Nearly seven years have passed since Antonio Esfandiari's last World Poker Tour televised final table. In 2004, Esfandiari capitalized on his last appearance, notching the victory and $1.3 million at the L.A. Poker Classic. He did it in style and offered us one of the most memorable moments of the World Poker Tour, holding his pocket aces high on the very last hand as he was poised for the victory. At that moment, Esfandiari became the youngest player to win a WPT title and would set the pro on a path of poker celebrity.
Early Thursday morning, Esfandiari notched his second WPT victory at the Doyle Brunson North American Five Diamond Poker Classic, beating out one of the most star-studded final tables we've seen in a long time. The final six remained out of the starting 438 players and although Esfandiari was one of the chip leaders throughout the middle stages of the tournament, but would enter the final table fifth. Esfandiari also had one other thing going for him: He was celebrating his 32nd birthday.
The action was five-handed almost from the start of the final table with Ted Lawson getting eliminated on the second hand of play by Vanessa Rousso. Kirk Morrison's re-appearance on the poker scene left him in fifth place and John Racener's second quest for a major title in a month fell short, leaving him in fourth. For Esfandiari, it was a roller coaster ride for a day. A slow grind over the first 50 hands moved him into second, but he still trailed Andrew Robl pretty significantly. Once action got down to three-handed, Esfandiari made his move, taking a 3.5 million chip pot off Rousso to move into the chip lead.
His grasp on the chip lead didn't last long. Rousso got her revenge just a few hands later and Esfandiari would then reach his lowest point of the tournament, down to just 10 big blinds. He'd then grind, moving all-in repeatedly before finally doubling up through Rousso holding K-9 to her K-8. He was back in the game and punished Rousso again just five hands later to re-gain the chip lead.
Rousso went out in third, but before her exit Robl got the best of Esfandiari repeatedly and would open a 9.5 million to 8.1 million chip lead to enter heads-up play. The two good friends were playing for a couple hundred thousand. It took 34 hands for Esfandiari to earn the chip lead and then another 21 for him to put away Robl holding K-J to his Q-10 on the final hand.
"It was legendary," said Esfandiari after his win. "It was tough. It was fun. It was exciting. It was all of the above and I'm so glad to come out ahead."
Robl's second-place finish is the most profitable tournament result of his career, and although it wasn't a victory, you can be sure that we're going to see a lot more from the online cash game expert in the future.
Here are the final table results:
1. Antonio Esfandiari ($870,124)
2. Andrew Robl ($549,003)
3. Vanessa Rousso ($358,964)
4. John Racener ($232,271)
5. Kirk Morrison ($168,924)
6. Ted Lawson ($126,693)