Inspirational stories behind the WSOP 2012 Main Event Final Table

The Last 9 Standing~

Sometimes it gets a little tiring to be constantly writing things that revolve around my life, so I decide to take some time off writing about myself and instead, share some inspirational stories that I found from the least expected source, poker. Being a casual poker player myself, I always enjoyed seeing players make those tough lay downs or insane well-timed bluffs. So you can imagine the enlightenment I found when I saw players with such diverse backgrounds, each have gone through a hard period in their lives and somehow with a bit of luck, made it to the pinnacle to all poker events that every poker player dreamed to be sitting, the Main Event Final Table. So here are 3 pplayers from the final 9 which I learnt a little from NOT about poker, but rather how to live your life.

It’s hard to find a balance between work and health, and most of the time, people put work over their own health as their main priority. Just a year ago, Michael Esposito was the typical American, overweight and a heavy smoker. As expected, he felt lethargic and somehow one day, he told himself that enough was enough, and decided that he wanted a change in his unhealthy lifestyle. He started to train up for one of the most physically-demanding activities out there: triathlons. There wasn’t any drastic change in his life, he just started training early in the morning before work and trained again after work. With this everyday routine of biking, swimming, running and going to the gym nearly everyday, Esposito dropped 35 pounds and felt like he just got a new body again. At many times when you are facing a problem, most of us would just whine and complain about it. There are 2 options: Either you feel miserable for yourself about it or you go do something to change it. In Esposito’s case, he knew he was living an unhealthy lifestyle and so he decided to go out and do something to change that lifestyle of his, and he never looked back. It’s difficult at the start and this period is the hardest since it’s the transition, and it’s even harder to put your thoughts into actions because sometimes, your mind and body tells you that you can’t do it. Here’s the thing, you CAN do it. It’s just a matter of effort and determination. Just remember in life, you always have 2 options: Leave things the way it is and feel all shitty about it, or do something to change it. It may be difficult at the start, but at the end it would be worth it.

The second guy whom caught my attention was the youngest player on the table, Jake Balsiger. He too has an interesting backstory behind his poker career, recovering from a horrendous crash accident while riding his bike in campus just 14 months ago. To have something that devastating happened to you at such a young age can kill you mentally. Jake cracked his skull, shattered his right arm, and had to drop out of the school semester to recover fully, both physically and mentally. As much as he wanted to recover ASAP, there was nothing much you could do and he took 9 months to get back to being the person he used to be. For him, it was a weird experience as it was like putting back the lost pieces of puzzle back into his life, and getting back his personality which moulded his new phase in life. A perfect quote to describe this incident would be this one from my all-time favourite guy, Randy Pausch.

We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.

Not everything in our life is under our control, so what do we do to the things that are out of your control? In my opinion, there are also 2 options:  You let the thing define you and control you instead, or you adapt to it and work with what you have. What makes life such a meaningful journey is that you are constantly learning, through the challenges you face and how you overcome them. It’s the tough times that helps put everything into perspective. Jake has learned to embrace all that life has to offered to him, and it’s that experience that would help him a lot heading into the biggest moment of his poker life. On the poker table, you can tell that Jake is just enjoying the moment, and you can’t help but love his smile. He didn’t let it go to the top of his head, and is deserving of the 3rd place finish he achieved at the Final Table among the table of sharks.

Lastly, we have our main event champion, Greg Merson, who proudly declared that his passion for poker is the reason that he is still alive. Referred to as a beast by Big One by One Drop winner Antonio Esfandiari, Greg dominated the table after gaining the chip lead and never looked back.  Being a straight-A student from sixth grade until high school, Greg suddenly started taking drugs and his life went on a free fall. When he didn’t have enough money to fuel his addiction, he turned to his hobby, poker, to pay for his drugs. By the second semester of university, Greg fell to a absurd 1.1 GPA with his health deteriorating. After getting clean through counseling sessions, Greg dropped out of college to start a professional poker career. After much success in poker with a 6-figure income, just last year, he relapsed and his life went for another free fall yet again. Like anyone facing any problem, Greg could count on 3 things: his family, his friends and his passion; poker. After almost a year, Greg detoxed himself got his life back together, got into yoga to relax himself from the stress of poker. And this is where he started his monster streak, picking up 2 bracelets as well as the 2012 Player of The Year award. It’s no surprise why he cried after winning those events. Greg went through a whole lot, overcoming his marijuana and cocaine addictions, and being able to sit on that final table challenging for the coveted bracelet, learning much from all the challenges he faced. Greg turned his life around literally and only at age 25, he still has a long road ahead for him, but one which has been paved for him…


And that’s a wrap for the WSOP 2012 Main Event Final Table~