Top Poker Player Spotlight Antonio Esfandiari
Sep 17, 2017 NEWS
Sometimes in poker, you have to come up with some pretty magic hands to take home the big paychecks, and Antonio Esfandiari is no stranger to magic; he was a professional magician. Born in Tehran, Iran, his family moved to San Jose in the United States in 1988, with Esfandiari knowing no English at all. He learned to speak the language within six months.
Party Life Beckons
Like many of the world poker stars, he was a good pupil at school until he went into the 12th grade. At this stage of his life, 17-years-old, he preferred the party circuit to school life and moved out of home and into his own apartment. He paid his rent by working as a waiter.
It was while working the tables that he got involved in magic, after watching a bar tender perform tricks. Hooked by magic he then sought out the local magic shop to find out how the bartender had pulled off his master trick. Eventually, the shop owner taught Esfandiari the tricks of the trade and the magician’s new apprentice began to use the magic he had learned while waiting tables.
Masters Magic Then Poker
It wasn’t too soon until he had mastered this too and was able to stop waiting tables and concentrate on his new-found career, where he could earn up to $400 an hour. It seems that all the planets were aligned at this stage as Esfandiari picked up a housemate who was a professional poker player. So, he started to get involved in the game at his mate’s request, and in his very first tournament he walked away with cash in his pocket. He was then hooked on poker and was determined to master this too.
First Major Win
In 2002, Esfandiari placed third at the WPT 49’er Gold Rush Bonanza, winning $44,000, making it his first major tournament win. The following year saw him in the WSOP $2,000 No-Limit Hold ‘em tournament’s final table.
He backed this up in 2004 by becoming the youngest player to ever take out a WTP event, when he bested 382 other poker players in the L.A. Poker Classic. He won a huge $1.4 million payday, which he used some of to purchase a Dodge Viper. It was only a few months later in the $2,000 Pot-Limit tournament that he took home a WSOP gold bracelet for beating Phil Nguyen. He also collected a check for $184,860.
This was when Esfandiari decided to embrace the Las Vegas poker scene and move out permanently, to indulge in his pastime. Since then he has made guest appearances on TV shows, commentated on the big tournaments, written books and even appearing in video games.
‘The Magician’ Excels
At the age of 38, Antonio ‘The Magician’ Esfandiari has won three WSOP bracelets and sat at their final table 10 times. He has two World Poker Tour titles while finishing at their final tables six times. In 2012, he walked away with the largest cash prize in poker history when he took out the Big One for One Drop with its $1,000,000 buy-in. He pocketed $18,346,673. He was the number one player for all-time winnings until Daniel Negreanu took over the mantle in 2014.