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May 26, 2019

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Local pro Antonio Esfandiari on top going into $1 million tournament’s final day

Phil Hellmuth, Bobby Baldwin and Brian Rast among others to reach final table

Antonio Esfandiari

Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Las Vegas Sun

Antonio Esfandiari studies his opponent across the ESPN feature table Tuesday during the seventh day of the 2009 WSOP Main Event at the Rio in this file photo.

Chip Counts

  • Antonio Esfandiari — 39,925,000
  • Sam Trickett — 37,000,000
  • Guy Laliberte — 21,700,000
  • Brian Rast — 11,350,000
  • Phil Hellmuth — 10,925,000
  • David Einhorn — 8,375,000
  • Richard Yong — 7,475,000
  • Bobby Baldwin — 7,150,000
  • Payout information available at bottom of the page

Antonio Esfandiari made drastic changes to his lifestyle before this summer’s World Series of Poker.

The 33-year old Las Vegas resident traded long nights partying at the club for early mornings working out at the gym. He also overhauled his diet in hopes of improving his focus for long hours at the table.

“I’ve been super healthy and feel amazing,” Esfandiari said Sunday. “I’ve had a great World Series so far. With that being said, I took a shot.”

Esfandiari took a shot by entering the $1 million buy-in Big One For One Drop tournament at the Rio. He couldn’t possibly be more pleased with the decision heading into Tuesday’s final table, which begins at Noon and airs on ESPN.

Esfandiari leads the remaining field of eight players with 39.92 million chips after a flawless 12-hour session during Monday’s Day Two. He’s guaranteed $1.23 million for making it this far, but “The Magician” is eyeing the $18.34 million first-place prize that would make him the top earner in poker history.

Esfandiari knocked out Mike Sexton, who took home $1.1 million for ninth place, to wrap up play for the day when he made two-pair on the turn with 6-3 out of the small blind.

The 6.4-million chip pot was far from the most memorable of the day for Esfandiari. That came early when he got in a pre-flop raising war with Miami pro Jason Mercier while both ranked in the top five in chips.

Both players ended up all-in with Esfandiari flipping over pocket Aces to Mercier’s pocket Kings. The Aces held up to give Esfandiari a 23-million chip pot and change the complexion of the tournament.

“The definition of just bad luck,” Mercier tweeted.

Out of the eight players remaining, four are professional card players and three are businessmen. City Center CEO Bobby Baldwin falls somewhere in the middle, as he won four WSOP bracelets and the 1979 Main Event before becoming a successful casino executive.

Baldwin, one of three locals remaining, has the shortest chip stack with 7.15 million. One of Esfandiari’s best friends, two-time WSOP bracelet winner Brian Rast, is the final Las Vegas resident at the table.

Rast had the second-most chips for much of the day, but a rough stretch during the final few hours saw him drop back to fourth with 11.3 million. He’s flanked by Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte with 21.7 million and all-time bracelet leader Phil Hellmuth, who memorably lost heads-up to Rast in last year’s Poker Players Championship.

Esfandiari and Rast have both found success by detaching themselves from the $1 million they paid to enter the tournament and the life-changing money hanging in the balance.

“It’s the same thing as a $10,” Esfandiari said. “You get two cards and one guy is going to win at the end, so what’s the difference?”

Check below for a list of payouts in The Big One For One Drop.

1st: $18,346,673

2nd: $10,112,001

3rd: $4,352,000

4th: $2,645,333

5th: $1,834,666

6th: $1,621,333

7th: $1,408,000

8th: $1,237,333

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at

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