On Day 5 of the World Series of Poker, Greg Merson was just hoping to bust out. After losing a big pot, he was down to less than three big blinds.
After more than a week of 14-hour days playing poker, Merson was frustrated that he had to endure a short dinner break. The break meant he’d miss his flight home to Maryland, and there wasn’t much he could do with his short chip stack.
“I was basically out of the tournament,” Merson said Wednesday. “I had to wait an hour and a half thinking I was just going to come back to bust out, because at that point you just don’t have enough chips to do anything.”
Good thing he stayed.
Back home in Maryland, Merson said he’s still running on adrenaline from his run to the final table of the WSOP's main event. The 24-year-old stands in third place out of nine (the initial field consisted of 6,598 players) and must now wait until Oct. 28 when the tournament resumes.
Merson also won more than $1 million dollars at Event 57 of the World Series, just days before the main event started. Before that win, he had never won six figures in a live tournament before.
“You never expect to be able to play a final table at this tournament because there’s just so many people,” Merson said. “And if you play every year for the rest of your life, realistically, the odds are you’re just never going to be able to have this opportunity.”
The winner of the main event will pull in more than $8.5 million. Merson is guaranteed at least $754,798, and he can earn at least $1 million dollars with a seventh-place finish or better.
Merson must share a large portion of that with a close friend who funds his live tournaments. That greatly limits Merson’s risk of losing money, but in exchange, Merson gives him 40 percent of all his live winnings.
“I don’t feel bitter about that at all, that I have to write him a huge check,” Merson said. "He’s one of my best friends, and he’s one of the main reasons I’ve gotten to this point in my career. He made me a lot better, he taught me a lot about being a professional, and he’s opened a lot of doors for me. So I can’t be too upset about that.”
Merson has been on quite a roll this summer, but he said he’s glad the final table doesn’t play for a few months. After logging 11 14-hour days in two weeks, he’s burnt out.
When he officially made the final table, though, it was all smiles. Merson jumped into the arms of one of his friends who was there to watch.
“It was a different feeling than when I won the bracelet,” Merson said. “This is probably my only shot of winning the tournament in my whole life.”