Convinced to play in WSOP by Esfandiari, Rast wins WSOP bracelet

13 June 2011

Following a two-month stay in Brazil with his fiancé, Brian Rast landed in Las Vegas on the morning of Thursday, June 9th. He arrived home on a red-eye flight and was dragging his bags down the hallway of his high-rise condo about 9 a.m., when he ran into his neighbor, friend, and fellow professional poker player Antonio Esfandiari.

When Esfandiari found out Rast had no intention of playing in the $1,500 buy-in Pot-Limit Hold’em Championship at the World Series of Poker, scheduled to start just hours later, he made his good friend an offer he could not possibly refuse. Esfandiari agreed to bankroll Rast and put him in the tournament in exchange for a chunk of his action. And so, off to the Rio Rast went.

Three days later, Rast was awarded his very first WSOP gold bracelet and $227,232, some of which was shared with a certain railbird watching with intense interest.

A 29-year-old from Denver, Colo., Rast's fiancé lives in Brazil; he hopes to bring her to the U.S. immediately following the conclusion of the WSOP.

“I went to Brazil a year and a half ago with (poker pro) Phil Laak," said Rast. "I had four days left on my trip to Rio de Janeiro and I found the woman of my dreams. Her name is Juliana. She is Brazilian and has never been to the United States. We fell in love in four days and after I left we stayed in touch."

Rast has enjoyed some tournament success. But he is noted primarily for his cash-game prowess. Rast has played nosebleed stakes and is well-respected by those who know the cash game culture.

The runner up was Allen “Chainsaw” Kessler, one of poker’s most colorful characters. Kessler plays the tournament circuit year-round. He has accumulated more than $2.3 million in overall tournament winnings. Second place paid $140,309. Kessler holds at least one notable WSOP record. He is only player in history to cash in seven different games within one year of the WSOP, which was set in 2010. Kessler is a graduate of Temple University in his native Philadelphia.

Dajuan Whorley, a real estate builder and developer from Accokeek, Md., finished third, while Japan's Daisuke Endo finished fourth. Mika Paasonen, a 33-year-old poker pro from Jandkkala, Finland, was fifth, Ali Eslami, a high-stakes cash game pro from Van Nuys, Calif., was sixth, and John Gordon, from Clearwater, Fla., was seventh.

Former gold bracelet winner Ted Lawson, from Henderson, Nev., was eighth, and Ronald Lee, from Brooklyn, N.Y., was ninth.

The top 72 finishers collected prize money. In addition to Lawson, former gold bracelet winners who cashed in this event were Hoyt Corkins (49th) and Matthew Hawrilenko (62nd).

Tournament summary provided by Nolan Dalla, WSOP Media Director, reprinted by permission.

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