Antonio Esfandiari made history when he bagged $17 million in winnings at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) sponsored charity tournament – The Big One for One Drop. When he walked away from the table at the end of the event, he had 18,346,673 (including the 1 million he bought-in with), making him the top winner in poker history. The first time he caught the attention of the poker circuit was when he landed the first place and $1.4 million at an event in the 2004 World Poker Tour (WPT), surpassing that recorded at the 2006 WSOP.
To earn the top spot in the event, Esfandiari had to defeat a table of seven very skilled poker players including Sam Trickett, who had to accept the second spot and took home $10.1 million for his commendable performance at the felt. On the first day of the event, the field had 48 players, but by the time the last day of the event rolled in there were just 8.
Esfandiari Was Confident He Would Win
After winning the event, Esfandiari announced that his bracelet will go to his father, who has been one of his staunchest supporters. For winning the high-roller event the player earned a special edition bracelet. Esfandiari stated that from the beginning of the event he was certain he would win. His determination was made stronger after he placed third last week in a different WSOP event. Mitch Garber, the head of Caesars Entertainment Corporation (the company that runs the WSOP), stated that Esfandiari’s win is the biggest individual prize a player has ever won in sports.
When the event started, Esfandiari found himself playing against the toughest six competitors. Despite this, he was unfazed and played steadily through his hands. By the end of Day 1, he placed fourth at the table. At the beginning of Day 2, he started grinding his stack.
A few hands down, he faced-off against Jason Mercier. The two went back and forth on seven bets before they both went all-in. When the aces in Esfandiari’s hand bested Mercier, the former improved his chip stack with the latter’s, giving him the position of chip lead. As he played through the second day he busted seven opponents, and continued as chip lead through to the last day of the event. However, he faced stiff competition from Trickett, who was close to removing the small gap in their chip counts.
Final Table Eliminations
The first player the final table lost was Richard Yong, a businessman from Malaysia. He left just a few hours after the final table was formed. Shortly after the remaining players returned from dinner, Bobby Baldwin, the CEO of City Center and world champion from 1978, was sent out in seventh place. Following his exit, Brian Rast, one of Esfandiari’s good friends, was eliminated by Trickett in 6th. Esfandiari helped keep up the eliminations, when he sent Guy Laliberte, who developed the event, to the rail in fifth place. With Laliberte out of the game, Esfandiari was in the lead with a huge chip stack. The fourth place exit from the table was that of Phil Hellmuth, one of the most skilled poker players with twelve WSOP bracelets to his name. Hedge fund manager David Einhorn went out in third place. He donated the prize purse he earned to City Year, a non-profit education focused organization.
In the final heads-up play between Trickett and Esfandiari, the latter went all-in. Trickett followed his opponent’s move with an all-in on a board with J-5-5. Esfandiari had 7-5 and made three of a kind on the board, while his opponent landed a Q-6 with outs for a flush. The turn brought a 3, while the river a 2, preventing Trickett from improving his hand, and giving Esfandiari the chance to win the event.
The Big One for One Drop is an event to help raise awareness about the importance of clean water. 11.11% of the $1 million buy-in posted by each of the 48 players was donated to One Drop, the charitable organization.
With the addition of their winnings, Esfandiari’s total earnings from tournaments goes up to $23,245,828 and Trickett’s to more than $16 million. Trickett’s win is the fourth highest in organized poker tournaments. His accomplishment is bested by those from Phil Ivey and Erik Seidel.