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Esfandiari Primed for $1m Big One for One Drop Title Defense
What do you do for an encore when you've already won the richest poker tournament in history?
You go back and try and win it again, of course.
Poker icon Antonio Esfandiari was the last player standing in the inaugural $1m Big One for One Drop in 2012, defeating Brit Sam Trickett heads-up.
He picked up the very nice sum of $18,346,673, which surpassed the previous top-prize ever won in a poker tournament - $12m - won by Jamie Gold in the 2006 WSOP Main Event.
“It definitely boosts (my confidence) up some just because I’ve won it," Esfandiari told PokerListings earlier at the 2014 WSOP. So the experience is there. But you know, it’s a tough field and I still have to run good for sure.”
56-Player Cap, Very Few Soft Spots
The first-ever $1 million Big One had a 48-player limit and they easily filled it with professional players and rich businessmen.
That small collection of talented players took three days of action to determine a winner. The final table featured a mix of old school players such as Phil Hellmuth, Bobby Baldwin, and Mike Sexton along with the businessmen represented by David Einhorn and One Drop founder Guy Laliberté.
This year’s tournament has a 56-player cap and more players are adding their names as the start moves closer. The field will be small and talented, but Esfandiari’s 2012 victory provides him with added confidence.
“I’m not particularly worried about anyone in general," Esfandiari says. "I’m more worried about the guy on my left with more chips.”
Despite the presence of a few poker "amateurs" there will be very few soft spots around the table. Some of the businessmen planning to play have also kept their participation a secret so they add an unknown, unpredictable component to the game.
They will likely be a group of players who are very comfortable putting large amounts of money on the line, though.
"Once You're In, It's Just Another Poker Game"
Confirmed pros in the tournament include Phil Ivey, Daniel Negreanu, Jason Mercier, Vanessa Selbst and high-roller wizard Erik Seidel. While the businessmen may be unpredictable, it’s the professionals getting Esfandiari’s attention.
“The pros will be tougher just because they are more experienced than the businessmen,” Esfandiari said. “Obviously you want to play with someone not as experienced."
With the seven-digit buy-in it would be understandable if players changed their style to fit the occasion but Esfandiari doesn’t see it that way. The money is spent, just play the game.
“(It makes) no difference,” Esfandiari stated simply. “Once you’re in, it’s just another poker game.”
Esfandiari is naturally tight-lipped when discussing the amount of his own money he’s putting into the tournament. Speculation has varied about his percentage in 2012, but two years later he’s still unwilling to discuss it.
Regardless of how much Esfandiari has invested, he doesn’t think anyone is a prohibitive favorite once the tournament is underway.
“Anbody can win,” Esfandiari said. “Whoever’s day it is, as long as they play good and run good, they can win.”
"Do I Believe It's Going to Be Me? Yes."
Esfandiari may correctly think everyone has a chance but the gambling world is putting its faith in him to defend his title.
Ladbrokes has Esfandiari at 22/1 to win with only Phil Ivey and Daniel Negreanu listed at slightly better odds.
Esfandiari confidently agrees with the sportsbooks.
“Do I believe it’s going to be me? Yes,” Esfandiari admitted. “I have to believe it or I have no chance of winning.”
The 2014 Big One for One Drop kicks off on June 29 as one of the most anticipated tournaments of the year.
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