Wednesday, March 30, 2016 2:21 AM Local Time
Las Vegas (29 March 2016) – Antonio Esfandiari—already one of the most successful players in World Series of Poker history—notched another accolade today by winning the Main Event at the WSOP Circuit at the Bicycle Casino. Esfandiari already leads the WSOP all-time money list and has three bracelets, and is likely most famous for winning the 2012 Big One for One Drop tournament for over $18 million, the biggest first-place prize in poker history. Now he has his first Circuit ring and yet another six-figure score ($226,785).
At times, Esfandiari seemed destined to win this tournament. He entered Day 2 with 520,000 in chips, leading his closest competitor by more than 200,000. “To be honest, I just had hands,” Esfandiari said of his Day 1 performance. “And I kept getting paid off. So I was really fortunate to have other people hold something good when I had really strong hands, and all of a sudden I looked up and I had 500K.” He also took the opportunity to give a friend of his a good-natured needle. “Mostly I’d like to thank Phil Laak because he donked off about 90K to me in a spot when he should have lost about 35-40K. So if it weren’t for my dear friend Phil I wouldn’t have had this victory, so I have to thank him for that.”
It’s fitting that Esfandiari won his first Circuit ring in this event – it attracted a star-studded field with some of the biggest names in poker, as well as celebrities from the entertainment industry. In fact, the runner up has only won one of the biggest poker tournaments ever. Jamie Gold won the 2006 WSOP Main Event, besting a field of 8,773 players en route to winning $12,000,000, the third-largest first-place prize in WSOP history.
The combination of Esfandiari and Gold not only brought star power to the final table, it also created a fun-loving atmosphere. “It was great,” Esfandiari said of playing with Gold. “Jamie’s a really fun guy. He’s one of the guys who makes the table enjoyable, and those are the guys you want to play with. I hate sitting there with these wizards that stare you down and tank for five minutes before every decision. It’s so tilting.”
When heads-up play began, Esfandiari held a big chip lead, about 13-1. “I’m really glad I won. This one would’ve hurt me forever if I lost, once I had the chip lead.” Gold actually started to make a comeback, beginning with a key all-in hand when his outdrew Esfandiari’s . “Once he caught that seven, I just couldn’t believe it,” Esfandiari said. But Gold’s comeback fell short, and Esfandiari ended up in the winner’s circle.
Gold entered Day 3 with a big chip lead, carrying 2,875,000 in chips into the final day. At that point, Esfandiari was in sixth place out of the remaining 12 players. Also advancing to Day 3 were WSOP bracelet winners Bryn Kenney and Jack Duong, as well as Barry Woods, Ludovic Geilich, and Ray Henson. Henson, like Gold and Esfandiari, owns a few pieces of WSOP history. He won the big re-entry event at the Choctaw Circuit last year. At the time it was the biggest tournament in Circuit history. A few months later, he finished in third place in the Colossus event at the World Series of Poker, the biggest live poker tourney ever. Henson ended up finishing in fourth place today ($76,830).
The other famous face on Day 3 belonged to Bruce Buffer, the UFC’s ring announcer. He just barely missed the final table, finishing in 11th place. Other players from the entertainment industry included actors Bill Fagerbakke and James Woods. Woods finished in 30th place, while Fagerbakke missed out on making the money.
Oddly enough, Esfandiari almost didn’t even play this event. “My father-in-law is in town, and we came to see him while he was playing, and I decided to play.” Esfandiari’s father-in-law is Bob Bounahra, who won a ring of his own a few days ago. Bounahra rose to prominence in the poker world in 2011, when he made the November Nine.
Bounahra, as well as Esfandiari’s wife, were on the rail cheering him on throughout the final day, and Esfandiari spoke at length about how the big role of family in his life. “I’m a dad now. I love being a dad, and obviously my son is the most important thing in my life.”
He also added that other priorities and other activities have cut into his poker playing a bit. “I’m definitely rusty with my tournament poker. There were spots where I really didn’t know what to do. So this was a great warmup for the World Series. After the past couple days, my confidence is oozing.”
The Main Event at the Bike began on Saturday and attracted 756 players across two starting flights. There were 140 players who made it to Day 2, and the top 81 made the money.
The top 81 players finished in the money, and the bubble burst after about three hours of play. Three WSOP bracelet winners were eliminated in the money on Day 2: Tuan Le (71st place, $3,075), Mel Wiener (61st, $3,345), and David “ODB” Baker (19th, $9,605).
Also finishing in the money is eight-time WSOP Circuit ring winner Ari Engel. Engel recently won Casino Champion honors at Harrah’s Atlantic City. After finishing in fourth place in the Atlantic City Main Event, Engel hopped on a plane and entered Day 1B here at the Bike the following day. He advanced to Day 2 and eventually finished in 50th place for $3,675.
Nipun Java won this event two years ago. He had a chance to repeat the accomplishment, but ended up bowing out in 18th place ($11,535). The player who finished runner-up to Java in 2014, Shane Schleger, made the money today as well. He finished in 80th place for $2,825.
Here are the final table results from the Circuit Main Event at the Bicycle Casino. Full Results are available here.
1 – Antonio Esfandiari - $226,785
2 – Jamie Gold - $139,820
3 – Barry Woods - $103,080
4 – Ray Henson - $76,830
5 – Alex Greenblatt - $58,025
6 – Bryn Kenney - $44,395
7 – Blaise Hom – 34,395
8 – Ludovic Geilich - $26,980
9 – Jack Duong - $21,420
Tuesday, March 29, 2016 9:36 PM Local Time
Antonio Esfandiari - WSOP Circuit Main Event Champion
Jamie Gold raises to 260,000 on the button. Antonio Esfandiari calls from the big blind.
The flop is . Esfandiari checks, Gold bets 300,000. Esfandiari thinks for a moment and check-raises to 800,000. Gold instantly moves all in. Esfandiari snap-calls.
Esfandiari turns over two pairs, Aces and deuces. Gold tables a pair of Aces with a King-kicker.
The turn is and the river is .
Gold is eliminated, and Antonio Esfandiari is the newest WSOP Circuit
Main Event champion! He earns $226,785 and a free entry into the 2016
WSOP Global Casino Championship.
Gold finishes in 2nd Place ($139,820).
A full recap of the event will be posted shortly.
Antonio Esfandiari - 15,100,000
Jamie Gold - Eliminated
Jamie Gold - 2nd Place
Tuesday, March 29, 2016 9:22 PM Local Time
Jamie Gold raises to 360,000 from the button, and Antonio Esfandiari three-bets to 900,000. Gold calls, and the flop is . Esfandiari continues for 810,000. Gold tanks for about two minutes, then mucks his cards.
Antonio Esfandiari - 11,475,000
Jamie Gold - 3,680,000
Tuesday, March 29, 2016 9:18 PM Local Time
Jamie Gold limps his button and Antonio Esfandiari raises to 520,000 from the big blind.
Gold reaches into his stack and puts in a check-raise to 1,500,000.
Esfandiari thinks about it and asks for a count. Gold has a total of 4,200,000.
Esfandiari goes into the tank for five full minutes and says, "This one was close" and releases his cards.
Jamie Gold - 4,700,000
Antonio Esfandiari - 10,400,000
Tuesday, March 29, 2016 9:10 PM Local Time
The high-profile players in this finale have drawn a large crowd, and spectators are three-deep along the rail. Supporters for each player have been letting loose a boisterous cheer as Gold and Esfandiari trade small pots back and forth, to the point that the floor actually requested they hold off until all-in pots because it was disturbing other games throughout the casino.
Tuesday, March 29, 2016 8:56 PM Local Time
Antonio Esfandiari limps from the button, and Jamie Gold checks his option.
Both players check the flop, and the turn is the . Gold checks again, and Esfandiari bets 380,000. Gold calls.
The river is the . Gold leads out for 600,000. Esfandiari thinks for a few moments, then tosses out a few chips to call.
"Straight," Gold announces as he turns over . Esfandiari mucks his hand, and the dealer pushes Gold the pot.
Jamie Gold - 3,300,000
Antonio Esfandiari - 11,855,000
Tuesday, March 29, 2016 8:48 PM Local Time
Jamie Gold is all in from the small blind. Antonio Esfandiari asks for a count and eventually calls.
The flop is , which is of no help to Gold.
The turn is , giving Gold a pair of sevens and the lead.
The river is and Gold gets the double up.
Jamie Gold - 2,040,000
Antonio Esfandiari - 12,855,000
Tuesday, March 29, 2016 8:44 PM Local Time
After a short break to bring the stacks of cash out to the table, heads-up play has begun.
Tuesday, March 29, 2016 8:40 PM Local Time
Antonio Esfandiari raises to 260,000 from the button, and Barry Woods calls form the big blind. The flop comes , and Woods checks. Esfandiari continues for 200,000, and Woods calls. The turn is the , and Woods checks again. Esfandiari bets 380,000. Woods calls, bringing the on the river. Woods now leads out for 1,000,000. Esfandiari thinks for a minute, then releases his cards.
On the very next hand, Barry Woods raises to 270,000 from the small blind, and Esfandiari calls from the big blind. The flop is , and Woods checks. Esfandiari bets 315,000, and Woods calls. The turn is the . Woods checks again, and Esfandiari bets 580,000. Woods check-raises all in, and Esfandiari instantly calls.
Esfandiari: - straight
Woods: - pair of kings
The river is the , giving Woods two pair, but it's not enough. Esfandiari wins with his wheel, eliminating Woods in third place. He earns $103,080.
There are now only two players remaining, and Antonio Esfandiari has a big chip lead over Jamie Gold.
Antonio Esfandiari - 13,975,000
Jamie Gold - 1,180,000
Barry Woods - Eliminated
Tuesday, March 29, 2016 8:29 PM Local Time
Antonio Esfandiari limps his small blind and Jamie Gold raises to 420,000 from the big blind. Esfandiari goes into the tank for a full minute before opting to call.
The flop is . Esfandiari checks, Gold bets 300,000. Esfandiari calls.
The turn is - both players check.
The river is . Esfandiari thinks for a moment and moves all in. Gold immediately mucks his cards.
Antonio Esfandiari - 8,790,000
Jamie Gold - 1,080,000
Barry Woods - 5,000,000
Tuesday, March 29, 2016 8:22 PM Local Time
Antonio Esfandiari raises to 250,000 from the button. Jamie Gold moves all in from the small blind for 715,000. Barry Woods folds his big blind, and Esfandiari turns over his cards to call.
The flop comes , giving both players two pair, but Gold retains the lead with his ace kicker. The turn is the , and the river is another heart, improving Gold to a flush.
Jamie Gold - 1,610,000
Antonio Esfandiari - 8,500,000
Tuesday, March 29, 2016 8:11 PM Local Time
Tuesday, March 29, 2016 7:58 PM Local Time
Players are on a break. Play will resume in 15 minutes.
Here are the counts:
Antonio Esfandiari - 9,270,000
Barry Woods - 4,730,000
Jamie Gold - 1,005,000
Tuesday, March 29, 2016 7:48 PM Local Time
Jamie Gold raises to 300,000 from the button and Barry Woods calls from the small blind.
The flop comes - both players check to the turn.
The turn is . Woods leads out for 300,000. Gold raises to 700,000. Woods thinks for a moment and re-raises to 1,800,000. Gold asks for a count and then moves all in. Woods snap-calls.
Woods turns over an eight-high flush and Gold turns over a pair of Aces, which leaves him drawing dead.
The river is and Woods will double up through Gold.
Barry Woods - 5,200,000
Jamie Gold - 850,000
Antonio Esfandiari - 9,100,000
Tuesday, March 29, 2016 7:34 PM Local Time
Antonio Esfandiari raises to 200,000 on the button. Jamie Gold re-raises to 600,000 from the small blind. Barry Woods moves all in for 1,070,000 from the big blind. Esfandiari gets out of the way and Gold calls.
The flop comes , keeping Gold in the lead with a pair of eights.
The turn is , putting Woods ahead with a pair of tens.
The river is and Woods will get a full double.
Barry Woods - 2,400,000
Jamie Gold - 3,800,000
Antonio Esfandiari - 8,900,000
Tuesday, March 29, 2016 7:29 PM Local Time
Jamie Gold raises to 300,000 from the button, and Barry Woods moves all in from the small blind. Woods has Gold covered, and Gold goes into the tank. After thinking for about three minutes, he stands up and says, "Fuck it. I call." Gold turns over , and he's in good shape against Woods's .
Gold's situation gets even better on the flop, with the in the window as the board runs out . Gold was all in for 2,340,000, and he doubles up with his pair of aces.
Jamie Gold - 4,810,000
Barry Woods - 1,025,000
Tuesday, March 29, 2016 7:23 PM Local Time
Action is folded around to Jamie Gold in the small blind. Gold opts to just call. Barry Woods checks his option in the big blind.
The flop comes . Gold leads out for 175,000. Woods calls.
The turn is . Gold leads out again, this time for 400,000. Woods calls again.
The river is . Gold thinks about it and then says, "Give me the button." The dealer tosses Gold the all in button and Gold moves all in for 970,000.
Woods asks for a count and thinks about it for a full minute before releasing his hand.
Jamie Gold - 2,300,000
Barry Woods - 3,200,000
Tuesday, March 29, 2016 7:14 PM Local Time
Ray Henson - 3rd Place
Barry Woods raises all in from the button for about 1,800,000, and Ray Henson calls from the small blind.
Henson is in good shape, and the flop is , pairing his king and giving him a bigger lead. The turn is the , and Woods gains outs to a straight. And the river is the , completing the straight for Woods. The dealer counts down the stacks, and Henson was all in for 1,450,000. Woods has him covered, and Henson is eliminated. He earns $76,830 for his fourth-place finish.
Barry Woods - 3,250,000
Ray Henson - Eliminated
Tuesday, March 29, 2016 7:06 PM Local Time
Antonio Esfandiari raises to 220,000 on the button. Jamie Gold moves all in from the small blind for 890,000. Esfandiari goes into the tank for a minute and decides to call.
The flop comes [8d , keeping Gold in the lead with Queen high.
The turn is and the river is . Esfandiari is unable to connect and Gold will double up.
Jamie Gold - 1,900,000
Antonio Esfandiari - 9,200,000
Tuesday, March 29, 2016 6:59 PM Local Time
Barry Woods raises to 175,000 from under the gun, and Ray Henson moves all in from the button. The blinds both fold. "I'll probably call," Woods tells Henson. "But how much is it?" It's 520,000, and Woods quickly calls.
The flop is , giving Woods an inside straight draw. The turn is the , and Woods gains extra outs with a double-gutter. But the river is the . Henson wins with two pair to double up.
Ray Henson - 1,200,000
Barry Woods - 3,600,000