Malden native is runner-up at World Series of Poker

Jesse Sylvia, right, watches early play from opponents during the World Series of Poker Final Table event, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Jesse Sylvia (right) was the runner-up at the 2012 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas.

Jesse Sylvia, a 26-year-old professional poker player who is a native of Malden, Mass., and grew up on Martha’s Vineyard, was the runner-up in the World Series of Poker on Wednesday in Las Vegas.

Sylvia lost a head-to-head showdown with Greg Merson of Maryland at the final table. According to a biography on, Sylvia was born in Malden and lived on Martha’s Vineyard before attending Cal Lutheran University and then moving to Las Vegas. His World Series of Poker page at the start of the tournament listed a dual hometown of Las Vegas and Martha’s Vineyard.

His best previous finish at the WSOP was 175th in 2011.

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Merson, 24, won $8.53 million.

A 21-year-old Arizona State senior hoping to become the youngest World Series of Poker champion was eliminated early Wednesday in third place, more than 11 hours into a marathon session that pushed the tournament to records for a final table. Jake Balsiger gambled his last chips with a queen-10 and was beaten by Merson’s king-queen.

The players set a series record by pushing beyond 364 hands at the final table. Balsiger lost on hand 382.

All three players traded chips, big bluffs and shocking hands during their marathon run.

They started play Tuesday night having already outlasted six others at a final table that began on Monday. But they refused to give in to one another, with roughly $4.8 million on the line — the difference between first and third place.

‘‘This is exciting,’’ Balsiger told his tablemates just before midnight Wednesday in a game playing out as part mental sparring, part plain luck.

Merson, 24, went into play Tuesday night with 88.4 million in chips, compared with 62.8 million for Sylvia and 46.9 million for Balsiger.

Each competitor was guaranteed at least $3.8 million.

Sylvia went into the final table with a chip lead but lost it to Merson after Merson benefited from an opponent’s unforced error.

The tournament began in July with 6,598 players and was chopped down to nine through seven sessions spread over 11 days. Play stopped after nearly 67 hours logged at the tables for each player, with minimum bets going up every two hours.

The finalists played Monday night until only three players remained, leaving the top three to settle the title beginning Tuesday night.