Name: Jake Balsiger
Age: 21 (Has chance to become youngest champion in history)
Hometown: Tempe, Arizona (Born in Portland, Oregon)
Chip Count: 13,115,000 (8th overall)
Occupation: Student, studying Political Science
College: Arizona State University
Twitter Handle: @pzerotm
Marital Status: Single
Poker Experience: 3 years
WSOP Earnings: $3,531
WSOP Cashes: 1 (1 in 2012)
Best Previous WSOP Finish: 100th place – 2012 WSOP, Event #2, $1500 No-Limit Hold’em
Main Event Results: None (1st year eligible to play)
2012 WSOP Events Entered: 4 Events Cashed: 2
Balsiger was interviewed tableside just minutes after reaching the final table (July 16). Here is the transcript of that interview:
WSOP: Jake, you just made the final table of the Main Event. You have the biggest smile on your face right now. You look like the happiest guy in the room. How do you feel right now?
BALSIGER: It feels amazing. Best I’ve ever felt in my life. It’s like the highest high there is.
WSOP: Your poker tournament resume consists of a couple of cashes in minor tournaments. How do you go from that to final tabling the biggest tournament in the world?
BALSIGER: I don’t know, to be honest. I entered the Main Event expecting to hopefully get some kind of cash. I end up at the final table. Unbelievable.
WSOP: Was there a point during the Main Event where you thought, “Hey I have a good chance of going really deep in this thing?
BALSIGER: On Day 3 I had king-jack in the big blind against pocket three’s in the button. The flop came K-10-3. I’m all in and he turns over the set. I hit running jacks on the turn and river and get a huge double up. That was the turning point for me.
WSOP: When did you decide that you wanted play in the Main Event?
BALSIGER: I’ve wanted to play since I was 13 years old, watching it on TV. This is my first one and it’s totally surreal.
WSOP: When did you start playing poker seriously?
BALSIGER: When I was 18. I wasn’t any good. I wouldn’t say I was any good until this year. I’ve made a couple of minimum cashes.
WSOP: You’re going to be a senior at Arizona State. How is this going to affect your college life?
BALSIGER: I won’t have to worry about money for a long time I would say, hopefully for the rest of my life. I guess I can do whatever I want. This is pretty nice (laughs).
WSOP: Is this what you want to do for a living, or do you just want to bank the money and do something else?
BALSIGER: I want to play poker for a living, but once I’m gone from this tournament, I don’t want to give it up for an office job.
WSOP: Going back to your hotel room at the end of every night of the tournament, what thoughts went through your head the first couple of days, and what were those thoughts after you realized that you could make a real impact in this event?
BALSIGER: The first two days, I was pretty relaxed, I just thought about hands and just playing in general. I had an above-average stack after Day 3. After then, I realized I had a real shot at it and thought about making the final table.
WSOP: Describe your poker experience.
BALSIGER: I started out grinding low stakes online, eking out a very meager living, but I was happy to not have a real job. Then when I started playing live, which I really liked because I could take as long as I wanted and other things which suited me a lot better.
WSOP: Are you going to hire a coach or anything?
BALSIGER: Yeah, probably
WSOP: Do you have anybody in mind?
BALSIGER: Yeah, Timex – Mike McDonald
WSOP: You have a few months to go home, what are you going to do in your down time?
BALSIGER: I’m going to take a couple of weeks off to relax and the month before I’m going to play non- stop, get my head in it, learn about the other players. There’s $7 million more to be had so I’m going to be putting in a lot of effort.
WSOP: What words describe how you feel right now?
BALSIGER: The only way I can describe it is that it’s like a dream, I don’t feel like it’s really happening. I feel like I’m going to wake up tomorrow and… you know it’s just hard to believe that I’m standing here as one of the [October] Nine.