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Antonio Esfandiari Wins World Series Of Poker $1 Million Buy-In 'Big One For One Drop'

Snags Record $18.3 Million Jackpot And Top Spot On All-Time Money List


Esfandari, middle, with dad and brotherPoker professional Antonio Esfandiari has won the most expensive poker tournament in history — the $1 million buy-in that drew 48 of the game’s best pros and wealthiest amateurs. He beat a final table of eight on Tuesday night in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The event, which took part of the entry fee for charity, gave Esfandiari the top prize of $18.3 million, although he said he wasn’t thinking about the payday.

“I swear to you, believe it or not, I never thought about the money. I just wanted to win,” said Esfandiari, who decided to play just a few days before the event started. He told Card Player that he didn’t make a financial deal with runner-up Sam Trickett.

Brian Rast, who finished sixth, is a long-time friend of the champion and explained the mindset:

“If he had 100 percent of himself the money would be the most important thing to him,” Rast said. “He sold pieces, just like every other pro who played this. There are no poker players who are billionaires or hundred millionaires, like the businessmen who played. The money, while significant to him, might not even mean as much as the publicity from winning the title.”

The final table drew hundreds of spectators and was broadcasted nationally on ESPN.

When asked if there are happy investors out there right now, Esfandiari said, “I plead the fifth.”

Trickett, an English pro, walked away with $10.1 million for his deep run.

Sam TrickettAs a frequent combatant in the high-stakes Macau cash games, Trickett is no stranger to $1 million gambles, but snagged an endorsement from online site Matchbook to play the event. Trickett called it a “fair deal for both parties.” He said that he “won a lot of money today.”

The 26-year-old said that he was angry at himself at how he played at the end. “I’ll get over it,” he admitted. “I would have liked to win for the bracelet and the prestige, but I can’t be too upset.”

While Esfandiari eyed the title, Trickett cared more about the cash. “The money was too significant,” Trickett said. “It was like an extra $8 million [for first]. I would take that over a bracelet all day.”

In the crowd to witness Esfandiari capture his second WSOP bracelet was his father, Bejan.

“When he started to play poker I was against it,” Bejan said. “He was an A-student. I wanted him to be a doctor, an engineer or something. He didn’t tell me what he was doing. I heard from other people that he was gambling, and I said, ‘What!’”

Bejan became convinced Antonio knew what he was doing after watching him at a local casino.

Esfandiari has had success on the felt for many years, but said Tuesday that he recently moved away from the life of partying. He credits the change for his success this summer. Esfandiari added that the $18 million win was “better than sex.”

“He has kind of turned his life around,” Rast said.

Despite the buy-in, Esfandiari was his usual talkative self at the tables over the three-day affair.

“I might as well enjoy my life instead of just sit there and be bored,” he said. “Because poker, as we all know, is kind of boring sometimes. The fact that it was ‘One Drop’ made no difference.”

Esfandiari had his sandals off when the final river card hit the felt. “$18 million in bare feet? God bless poker,” WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart remarked during the celebration.

Guy LalibertéGuy Laliberté, the event’s organizer and fifth-place finisher, said “at least 10 to 15” people have said they would play again next year. When asked if the buy-in would stay at $1 million, the billionaire joked, “No, we will raise it to $10 million!”

Despite busting after a massive coin flip with Esfandiari, Laliberté was pleased with the tournament.

“So good for ‘One Drop,’ so good for poker,” he said. “I think this is where poker is now. It’s a question of working together as a community to make it happen. Since the [economic] crisis everything went down; Black Friday has been difficult here for poker, but I think this has been a great year for poker with such an event.”

Card Player’s live updates have the key hands from the final table, which took less than eight hours to finish.

Here are the final payouts:

1. Antonio Esfandiari — $18,346,673
2. Sam Trickett — $10,112,001
3. David Einhorn — $4,352,000
4. Phil Hellmuth — $2,645,333
5. Guy Laliberté — $1,834,666
6. Brian Rast — $1,621,333
7. Bobby Baldwin — $1,408,000
8. Richard Yong — $1,237,333
9. Mike Sexton — $1,109,333

Follow Brian Pempus on Twitter — @brianpempus