As the night wore on the messages continued to pop up as Gold and Esfandiari eventually made it to heads-up. It was then I clicked over to the live stream provided by the Live at the Bike folks and watch the last several hands play out, with Esfandiari eventually winning to take the ring.
With 756 entries, the first prize for Esfandiari was $226,785. Many commenting over Twitter noted how the pair showing up at this WSOP-C Main final table was a bit of a throwback. “It was like 2006 all over again!” tweeted Jennifer Tilly, a thought occurring to many others, I imagine.
That of course was the year of Jamie Gold’s victory in the WSOP Main Event, marking his introduction to most of us via the subsequent ESPN coverage. By then we also were well familiar with Esfandiari thanks to his 2004 win in the World Poker Tour L.A. Poker Classic, also shown repeatedly on our teevees.
Both players have made California home, explaining their having turned up for the event at the Bicycle. Both have also at one time in their careers sat atop the Hendon Mob’s “All-Time Money List” ranking players’ tournament winnings, a list currently headed by Daniel Negreanu.
There was another connection between the two I couldn’t help but think about while watching them square off last night. This had to be the first time two players with eight-figure cashes on their tournament résumés ever met heads-up in a tournament.
By winning the first Big One for One Drop at the 2012 WSOP, Esfandiari cashed for $18,346,673, while Gold won a $12,000,000 first prize for taking down the largest-ever WSOP Main Event in 2006. (As we know, neither player actually won those full amounts, with Esfandiari reportedly only having around 15% of himself and Gold famously giving up half of his prize in the subsequent lawsuit.)
Only two other players have eight-figure tournament scores -- Daniel Colman (awarded $15,306,668 after winning the 2014 installment of the Big One for One Drop) and Martin Jacobson (who won $10,000,000 for his victory in the 2014 WSOP Main Event. Safe to make the assumption, then, than none of these guys have played heads-up before. (Sam Trickett, who finished runner-up to Esfandiari in that Big One for One Drop, became an eight-figure cashers upon the conclusion of that event, as his prize was $10,112,001.)
One other bit of trivia from last night’s WSOP-C results -- Gold’s second-place cash for $139,820 was the second-highest of his career.
Image: “List of largest poker tournaments in history (by prize pool),” Wikipedia (retrieved 3/30/16).