It is rare for the defending champion to make a deep run in the World Series of Poker Main Event.
In fact, since the starting fields for the $10,000 buy-in No-limit Texas Hold'em World Championship hit quadruple digits in 2004, only three players have even made the money in the tournament the year after winning - Greg Raymer (25th in 2005), Joe Hachem (238th in 2006) and Peter Eastgate (78th in 2009).
But after Day 2A/2B on Tuesday at the Rio Convention Center, it appears 2012 champion Greg Merson is poised to join the list.
Merson, of Laurel, Md., ended play early Wednesday with 275,600 chips, and the 25-year-old is in 15th place out of the players from the first two starting flights. The tournament continues Wednesday with Day 2C.
Merson opened the day with 81,650 chips and steadily built his stack throughout after a key pot late Tuesday afternoon against Wilfried Harig of Germany.
Merson, holding 8-9, flopped two-pair and went all-in but was behind as Harig turned over a set of 8s. The turn card, however, was a 9 to give Merson a better full house.
During his run to the gold bracelet last year, Merson cracked Harig's pocket aces and sent him out in 15th place.
"Just got super lucky against harig. Doubt he could run worse vs me lifetime. Good sport though, somehow was able to shake my hand after :/" Merson tweeted.