LAS VEGAS — There will be no repeat performance from Antonio Esfandiari at this year's $1 million Big One for One Drop at the World Series of Poker. Esfandiari, who won the event when it was last held in 2012, was eliminated two spots shy of the money in 10th place early on Tuesday morning at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino.
Day 2 of the tournament concluded at approximately 4:10 a.m. PT at the end of level 20 with nine players remaining. Day 3 is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. PT, with blinds set to start at 300,000/600,000 with a 75,000 ante. The winner will take home $15.3 million, the eighth-place finisher will win $1.3 million, while the first player to bust will walk away with nothing.
Rick Salomon, a Hollywood producer who is best known for an illicit sex tape with Paris Hilton and marriages to Shannen Doherty and Pamela Anderson, holds the chip lead with 23.575 million chips. Tobias Reinkemeier, a professional poker player from Germany, sits close behind in second with 22.825 million, while fellow pros Daniel Colman (22.625 million) and Daniel Negreanu (20.7 million) are also one small pot away from claiming the chip lead.
Cary Katz, the CEO and founder of College Loan Corporation, sits in fifth with 9.125 million, gregarious pro Scott Seiver is in sixth with 8.25 million, while Tom Hall, a frequent player in the high stakes cash games in Macau, sits in seventh with 7.775 million. Christoph Vogelsang brings the German contingent at the final table to two players, entering Day 3 with 7.075 million chips, while Paul Newey, who made his fortune selling his loan company to AIG in 2006, is the table's short stack with just 4.05 million chips.
Esfandiari was one of the chip leaders for most of the day on Monday, but ended up on the wrong end of two key all-ins vs. Reinkemeier holding an inferior ace, first with A-9 vs. A-K, then with A-5 vs. A-J to be eliminated.
The elimination ended an amazing run for Esfandiari in One Drop events. After winning the inaugural Big One for One Drop in 2012 for $18.3 million, Esfandiari finished fourth in last year's $111,111 One Drop High Roller for $1.4 million last summer.
After Esfandiari's elimination, the remaining nine players consolidated to a single table for the first time, though the official "final table" won't be reached until there are just eight players remaining.
Sitting on the biggest money bubble in poker, Newey was the short stack when the final nine players assembled at the same table for the first time. He quickly doubled up through Reinkemeier, the chipleader at the time, finding pocket aces in the big blind and three-betting all in over the top of Reinkemeier's opening raise. Reinkemeier called with pocket queens, but didn't improve.
Twenty minutes later, new table short stack Seiver survived a scare when his K-Q of spades fell behind Negreanu's 5-6 of spades when Negreanu hit a five on the flop. Seiver picked up an open-ended straight draw on the turn, but didn't end up needing it, as he hit a queen on the river to survive and double up.
With so much money on the line, short stacks were reticent to put their chips at risk, and there were no more all-ins and calls for the rest of the night.
Day 2 started with 31 of the original 42 players vying for one of the eight seats at the final table. Bustouts were slow at first as players adjusted to their new table assignments, but before too long, three businessmen (John Morgan, Talal Shakerchi and Guy Laliberté) were gone, as was Jean-Robert Bellande.
Then it was time for some of the biggest names in poker to check out. Erick Seidel got it all in with a set, but lost to Gabe Kaplan's bigger set. Then Erick Lindgren was eliminated, and Noah Schwartz's top pair was no match for Esfandiari's flopped straight. Isaac Haxton called Kaplan's all-in bet with pocket queens, only to discover Kaplan held pocket aces.
But none of those knockouts were as brutal as Connor Drinan's. After getting in a raising war with Katz, both players turned over pocket aces for what looked like a certain chop. The flop brought two hearts, however, giving Katz, who held the ace of hearts, a chance to scoop the pot with running hearts on the turn and river. The turn card was a heart, and then after a long pause, the dealer put a fourth heart on the board on the river. Drinan leaned against the table stoically as tournament officials counted down the players' chip stacks, then shook the other players' hands when it was determined that he was eliminated. Then, after Doug Polk busted out in 17th, the tournament was down to its final two tables.
Tony Gregg, who won $4.8 million as last year's $111,111 One Drop High Roller, was eliminated right before the dinner break, and Sam Trickett moved all in on the river with pocket aces, only to be eliminated by Negreanu's trip nines.
After two full levels with 14 players, two players were knocked out — one on each table — in rapid succession. Phil Ivey got all his chips in with the nut flush draw vs. Katz's trip queens and was drawing dead when Katz made a full house on the turn, while Negreanu had Phil Galfond drawing dead after flopping a king-high flush. Kaplan lost a race with Salomon, a super—short-stacked Brandon Steven moved all in with Q-9 and was called blind by Katz, who held 10-7 and hit a pair on the river, and just before 3 a.m. PT, Esfandiari suffered the final elimination of the day.
NOTES: WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart opened play for the day wearing a baby blue suit to match the One Drop Foundation's color. The tournament raised $4.6 million for the charity, which aims to provide clean water to those who do not currently have access to a safe drinking supply. … In addition to $15.3 million, the winner of the tournament will be given a chance to fly to Europe to visit Richard Mille, the jeweler who designed the platinum bracelet to be given to the winner, so he can engrave the bracelet and alter it so it fits the winner's wrist perfectly. … The POKER PROductions crew, which is taping this event for broadcast on ESPN starting on July 29, had a much more visible presence at the tournament on Day 2. Salomon attempted to get a massage therapist to his table five minutes into play, but was told that they weren't allowed at the tables anymore, and food delivery services like All American Dave were not allowed inside the ropes. Players could, however, come to them to pick up their meals. … Ten minutes into play, Trickett, who was sitting on Esfandiari's left, was told he was being moved to another table. Esfandiari, who beat Trickett heads up to win this event two years ago, told Casino City prior to the start of the event that the person he didn't want on his left was Trickett, and he was visibly pleased to have Trickett move. But a few minutes later, Trickett was moved back, as no players had been eliminated and he had been moved by mistake. … Kaplan may be an actor, but there's probably a reason he never won any Emmys. After flat calling a raise by Steven, Kaplan was facing a three bet from Haxton (Steven had already folded). The Welcome Back, Kotter star held his head in his hands and had a pained expression on his face before moving all in with pocket aces. Haxton, who didn't have much left behind, shrugged his shoulders and called the bet with pocket queens.
Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd has covered the gambling industry since 2006. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi. Follow him on Twitter @CasinoCity_AT.