Photo Caption: Jake Balsiger is shown playing among the final three on Tuesday night in the Main Event Final Championship. He ended up as the third-place finisher, collecting a whopping $3,799,079 in prize money.Jake Balsiger, the 21-year-old poker-playing wunderkind from enjoyed a magical ride in the 2012 World Series of Poker Main Event.
Unfortunately, like most dreams, his fantasy of winning the world poker championship came to an abrupt end tonight, with just two players standing in his way of what might have been another memorable night in poker history.
The 21-year-old college student studying political science at Arizona State University could have become the youngest World Champion in the 43-year-history of the event had he been victorious. Instead the first-time WSOP participant ended up with a whopping consolation prize, amounting to $3,799,079. Not a bad way to spend a summer and a fall weekend in Las Vegas.
Balsiger's deep run not only in the Main Event but the final table was something of a surprise to many observers. Lacking the pedigree perhaps of some of his most-experienced opponents, Balsiger displayed an uncanny level of skill far beyond his years in what described as “an amazing feeling” in his pre-game remarks leading up the the grand finale.
Balsiger arrived at the final table ranked seventh in chips out of nine players.
“All I said was, I didn't want to get ninth,” Balsiger stated the previous night, once he realized he was guaranteed a seat among the final three.
“Really, all I hoped to do was make it to fifth place,” Balsiger added the following day at the official WSOP press conference. “I'm freerolling this. I came here feeling like I had already won.”
Even though he finished in third place, Balsiger was a big winner, not just financially, but for the way he carried himself over the past four months playing in the championship. When asked about the prospect of becoming a poker ambassador had he won the world title, Balsiger was eager to jump into the ring and become an advocate for improving the game and it's image.
No doubt, Balsiger will still be looked upon as royalty in some circles, for his remarkable accomplishment in a debut performance on poker's biggest stage. He lasted nearly 11 hours on the final day, even taking the chip lead for a brief time. But Balsiger's time finally ran out at 4:55 am when his Q-T was bested by Greg Merson's K-Q to a board showing 6-6-6-J-5.
One thing seems certain – the poker world has not seen the last of Jake Balsiger.