This Week’s Big Winners – December 13th

by , Dec 13, 2010 | 1:00 pm

WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic (Las Vegas, Nevada)

It was a Happy Birthday for Antonio Esfandiari, as he made his first WPT final table in more than six years and defeated a stacked final table to come out as champion. The WPT events that take place in Las Vegas tend to attract the most pros because of the obvious attraction of not having to travel very far, and this year’s 5 Diamond was certainly no exception. The final six was certainly the most impressive collection of players in this or any of the last several seasons on the World Poker Tour.

Entering the final table as chip leader was Vanessa Rousso, who was aiming to be the first woman to win an open WPT $10,000 event in its history, and it seemed like just the stage, having made a name for herself at Bellagio by bubbling the final table of the WPT Championship back in 2006. John Racener continued an incredible year, following up a second place finish in the Main Event with this final table appearance (though the following few days weren’t too good for him). Esfandiari looked to work some Birthday magic and prevent himself from doing his usual disappearing act on the WPT, trying to channel his recent resurgence into hard-to-find success on the WPT.

Then there was his friend and fellow Victory Poker Pro Andrew “good2cu” Robl, primarily a cash game player but trying to find his place amongst the well known players following appearances on High Stakes Poker, Poker After Dark and other high profile television shows. Anyone who watched poker when it first hit big will remember Ted Lawson and his infamous Pot Limit Omaha final table with Lee Watkinson, though several years on the circuit have produced some fairly impressive results. And finally there was Kirk Morrison, a former poker “brat-pack”er along the likes of Negreanu and Ivey in the 90s that fell off the face of the earth, a specter of a man who came out of nowhere (well, New Zealand) to finish second at the WPT Championship in 2007 and sporadically throw down some sick finishes, including two WSOP final tables.

Lawson was the first to go out, with Morrison and Racener following him out the door. The true intrigue came when play got down to three, as Rousso, Robl and Esfandiari traded the chip lead like a hot potato for several hours before time ran out for Rousso. Heads-up play featured an interesting dynamic between the two friends, who joked between hands but got down to business when it counted. The crowd was evenly split and added quite a bit to the atmosphere. After a lengthy heads-up battle where they traded the chip lead a few more times, it was Esfandiari’s KJ surviving Robl’s straight and flush outs to win his second WPT title and $870,000. [WPT]

APPT Grand Final (Sydney, Australia)

22-year-old Australian online phenom Jonathan “xMONSTERxDONGx” Karamalikis topped an impressive final table of his own in capturing the APPT Sydney Main Event, defeating the likes of Daniel Negreanu and Roland de Wolfe. Proving that you don’t have to come to the United States to be successful, Karamalakis topped an impressive year that included a win at the Aussie Millions bounty event and a runner-up finish at the Melbourne Poker Championship High Roller event with his victory in Sydney.

Negreanu entered the final table as the short stack and promptly lost a flip to de Wolfe. De Wolfe then lost several monster pots to “MonsterDong” and was the next to fall. Former APPT Macau champion Eddy Sabat made a nice run of his own before going out in fourth place. Karamalakis withstood the onslaught of amateur Ben McKlean and pulled off a bit of “presto” magic of his own, turning pocket fives into a winner on the final hand and banking a first place prize of AUD $459,510 ($455,000). [PokerStars Blog]

Foxwoods Megastack XVIII (Mashantucket, Connecticut)

They made a chop, and then another chop, but when the dust settled it was Michael Woods taking home one more dollar than his opponent David Espanola to be technically crowned the champion of the latest Foxwoods Megastack event. Scarlet Robinson was there all series with Jay “WhoJedi” Newnum and Rob “veeRob” Perelman covering the action, and you should definitely check out this article that highlights the way veeRob and company cover this (and other) smaller events and bring plenty of attention to them. [Foxwoods Live]

Russian Poker Series (Kiev, Russia)

Dmitry Gromov won the final event of the inaugural season of the Russian Poker Series, taking home $201,000 for his victory in Kiev. Details from our Russian correspondent are a bit spotty, but PokerStars has apparently found the last part of the world in which they didn’t have a tour and put one there. I, for one, bow down to our new alien PokerStarsian overlords. [PokerStars blog]

In Other News…

Clearly jealous of all the attention that Jess Welman has received in this column, PokerNews correspondent Kristy Arnett took it upon herself to throw her hat in the ring for “Best Poker Playing Member of the Media, Female (and in General, Really)”(c) by capturing the $55 MiniFTOPS Heads-Up title Sunday night, defeating a field of 4,096 on her way to over $31,000. [PokerNews]

It will be interesting to see how he represents the PokerStars brand, and if it gets us any closer to identifying him positively, but PokerStars made a very interesting move this past week in signing internet phantom isildur1 to Team PokerStars Pro. Expect to see someone dressed in a luchador’s mask and a PokerStars patch at a major tournament near you, although rumors are abound that his true identity will soon be revealed, potentially in an hour-long special airing in place of “the Big Game” on FOX where isildur1 will officially announce he’s bringing his talents to Gibraltar.

The Main Event before the Main Event (Regional Championship) is underway at the WSOPC Atlantic City at Harrah’s. Tam Ly is the chip leader, but “Bodog Ari” Engel and Josh Brikis are both in the top 10. 71 of the 352 who started are still in contention for the $118,000 first prize.

Allen “Chainsaw” Kessler made some noise at the 2010 Winter Bayou Poker Challenge Main Event in New Orleans, taking 8th for $8,800, with Tyler Smith capturing that title and $66,000.

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