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Antonio Esfandiari Chip Leader at EPT Grand Final

Antonio Esfandiari Makes a Push for the Top, Pagano Father-Son Duo Cash


Eli Elezra was eliminated outside the bubble at the 2008 EPT Grand FinalAs the third day of the European Poker Tour Grand Final began in Monte Carlo, the 124 remaining players had two things on their minds; first, of course, the $3.2 million first-place prize, and second, the looming money bubble. The day featured both the ying and yang of poker, as it started extremely fast and then became unorthodoxly slow (especially for an EPT event).

With only 44 players left until the bubble, from the original 842, today would be a story of “close but no cigar” for more than one-third of the remaining field. This play-down was incredibly fast, as players were dropping out of the running left and right. Among those disappointed players were Anna Wroblewski, Ted Lawson, Mel Judah, Marcel Luske, Joe “hoodini10” Udine, Eli Elezra, Neil Channing, Sasha “bikocruz” Rosewood, James Byrne, French actress Alexia Portal, and Frenchman Thomas Fougeron.

Antonio 'The Magicial' Esfandiari makes chips appearOn the way to the bubble, Antonio Esfandiari put himself in prime position to take down the tournament by accumulating a massive chip lead. In the fateful hand, a preflop raise-fest resulted in Gordon “holla@yoboy” Vayo getting all in preflop with pocket kings and Esfandiari making the easy call with aces. Esfandiari had an already decent stack at the time of more than 350,000, and Vayo had him covered. The board failed to change Vayo’s fate, and Esfandiari doubled into a huge stack at a key time in the tournament. He ended up following through to retain his lead through the end of the day.

The bubble was truly the theme of the day, as expected, and it lived up to its lofty expectations. Those savvy to the European poker tournament scene proclaimed that Europeans were notorious for playing fast and furious on the bubble and that players would be in the money before they knew it. That turned out to be not quite the case. The media was kicked out of the tournament area as the money bubble approached, and there was essentially a media blackout for the entire time. That became quite significant, as 81 players played hand-for-hand poker for more than three hours, the longest of any EPT event — ever.

Bertrand During that time, the most interesting thing going on in the tournament area was a special Stars of Poker single-table, $10,000 buy-in side tournament featuring a slew of Team PokerStars pros. The players in that event were Daniel Negreanu, Barry Greenstein, Bertrand Grospellier, Dario Minieri, Katja Thater, Noah Boeken, John Duthie, and Vicky Coren, and PokerStars put up an extra $20,000 to make for a $100,000 prize pool and $50,000 first-place prize. It was eventually Barry Greenstein and John Duthie heads up, and Greenstein was itching to land a win where he fell short in the Grand Final. He ended up sealing the deal by eliminating the EPT founder to turn his trip’s loss into a profit.

Meanwhile, back in the main event, a break was skipped to play through, and almost another full level’s length of time went by before the 81st-place elimination. It was ultimately a very disappointed Surinder Sunar who burst the bubble, despite a fortuitous double-up early on in bubble play, to send players off to dinner.

When players came back, the eased tensions and full bellies were enough to kick play back up a notch. Elimination after elimination occurred at a rapid pace as they played down to the final 40.

Here are some of the in-the-money eliminations from throughout the day:

80. Trond Erik Eidsvig
65. James “P0KERPR0” Campbell
60. Cyril Bensoussen
55. Sorel “Imper1um” Mizzi
52. Woody Deck
51. Gordon “holla@yoboy” Vayo
48. Andreas Hagen
47. Borge Dypvik
45. Martin Rask
40. Stephan Kjerstad

(For the entire list of bustouts and final chip counts, click here.)

Some players who survived through the day included Isaac "westmenloAA" Baron, Eric Liu, Amit "AMAK316" Makhija, Johnny Lodden, Rami Boukai, Michael "Martine23" Martin, Freddy Deeb, and Thomas Brolin. Some of the members of the Team PokerStars Pro are also still in the running, including Joe Hachem and Raymond Rahme.

Luca Pagano Two particularly notable players of those left in the field were Team PokerStars Pro Luca Pagano and his father, Claudio. They became the first-ever father-son duo to cash in an EPT event. Claudio ended the day 291,000, and his son was right behind with 279,500.

Here are the official top 10 chip leaders going into day 4:

  1. Antonio Esfandiari -- 1,198,000
  2. Robin Keston -- 916,000
  3. Denes Kalo -- 642,000
  4. Johnny Lodden -- 623,000
  5. Maxime Villemure -- 600,000
  6. Mostafa Belkhayate -- 523,000
  7. Gerasimos Deres -- 494,500
  8. Henrik Gwinner -- 487,000
  9. David Shade Kruger -- 486,500
  10. Thomas Boekhoff -- 465,000

The 39 remaining players will return tomorrow at 1 p.m. CET (7 a.m. ET). Everyone at this stage is guaranteed at least $60,082 (€38,000), but their eyes are on the $3,193,822 (€2,020,000) top prize and the title of EPT Grand Final champion. Tune in to find up-to-date chip counts, live updates, photos, and videos from the event, including a live video feed for the featured table tomorrow, and the final table on April 17.



over 13 years ago

Go Magician!