It won’t be a repeat of last year’s $8.5 million first-place win for poker player Greg Merson; he busted 167th from this year’s World Series of Poker Main Event this weekend for a mere $42,990 this time. Still, many say it was an impressive back-to-back finish for the 25-year-old from Maryland to go so far out of a field of 6,352 entrants.

Outkicked

Merson was knocked out by Brett Richey after both players moved all in before the flop. Unfortunately, Merson’s deuce kicker to go with his Ace couldn’t outdraw Richey’s A-K, and he busted.

The former champ handled the loss with grace, saying, “I wanted to represent the game as well as I can. I never went into poker to be this famous person.”

As for the likelihood of back-to-back wins for any player, no matter how talented, given these huge fields, it would be near miraculous, said Seth Palansky, vice president of corporate communications for Caesars Interactive Entertainment, which owns the WSOP. “It’s a different world,”  Palansky said. “As one of the guys said, you’re trying to dodge raindrops in a thunderstorm to get to the final table. Even the pros call amateurs who have no chance landmines because they are so unpredictable and you don’t know what moves they are going to make. Johnny Chan did an incredible thing. You’ll never see that string of three years again,” the VP added, referring to 1987 and ’88, when Chan won two years in a row, but against fewer than 200 players. In 1989, Chan finished second to a very young Phil Hellmuth.

Good Run

Palansky went on to give Merson props for going as deep as he did this year. “It’s very difficult to do what (Merson) did in back-to-back years,” Palansky said. “He actually took it very well. He’s legit. He’s an elite player. You can’t really luck your way through 10 days of poker.”

Now that Merson’s out of the running, Palansky says he’s rooting for a woman to win the whole shebang for the first time ever. “I should be impartial. But, yes, I openly root for a woman, and I think the entire poker community does,” Palansky said. “It’s good for the health of the game and attracting new players. A woman would be a great story that could help that effort.”

Play continues until the final nine players remain; they will advance to the final table,and play out semi-live on TV on November 4 and 5.