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The Big One; July 2012’s WSOP $1,000,000 No-Limit Texas Hold’em Buy-In Tournament

Antonio poker pro

Not only did the 2012 WSOP set a record for the largest single prize won by a poker tourney player, it also set a record for the biggest buy-in tournament in poker history. Players willing to drop a million bucks on a No-Limit Texas Hold’em buy-in could compete for what turned out to be a top prize of well over $18 million. In all, forty-eight players competed for millions in prizes, some paying their own way, others sponsored by online poker rooms, and some players winning free-entry as part of satellite tournament prizes.

Three days of eight-handed NL Texas Hold’em played out before one player, Vegas-resident and professional poker player Antonio Esfandiari, won out, with a check worth $18,346,673. That total makes Esfandiari the new owner of the record for winnings in a single tournament, and makes The Big One the tournament with both the largest buy-in and biggest payout ever.

Other Big Winners of the 2012 Big One

Look at the winnings of the final table alone: a grand total of $40 million or so split among the tourney’s top 8 players. For every play in the top ten to take home at least a million is a rare event. Another notable feature of The Big One’s top players is the presence of so many non-Americans, further testament to the coming dominance of non US players in the WSOP.

  1. Sam Trickett, $10,112,001
  2. David Einhorn, $4,352,000
  3. Phil Hellmuth, $2,645,333
  4. Guy Laliberté, $1,834,666
  5. Brian Rast, $1,621,333
  6. Bobby Baldwin $1,408,000
  7. Richard Yong, $1,237,333
  8. Mike Sexton, $1,109,333
  9. Phil Ruffin, $1,010,045

2012’s Big One: Facts and History

Before you do the math on the buy-ins versus payouts, understand that a little over 11% of the buy-in cash was donated to the One Drop Charitable Foundation, the group that sponsored the contest and came up with the idea for a massive poker contest to begin with. That 11% donation amounted to a gift of over $600k to One Drop, a group that is dedicated to spreading access to clean and potable water to people in parts of the world where it is unavailable. That’s the whole purpose of the One Drop contest—to bring publicity to the cause and to have a little fun while making a massive donation to help thirsty, sick people in the world get access to good, clean water.

Canada’s Jonathan Duhamel, poker pro and philanthropist, worked with One Drop spokesperson and poker shark Guy Laliberté to put together this record-breaking poker tourney, and plans are already in place to put the competition together at the 2012 Event, perhaps featuring an even-bigger buy-in. It may seem strange that both Laliberté and Duhamel finished fairly high in the money, with a top 5 finish for One Drop’s Laliberté. But remember that either of these guys have the skills to outright win the tourney, and trust that no funny stuff was going on. The WSOP is above that sort of thing, and with charity work, it is even more likely that The Big One is a legit operation that we can look forward to for years to come.

More About Antonio Esfandiari, Winner of The Big One

Antonio Esfandiari wasn’t a big name in poker until he won the biggest payout in the game’s history at the 2012 Big Drop event. Before The Big One, Esfandiari’s biggest win was 2004’s LA Poker Classic, after which he had a fat $1.8 million check to cash. Sometimes called "The Magician", Esfandiari is a 33 year-old Iranian born professional poker player. The nickname comes from the fact that he was once a professional magician, doing tricks with cards and chips, incorporating his love of poker into his act.

Esfandiari was a regular on the seemingly endless lineups of poker TV shows in the 2000s, and still appears on what reality show and tourneys are televised, after the boom finally fizzled and most TV poker shows ended. The Magician is no slouch, owning two World Poker Tour championships and two World Series of Poker bracelets , one for “TheBig One for One Drop" and one for the small buy-in 2004 Pot Limit Hold'em tournament, which earned him a payday of $184,860. “The Magician” from Iran rocketed to the top of the all-time poker tournament winnings list by winning the One Drop $1 million buy-in, a win that immediately led to a book deal with a poker app company.

Esfandiari’s Poker Tournament Strategy Book

Appearing in 2012, the world’s only Iranian poker star combined his two loves into a unique poker tournament strategy. Called The Magician's Secrets for Winning Tournaments on Insta Poker, it’s little more than an eBook app that takes the form of a poker app, promising to teach a new style of poker strategy for tourname play. Only iPhone holders with the latest and greatest tech can get access to it, since it requires OS 4.0 or later, but it uses traditional online poker play to guide you through The Magician’s personal method for playing in poker tournaments. Review are excellent, and highlight how The Magician’s “book” is really a fun game that teaches while you play along.

As for why Esfandiari hasn’t had a ton of success at the WSOP Main Event—his 24th-place finish in 2009 is his best performance to date—no one can really say. He’s clearly an expert at tournament play, and if you look at the list of players he beat to take home The Big One (a contest he really had no business thinking he could win) you’d wonder why we haven’t heard more about him. To win the One Drop tourney, he made his way through names like Phil Ivey, Danieal Negreanu, and Phil Hellmuth. Perhaps Esdandiari is a rising star that’s just taking a little longer to rise

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