer in a math lab where he tutored other students because his own laptop was broken, and the win turned his life around. Six months later, he was a full-time poker player but still experienced large swings in his bankroll.

Continuing to persevere, Sylvia played everything from hold'em to Omaha online and continued to improve. He ultimately moved to Las Vegas and became friends with other poker pros. His initial move had him rooming with friend Russell Thomas, who is also at the WSOP final table with him by sheer coincidence. He admitted to learning a lot from Thomas about making good poker decisions.

Sylvia played some live poker tournaments in his poker career thus far, and his first World Series of Poker cash came in 2011 in a $1,500 NLHE Six-Handed tournament. He cashed in 175th place but was inspired to play more the following year. In 2012, he played some of the smaller tournaments around Las Vegas to start the year, and he began with a final table of a WSOP Circuit event in January, finishing fifth for $4,290. He also played in a $1K NLHE event at the time of the World Poker Tour World Championship in May and final tabled the tournament, finishing eighth for $1,455. He then played in the Main Event and did well throughout the many days of action, ultimately climbing to the top of the leaderboard on the last day of play in July to end at the final table with the chip lead. He is now guaranteed a minimum payout of $754,798.

Sylvia feels positive about the opportunity and will strive to win for the bracelet and title just as much as the money. His poker successes thus far have afforded him the opportunity to travel, even living in Costa Rica for three months, but he would like the win just as much.

His current life consists of spending time with his girlfriend, who he has been teaching to play poker, and playing live around Las Vegas. Cash games are where he makes his living, though he also maintains an interest in going to film school one day in Los Angeles. He hopes to write scripts and eventually direct films, and a win at the WSOP later this year would afford him the time to make the move to Los Angeles and focus on another career.

(Thanks to for information provided on final table participants.)

Read Jesse Sylvia's Profile for more information including his tournament results and total winnings.

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Jennifer Newell 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.