Ali Eslami Wins WSOP Circuit Western Regional Championship

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Battling through a small but strong field at Harrah’s Rincon outside of San Diego, one of the more underrated players in the game, Ali Eslami, captured the title at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Circuit Western Regional Championship late Wednesday.

Only 98 players showed up on Sunday for the WSOP Circuit Western Regional Championship, making it the smallest Regional Championship held so far. The Eastern Regional Championship, held in Atlantic City in December, drew 136 players, while the Midwest Regional Championship, held in Hammond, Indiana in October, drew a sizeable field of 226.

Virtually every table inside the Harrah’s Rincon held a challenge for the field. 2011 National Heads-Up Poker Championship victor Erik Seidel headed a list of notables that included PokerStars pro Daniel Negreanu, Kathy Liebert, Jonathan Little, Scott Montgomery, Carlos Mortensen, and Shannon Shorr.

As play began on Wednesday, recent Wynn Classic champion Tim West held the chip lead, with one of the most successful players in the history of the WSOP Circuit, Dwyte Pilgrim, in hot pursuit. Others at the table included veteran poker pro Steve Brecher, David Peters, and Eslami. Up for grabs were a $282,242 first place prize, a diamond and gold WSOP Circuit ring, and a seat at the WSOP Circuit National Championship in May.

Eslami took a sizeable pot against Brecher in the early going to take the chip lead and used it to go on a run of eliminations that further established him as a force on the felt. He eliminated Pilgrim in seventh place when his flopped two pair faded Pilgrim’s top pair and a flush draw. Eslami then administered the knockout blow to Dana Kellstrom, who finished sixth.

Down to five players, only West’s 930,000-chip stack could contend with the 1.2 million Eslami had accumulated. The other players on the table – Brecher, Peters, and D.J. Blanchard – could only account for 750,000 in chips combined. Even though the counts were fairly lopsided, the five survivors would take the next five hours to determine a champion.

Eslami continued to be the Grim Reaper, eliminating Peters in fifth place and Brecher in fourth to get the action down to three. Once West dispatched Blanchard in third place, he was able to draw within 400,000 chips of Eslami for the heads-up fight.

Over the two-hour heads-up match, West and Eslami jousted, with neither seemingly able to make a dent in the other’s stack. At one point, West drew into a tie with Eslami and it looked as though it would take both players catching a big hand to determine a winner.

That’s exactly what happened when West opened the betting to 62,000 only to have Eslami 3bet to 138,000. Sitting behind about a million in chips, West committed them to the center and Eslami called. The A-Q offsuit that West turned up was no match for the pocket rockets held by Eslami and, after an uneventful board that eliminated West on the turn, Eslami became the WSOP Circuit’s Western Regional Champion:

1. Ali Eslami – $282,242
2. Tim West – $174,443
3. D.J. Blanchard – $124,204
4. Steve Brecher – $90,223
5. David Peters – $66,834
6. Dana Kellstrom – $50,455
7. Dwyte Pilgrim – $38,808
8. Dylan Wilkerson – $30,397
9. Miller Dao – $24,235

These nine men are now qualified for the WSOP Circuit National Championship, which will take place at Caesars Palace at the end of May prior to the start of the 2011 WSOP.

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