By Jennifer Newell
The Magician needed no magic for his latest poker victory; Antonio Esfandiari simply had the determination and skills to make it happen.
It wasn’t easy, however. The World Series of Poker Circuit stop at the Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles produced a stellar field for the Main Event and even more impressive final table lineup. But Esfandiari dipped into his bag of tricks to pull out the winning formula in the end.
Riding to the final table at the Bike
The Bicycle Casino, commonly referred to as the Bike, is one of Los Angeles’ most popular card rooms ,so there was no better place to host the WSOP Circuit tournaments. There were 12 events in all, but the big one was the $1,675 buy-in NLHE Main Event.
Earlier this week, a total of 756 players bought in to compete for the prestigious WSOPC title and gold WSOP ring. By the start of Day 2, only 140 players were still in contention, and it was none other than Antonio Esfandiari in the chip lead by a large margin.
As the day progressed, many players exited before the money, though the last 81 players standing made at least $2,825 for their efforts. Some of the big names who did cash were Shane Schleger, Tuan Le, Nam Le, Kevin O’Donnell, James Woods, David Baker, and former champion Nipun Java. Twelve players remained when play stopped for the night, with 2006 WSOP Main Event champion Jamie Gold in the lead and Esfandiari in the middle of the pack.
Day 3 started with sports announcer Bruce Buffer out in 12th place, followed by Ken Coplon, and the remaining 10 players took seats at the final table.
Esfandiari did the work Gold had the chip advantage and worked it, chipping up right away, until players like GPL team manager Bryn Kenney doubled through him. Gold did eliminate Hector Contreras in tenth place, but Esfandiari stepped up to oust Jack Duong in ninth, and Ludovic Geilich in eighth.
After Blaise Hom departed in seventh place, Esfandiari was back in the driver’s seat again. He eliminated Bryn Kenney in sixth place, stopping him from taking home a big victory for his New York Rounders before the start of Season 1 of the Global Poker League.
Esfandiari then doubled through Gold and eliminated Alexander Greenblatt, quickly climbing into a massive chip lead that seemed nearly insurmountable at times. Ray Henson then exited in fourth place, and a three-way pot saw Woods depart in third place.
Heads-up play began with Esfandiari holding 13,975,000 chips to the 1.18 million of Gold, but the latter quickly doubled and garnered a few more chips.
The match took less than an hour. Gold finally pushed his chips all-in with A-K on a flop of A-2-5, but Esfandiari snap-called with A-2 and two pair. A two and an eight finished the board and the tournament, giving Esfandiari the win.
Esfandiari took home his first WSOP gold ring to add to his collection of three WSOP bracelets. The third all-time money earning tournament poker player in the world got a bit richer with his payout on Tuesday, putting his total lifetime earnings up to more than $26.7 million.
Fans had gathered around for the final table and especially the heads-up battle, and Esfandiari commented on the atmosphere. “It was great. Jamie’s a really fun guy. He’s one of the guys who makes the table enjoyable, and those are the guys you want to play with.”
The now-married Esfandiari is also a father, and he commented that family has been his biggest focus in recent months. “I’m definitely rusty with my tournament poker,” he admitted. But it all came back to him in quick enough fashion, enough to win the ring and $226K in prize money.
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