In case you’re wondering: Yes, the BIG ONE’s $18.3 million prize was indeed the largest ever awarded in sports history.
by Matt Villano
Antonio Esfandiari won the BIG ONE for ONE DROP tournament at this year’s World Series of Poker (WSOP) event at Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino and netted the biggest prize in tournament poker history ($18.3 million). But the 33-year-old poker pro almost didn’t even play.
“Originally, I didn’t want to pony up the $1 million buy-in and was scheduled to do commentary on the event for ESPN,” he recounted in an interview days after the event. “That’s when it hit me: How could I sit in the booth and comment on the greatest tournament ever and not at least give myself a chance to be at the final table?”
It turned out to be a wise decision. Looking back, Esfandiari described those moments after beating Sam Trickett for the title as surreal: “The last card came out and I thought, ‘Holy crap.’ From that point on, I felt like I was on some sort of drug—just very, very high.”
While the win made the man they call “The Magician” one of the richest men in poker, he says the money is secondary to the thrill of beating the most talented field of competitors in the history of the WSOP.
“I can now say I won the greatest tournament of all time,” he mused. “It’s hard to top that.”