Gold Rush Tournament
|Dates||Nov 10 - 11, 2002|
|Final Table Date||Nov 11, 2002|
|Buy-In||$3,000 + $150|
|Number of Entrants||152|
In 1849, California Gold Rush era, treasure seekers the world over streamed to California looking for a quick fortune. Just over 150 years later, The World Poker Tour witnessed the event again, this time in Colma, California at the Lucky Chances Casino for the Gold Rush Poker Tournament.
One hundred and fifty-two players who paid the $3,000 entry fee converged on the casino, located just outside San Francisco, for Northern California's richest tournament ever - with a total prize pool of just under $500,000!
Former Hip Hop promoter, and WPT regular, Paul Darden came into the Final Table as the chip leader, but much of the action on the day centered around new-comer Antonio Estandiari.
The twenty-four year old Esfandiari started the day short stacked, but you would never have guessed this was his first major tournament final table by the way he played through most of the day. From the very first hand he was earning pots against much stronger hands, and more experienced players.
His on-going battle with poker legend Phil Hellmuth was particularly exciting. It seemed as if Hellmuth had targeted Antonio early on, but the supremely confident Esfandiari ended up playing role-reversal, constantly coming over the top of Phil's bets, forcing the veteran to abandon pot after pot, rocketing himself to second chip position.
Well into the tournament, after both poker Hall-of-Famer Vince Burgio, and amateur Tommy Garza had been knocked out, the Hellmuth vs. Esfandiari bout got it's TKO. Hellmuth pulled a K,J off suit and went all in with $191,000. His nemesis, Esfandiari, called with a K,Q. The Flop gave Antonio a pair of Queens, to knock Hellmuth out of the tournament.
The other exciting action revolved around Chris Bigler, who had arrived from Switzerland just days before. For most of the day, the jetlagged European seemed to be just hanging on. But in the end, after a series of brilliant plays, he had out-lasted Esfandiari and went heads up against Darden with an almost equal chip count.
As any observer of No Limit Hold 'Em knows, however, as quickly as you can go from short stacked to chip leader, you can also lose everything in a hurry. That's what makes this game so exciting. After weathering ferocious onslaughts from Esfandiari and Bigler, Paul Darden wound up striking gold and winning the $146,000 first place prize money, a $25,000 seat in the WPT Championship Event, and laying claim to the Gold Rush No Limit Hold 'Em title.
This tournament is included in the World Poker Tour Season One DVD Collection.