In 1989, Phil Hellmuth became the youngest player to win the WSOP Main Event at age 25. In 2008, Peter Eastgate broke Hellmuth’s record, winning the tournament at age 22, and in 2009, Joe Cada broke Eastgate’s record, winning at age 21.
Jake Balsiger, 21 years and 9 months, has a chance to best Cada and become the youngest Main Event winner. Like Cada, Balsiger enters the final table short on chips – he has 13.115 million, which is just over half of the average stack.
Balsiger is a political science major entering his senior year at Arizona State University. He currently lives in Tempe, Arizona, and was born in Portland, Oregon. Prior to the Main Event, Balsiger cashed in Event #2: $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em, finishing 100th for $3,531, and he also cashed in one of the popular $235 Rio Daily Deepstacks, finishing in 75th for a whopping $353.
When asked how he felt about making the final table, Balsiger told WSOP.com, “It feels amazing. Best I’ve ever felt in my life. It’s like the highest high there is.”
He also added:
"I’ve wanted to play since I was 13 years old, watching it on TV. This is my first one and it’s totally surreal. When I was 18, I wasn’t any good. I wouldn’t say I was any good until this year. I’ve made a couple of minimum cashes. I won’t have to worry about money for a long time I would say, hopefully for the rest of my life. I guess I can do whatever I want. This is pretty nice. I started out grinding low stakes online, eking out a very meager living, but I was happy to not have a real job. Then when I started playing live, which I really liked because I could take as long as I wanted and other things which suited me a lot better. I want to play poker for a living, but once I’m gone from this tournament, I don’t want to give it up for an office job."
Like Russell Thomas and Jesse Sylvia, Balsiger reached out for an established professional for coaching; Mike "Timex" McDonald. McDonald has some great coaching results, including Pius Heinz (winner of the 2011 WSOP Main Event) and David Einhorn (third in the $1 Million Big One for One Drop).