Catching Up With Main Event Champ Greg Merson on the East Coast Road Trip

More than a decade after winning the 2012 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event for $8.5 million, Greg Merson is living a peaceful life in Hoboken, New Jersey.

The Maryland native, who famously won two bracelets in 2012 for a total haul of $9.7 million and to be named the WSOP Player of the Year, recently caught up with PokerNewsJesse Fullen and Matt Hansen on their currently underway East Coast Road Trip.

From the drug addiction recovery that proceeded his incredible run to his current life in New Jersey, here’s a look at the journey of the 2012 Main Event champion.

Merson’s Incredible Run

Amazingly, Merson’s Main Event victory in July 2012 was not his first seven-figure score that month. Just days earlier, Merson defeated heads-up opponent Keith Lehr in $10,000 No-Limit Hold’em 6-Handed for $1.1 million.

The 24-year-old went on to dominate a field of 6,598 runners and found himself at a stacked final table that included Jeremy Ausmus, Michael Esposito and eventual heads-up opponent Jesse Sylvia.

Greg Merson
Greg Merson in the 2012 Main Event

In the final hand of the tournament, Merson four-bet jammed with K5 and was called by the QJ of Sylvia. The board bricked out and Merson’s king-high stayed ahead to make him the 2012 Main Event champion and earn him his second bracelet of the series.

If that weren’t enough, the victory also pushed Merson ahead of POY frontrunner Phil Hellmuth to earn him the title of Player of the Year.

Exactly a decade later, Norway’s Espen Jorstad followed in Merson’s footsteps by winning a maiden bracelet before going on to win the Main Event.

2012 Main Event Final Table Results

  1 Greg Merson United States $8,531,853
  2 Jesse Sylvia United States $5,295,149
  3 Jake Balsiger United States $3,799,073
  4 Russell Thomas United States $2,851,537
  5 Jeremy Ausmus United States $2,155,313
  6 Andras Koroknai Hungary $1,640,902
  7 Michael Esposito United States $1,258,040
  8 Robert Salaburu United States $971,360
  9 Steve Gee United States $754,798

More to Merson’s Story

There’s another reason Merson’s incredible run in 2012 is notable. It occurred just months after the young poker player went sober following an ]earlier drug relapse when his career took a massive hit on Black Friday.

As PokerNews wrote in 2013, “By getting clean, Merson realized his outstanding potential in poker, something that motivated him to get clean, stay clean, and eventually reach ultimate poker greatness.”

Greg Merson
Greg Merson

Merson stayed active on the felt throughout the rest of the decade and managed to land some big scores, including $948,996 from a runner-up finish in a 2014 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure $25,000 No-Limit Hold’em High Roller. Two years later, Merson finished 13th in the same event for $88,020.

In more recent years, Merson has returned to his roots as an online grinder. In 2022, he finished third in a WSOP Online $5,300 High Roller Freezeout for $96,465.

All said and done, Merson sits second on Maryland’s all-time money list with $11.5 million, on the tail of Anthony Gregg ($12 million) and comfortably in front of Christian Harder ($5 million).

Greg Merson’s Top 5 Cashes Since WSOP Main Event Win

  January 2014 $25,000 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure No Limit Hold’em High Roller 2nd $948,996
  May 2015 $5,000 WSOP Event #2: No Limit Hold’em 4th $152,126
  June 2022 $5,300 WSOP Online High Roller Freezeout 3rd $96,465
  January 2016 $25,000 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure No Limit Hold’em – High Roller 13th $88,020
  June 2015 $10,000 WSOP Event #15: Pot Limit Hold’em Championship 5th $79,182

Settling Down In New Jersey

Though not super active on the live felt, Merson does play a handful of live events, including some at the 2022 WSOP. Additionally, Merson continues to grind online from his home in New Jersey.

The 2012 Main Event champion was kind enough to let PokerNews know that he will be attending the 2023 WSOP this summer, and we’ll be sure to catch up with the champ in Las Vegas.

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