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Big One for One Drop Final Table
3 July 2012

"Glory Goes 2 Those Who Gamble"

The slogan on Brian Rast's t-shirt perfectly summed up big time poker: "Glory Goes 2 Those Who Gamble." The 8 final tablists went for the glory and gambled it up. Big time. Despite the steep payout ramp-up to the $18.3 million first-place prize, the players went for broke to win the Big One or die trying.

We expected a determined hard-fought final table, and we definitely got that. But the heart and soul that each player revealed made The Big One for One Drop a very special experience for everyone there.

This is what $18.3 million in benjamins looks like. All 403 pounds of it.

Antonio Esfandiari in one of the first hands of the final TV table

Phil Hellmuth gets his game face on

Brian Rast in a quiet moment. Perfect t-shirt for the occasion.

Richard Yong, last Asian Businessman standing, busts out in 8th place for $1,237,333.

Bobby Baldwin takes a moment to talk to his family

"Hug It Out"

Antonio Esfandiari's friends and family wore t-shirts with what seemed at first to be a slightly too touchy-feely message:

"Next time you see your dad or your best friend
or simply anybody you love, go up to them,
give them a 10 hug, look them directly
in the eye and say I LOVE YOU."

So yeah, that's a little corny out of context. But everyone who busted out got more than just the perfunctory handshake plus two-pat bro-hug. Not the typical "Played great buddy. Better luck next time." Instead, each elimination felt like a friend was leaving town forever. Almost like a farewell.

Because The Big One truly was a life-changing event. Yes, the prize pool was bigger than any other poker event in history. And yes, there were some seriously steep money steps from 8th to 1st place. But the event wouldn't have existed without the One Drop foundation, founded by Guy Laliberté and an official charity of the WSOP. All 48 entrants had contributed to a worthy cause, and Caesars Entertainment had waived their usual 10% rake of the prize pool. More than $5 million went to One Drop, and the money will be used to help provide safe drinking water to those who don't have access to it around the world.

We take clean tap water for granted. But every 20 seconds, somewhere in the world, a child dies from a water-born disease. 1.2 billion people lack access to safe water and 2.6 billion people don't have access to adequate sanitation. One Drop is helping to build the infrastructure and mindshare to help bring water to those who need it most, and money donated by Caesars, the WSOP, and The Big One for One Drop will help that goal significantly.

So each player knew that they weren't just improving their own lives by winning money. They were also helping to improve other peoples' lives. And that added a deeper emotional core to the whole thing. The bustout hugs, and occasional kisses, revealed a vastly deeper than normal bond between the players. They tried their best to beat each other, but they were all part of a bigger more far-reaching cause and they never forgot that.

Baldwin busts in 7th place ($1,408,000).

Hellmuth gets some extreme relaxation on a break

Rast busts in 6th place ($1,621,333).

Guy Laliberté and Antonio Esfandiari on Guy's final hand. He donated his $1,834,666 5th place winnings to One Drop.

The Agony of Defeat

Having said all that about the greater good, The Big One for One Drop was, in fact, a very high-profile and high-stakes poker tournament. Busting out of the final table means you're already ahead of the game, money-wise. 8th place paid more than the $1 million buy-in. But elimination meant that you no longer had a shot at that $18.3 million first place prize. And that realization was clearly crushing.

When their final cards were dealt, each eliminated player instantly dropped his poker face. No longer a fierce combatant. Now just another railbird, albeit a well-known and much wealthier than average railbird. But it's over, you're done, and it's time to step out of the spotlight. Losing that fatal last hand hit each player like a physical weight. They all seemed slightly smaller as they stood up and went through rounds of hugs and handshakes.

Hellmuth does his exit interview. 4th place: $2,645,333. Interview with Kara Scott: priceless.

David Einhorn donated his $4,352,000 3rd place money to the City Year charity.

Not even ultra-tough Brit Sam Trickett could defeat Esfandiari. 2nd place: $10,112,001.


It really seemed like the poker gods had anointed Esfandiari as the Chosen One of the Day. He had run very well throughout the tournament and that run-good continued to the end. He lost medium to small pots but won the monsters and busted opponents. That's how you win NLH tournaments, and that's exactly what he did.

Esfandiari cuts out a raise

One Time

Esfandiari is known for asking dealers for help "one time." And this time he really did get his wish. He just might be able to retire "one time" from his list of catch phrases. This was the event that any and all poker players would want to win. The Big One for One Drop had it all: the money, the depth and strength of the field, the history, the TV exposure, and the charitable donations all made it an extraordinary experience.

The moment of victory. $18,346,673, a special Big One bracelet, and a very special place in poker history.

Pure joy

Esfandiari's friends and family join him

The happiest man on the planet

The happiest man on the planet

With the turn of one card, Antonio Esfandiari became the happiest man on the planet. The transition from sweating Sam Trickett's flush draw to jumping and screaming for joy was as big and sudden as any we've ever seen. No other player, in any other tournament we've ever witnessed, looked as completely absorbed in exultation as Antonio Esfandiari looked when the final card was dealt. He threw his hands in the air and couldn't stop jumping for joy. He was hoisted up and carried by his friends and family.

And yet he took the time to hug and kiss his father amid the excitement. He said "This is for you, dad" when he was presented with the one-of-a-kind platinum WSOP bracelet made specially for the event. Those of us who were there will always remember that special moment.

Please visit these official World Series of Poker pages for all the details and a great recap of The Big One for One Drop:

The WSOP Big One storyNolan Dalla's excellent post
The WSOP update pageFinal Table hand-for-hand action

And please donate to One Drop's cause. Make a difference.

The One Drop FoundationHelp them beat the odds

Next: WSOP Main Event October Nine day 1...

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