World Series of Poker Sets Main Event Final Nine

What began as a massive field of 6,598 players vying for poker’s most prestigious prize has been whittled down to just nine.

The World Series of Poker (WSOP) recently announced its “October Nine” who will battle it out (starting Oct. 29) for the No-Limit Hold’em Championship at Rio Las Vegas, as well as a first-place prize of $8,527,982. Yes, exactly $8,527,982. That extra $82 is to tip the valet.

It’s time to hire accountants, fellas.

Thanks to Joe Giron at the WSOP for the pic. Related: Think getting nine poker players to look at the camera is difficult? Try photographing six dogs playing poker.

Although the WSOP draws players from around the world, 83 countries in all, the Main Event’s final nine are nearly all Americans, with the sole exception being a Hungarian. (Chanting “USA, USA, USA!” at this juncture would be entirely appropriate.)

The October Nine are, in order of chip count (most to least): Jesse Sylvia, Andras Koroknai (from Hungary), Greg Merson, Russell Thomas, Steven Gee, Michael Esposito, Robert Salaburu, Jake Balsiger and Jeremy Ausmus.

We were not kidding.

Visit the official WSOP site for all the details. And please ignore all the stuff we clearly cut and paste for this blog post. We are very busy interviewing showgirls and stuff.

You know how sometimes you pony up a million bucks to enter a poker tournament, and then you win the biggest prize in poker tournament history, more than $18.3 million? Yeah, it happened for Antonio Esfandiari, too.

Antonio Esfandiari pitches some woo to his giant stack of cash.

Esfandiari, a pro poker player and magician, made history when he outmaneuvered a field of 48 millionaires and billionaires to earn the richest payday in poker tournament history at Rio Las Vegas during the World Series of Poker.

Each of the players bought into the event for a cool million, with a portion of the pot ($5.3 million) going to One Drop, a nonprofit that fights poverty by supporting access to safe water. Read more about One Drop.

Best part of a magician winning? New summer homes for the bunnies and doves.

Esfandiari’s prize makes it the largest single payout in poker tournament history. Second place goes to Jamie Gold for his $12 million win at the 2006 World Series of sports betting Main Event.

“I just wanted to win so I could give my dad the bracelet,” he told CardPlayer.com. Yeah, we’re thinking the 18 mil never entered his mind even once!

The World Series of Poker Main Event starts this weekend. There are so many participants, the opening rounds have to be spread out over three days, July 7-9, 2012. This is the 43rd WSOP, with a buy-in of a mere $10,000. A bargain compared to the One Drop fundraiser, right? Visit the official WSOP site.

The prize pool for the WSOP Main Event is expected to be in the $60 million range, with the winner taking away about $9 million. Not too shabby.

A big, sloppy, saliva-saturated welcome to everyone taking part in the World Series of Poker Main Event at Rio Las Vegas. Just make sure you’re in poker shape, folks.

Thanks to our pal Brandon Muller for the great video he made awhile back to help promote the WSOP (ignore the dates, the event started May 27 and runs until July 16).

Special note to Antonio Esfandiari: This blog would not turn down the offer of a cocktail and/or a Lamborghini.