Senior year of college is always a time for big changes. Students transition out of school life and into the real world. Some have a plan for what their future holds. For others, there is a lot of uncertainty that comes with graduation day.
For 21 year-old Jake Balsiger, there is a lot more uncertainty than your typical student. The Arizona State University senior has seen major lows and major highs as school winds down and his first semester of senior year isn't even over yet. A couple of years ago, Balsiger had a traumatic bike accident that resulted in a hospital stay and the loss of his sense of taste and smell. Now he is on the verge of making the biggest final table of the year and banking the life-changing money that comes with it. Tonight on ESPN at 9:10pm ET, Balsiger and 21 other hopefuls will inch that much closer to a seat at this year's WSOP Main Event final table.
We've seen youngsters thrive in this tournament before. Just three years ago, Joe Cada broke the record for youngest Main Event Champion ever. Peter Eastgate held the record before that, but his reign as the youngest only lasted one year before Cada usurped him. Prior to these two, Phil Hellmuth held the record, having won the Main Event at the age of 23 back in 1989. That record stood for almost 20 years, but now there seemingly is a candidate to knock the record down in each batch of Main Event final tablists.
Before Balsiger can take a crack at the record though, he has to survive Day 7. There are 22 players left and, while the final table is within sight, the mounting pressure, rising blinds, and high stakes mean even the slightest misstep or one unlucky card could bring these players' Main Event hopes crashing down. At the start of Day 7, it looked like another twenty-something practically had his final table seat in the bag. Daniel Strelitz started the day second in chips, but after just a few hours and several hands that did not go his way, he exited in 24th place.
Balsiger began Day 7 in the middle of the counts, but he keeps surviving, chipping up, and staying in the running for poker's greatest title. Tonight, we'll see others in a similar situation as Balsiger. Steve Gee is one of two gold bracelet winners left in the field, but will experience be enough to overcome his dwindling stack? Jesse Sylvia fell to the bottom of the counts early in the day, but can he chip back up and stay in contention? Will known pro Danny Wong be able to outmaneuver his less experienced opponents and nab a final table seat? And, of course, how will this year's two leading ladies, Elisabeth Hille and Gaelle Bauman, thrive under the lights and the pressure of Day 7 of the Main Event?
You'll have to tune in to ESPN tonight to find out. If you do, you'll also have a chance to Watch and Win your own seat into the 2013 WSOP Main Event. Just listen for host Lon McEachern to give out the code word for this week, log in to the WSOP.com free play site, enter the code, and you'll be entered in a drawing for a trip to Vegas next summer. Full rules and regulations of the Watch and Win sweepstakes are available on WSOP.com.
And don't forget you can enhance your Main Event experience with our new WSOP ACTV8 app that allows you to basically play along with the WSOP, guessing flop colors, putting players on hands, and offering up your insight on all aspects of the Main Event. The app is available on Apple through the iTunes store.
Here is a sneak peek of tonight's episode, which includes a campus visit with the youngest Main Event contender left in the field:
Photo by Joe Giron for PokerNews/WSOP