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Jesse Sylvia of West Tisbury finished second in the ESPN World Series of Poker, following a marathon session that began at 9 pm, Tuesday (EST) and ended some 12 hours later.

When play began in Las Vegas, Mr. Sylvia was one of three players still seated at the final table.

Jake Balsiger was the first to fold. That left the Martha’s Vineyard native and Greg Merson, a 24 year old card pro from Maryland.

Mr. Merson took home $8,531,853. Second place money was $5,295,249.

The final hand came after more than 20 pressure filled hours of high stakes poker over two days, that left some in the large contingent of Martha’s Vineyard supporters without voices and others scrambling to change flight reservations. The three finalists played until dawn in a grueling test of stamina and poker skill.

Mr. Sylvia was not utterly disappointed by his second place finish. “I’m just happy,” Mr. Sylvia said, moments after the tournament ended. “If you told me at the beginning of the tournament I was taking second, I would have said ‘deal.'”

The tournament saw wild swings, with each of the three finalists building, then losing large chip leads. Throughout it all, a boisterous crowd of supporters kept Mr. Sylvia’s spirits up.

“I can’t believe how wonderful he played,” said Marlene DiStefano, Mr. Sylvia’s mom. “He was so aggressive. He kept us on the edge of our seats, we never got tired, and it was a long day and a long night.”

“It’s one of the proudest days of my life,” said Wayne Sylvia, his dad.


How is your relationship with Ashley?  Do you think she’s happy with her decision to focus on poker rather than dance?
Our relationship is great! We have been more focused on the important stuff, like poker and the house, and I think we have very similar ideas of what we want our future plans to look like. Ashley is focusing on poker more when she’s in Vegas, but she still travels to shows in Austin and New York, so it’s not as if she’s completely shutting herself off from the dance world. We sat down and made a plan for her with respect to pursuing poker full time, and we decided that she still should take a minimum of two dance classes a week.


How do you spend your time these days? How much is spent playing poker vs. other things? 
Since I’ll be traveling a bit less for poker this year, I’m trying to play more poker day-to-day. This means getting some time online or at the casino whenever I can. Since I want to keep balance in my life, I have rules like “don’t play past 2 a.m.” or “don’t play unless you are excited about it, otherwise go to the gym, read a book, etc.” I let myself break some of these rules occasionally, but only if there’s a really good, high stakes game that might not come around again for a long time.

Otherwise, I’m just doing stuff that makes me happy. Hanging out with friends, playing sports and spending time with our new puppies. Now that it’s warmer outside, Ashley and I are going to hike more. I’d like to learn to mountain climb as well.


What was it like sharing your story with us?
It was interesting and fun. We learned a lot about ourselves, about the documentary process and about how people act differently when cameras are around. At first we felt very awkward in front of the cameras. The crew was really cool, and we had a lot of fun together after filming was over. I think as time went on we became much more comfortable with the process, and we opened up more easily while being filmed. All in all, I feel like we did a pretty good job of showing off our real selves and what our life together is like. The last year was a very unique experience for me, and I’m glad that I’ll be able to go back and watch it over, years from now.

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