Jesse Sylvia begins play tonight for an $8.5 million prize

The ESPN set awaits the final nine World Series of Poker players, including Jesse Sylvia of West Tisbury. — Photo by Steve Myrick

Jesse Sylvia, 26, originally from West Tisbury, is set to begin the World Series of poker final table in Las Vegas, the first place prize of $8.5 million within his reach.

Most of his family and more than 100 friends traveled to Las Vegas this week to cheer him on. They will be seated in a special section of the Penn & Teller Theater at the Rio Hotel and Casino, which has been transformed into a poker stadium for the event.

Television coverage begins tonight on ESPN2 at 8 pm, and continues tomorrow evening on ESPN at 9 pm. Tonight, the final nine will be play until six players are knocked out, and tomorrow evening, the final three players will compete for the World Series of Poker title.

Mr. Sylvia is well liked by his competitors in the elite levels of professional poker and seems unfazed by the opportunity for a life changing payday.

“I am a huge, huge, believer in the idea that the people in your life make you rich,” Mr. Sylvia said. “If you have good people around you and great relationships with those you care about, you just feel good.”

The tournament began with more than 6,000 players. Each paid $10,000 to enter. He will begin play tonight with 43.9 million chips, with his closest competitor starting play with 28.7 million chips. The chips do not represent real money, they are the chips accumulated over seven grueling days of play in the early part of the tournament, played last July.