WSOP TODAY: July 2; Esfandiari leads the Big One with eight players remaining

Highlights from day 37 of the 2012 WSOP (July 2)

All eyes return to the Rio today for the race to the first prize in the $1 million buy-in Big One for One Drop. After the elimination of Mike Sexton in ninth place (for USD $1,109,333), the final eight players will return to the felt in pursuit of the staggering USD $18,346,673 first prize. The eight finalists (pictured above, with thanks to are:

Seat 1: Guy Laliberte – the creator and CEO of famed Cirque du Soleil takes a seat in the extraordinary event he inspired to create. There’s something poignant about Laliberte taking seat one at the Big One for One Drop. The 52-year-old executive and philanthropist from Montreal, Quebec starts final table play ranked in third place with 21,700,000.

Seat 2: Brian Rast – the two-time WSOP gold bracelet winner from Las Vegas is here to add to his list of prestigious titles — including last year’s Poker Players Championship. Rast, age 30, comes to the final table ranked in fourth place, with 11,350,000.

Seat 3: Phil Hellmuth – the most storied poker player in WSOP history won his 12th gold bracelet at this year’s WSOP. He holds virtually every record in the book, including the 1989 World Championship. Hellmuth, at age 47, resides in Palo Alto, CA. He is a member of the Poker Hall of Fame. Hellmuth begins play ranked fifth place with 10,925,000.

Seat 4: Antonio Esfandiari – “The Magician” is a WSOP gold bracelet winner in addition to the chip leader coming into the final table. The 33-year-old Las Vegas poker superstar has 39,925,000 in chips and is the man to beat today.

Seat 5: Bobby “The Owl” Baldwin – the 1978 World Champion owns four WSOP gold bracelets. He’s a member of the Poker Hall of Fame. The 62-year-old resident of Las Vegas is the President and CEO of City Center in Las Vegas. He begins play ranked eighth in chips, with 7,150,000.

Seat 6: Sam Trickett – the 26-year-old English poker pro is one of the highest-stakes gamblers in the world. He is arguably the king of the British poker scene. Trickett seeks his first WSOP gold bracelet today, and is in great position to achieve a monumental victory currently ranked second in chips with 37,000,000.

Seat 7: Richard Yong – the 54 year-old poker player and businessman spends much of his time in Macau and China. He’s also philanthropist as well as one of the most revered gamblers in Asia. Yong is seeking his first WSOP victory and begins this finale ranked in seventh place with 7,475,000 in chips.

Seat 8: David Einhorn – the hedge-fund investor and financial mogul lives in Westchester County, NY. He’s been here before, finishing 18th place in the 2006 Main Event Championship, the biggest poker tournament of all time. The 43-year-old titan of finance is ranked in sixth place, with 8,375,000.


1 $18,346,673
2 $10,112,001
3 $4,352,000
4 $2,645,333
5 $1,834,666
6 $1,621,333
7 $1,408,000
8 $1,237,333
9 $1,109,333

Neil James “Jim” Willerson won the most recent championship event at the 2012 WSOP. The 36-year-old attorney from Dallas, Texas won the $1500 buy-in No Limit Hold’em tournament, classified as Event #53. Willerson took home $737,248 in prize money in addition to a gold bracelet.

Willerson is used to competing, and winning. He was the 1994 Texas State singles champion in tennis. However, this victory was a bit more profitable. The three-day competition drew another monster-sized field with 3166 entrants. The field size was so large and the final table play went so long that an unscheduled fourth day was added.

The runner-up was Vladimir Mefodichev, from Moscow, Russia. He had a shot to becoming the first Russian to win a gold bracelet this year with a 3:1 chip lead when the heads-up match started.

Event #54, the $1000 buy-in No Limit Hold’em, has reached day three with 15 of the 3221 starters still in contention for the first prize of just over USD $500,000. Will Jaffe from Bridgehampton, NY, holds more the twice of the chips of his nearest challenger.

A total of 305 players will be back for day two of Event #56, the $1500 buy-in No Limit Hold’em tournament after 2798 signed up. Donald Vogel of Walnut, CA topped the chip count while Melbourne’s Arthur Kalantzis is handily positioned 15th in chips. Eric Assadourian and Tim Duckworth will also be back for day two.

Two new events are also scheduled to start today – Event #57, the $10,000 buy-in Six-Handed No Limit Hold’em Championship and Event #58, the $3000 buy-in Pot Limit Omaha tournament.

• Additional reporting, Nolan Dalla,

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