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World Series of Poker begins Sunday

A look at the nine players who have qualified for the final table
BY SEAN CHAFFIN Published: October 23, 2012

Michael Esposito

(Seaford, Long Island, N.Y., 16.26 million chips)

As a triathlete, Esposito, 45, knows the grind of a long race: the focus, determination and tenacity to keep going. He hopes his daily athletic regimen pays off at the poker felt too. Growing up on Long Island, Esposito grew up playing all kinds of games. A Wall Street commodities trader, he plays a couple of tournaments each year. While he may not be a professional, he has garnered considerable success — cashing in several tournaments including some nice five-digit scores.

Robert Salaburu

(San Antoni0; 15.155 million chips)

Salaburu, 27, has been a pro for seven years, and knows the ups and downs of the job. He's “gone broke” a few times, but always scraped his bankroll back together and kept going. Now he has a chance for the biggest score in poker — and the unique opportunity to add his name to a long list of champions from the Lone Star State. While he prefers cash games, Salaburu also has several tournament cashes and wins.

Jake Balsiger

(Tempe, Ariz.; 13.115 million chips)

Balsiger, 21, is the youngest at the final table and living a card player's dream. With only a few years of poker experience, Balsiger makes up for this in dedication and card smarts. He hopes to build a successful poker career but is now a senior at Arizona State University. When not in class or hanging out with friends, Balsiger often can be found at the $3-5 No Limit Holdem tables at Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale.

Jeremy Ausmus

(Lamar, Colo., now Las Vegas; 9.805 million chips)

This 32-year-old pro is a graduate of Colorado State University and married with a 1-year-old daughter and another child on the way. With his wife pregnant and due in early November, the couple's doctor said the baby might come early. What will he do if their bundle of joy arrives during the final table? Keep grinding at the final table and hope for two great reasons to celebrate.

Sean Chaffin is a freelance writer in Rockwall, Texas, and poker writer for the Oklahoman. His new book, “Raising The Stakes: True Tales of Gambling, Wagering and Poker Faces,” is available as an eBook and in paperback at www.RaisingtheStakesbook.com, Amazon.com, and BarnesandNoble.com. He is also editor of www.PokerTraditions.com, all about poker history, lore, and people. If you have a gambling or poker story idea, email seanchaffin@sbcglobal.net.