Antonio “The Magacian” Esfandiari just performed the biggest and best trick of his career – making dozens of the best poker players in the world disappear leaving just himself and an enormous pile of money standing as he captured the biggest ever prize in poker tournament history – winning Event 55 “Big One for One Drop”, the first ever platinum bracelet and the enormous $18.3 million first prize.
The win instantly catapults Esfandiari to the position of highest earner in live poker tournament history with over $23 million in winnings, although Esfandiari will have sold off most his action prior to the event so in reality his personal earnings will be significantly less. Let’s not take anything away from his performance as both he and runner up Sam Trickett (who pocketed a none too shabby $10 million second place prize and shoots up to 4th in the all time money list behind Erik Seidel and Phil Ivey with $16.4 m) put on a great performance to dominate the final table.
First out at the final table was “yoda-a-like” Asian businessman Richard Yong who put his short stack all in with A3 and was unlucky to see a King fall on the river to lose to Brian Rast’s KJ within the first 30 hands of play. He was followed soon after by hall of famer Bobby Baldwin, another short stack, who couldn’t outdraw Guy Laliberte’s JJ and exited with 7th place and $1.4 million in prize money.
Next out was 2011’s double bracelet winner (including the $50k Poker Players Championship where he defeated fellow final tablist Phil Hellmuth after being 5-1 down in chips at heads up) Brian Rast, who couldn’t claw his way back this time and was taken out by Sam Trickett in 6th. The hand he fell to was one hell of a cooler by the way as Rast flopped the nut flush and found himself check calling bets of 1.8m and 3.8m on the flop and turn before the board paired 3’s on the river whereupon Trickett shoved for over 8m chips. Upon calling Rast was mortified to see Trickett turn over pocket three’s for rivered quads. Rast left proceedings with $1.6 million for his efforts.
Next out was Lalilberte who had been sitting pretty in third spot until he lost a classic race in a huge 50 million chip pot as his QQ was outdrawn by Esfandiari’s AK as a K hit the turn. Laliberte quite rightly received a generous ovation upon departure as the mastermind behind both this event and the entire One Drop charity which he has already pledged $100 million of his own money to. He left the event a highly respectable 5th for $1.83 million.
Having clung on to his short stack for much of the final table Phil Hellmuth finally met his maker in 4th place as his last 8 million or so chips were looking in bad shape against Sam Trickett’s AhQh. An exciting flop of 10h 5h put Hellmuth in front but gave Trickett the nut flush draw. The flush didn’t come but the Kd turn and Jc river sealed Hellmuth’s fate as Trickett made an unlikely broadway straight. Hellmuth picked up his biggest ever cash with his $2.6 million win (although again his share will be considerably less as he only had 15% of his own action) and once again proved he is anything but past it.
One more player had to fall before heads up play began and it was David Einhorn who made a third place exit and who will donate his entire $4.352 million prize money to City Year, an education charity based in Boston. The hedge fund manager gambled his last 15m pre flop holding K9 only to see Esfandiari have him all but crushed holding K 10. Both players paired the flop with their smaller cards and as the rest of the board bricked Einhorn made his way out of the arena to some well-deserved applause.
When heads up play began, Esfandiari held a commanding chip lead with 102.5 million to 41.5 million. Play lasted less than an hour and despite rallying a little in the early stages, Trickett didn’t get close to Esfandiari and when the end came it was in a massive 72 million chip pot as Trickett committed all in with a flopped Queen high flush draw on a Jd5d5c flop. Esfandiari couldn’t get his money in quick enough with flopped trip 5’s and the board offered Trickett no escape as no diamond fell and he exited in second for a little over $10.1 million.
Esfandiari however charged around the table in delight as he realised he had won the richest prize his sport has ever seen and made a little history in the process.
Congratulations to all who entered this historic tournament and especially to The Magician, Antonio Esfandiari who will be hard pushed to pull off this trick again in a hurry!
Find more of the latest news and articles relating to the World Series of Poker in the 2012 WSOP-section.