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April 19, 2014

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WSOP:

On to the next: Anthony Gregg allots no time for reflection after $4.8 million win

Antonio Esfandiari’s bid for back-to-back One Drop titles falls short as “The Magician” takes fourth

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COURTESY OF WSOP

Anthony Gregg poses after winning the World Series of Poker One Drop High Rollers tournament Saturday June 29, 2013.

One Drop High Rollers Finishes and Payouts

  • Anthony Gregg (1st): $4,830,619
  • Chris Klodnicki (2nd): $2,985,495
  • Bill Perkins (3rd): $1,965,163
  • Antonio Esfandiari (4th): $1,433,438
  • Richard Fullerton (5th): $1,066,491
  • Martin Jacobson (6th): $807,427
  • Brandon Steven (7th): $621,180
  • Nick Schulman (8th): $485,029
  • Olivier Busquet (9th): $384,122
  • Lawrence Greenburg (10th): $384,122
  • Connor Drinan (11th): $308,622
  • Jeremy Ausmus (12th): $308,622
  • Matt Glantz (13th): $251,549
  • Martin Finger (14th): $251,549
  • Blake Bohn (15th): $208,968
  • Mike Sexton (16th): $208,968
  • Daniel Alaei (17th): $173,723
  • Andrew Lichtenberger (18th): $173,723
  • Phil Laak (19th): $173,723
  • Shaun Deeb (20th): $173,723
  • Jason Koon (21st): $173,723
  • Farshad Fardad (22nd): $173,723
  • Dan Shak (23rd): $173,723
  • Steve Gross (24th): $173,723
  • Yevgeniy Timoshenko and Haralabos Voulgaris were the two players who advanced to Friday but were knocked out on the bubble, right before the money.

Anthony Gregg walked calmly over to his group of friends and extended his arm for a few high-fives.

A couple of seconds later, he turned back toward the table where he had just won a World Series of Poker bracelet in the $111,111 buy-in One Drop High Rollers tournament. The event’s announcer asked him to say a few words.

Gregg shook his head. If it were up to the 26-year-old from Columbia, Md., there would be no talk or celebration about the biggest moment of his career.

The thought that the $4.8 million Gregg had just won seemed to exit his mind quicker than it entered. He wanted to flee the scene like a bank robber, to get to another room in the Rio to play in the $25,000 six-max no-limit hold’em event he registered in while playing down in the One Drop on Friday night.

“I just figured the $25K, if I end up staying in this, the more I get blinded off over there, the better,” Gregg said. “But if I busted this, then I want to have a plan B.”

Gregg is the token high-stakes professional poker player in that regard: He’s unaffected by monetary gain or loss no matter the figure, but is always on the prowl for the next gamble. There’s a reason he was one of the most respected tournament players on the circuit even before he had won his first bracelet Saturday afternoon.

Close friend Greg Merson, champion of last year’s Main Event, had referred to Gregg as “the next Phil Ivey” for two years. He believed it was only a matter of time before Gregg, who already had $3 million in career earnings and a World Poker Tour title before the One Drop, broke out and became one of poker’s household names.

“I always knew he was going to win this tournament,” Merson said.

After 12-hour sessions for each of the first three days of action, Gregg needed less than 70 minutes to outlast the three other finalists and seal the title Saturday.

He snagged the chip lead by dramatically eliminating Houston businessman Bill Perkins in third place. All of Perkins’ chips went in before the flop, and he was well behind with ace-5 off-suit against Gregg’s ace-queen of spades.

Perkins jumped out of his seat, however, when a 5 came on the flop to give him a commanding lead. But Gregg improved on the turn with a fourth spade to give him 12 cards that could save him on the river.

One of them, the queen of hearts, materialized to give Gregg the 31 million chip pot. It meant he was heads-up against Chris Klodnicki, who knocked out Antonio Esfandiari in fourth place when he paired his ace-9 with an ace on the river versus pocket 8s.

The standing-room-only crowd at the featured table in the Amazon Room fell golf-course quiet.

“We have the same exact group of friends,” Gregg said. “He and I lived in the same house last year here in Vegas. That’s why no one was really cheering for us.”

There wasn’t much to clamor about when it came to Klodnicki anyway. Gregg powered over the 28-year-old from Philadelphia when it got to heads-up play, taking two massive pots in the first five hands to leave him desperate.

Klodnicki committed his dwindling chip stack after a flop of 4-3-9 with 7-5 for a gutshot straight draw. Gregg called with top pair, 9-2, and his advantage held up through the final two community cards.

“It got re-enforced in my head that you have to stay positive and play your best because it’s a tournament and your rush could always be right around the corner,” Gregg said. “And I was lucky enough to get that rush.”

It came at the right time, but it took long enough. Despite winning the tournament, Gregg was short-stacked for the majority of play during crucial periods.

With 30 players remaining — and only 24 getting paid — Gregg was one of three with the fewest chips Thursday evening. He picked up pocket kings and doubled-up through Haralabos Voulgaris’ pocket queens.

That catapulted Gregg to the middle of the leader board, where he stayed for much of Friday before sinking dangerously low again with 12 players remaining. One of the most memorable hands of the WSOP occurred to get Gregg back above average.

He went all-in with ace-9 and found a call from Klodnicki’s pocket 7s. The flop improbably landed ace-9-7 to give Klodnicki three of a kind to Gregg’s two pair. The turn was a blank card that helped neither player, but a 9 came out on the river to give Gregg a superior full house.

Gregg sat so stoically during the wild sequence that opponent Nick Schulman joked he shouldn’t get “too excited.”

Schulman, the eventual eighth-place finisher, would have been more mystified if he was there to witness Gregg’s reaction to the victory. Gregg cut the usual process of post-tournament photos and interviews down to 15 minutes and took off to the $25,000 tournament, where he busted out within an hour.

He was all right with it, though. Gregg might not have shown it, but he knew winning $4.8 million made for a special day.

“It feels amazing,” Gregg said. “I couldn’t ask for a better tournament to win a bracelet in.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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