Tuesday, July 3 changed the history of poker when a single man became the first-ever poker player to win the highest in first-place cash prize.

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The Big One tournament had a 48-member player-field, with some of the world’s best and renowned players like Guy Laliberte, Phil Ivey, Phil Hellmuth, David Einhorn and Daniel Negreanu. It was certainly an illustrious event as it had Guy Laliberte, the creator of the Cirque du Soleil participating.

Einhorn lasted until the final table, and was eliminated at the 3rd place with $3.4 million in winnings. Einhorn had stated before the start of the game that he intended to give away all his Big One winnings to the non-profit charity City Year. Many of the players spent weeks preceding the match, to look for possible investors for the $1 million buy-in. Other players, who paid off their investors with their cash winnings, include Mike Sexton who was eliminated at 9th place with $100,000 in winnings, Sam Trickett who split his prize in half with Matchbook.com and Esfandiari who got his funding from wealthy friends.

The poker scene has seen a downward spiral since 2007, and was hit badly when the US Department of Justice shutdown all poker operations last year. However, poker enthusiasts hope that, the kind of attention Esfandiari’s win brought about should help increase the interest in poker among the public again.

Poker pro Antonio Esfandiari will never forget the day that changed his life. After three-days of game play for the Big One for One Drop, Esfandiari beat billionaires and prominent poker pros alike to win the big $18 million in first-place.

While, Esfandiari took the first place and $18 million in cash, the second place was awarded to the UK based Sam Trickett, who walked away with $10.1 million. The 33-year-old, who is originally from Tehran but raised in San Jose, California, was a professional magician turned poker professional. Since then he has been known as “The Magician.” Esfandiari is a prominent name within the poker circuit, owing to his first-place prize of $1.4 million in the World Series of Poker in 2004.

Esfandiari career winnings are around $17.3 million, which excludes the $1 million spent to enter the Big One tournament. The previous highest-ever prize in poker history, was in 2006 World Series of Poker with $12 million in first prize. Recently, Esfandiari has beaten that record and stands tall at $18 million.

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