Most players that have made deep runs in the World Series of Poker Main Event are immune to the excitement of the early days of the tournament. Who can blame them? They’ve navigated seven days of the world’s biggest event to become November Niners and for most, the tournament doesn’t start to feel real until there are only a handful of tables remaining.

Jake Balsiger, who was a political science student at Arizona State University when he final table the 2012 final table and finished 3rd, is the exception to that rule.

“It feels super real, which I actually didn’t think it would but when you’re in the thick of things it feels really great.” Balsiger said, taking a different stance compared to other November Niners that have hit the PokerGO live stream over the last few days. From the start of Day 4, Balsiger has been seated at the outer feature table, along with Brazilian professional Vivian Saliba.

“The TV table make it feel more like that and you know, we’re like three days away. Halfway there basically.” Balsiger laughed, before looking back on when his 2012 run began to really hit home. “It was pretty much the final table, even Day 6 didn’t really feel like it and Day 7, you are so close but there is so much anxiety because two-thirds of the time, you still brick.”

The anxiety and pressures of Day 7 of the Main Event are unlike anything else in poker. 27 players return across three tables and the first player eliminated this year, will earn $263,532. Make the 18-player redraw, players are guaranteed $340,000. A few more eliminations will leave the field with 15 remaining. $450,000 payout. Dozen left, $535,000 and so on, until the final table is all assured $1 million.

In 2012, Balsiger didn’t brick. He collected a nearly $3.8 million result for his Main Event podium finish and if it feels real now, one can only imagine how real another run towards the Main Event final table will feel.