Esfandiari Finishes Fourth in $111K One Drop High Roller

Antonio Esfandiari is just five players away from ridiculous back-to-back victories in One Drop events. (Jay Newnum photo)

Antonio Esfandiari finished just shy of back-to-back One Drop titles, finishing fourth in the High Roller. (Jay Newnum photo)

Antonio Esfandiari won $18.2 million in the Big One for One Drop in 2012, and it would be a tough task to set the bar much higher. Esfandiari fell just short of doing that at the 2013 WSOP, though, finishing fourth in the $111,111 One Drop High Roller

BLUFF followed Esfandiari’s path from the start of Day 2, highlighting all of the action as it happened. Below is a full account of Esfandiari’s Day 3.

1:04 – Esfandiari joins the other players at the featured table as they unbag their chips. “Sleep well?” asks Richard Fullerton. “Yeah, but I dreamed about poker,” replies Esfandiari. “I never do that. I had a good sleep, stretch and a massage.” He continues. “I just kept dreaming I was going to bust Phil Laak. I’m going to bust his ass,” laughs Esfandiari.

1:08 – Jack Effel takes the microphone on the main stage and introduces Mitch Garber, CEO of Caesars Interactive Entertainment. He praises the players for raising $550,000 for One Drop in this tournament alone, and talks briefly about the upcoming “Little One for One Drop”. He hands the microphone to Laak.

1:11 – Laak gives a brief speech about his trip to see the work that One Drop does, and then does the official shuffle up and deal.

1:13 – Action gets underway. Here’s what Esfandiari’s starting table looks like:

Seat 1: Fullerton
Seat 2: Dan Shak
Seat 3: Tony Gregg
Seat 4: Empty
Seat 5: Brandon Steven
Seat 6: Laak
Seat 7: Martin Finger
Seat 8: Esfandiari

When the first player goes out the field will go to hand-for-hand play on the bubble. When the second player is eliminated the final 24 will be in the money and there will be a complete redraw with three tables left.

1:15 – Laak opens on the first hand, Shak three-bets to 400,000, Laak four-bets all in and Shak folds. “All in first hand, no hesitation,” remarks Esfandiari as Laak drags the pot. “You’re so lucky, they just love giving you the money.”

1:20 – Shak goes all in and takes down the blinds and antes. “Shakster, no fear!” laughs Esfandiari.

1:22 – “You’re going to repeat?” asks Fullerton. “Correct,” replies Esfandiari, matter-of-factly.

1:44 – Esfandiari takes his first pot of the day with a preflop raise, taking the blinds and antes. The crowd is mostly silent. “Come on, guys,” remarks Esfandiari, and a small round of applause ensues.

1:50 – Haralabos Voulgaris is eliminated by Connor Drinan in 26th place. Action is now hand-for-hand.

1:57 – Esfandiari opens to 130,000 and Gregg calls in the big blind. The flop is A 7 2, Gregg checks, Esfandiari bets 135,000 and Gregg calls. They check through the A turn and 5 river, and Gregg’s Q 4 for queen-high is good enough to take the pot.

2:04 – Finger opens to 120,000 in middle position and Esfandiari is the only caller in the hijack. The flop is 6 6 2, Finger bets 150,000 and Esfandiari calls. The turn is the 3 and Finger bets 360,000. Esfandiari calls, the river is the 9 and both players check. Finger tables Q 6 and his flopped trips are good.

2:27 – Play slows to an absolute crawl during hand-for-hand and the conversation between the seven players at the featured table is all over the place. Esfandiari imagines the perfect poker player. “Imagine that shirt [points to Steven], with that hair [points to Shak] and Phil’s focus.”

2:31 – Esfandiari takes another small pot.

2:39 – Esfandiari opens in early position and it folds all the way around to Laak in the big blind, who calls. Laak leads out for 140,000 on the T 5 3 flop and Esfandiari calls, bringing the Q on the turn. Both players check and the river is the 4. Laak bets 340,000, and after four minutes Esfandiari folds.

2:45 – Gregg opens to 130,000, Esfandiari three-bets all-in from the button and Gregg folds.

2:50 – Esfandiari walks over to talk to his girlfriend and Laak follows him over. “Why would I bluff Antonio? I haven’t bluffed all day.”

2:59 – Finger opens to 130,000, Esfandiari three-bets to 300,000 and Finger folds.

3:11 – 19 hands of hand-for-hand play haven’t been enough, so the final 25 players are sent off to a 20 minute break. Esfandiari lost a third of his stack early in the day, giving him 1,925,000.

3:37 – Players are back. Blinds are now 40,000/80,000.

3:39 – Esfandiari opens, Gregg three-bets all in from the big blind and Esfandiari folds.

3:47 – Esfandiari raises and takes it from the hijack. He shows pocket eights.

3:49 – On the 22nd hand of hand-for-hand play, Yevginiy Timoshenko is eliminated in 25th place by Matt Glantz. The clock is paused and they do a full redraw. All of the remaining players are now guaranteed

3:57 – Play resumes. Esfandiari remains at the featured table, but now he’s in Seat 1. Here’s his new table:

Seat 1: Esfandiari
Seat 2: Jason Koon
Seat 3: Blake Bohn
Seat 4: Connor Drinan
Seat 5: Bill Perkins
Seat 6: Andrew Lichtenberger
Seat 7: Nick Schulman
Seat 8: Gregg

Upon seeing Perkins is at his table, Esfandiari exclaims, “Perky!” and gives him a big hug. “Finally.”

4:02 – Cards are back in the air. There are just over 47 minutes left in this level.

4:17 – Esfandiari opens under the gun, Drinan three-bets to 325,000 and Esfandiari four-bet shoves. Drinan mucks and Esfandiari wins his first significant pot at this table.

4:50 – Gregg opens to 165,000, Esfandiari three-bets to 430,000 and Greg four-bets all in. Esfandiari folds.

4:52 – Esfandiari open-shoves from the small blind and Koon folds. After a tough level, Esfandiari has 1,320,000. Blinds are now 50,000/100,000.

5:00 – Esfandiari open-shoves all in and takes the blinds and antes.

5:01 – Schulman is moved from Seat 7 to balance the tables. 21 players remain.

5:02 – Jason Koon runs A J into Perkins’ A Q and is eliminated in 21st place.

5:04 – Esfandiari’s family arrives on the rail and he hugs each of them. “It’s gamble time,” he remarks as he walks back to the table.

5:09 – Drinan opens to 225,000 in the cutoff and Perkins calls on the button. It’s folded to Esfandiari in the big blind and he raises all in for 1,850,000. Drinan considers his options for several minutes while Perkins fidgets in his seat. After three minutes Drinan calls and Perkins releases his hand.

Esfandiari’s tournament life is at risk for the first time since the first level of Day 2.

It’s a race between his A Q and Drinan’s 6 6. The flop is 9 9 7, giving Esfandiari three additional outs as a seven would counterfeit Drinan’s pair of sixes. The turn is the 5, leaving Esfandiari with nine outs to double up and survive going into the river. The tension is high as the dealer burns and deals the river. It’s the A.

Esfandiari jumps in the air and lets out a shout, having connected on the river to win the massive pot. He runs over to the rail, hugs his dad and almost lifts him over the partition. He then channels his inner-Perkins with a “Leroy Jenkins” shout. Esfandiari now has over 4 million.

5:11 – Phil Hellmuth briefly stops by to check out the action before heading up to the commentary booth.

5:13 – Lichtenberger runs 7 7 into Gregg’s A A and he’s eliminated in 18th place.

5:19 – Daniel Alaei is eliminated in 17th place on one of the outer tables and the clock is once again paused for a redraw. With two tables left, each player is now guaranteed at least $208,968.

5:25 – Esfandiari goes back to Seat 8 on the featured table, the same place he started the day. Perkins was the only player to remain at the main table with him. Here’s how the rest of the table looked:

Seat 1: Martin Jacobson
Seat 2: Larry Greenberg
Seat 3: Brandon Steven
Seat 4: Matt Glantz
Seat 5: Perkins
Seat 6: Schulman
Seat 7: Jeremy Ausmus
Seat 8: Esfandiari

5:38 – Cards are back in the air with 31:15 left at 50,000/100,000

5:39 – Esfandiari raises to 210,000 and takes the blinds and antes on the first hand at this new table.

5:50 – Esfandiari raises to 210,000 under the gun and Ausmus calls in the big blind. The flop is J 7 2 and Ausmus check-calls a bet of 240,000 from Esfandiari. They check down the Q K runout and Ausmus tables A 7 to take the pot.

6:01 – “Is that Rast?” asks Esfandiari, craning his neck to the rail. “Going to do commentary,” replies Rast. “Be nice to me, Rasty.”

6:03 – Schulman is moved from Seat 7 to balance the tables. There are 14 players left.

6:10 – Level 23 comes to an end. Esfandiari has 3,320,000 going into the break. They’ll play one level after this break and then take 75 minutes for dinner.

6:30 – Play resumes at the featured table. Blinds are now 60,000/120,000 with a 15,000 ante.

6:33 – Steven raises to 250,000 on the first hand back and it folds around to Esfandiari. He three-bets to 530,000 and Steven makes the call. The flop is K 4 2, Steven checks, Esfandiari bets 390,000 and Steven lets it go.

7:09 – Esfandiari raises to 250,000 under the gun and Ausmus calls in the big blind. The flop is 9 3 2, Ausmus checks, Esfandiari bets 320,000 and Ausmus calls. They check the 5 turn and 4 river and Esfandiari tables Q Q, which is good enough to take the pot.

7:19 – Ausmus opens to 240,000, Esfandiari three-bets to 510,000 and Ausmus calls. Ausmus check-folds to a bet of 545,000 on the K T 8 flop.

7:22 – Esfandiari raises to 250,000 in the cutoff and gets called by Greenberg and Steven in the blinds. They each fold to a 415,000 bet by Esfandiari on the A Q 6 flop.

7:31 – Esfandiari calls a raise to 240,000 from the big blind against Martin Jacobson. Esfandiari check-calls a 200,000 bet on a Q 5 4 flop and leads out for 380,000 on the 7 turn. Jacobson folds and Esfandiari wins the last pot before the 75 minute dinner break. After a strong level, Esfandiari has 6,220,000, which puts him in second place out of the 13 remaining players.

8:49 – Play resumes, with new blinds of 80,000/160,000. The pink chips have been taken off the table and other chips have been colored off, with white 100,000 chips being introduced. “These chips are new,” says Esfandiari. “Never been used.” He then sings several bars of Rihanna’s “Shine Bright Like a Diamond’.

8:54 – Ausmus raises to 320,000, Esfandiari three-bets to 610,000 and Ausmus calls. The flop is 7 4 3 and Ausmus checks. Esfandiari puts Ausmus all in and he quickly folds.

9:03 – Ausmus opens to 320,000 under the gun, Esfandiari three-bets to 625,000 and it folds around to Perkins in the big blind. Perkins goes all in and both of his opponents fold.

9:31 – Matt Glantz gets almost all of his chips in with a chance at what’s essentially a double-up, holding A K against Jacobson’s A Q. The K Q 9 flop gives both players a pair but the T on the river is a disaster for Glantz, costing him a 5.8 million chip pot. He quadruples his short stack by cracking Ausmus’ A A with 5 3, flopping a full house, but Ausmus got Glantz a few hands later with A T against Glantz’s K T. With Glantz’s elimination in 13th, both tables are now six-handed.

9:47 – Perkins opens to 350,000, Esfandiari three-bets to 700,000 and Perkins quickly calls. The flop is J 6 6 and both players check. The turn is the K, Perkins checks, Esfandiari bets 350,000 and Perkins uncaps his cards to send them into the muck.

9:50 – The blinds go up to 100,000/200,000. Esfandiari slipped a bit during the previous level and he currently sits on a stack of 5,325,000.

10:05 – Esfandiari opens to 415,000 on the button and Greenberg calls in the big blind. The flop is 5 4 3, Greenberg checks, Esfandiari bets 380,000 and Greenberg calls again. The turn is the Q, Greenberg checks again and then quickly mucks when Esfandiari puts out a 555,000 bet.

10:11 – On the next hand Esfandiari opens from the cutoff and gets two calls, from Jacobson on the button and Steven in the big blind. The flop is A 7 3 and it’s checked to Esfandiari, who bets 580,000. Only Jacobson calls and the turn is the 2. Esfandiari slows down and checks it over to Jacobson, who bets 900,000. Esfandiari thinks it over for two minutes and elects to call, building the pot to over 4.4 million. The J falls on the river and both players quickly check. Esfandiari tables A T, which is good, and his stack suddenly reaches almost 9 million. “Whooooooooo,” says Esfandiari in relief.

10:20 – If Esfandiari goes on to win the One Drop High Roller, this 15 minute stretch might be what puts him over the top. Action folds around to Ausmus in the small blind and he open-shoves his last 2.8 million. Esfandiari calls with 5 5 and he’s racing, although it’s a bit of an unconventional one against Ausmus’ J 7. The A T 3 flop is a clean one for Esfandiari, but Ausmus picks up four extra outs on the K turn. The 4 doesn’t do it, and while Ausmus is sent to the rail in 12th place, Esfandiari’s chipleading stack reaches a dizzying 12,300,000.

10:26 – The waves of eliminations continues as Drinan goes out in 11th place immediately after Ausmus’ bustout. Greenberg gets his chips in soon thereafter with J 9 against Jacobson’s A Q and bricks out to bust in 10th, and suddenly the unofficial final table of nine is set.

10:39 – Players have redrawn to the last seat they’ll sit in in this tournament. Here’s what the final table draw looks like:

Seat 1: Brandon Steven – 2,240,000
Seat 2: Antonio Esfandiari – 11,745,000
Seat 3: Richard Fullerton – 6,425,000
Seat 4: Tony Gregg – 3,740,000
Seat 5: Chris Klodnicki – 9,165,000
Seat 6: Martin Jacobson – 7,830,000
Seat 7: Nick Schulman – 2,650,000
Seat 8: Olivier Busquet – 1,750,000
Seat 9: Bill Perkins – 4,380,000

11:04 – After an extended break to set up the final table, players are back in action. There is 22:32 remaining in this level.

11:06 – On the first hand of nine-handed play, Esfandiari raises to 410,000 from the cutoff with Q 9, Fullerton three-bets to 1,550,000 with A 9 and Esfandiari folds.

11:11 – Busquet open-shoves for 1,660,000 from under the gun and it folds around to Schulman. He calls, pitting his A J against Busquet’s K Q. It runs out 9 5 2 5 8 and Busquet is eliminated in ninth place, officially setting this final table.

11:18 – Klodnicki hits a runner-runner flush with A J to take a massive pot from Jacobson. He assumes the chiplead from Esfandiari with almost 13 million.

11:43 – Schulman shoves K T from the button and Perkins calls all in in the small blind. His Q J outflops Schulman’s K T and he doubles up. After stacking his new chips, Perkins explains the origins of “Leroy Jenkins” to Fullerton. Esfandiari listens intently with a smile on his face.

11:50 – Perkins raises to 500,000 from the hijack and Esfandiari three-bets to 1.2 million on the button. Perkins quickly thinks it over, then mucks his hand with a smile on his face.

11:57 – Fullerton raises to 625,000 in the hijack and Schulman calls off more than half of his stack. He open-shoves his last 460,000 on a K T 2 flop and Fullerton immediately calls with A Q. Schulman’s technically ahead with T 9 but he needs to dodge a lot of outs. The 9 gives Fullerton while leaving the door open a crack, but Schulman does not make a full house. Schulman goes out in eighth.

12:03 – Steven raises to 550,000 under the gun and it folds around to Perkins in the big blind. He goes all in and Steven calls off his 3,240,000 stack with 6 6. He’s flipping with Perkins’ A J, but the A J 5 flop and the K and T that follow are all Perkins. Steven says his goodbyes as he exits in seventh, while Esfandiari embraces his friend Perkins in congratulations.

“Just goes to show you that the fish can win,” laughs Esfandiari. “Fish power!”

12:17 – Esfandiari raises to 550,000 under the gun. Fullerton three-bets to 1,905,000 and the action folds all the way back around to Esfandiari. After thinking over his choices, Esfandiari four-bets all in, effectively a bet of just under 7 million to cover Fullerton’s stack. It doesn’t take long for Fullerton to fold, and the pot goes to Esfandiari.

12:25 – The players take their final break of the night. With six players left, Esfandiari has 15,450,000 of the 49,800,000 in play. They’ll play one more level and then bag up for the night.

12:38 – Level 28 is underway. Blinds are up to 150,000/300,000 with a 50,000 ante. The 5,000 chips were colored up during the last break. The six remaining players are guaranteed at least $807,427.

12:41 – Esfandiari takes the first pot of the level. He raises to 625,000 in the cutoff and Klodnicki calls in the big blind. The flop is 7 5 2 and Klodnicki check-folds to a bet of 725,000 from Esfandiari.

12:44 – Esfandiari raises to 600,000, Perkins three-bets to 1,300,000 and Esfandiari calls, with the flop coming out K 7 5. Esfandiari checks, Perkins bets 1,400,000 and Esfandiari thinks it over for a couple of minutes before reluctantly laying it down.

1:03 – Esfandiari raises to 625,000 in the cutoff and Klodnicki calls in the big blind. The flop is A 9 6 and both players check. The turn is the 3, Klodnicki checks and Esfandiari bets 550,000. Klodnicki check-raises to 1,500,000 and Esfandiari calls. The T hits on the river.

Klodnicki slides out two stacks of white 100,000 chips for a bet of 3.3 million and Esfandiari goes deep into the tank. “Klodnicki, ladies and gentleman,” says Esfandiari with a thin smile on his face. He counts out a call and stacks into a single tower of chips. “Sometimes you’ve gotta lose, right Perky?” Esfandiari continues to slide the stack back into his stack and cutting it out again. After more than five minutes he lets it go, yielding the pot and the chiplead to Klodnicki. Later review of the livestream shows that Klodnicki had J 8 for a busted flush draw against Esfandiari’s A 4.

1:10 – Gregg doubles up in a massive pot with 7 7 against Perkins’ A K, flopping a 7 to lock it up. His stack grows to over 10 million.

1:14 – In two hands Gregg goes from one of the shortest stacks to the chiplead. Jacobson shoves for just under 3 million and Gregg re-shoves over the top to drive Klodnicki, the original raiser, out of the pot. Gregg’s Q Q spikes a Q on the flop to crush Jacobson’s A J and eliminated the Swede in sixth place.

Gregg, Klodnicki and Esfandiari are bunched up at the top, while Perkins and Fullerton each have less than 20 big blinds. The five remaining players are now guaranteed over $1 million.

1:24 Esfandiari raises to 650,000 in the cutoff and Fullerton three-bets all in for 2,850,000 in the cutoff. Esfandiari calls and he’s well ahead with T T against Fullerton’s 6 6. The A 9 6 flop changes all that, giving Fullerton a big lead in the hand. That is, of course, until the T spikes on the turn, causing Esfandiari to put his hands to his mouth and shock as Perkins comes over to give him a high five. The river is the 8, and Fullerton makes his exit in fifth place. Esfandiari re-enters the chiplead with 16,350,000.

1:35 – Perkins is first to act and he goes all in for 6,575,000. Esfandiari calls on the button, causing Klodnicki and Gregg to fold. Esfandiari has 7 7 and a chance to take a massive lead into Day 4, while Perkins has K J and a chance to take the chiplead himself. The 9 6 6 is a strong one for Esfandiari, but the K on the turn is all Perkins. The 4 river sends a massive pot Perkins’ way and leaves Esfandiari just shy of 10 million, with the shortest of four stacks going into the final day.

1:40 – Here’s what the chip counts look like going into Day 4 of the One Drop High Roller:

  • Bill Perkins – 14,700,000
  • Tony Gregg – 13,900,000
  • Chris Klodnicki – 12,000,000
  • Antonio Esfandiari – 9,200,000

Play resumes at 1 pm local time Saturday, and the winner will be crowned by the end of the day.

DAY 4

1:06 – Gregg arrives late to the final table, otherwise occupied with the $25,000 Six-Max event he’s playing at the same down. Robbie Thompson does the intorductions and the cards are placed in the shuffler. “That’s it, we’re playing?” asks Esfandiari. “I’m not sure if I’m ready.”

1:08 – Klodnicki opens to 800,000 in the first pot and Esfandiari three-bets all in. Klodnicki folds.

1:10 – Esfandiari opens to 800,000 and Klodnicki responds in kind with an all in of his own. Esfandiari folds.

1:14 – Klodnicki opens to 800,000 again, and once again Esfandiari three-bets all in, for just shy of 10 million. After about a minute, Klodnicki calls and the crowd lets out an audible gasp. It’s a race, but maybe not the one the fans expected as Esfandiari’s 8 8 takes on Klodnicki’s A 9 for 20 million chips and the overall chiplead. Esfandiari’s tournament life is on the line for one of only the third time in this entire event.

“It’s a fair fight,” remarks Perkins.

The flop is K 7 6, keeping Esfandiari ahead. He walks away from his seat but not quite to the rail. He looks up to the monitor to see the turn. It’s the 6. Just one card separates him from a new lease on life and a golden opportunity to go for back-to-back One Drop titles.

The crowd is hushed as the dealer burns and then deals the river. It’s the A.

Esfandiari buries his head in his hands briefly, then embraces each of his three opponents with a stunned look on his face. He collects himself and leaves the stage, collecting $1,433,438 while he wonders what might have been.

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Tim Fiorvanti

Tim Fiorvanti graduated from St. John's University with a B.S. in Journalism in 2008. After several years in the industry, he started working for BLUFF in the summer of 2010. He worked his way up at BLUFF and joined full time as a Senior Writer in April of 2012. Fiorvanti now serves as the Managing Editor of BLUFF. He's a tortured Mets and Jets fan, along with several other frustrating allegiances, but he's also a two-time defending BLUFF Fantasy Football Champion.
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