Want to see some more Sun Devil athletes in the pros? How about giving the World Series of Poker a shot.
Arizona State senior Jake Balsiger was looking to become the youngest player in no-limit Texas Hold ‘Em main event history to be crowned champion. The youngest poker player to do so was Joe Cada (21 years, 11 months old) back in 2009. The 21-year-old stud was guaranteed at least $3.8 million for making it to the final three and he could have won $8.53 million if he finished in first.
Balsiger did not go down without a fight. After over 250 hands and 11 hours of playing three-handed poker, Balsiger was finally ousted when his queen-10 could not hold. He played over 83 hours of poker in this event in late October, making roughly $46,000 an hour during that span. Not too shabby for a barely legal college student.
Balsiger bluffed Google and other news outlets not only with his poker skills, but also with his last name. Some sites spelled his name as Jake Balsinger instead of Balsiger. After today, companies covering the World Series of Poker (WSOP) will never forget how to spell his name again.
ESPN's poker series was down to its final three competitors on Wednesday morning, including the Arizona State senior. Balsiger made the final table and he gambled against two poker professionals in Greg Merson and Jesse Sylvia. Balsiger outlasted six other opponents at the final table and even eliminated Russell Thomas for a fourth place finish.
This was the longest World Series of Poker Event in the last six years as Greg Merson walked away with the $8.53 million prize and the coveted WSOP bracelet.
"I'm feeling great about my game right now," Balsiger told ESPN after finishing the main event in third place. And he has every right to be pleased with the way he played. In case you missed it, lets recap the final hours of his morning.
Late Tuesday night, the Tempe native risked his entire chip stack with pocket jacks and he trumped Jesse Sylvia's pocket nines. This double-up gave the ASU senior momentum to extend his night.
A couple of hours later, the clocks officially turned to Wednesday and Balsiger looked like the weak link at the table. That would change rather quickly when the ASU student went all-in with a pocket ace-10 and found himself behind Sylvia's ace-queen. At risk of coming in third place, Balsiger saw a ten come up on the turn and he doubled his money to get him right back in the race.
A chip and chair seemed to be the Sun Devil's motto all. After 2 a.m. Arizona time, Balsiger went all in twice pre-flop with pocket jacks but neither Merson nor Sylvia decided to challenge the young gun.
Just before 3 a.m., Balsiger increased his stack by over 50-percent when he caught Sylvia's $8.8 million bluff and decided to push all-in with the nut flush. Both Merson and Sylvia quickly folded giving Balsiger new life. As the announcer Norman Chad said, "the kid does not slow down."
At 3:45 a.m., Balsiger got Sylvia to go all-in again with a king-9 against his pocket kings and a 9-3-3 showing after the flop. This win gave Balsiger his first chip lead with a 92 plus million dollar stack.
Fifteen minutes later, Balsiger went right back to the short stack of the table when he gave back nearly 32 million dollars worth of chips to Jesse Sylvia's twos over eights full house. Balsiger's pair of kings never stood a chance.
Fast-forward an hour to 5 a.m., Balsiger went all-in and it did not look good against Merson. Pre-flop, he had a queen-10 against Merson's king-queen. The flop showed the Devil's sign of 6-6-6, but it did not help the Arizona State Sun Devil. After 11 hours of playing, the college senior's run officially ended. It was a great run in 2012 for the 21 year old who left the casino with nearly four million dollars.
The tournament began in early July with 6,598 players. It took 67 hours of playing spread out through 11 days until the Main Event stage was finalized. Las Vegas Rio Hotel and Casino awarded over $20-million dollars to the final table contestants.