Iranian-born poker player nets record US$18 mil. prize


LAS VEGAS–Iranian-born Las Vegas resident Antonio Esfandiari took out some of poker’s biggest names to claim the richest ever tournament prize, more than US$18 million, event organizers said Wednesday. The US$1 million buy-in “Big One for One Drop Texas Hold’em” event was held Sunday through Tuesday at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas as part of the World Series of Poker. Esafandiari took home US$18,346,673 after three days of high-stakes poker, beating Britain’s Sam Trickett in the final head-to-head and trumping big name stars such as America’s Phil Hellmuth, a 12-time World Series champion. Trickett pocketed more than US$10 million, a return of 10-1 on his initial buy-in investment in the richest tournament ever played. The Big One for One Drop is the brainchild of Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte, whose One Drop organization collected another US$5.3 million, or 11.11 percent of the 48 players’ million dollar entry fees. Laliberte said in a statement he was “grateful” and encouraged “the poker community to stay involved and to spread the word” about his charity, which promotes access to safe drinking water around the world.