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Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Raghavan wins Five Diamond main event

Ravi Raghavan earned $1.2 million with his victory in the Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic main event.

The World Poker Tour Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic is always one of the most intriguing stops on the poker calendar. It often presents a larger field for a high-buy-in WPT event and almost always has an impact on the Player of the Year race. In 2012, the Player of the Year races have essentially been determined already (Dan Smith will win the Bluff title, Greg Merson will win the CardPlayer title), but the $10,000 unlimited rebuy event created another huge prize pool of $4.8 million (503 entries). The title went to Ravi Raghavan, who defeated a final table that included Shawn Buchanan, Antonio Esfandiari and Andrew Lichtenberger to win his first WPT title and a seat in the 2013 WPT Championship.

In almost every case, players don't often consider or even think about a "home-field" advantage when it comes to tournaments. Some might be more comfortable or like certain venues better than others, but the location of events is simply irrelevant. However, when it comes to the Five Diamond, Esfandiari might be the exception. Esfandiari has cashed in this event in each of the past five years, and for the third consecutive year, he made the final table. With a massive chip lead and Olympian Michael Phelps back on the WPT rail for the second consecutive event, many expected him to bring home his third WPT title, but one decision changed Esfandiari's course at the Bellagio.

According to the World Poker Tour, after Thomas Winters eliminated Jeremy Kottler in sixth place (7-7 defeated A-K) and Raghavan knocked out Lichtenberger in fifth (Q-4 over A-9), Esfandiari trailed only Raghavan. It appeared to be a two-horse race after some four-handed action as the gap between Raghavan and Esfandiari was limited as they separated their stacks from Buchanan and Winters. With the blinds at 40,000/80,000 and a 10,000 ante, Esfandiari opened to 200,000 out of the small blind and Raghavan raised to 490,000. Esfandiari moved all-in for approximately 3.5 million more and was called instantly, his face filling with dejection as he knew he was well behind. As Mike Sexton always said on the WPT broadcasts, the only hand that will call you in spots like that is one that beats you, and that was exactly the case. Esfandiari was eliminated in fourth as his A-K couldn't overcome Raghavan's A-A. Esfandiari earned $329,339, giving him an all-time best $19 million in earnings on the year. Of course, $18.3 million of that total came from the Big One For One Drop.

With three remaining, Raghavan had more than 60 percent of the chips in play, and two hands later, the heads-up match would be set after Buchanan eliminated the short-stacked Winters (10-10 over A-7). Raghavan had nearly a 3-to-2 edge over the previous WPT champ and over the next 80 hands, it was a clinic on how to grind down an opponent's stack. Buchanan had limited opportunities to get back into the match and on the final hand, with only 15 big blinds left, he moved all-in with K-7 and was up against Raghavan's 7-7. The board ran J-9-9-8-4 and a new star was born on the WPT.

"Can't start to thank everyone for all the love and support," said Raghavan on Twitter. "Can't believe that just happened ..."

Prior to this victory, Raghavan had only $548,775 in live tournament earnings.

The next WPT event will take place at the Borgata from Jan. 27-Feb. 1. Here are the final table results of the 2012 Five Diamond main event:

1. Ravi Raghavan ($1,268,571)
2. Shawn Buchanan ($746,502)
3. Thomas Winters ($483,031)
4. Antonio Esfandiari ($329,339)
5. Andrew Lichtenberger ($234,197)
6. Jeremy Kottler ($187,845)

The Prague Poker Festival

I went on a very positive ramble about the Prague Poker Festival a year ago. I could write the same thing again, but really, just check out what I wrote last year, change the names of the winners and you'll get the point. Tournament director Steve Frezer said it best on Twitter: "Prague is the poker world in Dec."

Once again, the PPF is a huge success. The timing truly is perfect for this event and the attendance thus far has echoed that. Besides the aforementioned Five Diamond and a few WSOP Circuit events here and there, there really isn't a strong tournament trail option in December. Let's take a look at what's happened thus far:

WPT Prague: The first event, a 3,300 euro buy-in, was sponsored by PartyPoker and the WPT. A 567-player turnout offered a top prize of 325,000 euros and Marcin Wydrowski earned his first major title as he outlasted a group of in-the-money stars that included WSOP Europe main event champion Elio Fox (seventh), Kevin MacPhee (11th), Jason Mercier (12th) and Konstantin Puchkov (24th).

Eureka Prague: The largest Eureka tournament in history recorded 644 players and a 29-year-old champion in Menikos Panagiotou. According to PokerStars, the Cypriot earned 137,100 euros, his largest career win, as he eliminated six of his final seven opponents at the final table. Notable cashers include Ana Marquez (17th), Thomas Pettersson (20th) and Michael Aron (28th).

EPT Prague: The record setting continued with the European Poker Tour main event, which began on Dec. 9. A field of 864 players from 63 countries was up 142 from last year's event and is now the richest poker tournament in Czech history. A winner will be crowned on Dec. 15 and first place will award 835,000 euros.

The final two events of the Prague Poker Festival are GSOP Prague and Peoples Poker Tour events.

Small blinds: Adam Teasdale defeated a strong field of 616 players to capture his first WSOP Circuit title, $194,040 and a seat into the WSOP National Championship. & Maria Ho has joined the broadcast team for the Heartland Poker Tour's next season. & Victor Blom defeated Tom Dwan in their $200,000 challenge on Full Tilt Poker. & The National Heads-Up Poker Championships will be returning in 2013. & Giacomo Fundaro won WPT Mazagan for $166,704. & James Gibson won the latest MSPT main event in Shakopee for $96,205. & Dan Murariu won the $1,500 Unibet Open main event in St. Maarten for 110,000 euros.