Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012 | 10:29 a.m.
It took 1 minute short of 12 hours of play -- from dusk to dawn this morning -- at the 2012 World Series of Poker at the Rio for 24-year-old Greg Merson to capture the gold bracelet and the $8.5 million first-place prize, and his pal Olympic record-holder Michael Phelps sent congratulations via Twitter.
On Tuesday at 5:45 p.m., Greg, part-time Las Vegas resident Jesse Sylvia, 26, and 21-year-old Jake Balsiger of Tempe, Ariz., began play that didn’t end until 5:44 a.m. today. It was a record number of hands and time, and how they all stayed awake without falling asleep at the table is still beyond me. It was the longest Final Table in WSOP Main Event history, spanning an incredible 399 hands.
Jake was KO’d into 3rd place and a $3.8 million win after 11 hours of play. It took less than 1 hour before Jesse was eliminated in 2nd place, winning $5.2 million, and Greg was crowned champion with the prestigious WSOP bracelet, which he promptly placed on his mom’s wrist. She stayed awake the entire time, too.
Another Las Vegas player, Jeremy Ausmus, 33, won $2.1 million for 5th place. Greg says poker saved his life after he developed a drug habit while attending the University of Maryland. The Main Event victory was his second seven-figure prize at this year’s WSOP events at the Rio. A summer No-Limit Hold’em tournament won him $1.1 million.
“I’ve played a lot of long cash games in my career, which helps you prepare for something like this, but this whole stage is something you can’t ever really prepare for,” Greg said shortly after winning the tournament and tearfully holding onto his mother. “I couldn’t feel better for everyone who I’m sharing this victory with.”
You can read the full live-blog coverage of the frenzied overnight hours at our Sports colleague Case Keefer’s Las Vegas Sun blog. In all, this year’s WSOP attracted 74,766 players in 61 events, generating a prize pool of more than $222 million. It returns to the Rio next July with Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte One Drop charity event we reported Tuesday.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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Carnival lasts all year at the Rio. With a float occasionally passing overhead and dropping beads while feathered dancers fire up the gamblers below, the Rio tries to keep its 120,000-square foot casino jumping with excitement. Special Brazilian mixed-drinks are also served throughout the casino. The hotel suites tend to be larger than similar priced rooms on the Strip and many offer excellent views with floor to ceiling windows.
The Rio offers some quality shows like "Penn & Teller" and "Chippendales." Many come to the Rio for the nightlife at the VooDoo Lounge, located on the 51st floor, or McFadden's Irish Pub on the casino level.
Others come for a bit relaxation at the Rio Spa or pool area and still others come to shop at the hotel's 60,000 square feet of shops. In each of these endeavors, the Rio attempts to make the experience a bit more fun and spontaneous.
The Rio also offers guests a variety of dining choices from all-American food at the All-American Bar & Grille to Gaylord India Restaurant for something a little spicier and even Carnival World Buffet for the indecisive.