The best tournament poker players in the world are the ones who can bear down when the stakes and pressure are at their highest, seizing the opportunities when they arise.
Ravi Raghavan showed those qualities Sunday, defeating a final table that included Antonio Esfandiari, Shawn Buchanan and Andrew Lichtenberger to win the 2012 WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic and its $1.26 million first place prize. It’s the first major victory of Raghavan’s career, eclipsing his previous best cash, which was also a WPT final table, by more than ten times.
Raghavan defeated Buchanan heads-up, denying him the second WPT title of his career in a 68 hand heads-up match in which Raghavan never lost the chiplead. Raghavan started with 9.3 to 5.7 million chip lead over Buchanan, and though Buchanan crossed the 6 million chip mark several times he didn’t get much closer. After losing a series of small pots and falling to 3 million, Buchanan eventually open-shoved the last of his chips with K 7 and Raghavan found 7 7 and called. The J 9 9 flop was no help, but the 8 gave Buchanan four extra outs to the chop. The 4 was the river, though, and with that the tournament came to an end.
It was a long way from where Raghavan started the final table, as the shortest stack. He would lose some chips early to the blinds and Raghavan would eventually be the first player at risk. After Lichtenberger opened to 100,000 under the gun, Raghavan three-bet all-in for just under 1 million and Lichtenberger called, setting up a coinflip for Raghavan’s tournament life. He wouldn’t have to sweat too long with pocket nines, though, as the J 9 9 flop gave him quads and rendered Lichtenberger’s A Q irrelevant.
Jeremy Kottler took over the unenviable role as the shortest stack, and he too would soon be at risk. Thomas Winters raised to 115,000 in middle position and Kottler three-bet all-in for 720,000, which Winters eventually called. It was a race between Kottler’s A K and Winter’s 7 7, but the 8 5 3 2 9 board did Kottler no good as he was eliminated in sixth.
The tables were then turned between Lichtenberger and Raghavan, as Raghavan picked up A K and got all-in against Lichtenberger’s 9 9. Once again Raghavan would get the better of the coinflip, connecting with the A T 2 J T board to double up again and leave Lichtenberger with less than ten big blinds. Those chips would go in a few orbits later as Lichtenberger shoved with A 9 in the small blind and Raghavan called with Q 4 in the big blind. A 4 on the flop was enough to sink Lichtenberger’s hopes for good, the third consecutive key pot he lost to Raghavan in a coinfliip or better, and he was forced to settle for fifth place.
Esfandiari held the lead at this point, a slight one over Raghavan, but Winters doubled through Esfandiari to give the lead to Raghavan. Five hands after giving some of his chips to Winters, Esfandiari had a much bigger problem on his hands. He opened to 200,000 in the small blind, Raghavan three-bet to 490,000, and after a short pause Esfandiari three-bet all-in for about 3.8 million. Raghavan called immediately and tabled A A, and suddenly, after four consecutive days in the chiplead and in prime position to become the first ever two-time winner of the same event, Esfandiari was all-in and in big trouble with A K.
The J 9 4 flop did nothing to help Esfandiari’s cause, but the T on the turn gave him four outs to win. The river was the 6, and Esfandiari’s third consecutive trip to the final table of the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic came to an end in fourth place. Not only does it cap his run in this event, which includes a win and a sixth place finish, but it puts a bow on a year in which Esfandiari also made three WSOP final tables and won the biggest poker tournament in history, the Big One for One Drop.
That pot gave Raghavan well over half of the chips in play, and three-handed play between Raghavan, Buchanan and Winters didn’t last very long. Buchanan opened to 240,000 from the small blind, Winters three-bet to 700,000, Buchanan four-bet all-in and Winters quickly called. Buchanan was well ahead with T T against Buchanan’s A 7, and the 6 3 2 8 5 board kept it that way, ending Winters’ career-best run in third place, which still earned him almost half a million dollars.
This lead to the extended heads-up match between Buchanan and Raghavan, but in the end it rarely looked as if Raghavan was going to falter. Considering Buchanan’s history in big tournaments as well as his heads-up prowess, noted several times by the pro’s doing commentary over the live stream, Raghavan put on quite a show.
Here are the final table payouts for the 2012 Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic.
- Ravi Raghavan – $1,268,571
- Shawn Buchanan – $746,502
- Thomas Winters – $483,031
- Antonio Esfandiari – $329,339
- Andrew Lichtenberger – $234,197
- Jeremy Kottler – $187,845
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