WSOP final table

The nine players who reached the World Series of Poker final table reach for the championship bracelet held by tournament director Jack Effel at the Rio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. From left are: Russell Thomas, Jacob Balsiger, Jeremy Ausmus, Steven Gee, Greg Merson, Jesse Sylvia, Robert Salaburu, Andras Koroknai and Michael Esposito. (Steve Marcus, Reuters / July 17, 2012)

Greg Merson is eight players away from a win at poker’s biggest event and a prize of more than $8.5 million. The 24-year-old originally from Maryland reached the World Series of Poker main event's nine-player final table.

He's in third place with 28,725,000 chips, trailing leader Jesse Sylvia by 15,150,000.

The players will break until Oct. 28, when they will play the remainder of the tournament.

Merson took home more than $1 million dollars after winning Event 57 of the World Series two weeks ago and is the only bracelet-winner at the final table. The University of Maryland dropout -- whose parents live in Laurel -- was one of 6,598 players to pay the $10,000 buy-in to enter this year’s main event in Las Vegas.

Merson could not be reached for comment.

“I don’t even think I realize what’s happening,” he told the Washington Post on Tuesday. “I just feel super lucky.”

Merson is guaranteed at least $754,798 with a ninth-place finish and will win at least $1 million with a seventh-place finish or better. If he exits where he started the final table (in third place) he’ll earn $3,797,558.