Superstar Antonio ‘The Magician’ Esfandiari is in a great position to defend his World Poker Tour (WPT) Five Diamond World Poker Classic crown after moving up to third on the chips leaderboard following Day 3 at The Bellagio in Las Vegas.
The Iranian is all set work his magic again to lift the $821,612 top prize after making it through to Day 4 of the $10,000 buy-in event in third spot on 805,000, behind American leader Kyle Julius (1,457,000) and California-based Vietnamese former November Niner Soi Nguyen, who holds 1,380,000.
The one-time World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet winner was delighted with his performance on the day of his 33rd birthday, although, as he actually lifted the title on his 32nd birthday last year, he said: “It’s not been quite as good as last year.”
However, he added that, although he usually tries to “get the chips in early”, he also believes that he normally “knocks them off and is gone by dinner”, so decided this year that, “once I get the chips, I’m going to try to hold on to them”.
Esfandiari reckons this new approach “is working” and is “happy with the way it is going” so far – and that must be a major worry for all the remaining players in this massive poker tournament.
Texan Larry Wells is a distant fourth on 704,000, while the remainder of the top 10 is made up of Washington’s Scott Clements (563,500), Canadian Madison Bergeron (554,000), New York State’s Andrew Lichtenberger (530,500), Pennsylvania’s Matt Glantz (505,000), Las Vegas-based Jeffrey Frerichs (439,500), and Georgia State’s Jason Dewitt (415,000).
Just 49 players remain from the original starting field of 413, with each survivor guaranteed a minimum of $15,922, while the players who make the final table are assured of leaving Sin City with at least $119,418 from a prize pool that topped $4 million.
The champion will also pick up a WPT bracelet and a seat at the WPT Championship worth $25,000, along with the huge cash prize.
Julius took over at the top of the leaderboard by winning the penultimate hand of Day 3 against WPT champion Kevin Saul, with his set beating two pair, not long after play had reached level 16 with the blinds set at 3,000 and 6,000, as well as an ante of 500.
Saul picked up $15,922 for finishing in 50th place, while Shawn Klasson was eliminated in 51st for $12,937, and Justin Smith collected $12,937 for his 53rd place finish.
Andrew Robl, who was second to Esfandiari last year, was eliminated in 56th for $12,937, while the Iranian player knocked out another opponent late in the day to move up to third spot on the leaderboard.
Also missing out on Day 4 are players such as Eric Buchman, who was eliminated in 62nd place, Eric Baldwin (out in 63rd), Mike Meskin (out in 64th), Joshua Pollock (out in 66th) and Day 2 chip leader Grant Lang (out in 67th), with all those named here picking up $12,937 for their troubles.
However, among the 49 survivors returning today are Vanessa Selbst (11th on 414,000 chips), Keith Ferrera (20th on 297,000), who ended Day 2 in sixth place, Dwyte Pilgrim (25th on 252,000), Jonathan Little (35th on 182,500), David Pham (41st on 143,000), Matt Giannetti (45th on 112,500), and Allen Kessler (49th on 57,500), while the average chip stack is 337,142.
Other well known players to hit the rail on Day 3 included Freddy Deeb, who was out in 68th for $12,937, Carlos Mortensen (out in 71st for $11,942), Shaun Deeb (out in 74th for $11,942), Jimmy Tran (out in 76th for $11,942), Ted Lawson (out in 78th for $11,942), Chris DeMaci (out in 88th for $11,942), David ‘Bakes’ Baker (out in 90th for $11,942), Will Failla (out in 94th for $11,942), Jean Gaspard (out in 95th for $11,942), and Randy Dorfman (out in 98th for $11,942).
Top 10 placings and chip counts after Day 3 of the Five Diamond World Poker Classic:
1. Kyle Julius (USA) – 1,457,000
2. Soi Nguyen (Vietnam) – 1,380,000
3. Antonio Esfandiari (Iran) – 805,000
4. Larry Wells (USA) – 704,000
5. Scott Clements (USA) – 563,500
6. Madison Bergeron (Canada) – 554,000
7. Andrew Lichtenberger (USA) – 530,500
8. Matt Glantz (USA) – 505,000
9. Jeffrey Frerichs (USA) – 439,500
10. Jason Dewitt (USA) – 415,000