Merson Wins WSOP, Heat wax Celtics, Mavs punk Lakers, College and NFL Football News and Notes, MLB Free Agency + Free Play for Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Merson wins 2012 WSOP Main Event

It took over 12 hours and more than 400 hands but Greg Merson was finally crowned the 2012 World Series of Poker Main Event Champion. The final three of Merson, Jesse Sylvia, and Jake Balsiger played more than 11 hours before the short-stacked Balsiger hit the rail at 8:09 AM EST. The end came less than hour and 40 hands later when Sylvia declared all in holding the Queen/Jack of spades. Merson, the chip leader, called with King/Five of diamonds. The flop produced 6-3-9 rainbow. No paint on the turn or river and Greg Merson was champion. With the win, Merson took down $8.5 million, a diamond bracelet and the honor of being poker’s world champion. Merson also won 2012 Player of the Year. Had Sylvia won, that honor would have gone to Phil Hellmuth.

2012 WSOP main event final hand

NBA night one recap

The Cavaliers, Heat and Mavericks were opening night winners in the NBA. The Cavs raced out to an 11-point halftime lead and cruised to a 94-84 win over the Wizards, Kyrie Irving led the homies with 29 points. Anderson Varejao had a career high 23 rebounds including 10 on the offensive glass. The Miami Heat opened their defense of the NBA championship with a 120-107 win over the Boston Celtics. The Heat led by 17 after three-quarters but Boston cut that lead down to 111-107 before Miami closed the game on a 9-0 run. Lebron James and DWade combined for 55 points in the win. James did not play the final nine minutes with severe leg cramps. Dallas went into the Staples Center without Dirk Nowitzki but left with a 99-91 win over the Lakers. Darren Collison led six Mavs in double figure with 17. Pau Gasol had 23 and Kobe Bryant 22 for the Lakers. Dwight Howard had 19 and 10 in his Laker debut but was just 3-14 from the foul line. Wednesday’s day two has a full slate of nine games highlighted by San Antonio at New Orleans and Memphis at the Clippers on the late show. The Knicks and Nets will open the Barclays Center as scheduled on Thursday despite the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.

NFL News and Notes

Andy Reid has announced that Michael Vick will be his starting quarterback when the Eagles face the Saints in New Orleans on Monday night. Vick has struggled in Philadelphia’s first seven games for the disappointing 3-4 Eagles. Philly could start their usual second half surge with a win over the Saints. The Eagles play the third easiest schedule in the NFL the rest of the way facing opponents with a combined .409 winning percentage.

Matt Cassel will start for the Chiefs on Sunday after Brady Quinn was ruled out with a concussion.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have put All-Pro guard Carl Hicks on injured reserve. Hicks will have surgery on the plantar plate of his left big toe.

The Giants an wide out Victor Cruz have agreed to the basic structure of a contact extension. Cruz has a base salary of $540,000 this season and would become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. Cruz was an undrafted rookie out of UMass in 2010, playing five games without making a catch. But he was one of the NFL’s breakthrough players of 2011, with 82 receptions for nine touchdowns and a franchise-record 1,536 yards. He made a touchdown catch in the Giants’ victory over New England in Super Bowl XLVI. He has 52 receptions for 650 yards and seven scores this season for the Giants (6-2), who are in first place in the NFC East. Cruz is from Paterson, N.J., a 10-mile drive from the Giants’ stadium in East Rutherford.

Brian Belsing and Kenny White analyze Thursday’s Chargers/Chiefs matchup

MLB awards, signings, and free agency

Jim Leyland will return for an eighth season as manager of the Detroit Tigers. Leyland, 67, started his career as a 19-year-old catcher in the Tiger organization and has led Detroit to three ALCS and two World Series in his seven years at the helm. Leyland replaced Alan Trammel after the 2005 season with the Tigers on a run of 11 straight losing seasons.

Tougher NCAA sanctions for rule breaking coaches

The NCAA has passed a package of sweeping changes that will more severely punish schools and coaches that cheat. The board overwhelmingly supported all pieces of the legislation and voted unanimously to approve it, though it was unclear if all 13 board members participated in an unusual conference call.Violators found to be in “serious breach of conduct” with aggravating circumstances could face penalties similar to those imposed on Penn State earlier this year following the Jerry Sandusky scandal …… a four-year postseason ban and a $60 million fine. Head coaches will also be more scrutinized and held accountable for misconduct by their staffs.

Free Play

(NBA) Philadelphia -1.5 over Denver (Weds, October 31, 7:05 PM EST)