An Emotional Win for Esfandiari at the Big One

July 6, 2012

With a prize pool worth more than $18 million on the line, Antonio “The Magician” Esfandiari made history when he won the Big One for ONE DROP charity poker event at the 2012 WSOP as the crowd literally lifted him up in celebration, applauding and capturing the moment with their cameras.

Thirty-three-year-old Esfandiari won his first WSOP bracelet eight years ago in a PLH event. Since then he’s made a reputation for himself as being the life of the party all the while remaining grounded with his eye on the prize. He contributes much of his success to his life coach, Robyn Williams, CEO and founder of Choice Center in Las Vegas. Esfandiari makes healthy choices when it comes to life in terms finances, diet and exercise, his friends, and lifestyle in general. After winning the Big One, he embraced his father and brother, all of them with tears in their eyes. The world could feel the joy, and arguably no one else in poker deserves this more.

When asked how he felt, Esfandiari said, “It’s better than sex that’s for sure.”

The final table was the perfect mix of poker greats, as if set up by God himself. The $10 million second place payout went to Sam Tricket, a 26-year-old player from the UK. Coming in third was David Einhorn, a hedge fund investor and financial guru from New York. Einhorn had finished 18th in the 2006 WSOP Main Event Championship and turned around and donated every penny of his $600K winnings to the Michael J. Fox Foundation. This time, he donated his third-place $4.3+ million winnings to the nonprofit organization City Year.

Fourth place was a fitting Phil Hellmuth, who has won more WSOP bracelets than anyone else in history, landing his 12th one this year. This 47-year-old Poker Hall of Famer won $2.6+ million. And even more appropriate, Guy Laliberte, the visionarian of the Big One and creator of Cirque du Soleil, final tabled in fifth place. In sixth place was two-time WSOP gold bracelet winner Brian Rast, who won 2011’s Poker Players Championship. In seventh place was Bobby “The Owl” Baldwin, owner of four WSOP bracelets and the 1978 WSOP World Champion, also a Poker Hall of Fame member and part visionary for the City Center, Las Vegas’ most expensive development. And finally, eight place went to 54-year-old Richard Yong, a poker player and businessman who is one of the most revered players in Asia.

The perfect script for the biggest story in poker history. What will they do to top this one? Who knows, but knowing poker players and their generous nature, they will. More than $10 million went to help people in poor nations get something most of us take for granted—clean water.


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