My take on the poker skills of the October 9: Final 3

Posted by Steve Ruddock on Nov 01, 2012 Posted in Poker News | No Comments »

In the first part of this column ( I examined the final table play of the six men who were eliminated on Monday night. Now it’s time to offer up my thoughts on the play of the final three players in the WSOP Main Event. But, before I get into what I observed on Monday and Tuesday night, and offer up my opinions on the nine men that competed for the 2012 World Series of Poker Main Event title, let me preface this column with the fact that I hadn’t watched any of the ESPN coverage up to this point, and had only seen sporadic bits and pieces of the live coverage back in July.

Jacob Balsiger: Eliminated in 3rd place

Balsiger played like an up-and-comer throughout the final table, and as good as I think he can be, he benefitted from a bit of Jamie Gold-esque timing at the final table, picking up big, dominating, hands at the perfect time.

Overall I thought he played solid and consistent, but definitely seemed to have some minor leaks in his game that will likely be solved with more time and experience –remember, this kid was playing micro-stakes not too long ago.

Jesse Sylvia: Eliminated in 2nd place

Sylvia definitely played well, and deserved to be among the final three playing for the title. Sylvia avoided big confrontations throughout and managed to hang on to the chip-lead for most of the final table. Sylvia has the prototypical style that will lead to future success in my opinion, and 20 years from now I would bet that he is the most accomplished TOURNAMENT player to come out of this final table.

My one critique of his play was his unexplained passivity in a number of spots, especially against Greg Merson. It seemed as though Sylvia’s intention was to play small pots against Merson and use his position to win post-flop, but Merson seemed to get the better of their confrontations throughout.

One other point I will make is that I think Sylvia picked-up a tell on Merson at one point during three-handed play, as he seemed to suddenly start three-betting him very light and seemed reinvigorated: This was around the time that Merson shifted his body so he was no longer looking at Sylvia, so perhaps Merson realized Sylvia had a tell on him.

Greg Merson: Winner of the 2012 WSOP Main Event

Merson played the final table brilliantly, and since he was never overly short-stacked he was able to use his cash-game skills to just wear down the table. Merson played virtually mistake-free poker and along with Jeremy Ausmus has to be considered the most skilled player at the final table.

One area where I think Merson might have potentially run into trouble is if he had dwindled down to the 20-30 Big Blind area, where his lack of tournament experience might have made an appearance (but this never happened so we will never know). As it stands, Greg Merson was a very deserving champion based on his play at the final table.


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