Antonio Esfandiari won the largest prize in the history of tournament poker in 2012, winning the $1 million Big One for One Drop to bank over $18 million. Following that up with a win in the second largest WSOP event ever held outside of the Main Event seems like a ridiculous goal, but that dream is still alive at the 2013 WSOP after Day 2 of the $111,111 One Drop High Roller.
Esfandiari started play Thursday in the middle of the pack but quickly doubled his stack during the first level to join the lead pack. He was up and down throughout, but Esfandiari made a tremendous run late in the day and bagged a top five stack. Below is an account of how his entire Day 2 played out from beginning to end.
1:00 – Cards are in the air for Day 2 of the $111,111 One Drop High Roller. Antonio Esfandiari has 445,000 to start, which puts him almost exactly in the middle of the pack. The action starts at Level 11, and blinds are 3,000/6,000 with a 1,000 ante.
1:04 – It’s not going to be an easy day by any means for Esfandiari, who has to deal with Gus Hansen, Amit Makhija, Greg Mueller and Brandon Meyers at Table 414.
1:11 – Esfandiari gets involved in his first pot of the day. He opens to 13,000 in early position and Mark Fisher three-bets to 50,000. “50?” asks Esfandiari. He thinks the decision over for about a minute. “You look kind of serious over there,” he continues. “Tired,” replies Fisher bluntly. Esfandiari lets it go.
“I just want to let you know that I will not be responding to your questions today,” says Mueller. “What about my questions?” interjects Hansen. “Your’s are a little different.”
1:15 – There’s an empty seat next to Daniel Negreanu at the featured table, and Mueller asks Esfandiari if it belongs to Esfandiari’s good friend Phil Laak. “Is that Phil Laak’s seat next to you?” shouts Esfandiari. “Yup!” replies Negreanu.
“Can you imagine being that rich?” laughs Esfandiari. “It’s probably better for him. What chance does he have at that table?” He calls Laak to let him know that he’s late, but Laak is staying close to the Rio at the Panorama towers. “I say he’ll be here in nine minutes.” Esfandiari then tries to get action on under 10 minutes and then under 11 minutes from either Makhija or Meyers, but no one bites.
1:23 – Action folds around to Jim McCrink on the button and he opens to 16,000. Esfandiari three-bets to 38,000 in the small blind, Hansen folds his big blind and the action is back on McCrink. He thinks it over for a moment and four-bets to 90,000. This sends Esfandiari deep into the tank, forcing him to take over four minutes to make a decision. He eventually five-bets to 193,000 and puts the decision back on McCrink. McCrink six-bets all in for 478,000 and Esfandiari, looking a bit reluctant, makes the call. The stacks are virtually even, with Esfandiari just slightly ahead.
McCrink isn’t happy, turning over just the A and then the 9. Esfandiari tables A K and he’s well ahead with a chance to double into one of the biggest stacks in the field. The Q 5 3 flop is a safe one, and the A puts him one card away with just three cards to dodge. The river is the J and Esfandiari takes down a huge pot early on Day 1. “I keep telling myself, ‘Don’t get it in with A K against the old guy.'”
1:30 – Laak arrives. “30 minutes, what’s the big deal?” jokes Esfandiari. “You can afford it.”
1:32 – Hyung Chae moves over from Table 409, which is the first one to break on Day 2. He takes McCrink’s former position in Seat 6.
1:46 – Brandon Meyers gets all in with A A against Fisher’s Q Q and holds. “It’s so sick, you have to sit through all five cards,” says Esfandiari. “I was sweating it for you kid. Too nerve-racking.”
1:51 – Chae opens to 13,000 in the hijack, Esfandiari calls in the cutoff and Jason Mo calls in the big blind. The flop is K 7 2 and it checks around to Esfandiari, who bets 23,000. Mo calls and Chae folds. Mo and Esfandiari each check the 5 turn, but Mo leads out for 44,000 at the K river. Esfandiari folds.
2:00 – It’s now Level 12, and the blinds are up to 4,000/8,000 with a 1,000 ante. Esfandiari has 940,000.
2:18 – Chae and Esfandiari are involved in a heads-up pot, with the board showing A 6 4 A K and about 160,000 in the pot. Chae checks, and while Esfandiari thinks over his decision he pats the table again, and then twice more. “You check?” jokes the dealer with a smile. Esfandiari eventually checks behind and Chae tables A Q for trip aces, ace-queen kicker. Esfandiari shakes his head and flashes the A, but he avoids any further damage by checking behind on the river.
2:27 – “Why is it so hard to flop a pair, Greg?” asks Esfandiari. “I’ve been wondering that all day,” replies Mueller.
2:30 – Fisher gets moved from Seat 1 to balance tables.
2:33 – Chae opens to 16,000 in the cutoff, Esfandiari three-bets to 36,000 on the button and Mo cold four-bets to 93,000 from the big blind. Chae thinks it over for a long time before releasing, and Esfandiari lets it go too.
2:34 – Don Nguyen, who finished second to Mark Radoja in the $10,000 Heads-Up Championship earlier in the 2013 WSOP, takes the empty chair in Seat 1.
3:01 – Level 12 comes to an end. Esfandiari still has 835,000, despite several hick-ups.
3:22 – They’re back at it. Level 13 pushes the blinds to 5,000/10,000, with a 1,000 ante.
3:36 – Action folds around to Esfandiari in the small blind, and he raises to 23,000. Hansen calls in the big blind. “What were the odds of me getting you out of there?” laughs Esfandiari. The flop is J 5 4, Esfandiari check and Hansen bets 24,000. Esfandiari checks his cards, then mucks.
3:37 – Nguyen is moved from Seat 1 to balance tables.
3:41 – Esfandiari starts to get a massage at the table.
3:47 – Table 440 breaks, sending Richard Fullerton to take Seat 1. Esfandiari’s table is now the next one to break.
4:02 – Mueller opens to 22,000, Chae calls in the hijack and Esfandiari three-bets to 71,000 from the cutoff. Mueller quickly folds, but Chae takes his time to think it over. He removes his sunglasses to put his prescription pair of glasses back on and counts his stack. “Pull it in,” requests Chae, and he sees it’s 49,000 more to call. After close to four minutes, Chae shows Esfandiari A Q and mucks, and then the hand is revealed to the rest of the table. “I can’t believe you folded that,” says Esfandiari. “You’re crazy.”
4:06 – On the next hand it folds around to Esfandiari, who raises to 22,000. Makhija calls in the big blind and the flop is K T 3. Makhija checks, Esfandiari bets 31,000 and Makhija calls. The turn is the J and Makhija checks again. Esfandiari bets 58,000 and Makhija calls, bringing the 8 on the river. Makhija checks once more and Esfandiari gestures with his hand, asking to see Makhija’s stack. Esfandiari bets 116,000 and Makhija snap-calls.
Esfandiari turns over A Q for the turned straight and Makhija mucks. “Turned it,” says Makhija. “Top-two.”
4:16 – Seat 1 continues to be a merry-go-round, as Fullerton is moved to balance the tables.
4:20 – Level 14 is underway. Blinds are 6,000/12,000 with a 2,000 ante. After winning that big pot against Makhija, Esfandiari crosses into seven-figures with 1.2 million for almost twice the average stack. The field is less than half of what it once was, with 76 players remaining.
4:42 – Esfandiari wins three small pots in one orbit, including one from a severely short-stacked Mueller.
4:53 – Table 414 breaks, and Esfandiari racks up his chips.
4:56 – With 24 minutes to go until break, Esfandiari takes his new seat at Table 420. Jason Senti is in Seat 1, Martin Jacobson in Seat 2, Yevginiy Timoshenko in Seat 5, Joe Kuether in Seat 6 and David Benefield rounds it out in Seat 8.
5:07 – Jason Senti eliminates Mikael Thuritz with K K against A K. “So sick,” exclaims Esfandiari when he sees the Q 5 3 flop. “Two hands in a row.” Esfandiari claims to have mucked pocket fives, after mucking the winner in a previous hand where Thuritz doubled up John Brooks. “Maybe you should wait until he’s gone from the table first,” says Benefield with a smirk.
5:15 – Esfandiari takes a pot off of Benefield on the flop. His brother, father and girlfriend cheer on the rail. “What a family,” says Esfandiari as he goes to embrace his newly-arrived supporters.
5:20 – Second break of Day 2. Esfandiari has 1,121,000 with 67 players left in the field.
5:40 – Level 15 is underway. Two more hours and then they break for dinner.
5:57 – Esfandiari takes several small pots in the first orbit. For the second time on Day 2, Fullerton is moved to his left, assuming Seat 4. 64 players left.
6:18 – Martin Jacobson moves to balance the tables.
6:32 – Brooks gets all in against Senti with A 7 against A J. “Don’t stand up yet,” says Esfandiari. “Let’s get a sweat.” “Oh baby,” says Esfandiari as Brooks flops a flush draw. He bricks that draw but hits runner-runner for a straight to double-up and survive. “I feel like I’m owed a little credit for that one.”
6:40 – Esfandiari continues to dominate the action, picking up pot after pot without showdown. He has 1.265 million going into Level 16, with blinds going up to 10,000/20,000. 60 players left.
6:58 – Esfandiari busts Brooks, who open-ships with pocket tens against Esfandiari’s ace-queen. Esfandiari spikes the ace and reaches his highest point of the tournament with over 1.5 million.
7:01 – Table 435 breaks, sending over Dan Kelly, who sits in Seat 2, and Galen Hall in Seat 7. 56 players remain.
7:18 – Esfandiari and Kelly engage in a series of four pots in which Esfandiari three-bets over Kelly’s opens. Esfandiari wins three of those pots, but Kelly takes the third with a four-bet all in.
7:26 – Benefield is moved from Seat 1 to balance the tables.
7:34 – Table 430 breaks and Blake Bohn moves into Seat 1. There are only six minutes until the dinner break, but when they return Table 420 will be the last table remaining in the purple section and will be the next to break.
7:43 – Esfandiari and Fullerton get involved in a big pot on the last hand before the break. Esfandiari opens to 45,000 from the cutoff and Fullerton calls on the button. The flop is 5 4 2, Esfandiari bets 52,000 and Fullerton calls. The turn is the 2, Esfandiari bets 87,000 and Fullerton calls again, bringing the K on the river. Esfandiari bets 158,000 and Fullerton quickly calls. Esfandiari shows 7 8 for a busted straight draw and Fullerton tables A K to take the 680,000 chip pot.
Esfandiari goes into the dinner break with 1,235,000, essentially what he started the level with.
8:55 – Players are back from the dinner break. It’s now Level 17, with 12,000/24,000 blinds and a 4,000 ante.
9:03 – Esfandiari raises from the cutoff and takes it in his first pot post-dinner.
9:12 – Esfandiari gets a walk in the big blind. It’s Esfandiari’s third pot of the level, all taken preflop.
9:17 – Bohn raises to 51,000 in middle position and Esfandiari three-bets to 105,000. Bohn calls and the flop is J 6 5. Bohn checks, Esfandiari bets 84,000 and Bohn check-raises to 210,000. Esfandiari folds.
9:38 – Hall moves from Seat 2 to balance the tables.
9:46 – Senti opens to 50,000, Esfandiari three-bets to 126,000 and Senti four-bets all in. Esfandiari folds.
9:55 – After a tough level where he couldn’t get much going, Esfandiari takes 906,000 into Level 18, with new blinds of 15,000/30,000 and a 5,000 ante.
10:03 – Senti raises to 62,000 and Esfandiari calls in the big blind. The flop is K J 5, Esfandiari leads out for 77,000 and Senti folds. “Gotta let me win one once,” remarks Esfandiari.
10:06 – Esfandiari raises to 63,000 from the button and takes the blinds and antes. He does the same from the cutoff on the following hand.
10:10 – Esfandiari raises to 63,000 for the third consecutive hand, from the hijack. Bohn three-bets to 150,000 in the big blind and Esfandiari eventually calls. The flop is J 3 2 and Bohn puts in pile of green and pink chips totaling 300,000. Esfandiari folds.
“I got it,” says Bohn, flashing aces. “”Was trying to crack your aces,” replies Esfandiari. “Don’t blame you,” says Bohn. “Glad I didn’t make a pair.”
10:13 – Bill Perkins doubles up in the main tournament area and screams “Perky lives!”. Esfandiari screams from the other side of the room. “I love you Perky!”, which is quickly followed by an “I love you Antonio.”
10:14 – Table 420 breaks
10:17 – Esfandiari takes a seat at Table 425. He’s in Seat 2, with Tony Gregg in Seat 1, Chris Klodnicki in Seat 3, Owais Ahmed in Seat 6, Brandon Steven in Seat 7 and Jeremy Ausmus in Seat 8. This table is the next to break.
10:52 – Esfandiari calls a raise from Farshad Fardad in the big blind, then fires out for 78,000 on the ace-high flop. “It’s okay to let this one go,” says Esfandiari. Fardad does, and Esfandiari takes his last pot at Table 425.
10:55 – The field is reduced to 32 and then 31 just before the final break of the night, meaning that Table 425 will be broken when players return. Esfandiari has 1 million on the dot with two levels left to play. He is seven spots away from the money.
11:15 – Esfandiari is now at Table 452, Seat 4. This is the line-up:
Seat 1: Martin Finger (Chipleader, 2013 bracelet winner)
Seat 2: Steve Gross (2013 bracelet winner)
Seat 3: Martin Jacobson
Seat 4: Esfandiari
Seat 5: Connor Drinan
Seat 6: Yevginiy Timoshenko
Seat 7: Lawrence Greenberg
Seat 8: Chris Lee
11:18 – Esfandiari raises from middle position and takes his first pot at the table without resistance.
11:27 – Greenberg raises to 85,000 in middle position and it folds around to Esfandiari in the big blind. He three-bets to 215,000 and Greenberg pauses to consider his options. He eventually takes back 35,000 from his original bet and slides out a stack of 20 green 25,000 chips, four-betting to 550,000. Esfandiari breathes deeply several times and then five-bets all in. Greenberg gets a count, and the bet totals 1,275,000. Greenberg pondered his decision for more than three minutes before pushing his hand to the dealer. After several tough levels, Esfandiari’s stack peaks again at 1,850,000.
12:07 – Esfandiari raises to 85,000 and takes down the blinds and antes twice in an orbit. He then turns to Gross. “Congrats on your bracelet,” says Esfandiari, turning further to his left. “And you too,” he says toFinger. “How’d you win? It’s so hard!”
12:15 – Esfandiari goes into the final level of the Day with 2,035,000, one of the bigger stacks in the room. Level 20 sees the blinds jump to 25,000/50,000 with a 5,000 ante. 28 players remain, four spots away from the money.
12:18 – Lee open-shoves for 345,000 in the hijack, Finger calls in the cutoff and it folds around to Esfandiari in the big blind. He looks at his cards, brings them in and takes a few deep breaths. He slowly pushes them to the muck. Finger’s pocket jacks hold against Lee’s ace-king and Lee is eliminated in 28th place. “I was praying not to look down at ace-queen,” remarks Esfandiari as Finger drags the pot.
12:31 – Esfandiari continues to take down small and medium-sized pots, including one against Timoshenko where he bets 115,000 on a board of Q 5 4 4 and Timoshenko folds.
12:44 – Esfandiari raises to 110,000 and Finger calls in the small blind. The flop is T 4 3. Both players check. The turn is the J, Finger bets 150,000 and Esfandiari eventually calls. The river is the 2 and Finger bets 225,000. This sends Esfandiari deep into the tank. Esfandiari cut out the chips for a call, and for nearly five minutes he took the nine 25,000 chips from the top of his stack, cut them out, shuffled them and replaced them on top of his stack. Esfandiari finally splashed them into the pot and Finger sheepishly turns over 8 9 for a missed straight draw. Esfandiari tables A 4 and scoops the pot of almost 1 million.
12:55 – Hyoung Chae gets the last of his chips in with pocket kings against Matt Glantz’s A J, but the A on the river spells the end as Chae is eliminated in 27th place. The field is now two spots away from the money.
1:15 – The short stacks run remarkably well, and despite the high volume of all ins in the final level Day 2 comes to an end two spots shy of the money. The final 26 redraw for their Day 3 seats.
1:20 – Esfandiari bags 2,970,000 to end Day 2, which puts him in fifth overall. The top six stacks are within four big blinds of each other, and the entire field is very bunched up. Esfandiari’s dream of repeating in One Drop events is alive and well.
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