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2011 WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic Day 5: Esfandiari Eyes History at Final Table

Antonio Esfandiari

The World Poker Tour will celebrate its 10th Anniversary with a bang on Sunday. The six-handed final table of the Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic is loaded with heavy hitters that includes not only the event's defending champion, but also a former November Niner and one of the world's most accomplished female tournament players.

All eyes will be on Antonio Esfandiari when the televised final table commences Sunday evening. In last year's Five Diamond World Poker Classic, Esfandiari bested a field of 438 players to win his second WPT crown and a prize of $870,000. He has a chance to do the unthinkable Sunday by going back-to-back at the Bellagio, an achievement that would tie him with Gus Hansen and Carlos Mortensen for the most titles (three) in the ten years of the World Poker Tour.

Esfandiari enters the final table fifth in chips with 1,255,000 and has quite a hill to climb in order to catch chip leader Soi Nguyen. The 2010 November Niner bagged 4,995,000 when play ended on Saturday, including the remaining chips of seventh-place finisher Larry Wells on the final table bubble.

According to the WPT Live Update Team, Nyugen min-raised preflop to 120,000 from under the gun and Wells called from middle position to see a flop of {A-Clubs}{7-Diamonds}{6-Clubs}. Nguyen bet 130,000 and Wells called, and the turn brought the {5-Hearts}. Nguyen fired again, this time for 275,000, and Wells tossed in a call. The {A-Spades} fell on the river and Nguyen moved all-in, having his opponent's stack covered. Wells called and tabled {A-Diamonds}{J-Spades} for trip aces, but Nguyen revealed a straight with {8-Diamonds}{9-Diamonds} to win the pot and end play for the evening.

Others joining Wells on the rail Saturday were William Reynolds (13th place), Kyle Julius (12th), Rudy Maarek (11th), David Williams (10th), Anthony Yeh (ninth) and Braden Hall (eighth).

Team PokerStars Pro Vanessa Selbst will be looking to block Esfandiari's road to history at Sunday's final table. Selbst, who is fourth in chips entering Sunday's final table, is the last player to repeat in a major live tournament; in April, she defended her title at the PokerStars North American Poker Tour Mohegan Sun Main Event. Selbst also has major titles at the World Series of Poker and the Partouche Poker Tour, and can move closer to Kathy Liebert for No. 1 on the women's all-time earnings list with a victory at Bellagio. Selbst currently stands roughly $1.4 million behind Liebert. A win on Sunday would net her more than $820,000.

Rounding out the Sunday's final table lineup are Andrew Lichtenberger, James Dempsey and Vitor Coelho. Lichtenberger, 24, finished eighth in this event last year and boasts more than $1.4 million in live tournament earnings in his short career. Dempsey is a rising star in the game, having won his first WSOP bracelet in 2010 and making appearances on several televised poker programs in the U.K. in 2011.

Coelho won't stand out among his famous tablemates but has found some recent success on the WPT. Last month, Coelho took fourth place at the WPT Jacksonville Main Event for $70,000, his biggest cash since winning a WPT prelim at Borgata in 2009 for $107,100.

Sunday's final table kicks off at 1600 PST (0000 GMT) and will be live streamed with hole cards on a 30-minute delay by Commentary will be provided by Tony Dunst, David Sands and Dan O'Brien.

Here's a look at the seat draw for the final table:

WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic Table Seat Draw

1James Dempsey3,860,000
2Vitor Coelho560,000
3Antonio Esfandiari1,255,000
4Andrew Lichtenberger3,605,000
5Vanessa Selbst2,250,000
6Soi Nguyen4,995,000

In addition to the WPT Five Diamond event, the Bellagio $100,000 Super High Roller tournament came to a close Saturday with a familiar face landing back in the winner's circle. After coming to a three-way deal with David Sands and Isaac Haxton, Jason Mercier went on to beat Sands heads-up for the title and a $25,000 seat to the WPT World Championship in May.

According to Mercier's post on Twitter, his share of the chop was worth $683,767, while Sands collected $619,000 and Haxton earned $582,000. The 29-player field drew big names like Daniel Negreanu, Erik Seidel, Ben Lamb and Justin Bonomo to generate a prize pool of nearly $3 million.

*Photo courtesy of the World Poker Tour.

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