EN
FR
Topic activity
15 posts
3 Contributors
78 likes
30 Comments
8 reposts

Discussion Leaderboard
Annie RKH Annie RKH
7 posts
Nicolas Levi Nicolas Levi
7 posts
Greg Raymer Greg Raymer
1 posts
Trending now!
Hashtag Posts Contributors
WSOP 44 29
WSOP50 32 13
poker 27 17
GrosvenorPoker 24 1
WeTheNorth 24 15
Monthly trends
Hashtag Posts Contributors
WSOP 331 138
poker 297 101
GrosvenorPoker 263 1
WSOP50 214 72
NLH 196 1

'Casinos always considered poker like a doorstep child' Part II, Jack McClelland Interview

In Part I of the interview long-time tournament director, @Bellagio legend, and 2014 Poker Hall of Fame inductee @Jack McClelland talked about the 'perfect storm', the rise of televised poker and the 'lottery mentality', and the subsequent down cycle.

Poker was traditionally a gambling game, where an amateur could beat any pro on a given day. Then there was a stage when the focus was on poker as a competitive sport, or mind game. And now it feels that it has become too exclusive and less fun, and that it should perhaps go back to being a game again, a fun activity with social interaction. You played professionally yourself for a little while. Was money the main aspect, were you looking for something else?

Poker is a great game to judge a person’s character and their heart. And their competitiveness.

I’ve always loved the competitiveness about tournament poker. Tournament poker is a lot like chess in the sense that you have to think not just one or two steps ahead, but sometimes as many as 5 or 10 steps ahead. While cash games would be like checkers, and if you lose your chips you can always reach in your pocket for more. You can't do that in tournament poker. That;s why there are very few players who can successfully switch back and forth from cash games to tournament poker and do both.

But poker is also the only game where money is how you keep score. I’m not a super technological guy that can play three games and type and chat at the same time. So I’d rather sit in a poker game talking abut whatever we want to talk about - football, or politics, the world... I definitely like the social interaction also. But in the end, the way you keep score in poker is by the money. It’s the only game that’s not played for fun.

Affordable buy-in tournaments are on the rise everywhere. Same for high-rollers. Meanwhile the 5/10k range is in trouble, despite re-entries and other format innovations. Are reentries good for poker in the long run? 

I dont like reentries myself but I understand why. Basically, here in Las Vegas, and pretty much everywhere, you’ve got two types of players now. The $300-500 buy-in, or smaller players, on the one hand, and then you’ve got the guys who are looking for TV and the high-rollers and super high-rollers, and all that stuff. Outside of the World Series, all those events with $1,5000-2,000 or $5,000 buy-ins are gone. People are either playing lower stakes or they are following the TV.

Do you think that the players themselves have a role to play in supporting the industry, is there something they can do? 

It’s very hard because the casinos have complete control over what happens in their casino. And in Las Vegas, for instance, the casinos always considered poker like a doorstep child, because they don’t make good money out of it.

I mean, when we had a really good year at the Bellagio, we still couldn't make as much as they made from the minibars of the hotel…

And that’s when we were booming. It’s just insane, there I am, running tournaments with hundreds and hundreds of players paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees, and I can’t compare with the minibars!..And that was in my good years. In the bad years, I couldn’t compare with the vending machines..

When I first went to work at the Bellagio, everybody treated the poker employees like they were third-class citizens. Then we began with the tournaments and the TV, and they got their shoulders up and felt proud. There were no slot tournaments or crap tournaments or anything like that, it was all poker. So, publicity-wise, it did a lot for the hotel.

Likewise with the World Series. Who wants to be in Vegas in July?.. Yet they're all here because of the World Series of Poker. 

And the people who sign up in tournaments, if you ask how many of them played in the casino, not one in a hundred would say they play. But at midnight, if you take a look at the crap tables, there’s nothing there but poker players. They just don’t want to admit they have a weakness.

Is there anything else you'd like to add in conclusion, any thoughts about the game and the industry?

I’d like to congratulate @Bruno Fitoussi on his Hall of Fame nomination. I know he should be in the Hall of Fame, hopefully he’ll make it next year. As for myself, before I was first nominated in 2011, it had never once crossed my mind that I would ever be selected for something like that.

I wanted to be the best and outside of my family, I’ve devoted my whole life to poker. If that made it even a little bit better over the years, then I feel like I’ve had a successful career.

Poker is just like lfe, you’ve got good guys, yu’ve got bad guys...you’ve got everything. And you have to do the best you can, and move on...

Right now, in Las Vegas, the accounts are running the casinos. And accounts don't want to hear about you making 1 million dollars last month, they want to know why you didn't make two million, or why you gave away a steak dinner to this person, or that person... And it's like that everywhere.

They've taken personal service out of poker and personal service is really what poker is all about.

Someone would come in after 5 years and I’d greet them by their name and people would be so surprised and feel so good I’d remembered their name. It was hard and took a lot of practice but it was one of the things I learned - if you don’t know your customers, you can’t take care of them.

And those people have more value, they should be treated better. And if they want a lobster dinner, they should get it. Because they're not going to just play poker, they will play other games, too. And they will bring in other regular customers. But now, the way the casinos are run, everyone is equal. And it doesn't work out that way. Not if you want to be successful.

The way I see it and what made me successful is, I looked after the casino first;  I looked after the customers second; I looked after the employees third; and I myself came fourth.

And everyone who changes that rotation - after a couple of years they're gone. Because if you don't take care of the casino, they don't need poker anymore; if you don't take care of the customers, they're not going to come back anymore; and if you don't keep your employees happy, they're going to moan to the customers and drive them out. As long as you stick to that order, you're going to be ok. Everybody that's come along and has tried to change that order have been failures. Kind of like Obama :)


From Perfect Storm to Down Cycle and a Whole Different Ball Game. Poker Interview with Jack McClelland - Ranking HeroOur #WeeklyHero @Jack McClelland is a man who has seen it all in his 37 years in poker and who has helped shape the industry as we know it. He talked to @Nicolas Levi about the 'perfect storm', the rise of televised poker and the 'lottery mentality', and the subsequent down cycle.www.rankinghero.com

2014 Poker Hall of Famer Jack McClelland Bio and Poker Profile - Ranking Herowww.rankinghero.com
#RKHinterview #WeeklyHero 

I wanted to be the best and outside of my family, I’ve devoted my whole life to poker. If that made it even a little bit better over the years, then I feel like I’ve had a successful career.

That's strong !!!

A proper interview, Nico!!!

you are right , like this post

Weekly RankingHero Highlights

There's a new question up for discussion on RankngHero: What makes you proud in poker? It might be a supernatural read, a cold-blooded bluff, or maybe a compliment from a respected opponent? Or perhaps you take pride in the way you handled a defeat, resisted a temptation, or kept your cool against an offensive trash-talker? Share your proud moments and enjoy those of others on the MoreThanMoney page!

Happy International Women's Day to all the poker-playing ladies on RankingHero! Many thanks for the great posts to @Mariechocolat and @sev dubju, congrats to the ladies with recent cashes - @Diane Casino@Renee Xie, and last but not least, our own @Eva Dimitrova, who took down another RankingHero Home Game on Friday :) 

Our #WeeklyHero @Jack McClelland has a professional resume which spans nearly 4 decades in poker and is full of reasons for pride and we invite you to read his bio and Part I of the interview by Nicolas Levi!

2014 Poker Hall of Famer Jack McClelland Bio and Poker Profile - Ranking Herowww.rankinghero.com

From Perfect Storm to Down Cycle and a Whole Different Ball Game. Poker Interview with Jack McClelland - Ranking HeroOur #WeeklyHero @Jack McClelland is a man who has seen it all in his 37 years in poker and who has helped shape the industry as we know it. He talked to @Nicolas Levi about the 'perfect storm', the rise of televised poker and the 'lottery mentality', and the subsequent down cycle.www.rankinghero.com

One player who certainly felt proud this week and amazed the poker community was @Anthony Zinno. Zinno won the LAPC Main Event @Commerce Casino  for back-to-back  @World Poker Tour titles (and third WPT win overall). Will the WPT Shooting Star be next?. Follow his profile for updates!

Special welcome to @Philip Hayano @Lee Gibson @David Weyrick and all the new members of our community! Congrats to @Mick Stephens and @Mustafa Ali who keep adding new results, and good luck to everyone at the virtual and live tournament tables next week!

Finally, lots of inspiration to all the French-speaking (and -writing :) bloggers on RankingHero in the new BPT Ribeauvillé  mission!

Yours truly,

@Annie RKH 

#RKHweekly 

 

Merci beaucoup d'avoir pensé à moi pour cette journée. La journée internationnale de la femme c'est pour les conditions de la femme dans le monde. Pour le monde du poker en tout cas en France, rien n'est fermé pour les femmes mais elles doivent effectivement se battrent pour montrer que leur poker n'est pas "féminin" mais construit et réfléchi. De plus on voit que les efforts fait pour faire venir les femmes dans cet univers assez macho n'est pas toujours compris et certains hommes s'inscrivent en dépit de toutes logiques à des tournois ladyes. 

Hey Annie, Happy woman's and Mother's day!! Lot's of flowers from our snowy office in Sofia!

From Perfect Storm to Down Cycle and a Whole Different Ball Game. Poker Interview with Jack McClelland

Our #WeeklyHero @Jack McClelland is a man who has seen it all in his 37 years in poker and who has helped shape the industry as we know it. He talked to @Nicolas Levi about the 'perfect storm', the rise of televised poker and the 'lottery mentality', and the subsequent down cycle.

Stay tuned for Part II of the interview with Jack McClelland and his thoughts on poker as the casinos' 'doorstep child', on the importance of personal service in poker, and his own top 3 professional priorities!

After a huge poker boom, the industry is now contracting, and some are seriously worried as to its future. Professional poker is suffering, while amateur poker seems as strong as ever. Could poker as we know be about to die? How is the industry going to adapt?

Well, in a way, we had the perfect storm. The Internet came along and suddenly people could play at home and learn poker - for free or for a small amount of money. Because if you just go to a casino, poker is a very intimidating game.

Television and the 'lottery mentality'

Before 1998, when I used to run the World Series, it would take months before the ESPN had it on TV, And you never knew when it would be on, it might be a one-hour show at 3 am, or 4 pm, you had to be a really dedicated poker person to find it.  

I was fortunate enough to do the first major televised live tournament in the Isle of Man. You could simply feel the electricity hundreds of yards away. A few months later, I was in Vienna, and I did a televised heads-up tournament where two teenage guys from Finland had these little lipstick cameras and four nights later it’s on TV in the United States! And I’m thinking, why did it take ESPN nine months?!!..

So I could see the potential. About that time I went to work for the Bellagio and the World Poker Tour came along with the idea to do this tour where they would show the hole cards, And my partner @Douglas Dalton  asked me what I thought, and I said it would work. Because I’d seen the Isle of Man, I’d seen Vienna, I’d seen the excitement it creates.

So we got the OK from  @Bobby Baldwin to run the World Poker Tour and I called my friends, Doug called his friends, and next thing, they got the whole tour going. And then a year later, when they did TV, it just exploded.

A little bit later, @Chris Moneymaker won $2.5 million on 40 dollars, and you got the lottery mentality in there, 'Wow, with 40 dollars I can win millions!'

That’s what the people want. They can sit in England, or Canada, or France, or Florida, and for 20-40-100 dollars, they can win a seat to the World Series, win a seat to the Bellagio, or anywhere else. And that was what was really enticing about the whole situation.

The Down Cycle

Then, in the United States, when the government got involved, and with Black Friday a little later, it really, really hurt. You know, I’ve been in the business for 5 decades. There are not many tricks to tournament poker that I don’t know and I was at the end of my wits at the Bellagio.

We used to be inundated with Europeans, we used to have a huge Asian following at the tournaments, and it all just disappeared. Asian players would go to Hong Kong and the Europeans would stay home and play in the EPT because of the PokerStars. And I don’t blame them. When I go to Poland, I visit the different sites and PokerStars have all the action. Like Jack Binion used to say, ‘action begets action’. So that’s where people go. 

If I was European and I had to come to the United States to pay 30% tax and maybe not get it back, when I could stay home and play big events where I could win a quarter of a million or half a million, why would I come?...

So I don’t blame the players, it’s not the players’ fault at all. Basically, we had non-gaming people get involved and that’s what really did the damage.

When we had the Internet really going, with all the sponsorship deals and so on, there was a lot of loose money around. Once the Internet more or less went away, the loose money went away with it. And then there was the slowdown of the economy, People that had money remained cautious with it. It used to be, if you had $100,000 and you blew it, it was not a big deal, you’d get it back in a month or two. Now, it’s simply not there. Now you go back and start grinding, trying to make a living. It’s just very difficult. I mean, on the operators’ side it’s difficult and on the players’ side it’s 20 times harder. 

We were on a run for about five years, when it was just up-up-up all the time. And now we’re in a down cycle. Hopefully, there will be an up-cycle again.

A Completely Different Ball Game

Before 1985, which is when they opened up stud and hold’em poker in California, the average age of the players was probably about 60. The older people were playing and young people were looking for something else. Over the next decade, it dropped to 40 then as we got closer to 2000, it went back up to 50. But then the World Poker Tour came along, and ESPN got connected to the World Series, and they started showing Poker After Dark, and all the other television shows. The next year at the World Series, all of a sudden, the average age was around 23 years! It just made a completely different dynamic.

I’m 63 years old and I started palying when I was 6. But the way you learned was by playing. You play, you go broke, you learn, start over again, go broke again... Nowadays, by the time they’re 18-19 years old, kids have played 3 million hands, and they’ve got the computer to anayze what they should have done in this or that situation. It’s a completely different ball game. 

Part II is up! Read on:

'Casinos always considered poker like a doorstep child' Part II, Jack McClelland Interview - Ranking HeroIn Part I of the interview long-time tournament director, @Bellagio legend, and 2014 Poker Hall of Fame inductee @Jack McClelland talked about the 'perfect storm', the rise of televised poker and the 'lottery mentality', and the subsequent down cycle.www.rankinghero.com

2014 Poker Hall of Famer Jack McClelland Bio and Poker Profile - Ranking Herowww.rankinghero.com
#RKHinterview 

I love the articles you post Annie, they are really keeping me up to date!

2014 Poker Hall of Famer Jack McClelland Bio and Poker Profile

"Poker players are intense. Poker's not life or death to them; it's much more important than that."

@Jack McClelland  was born in 1952 in McConnelsville, Ohio and moved to Las Vegas in 1976 as the drier Nevada climate was recommended for his mother’s health.

His grandmother taught him poker when he was 6 and he has loved the game ever since, but Jack found his true calling on the other side of the poker tables. As a teenager, he was already organizing poker tournaments for the neighborhood kids.

My grandmother taught me how to play, starting with two-cent ante, nickel-limit seven-card stud. I was kept broke until I was ten years old because I couldn’t throw a hand away (laughs). But I learned a lot about math playing poker. (Cardplayer interview, 2013) 

At the time of the family move to Nevada, Jack was a semi-professional bowler. In Las Vegas he got a job at Sahara Casino and was soon working as a dealer, moving up to shift manager within 18 months.

"I did everything. Set-ups, emptying ashtrays, learning to deal... A year later, I was shift manager." (PokerNews)

The casino closed in 1980 and for a while McClelland was active as a player on the live circuit, collecting first-hand experience, observations and (mostly) complaints about the way tournaments were run at the time. His late wife @Alma McClelland (herself a poker player and winner of the 1989 WSOP Ladies Event) at one point exclaimed, “If you’re such a genius, why don’t you run them yourself!”.

And that’s what he ended up doing! He started running shifts at WSOP, rapidly working his way up and running tournaments in the WSOP for 15 years. McClelland is also largely credited for bringing tournament poker to the @Commerce Casino and has directed tournaments all over the world, including Isle of Man, Austria, Cyprus, and Russia.

Because of his late wife Alma’s illness he had withdrawn from the poker scene for some years and had to start all over again in the new millenium. Both in poker and in his personal life, with a second marriage. Jack has often said it was his Polish wife Elizabeth’s passion for travel that got him back on the live circuit as a tournament director.

In 2002 he started as TD at the @Bellagio and it was to remain his home base right up to his retirement in 2013, for health reasons.

 

Jack McClelland was involved in the creation of the @World Poker Tour in 2002, with the then innovative idea of televised tournaments with hole cards. He has been a major figure in the poker industry ever since and through the years of the poker boom, the recession, and the slow recovery since Black Friday 2011.

I’m pretty proud that over 37 years in gaming I’ve never had a gaming violation or employee complaints. If I’ve improved the game of poker any at all over the years by rules or things I’ve done, then I feel like I’ve had a successful career.

In 2014 the poker community wholeheartedly welcomed McClelland's induction into the Poker Hall of Fame alongside @Daniel Negreanu

Jack McClelland, 63, has seen poker from all sides and from its highest high to its lowest low. A one-time semi-professional bowler who moved out to Las Vegas to help his ailing mother, McClelland ended up with one of the most storied poker operations careers spanning five decades. McClelland has worked with three existing Poker Hall of Famers, Eric Drache, Jack Binion and Bobby Baldwin and was involved at the Bellagio when Mike Sexton and the WPT brought their first tournament there. From tournament directing the WSOP in the 80’s to running the Bellagio poker room from 2002 to 2013, McClelland has been part of a lot of poker history, and has done so from the operator side, starting as an $18 a day dealer and working his way up to running the biggest events and biggest rooms in Las Vegas. McClelland also played a little poker, but only for a brief stint full time. He has worked poker events in Aruba, Cyprus, London, Vienna and Russia. McClelland retired at the end of last year.

(POKER HALL OF FAME ANNOUNCES CLASS OF 2014, WSOP.com)

“Being inducted into the Class of 2014 Poker Hall of Fame is a very exciting prospect and I am sure it will be a very humbling experience. I thank everyone involved in this process and to the WSOP, WPT and all of the great people I have met and the wonderful people I have worked with throughout the years. Thank you for bestowing this honor upon me. I am very grateful.”


As Ty Stewart put it when congratulating the 47th and 48th HOF inductees, Negreanu and McClelland, “both have devoted their full hearts to the game”.

Jack McClelland is in need of a heart transplant and in his own words (from a moving letter to his friend Nolan Dala), has ‘taken a gamble on his life’, declining a heart battery while waiting for a transplant.

Gambling has been my life. Hopefully I made the right decision this time.

We hope so too and look forward to seeing Jack compete again and enjoy many good runs without the burden of actually running the games :)

For a complete listing of Jack McClelland's tournament poker results:

Jack McClelland - Poker index and results of Jack McClellandDiscover and follow Jack McClelland on the poker social network: United States and international ranking, results, tournaments, blog, pictures and endorsements. www.rankinghero.com

Jack McClelland - A Man With Heart - Nolan Dalla    There’s bitter irony to the news Jack McClelland needs a heart transplant. As poker’s grand inquisitor for the past 30 years, Jack has been the very heart of the game for as long as I can remember. I first met Jack when he served as Tournament Director for the World Series of Poker during the 1980s.  Teamed with his longtime confidant Jim Albrecht, together they were the most respected 1-2 duo in the game.  Like pocket kings. Things were much different when they started …www.nolandalla.com

#RKHbio 

Stay tuned for @Nicolas Levi's interview with our #WeeklyHero Jack McClelland! 

"I play poker to live, I don't live to play poker" Antonio Esfandiari Interview

Has the game become too elitist and off-putting to regular fans and amateurs? Is the industry in for a major change? Nicolas Levi continues the Rankinghero interview series about the poker industry with two-time @World Poker Tour champion and winner of 3 @WSOP bracelets, our #WeeklyHero @Antonio Esfandiari

After a huge poker boom, the industry is now contracting, and some are seriously worried as to its future. Professional poker is suffering, while amateur poker seem as strong as ever. Could poker as we know it be about to die? How is the industry going to adapt?

Well, I don't think poker is ever going to die just because everybody loves the game, I don't know anybody that learned to play poker and said, "oh, I don't want to play anymore." Some professionals might get hurt. That is probably true, but what can you do? With people getting better, especially with the internet age, we just have to adapt to the times.

Poker is not going anywhere, it's just that maybe professional poker players have to start thinking doing something else in addition to just poker. Some of the elite players will make it. I think a lot of them will probably start teetering off a little bit.

Do you think that the professionals are less needed and the industry is going to do well without them if they become rarer and rarer?

Well, the thing is that they are not going to become rare. I mean, poker players are willing to do anything basically, they are willing to work for free. They are willing to do anything to get their name out there and get any kind of publicity they can. There is never going to be a lack of poker players willing to do whatever people need. If there is an event, a poker tournament, you need a poker host. They're never not going to have an option to find somebody.

Is money your sole purpose for playing poker? Has your motivation changed over time?

I really can’t say the sole purpose, but obviously it's different between ten years ago and now. So, there's never one answer. Back then, it was a great way to make money. Today, it’s obviously more challenging, everyone’s better now and it’s much tougher.

As for me, my sole purpose is not money. No! I like the challenge.

I think I’m relatively established in the poker universe and so I’m kind of riding that wave. It's just that this is what my life has come to. I’m a professional poker player. In the beginning I didn’t think that I would be a professional poker player forever, and I still don’t. But when something is working, I just go with it.

Poker is traditionally a gambling game, where an amateur could beat any pro on a given day. The Moneymaker effect is now fading. With the focus on the competitive aspect of poker, amateurs now feel inadequate and quit. Today the game feels elitist and less fun. Is that a huge problem? Do you think it can be fixed?

I almost feel like it passed a point of no return. I mean, these kids have come along. And it’s no longer fun to play. I hate to say it. But they don't understand the long term effect that they are delivering to the fish. For instance, they open a pot. Just a simple open. And the kid wants to start studying the guy. Seriously, it's so standard what you're going to do and you want to study the guy when it's been just an open?!..  It's like a joke. 

I hate when I see that. I've actually written an article about it and I think that they are completely ruining the game and it’s not fun anymore. It really isn't. I mean, even when I'm at a table and playing a wizard, they are just taking everything so seriously and every decision is so crucial when it’s really so standard. It’s not fun anymore. There are still those fun games but it’s rare to find one.

Today social media makes everyone the star of their online community. Players can spread ideas and change the reputation of a brand in hours. As an ambassador of the game, what tools do you use? Is the industry using them to their potential?

I don't really follow poker on social media. I do my thing when I'm called upon, but I don't really follow poker.

I like to live my life. I play poker to live, I don't live to play poker.

Read on:

"I Am Blessed, Plain and Simple": Antonio Esfandiari Bio & Poker Profile - Ranking HeroTwo WPT titles, three WSOP bracelets, and the biggest live tournament cash in poker history - our #WeeklyHero @Antonio Esfandiari certainly has a lot of blessings to count! Yet this public statement from February 2015 was not poker related. It was inspired by fatherhood - by a man's great love and admiration for his father and the birth of his own son:www.rankinghero.com

#RKHinterview 

6 Comments Display all

One of my favorite players along with Laak and Tilly

So I guess you watched their TV show with the prob bets? DId you see the one with the pole dancing? 

Antonio ...The Magician  is one of the best in poker world.

'I Am Blessed, Plain and Simple' Antonio Esfandiari Bio & Poker Profile

Two WPT titles, three WSOP bracelets, and the biggest live tournament cash in poker history - our #WeeklyHero @Antonio Esfandiari certainly has a lot of blessings to count! Yet this public statement from February 2015 was not poker related. It was inspired by fatherhood - by a man's great love and admiration for his father and the birth of his own son:

On January 7th at 8:01 am, I became a father of a beautiful son. It was a moment that truly cannot be explained, only experienced. I am shocked and transformed, and my life has changed forever.

I have to admit that my life has been quite a ride. I took the road less travelled from a repressed life in Iran to America, and wrote my own unique version of the ‘American Dream’. I found my incredible wife and soulmate, and now feel like I have truly arrived as I experience a life with my beautiful, healthy and handsome son.

I am blessed, plain and simple.

Photo: http://www.bluff.com/news/wsop-photo-blog-ladies-with-bling-kung-fu-kicks-and-stacks-of-cash-32576/

The early years

Amir Esfandiari was born on December 8, 1978 in Iran and lived in Tehran until 1988.

I remember we were at war with Iraq and there would be bombs going off and we’d have to go and hide out in the basements of the apartment that we used to live in.

When he was about 10, the family moved to America. Soon after their arrival in San Jose, CA, his parents divorced and his mother went back to Iran. Antonio and his younger brother were raised by their father and grandparents.

We were very lucky and my father gave up his entire life and everything in Iran to bring us to America and give his kids a better life.

 

 

Wow...my brother @uberpasha and me... Many moons ago... Just being. I love you so much Baraddaaaar !!! http://instagram.com/magicantonio/ Antonio's brother. Pasha 'Paul' Esfandiary is a poker player too: http://www.rankinghero.com/pasha.esfandiari

By the time he was 18 and before he had finished high-school, Antonio had left home and was supporting himself by working as a waiter. He graduated in 1997 and tried studying business at college but 'couldn’t get into it'.

I was a straight-A student up until my last semester of high school, my senior year, when I started getting into bad things and partying. I ran away from home the night before I turned 17. I came home and my father and I had a fight, so I packed my stuff and I left. ..when I was about 18 I got my own apartment. My whole senior year I had my own apartment. I paid for it by working as a waiter. I always made good bucks as a waiter. I got tons of tips. As soon as I got my own apartment my place was party-central. I had the party house. Every Friday night was a huge blowout and my grades dropped as my partying increased.

Magic

It was in that same senior year of crazy partying and waiting tables that Antonio discovered magic.

One night I was sitting in the restaurant where I worked, Left at Albuquerque, and I saw this bartender do a magic trick. He did about three and I was baffled. So I went straight to a magic store that had just opened up in town. I talked to the guy who ran it and explained the trick the barman had done. He said to me, “You can do exactly what he did,” and I thought, “No way!” I bought this trick and some others and just started performing them for people. The reaction I got was great and I was instantly hooked. People were suddenly interested in what I was doing, so I had to learn more. For about two years I practiced for about 12 hours a day.

He was still working as a waiter, performing tricks for his customers and soon started getting magic gigs at corporate parties, which paid $300-400 an hour. By the time he was 20, he had changed his name to Antonio and had become a professional magician.  

Poker beginnings

Antonio Esfandiari was first introduced to poker by a roommate who took him to his first live tournament when he was 19 (and had to lie about his age to play).

I actually won my first tournament. Scott said, “If you’re really going to start playing, you should read a book and really learn how to play;” so, he gave me Lee Jones’, Winning Low Limit Hold ’Em. I read it and just started doing what it told me to and that’s when I started playing poker.

At the age of 22 he was making enough from poker to quit magic and waiting tables and to start crushing them full time.

World Poker Tour 

Esfandiari's first recorded cash in a live tournament was from Event 11 in the 2002 WPT LAPC at the @Commerce Casino (which would prove a lucky venue for him). It was in that year that he became one of the most-talked about newcomers in live poker with his impressive performance in the @World Poker Tour Gold Rush Tournament and the famous confrontation with @Phil Hellmuth whom he busted in 4th place. Antonio made his first final table in a major live event and finished 3rd for $44,000.

Some called him Kid44 after that cash, but only two years later had to change it to Kid 1.4 MILLION when The Magician won his first WPT champion title in 2004 WPT LAPC. (A feat he repeated in 2010, when he won the Five Diamond World Poker Classic and his second WPT title).

At the time I won, I was the youngest player ever to win a WPT event. I won $1.4 million. I spent some of the winnings on a Dodge Viper and some on an Armani suit.

'The beginning of a beautiful friendship'

They have been roommates, best friends and partners in numerous poker projects in the past decade, the latest one being Underground Poker (a proposed reality TV series about private high-stakes games). Antonio Esfandiari and @Phil Laak's friendship from their early wild years, through downswings, and into maturity is a true source of inspiration!  (And if you ever run out of prop bet ideas, check out their 'I Bet You' show for some fun&crazy challenges.)

When I was just getting into high-stakes poker I had the fortune to meet Phil Laak. Later on we ended up moving in together in San Francisco. I met Phil at the WSOP while I was doing magic for the people at my table. I noticed Phil wasn’t looking at the magic, but at my hands; trying to figure it out. I hate it when people do that. So I went to another table and Phil moved with me and started looking at my hands again. So we started chatting and hanging out. I went to New York to visit him and we partied and every now and then I would call him to tell him about the games in the Bay Area. So he came out to visit and, by the time he left, we had pre-paid for an apartment for six months.

The WSOP

With 3 bracelets and 30 ITM finishes worth a total of $21,102,136, Antonio Esfandiari tops the all-time WSOP earnings ranking and has scored the biggest single cash in live tournament poker history - $18,346,673!

The Bracelets:

2004, 35th WSOP, Event 21

2012, 43rd WSOP, Big One for One Drop

2012, WSOPE, Event 2

 

Ultimate Poker

In 2013 Ultimate Poker signed Antonio Esfandiari as its brand ambassador on the occasion of its online Nevada launch.

"We're thrilled to have Antonio Esfandiari represent our company," said Ultimate Poker chairman Tom Breitling. "Antonio is the ultimate champion and modern poker player. He brings the gaming lifestyle to the online arena with his work-hard, play-hard attitude." (PokerNews)

 

 

And to conclude, here's a piece of inspirational advice from a 2012 reddit AMA by Esfandiari:

Focus on your health first, workout EVERY day, eat healthy!!! And write down your goals and what steps you need to get to where you want to be and JUST DO IT. You can do anything you want...as long as you have a clear vision of what it is that you want.

Don't miss the interview by @Nicolas Levi:

"I play poker to live, I don't live to play poker" Antonio Esfandiari Interview - Ranking HeroHas the game become too elitist and off-putting to regular fans and amateurs? Is the industry in for a major change? Nicolas Levi continues the Rankinghero interview series about the poker industry with two-time @World Poker Tour champion and winner of 3 @WSOP bracelets, our #WeeklyHero @Antonio Esfandiari! www.rankinghero.com

 

Check out Esfandiari's stats page on RankingHero for a full listing of his live poker results, including the latest cash at @ARIA Resort & Casino. Follow his profile and give him disctinctions:

Antonio Esfandiari - Poker index and results of Antonio EsfandiariDiscover and follow Antonio Esfandiari on the poker social network: United States and international ranking, results, tournaments, blog, pictures and endorsements. www.rankinghero.com


Antonio Esfandiari (@magicantonio) • Instagram photos and videosThe official Instagram of professional poker player Antonio Esfandiariinstagram.com

Antonio Esfandiari on Fatherhood Little munchkin time...www.bluffeurope.com

The Rise Of A Poker MillionaireDespite amassing millions of dollars in Poker, Antonio Esfandiari has not lost track on his roots. The Iranian reminisces on his move to America and early days.www.bluff.com

Antonio also has an IMDb profile and you may have seen him and best buddy Phil Laak in Deal (2008) with Burt Reynolds:

Poker Outside the Casinos | Underground PokerCatch UNDERGROUND POKER Wed Sep 10 10/9c on Discovery. | http://www.discovery.comwww.youtube.com

I Bet You Season 1 - Episode 4: TattooGet $1000 FREE and start playing: http://tiny.cc/lkbybx I Bet You I Bet You is a show about the lives of best friends and professional poker players Phil "Th...www.youtube.com

 #RKHbio 

excellent, very informative !

Greg Raymer Interview: 'Have fun yourself, make it fun for everyone else, and it'll be a better game'

The RankingHero interview series continues with one of the most experienced and committed ambassadors of the game, 2004 WSOP Champion and our #WeeklyHero - @Greg Raymer.  He talked to Nicolas Levi about the past, present, and future of the industry and the role of professional poker players.



Hi, Greg. You played a big role in the poker boom yourself. Since then, the industry seems to be contracting. A lot of people are worried about its future. On the one hand you've got professional poker that's suffering hard, and on the other side, all the amateur world and the smaller poker leagues seem to be as strong as ever. Is poker as we know it about to die, or is the industry going to adapt?

Well, poker as we know it is going to die but that's true of every single thing in the world, everything changes. It's always different, but that doesn't mean that what comes next isn't better.

So having said that, I think there are going to be some big changes in poker and it is largely, I think, because players are so much better; you could make a living as a poker pro before the boom ten years ago and you didn't have to have advanced knowledge, you could do quite well beating live games with what we would now consider pretty weak poker skills. You can't come in as a novice anymore and become a winning player easily. It's kind of like other games that are more advanced in their knowledge, like chess...

In chess you have to work really hard for a long time. No matter how smart you are and no matter how much natural talent you might have for the game, you're going to work hard for many years before you are even close to being really competitive with the better players, and poker didn't use to be that way. It used to be that someone could come along and maybe just work hard for a few months and become a winning player.

The past decade has focused on the competitive aspect of poker and it has created, like you said, this generation of players that have worked really hard to become good. Many poker players have started to feel inadequate and quit. As a result, the game feels elitist. Do you think that's the root of the problem and can it be fixed?

No, I don't think that's really the problem, it just means that there's going to be a relatively small fraction of the players that can play and expect to beat the game in the long run, and to some extent, that's a lot more true online that it is live.

Live settings, live games still tend to be a lot more social, a lot more about people having fun and getting their entertainment and you don't see a high percentage of players in a live poker room who are there with the intention of making a living. Iin fact most of them, if they were honest with themselves, don't even really expect to win.

Before I won the Main Event I was a part-time pro and before that I was a serious amateur, and I was doing my best to win and I was working to improve my game and all those things, but I wasn't making a living. I was making my living as an attorney and I was trying to make more money as a poker player, not so much because I needed the money, but because it served to fulfill my competitive outlets.

And then I made the transition to full-time professional player after winning the Main Event, but of course you have a big advantage over the majority of players that you can make money without having to win it. I can get appearance fees, I can get endorsement deals...I can do these things that will allow me to make income without having to be a winner at the table for every dollar that I'm going to put towards my livelihood. And there's obviously only a handful of us that are lucky enough to be in that situation.

For everyone else, if you're going to make a living, you have to win that money at the table, and that's just harder and harder to do. It's not that much harder in a live game setting than it was before the poker boom, but it's harder, people are definitely a lot better. And it's harder to get in the kind of volume you need to make significant income.

Because now for every one pro who's going to play 30 tables he needs a hundred losing players to fill all the other seats and he has to share some of those with other pros like himself. It was kind of a commonly accepted wisdom before the poker boom that 10% of the players in the poker world were long-term winning players, and I think we've found with online we can measure it more exactly. I'm pretty sure the number would be a lot less than 10%.

Is there any trend that looks good from your insider perspective?

Well, I think it's going to get better primarily for a lot of the same reasons that around the world everything's getting better to a pretty significant extent.

I'm not saying that there isn't more improvement necessary, I'm just saying that things have been trending toward the better in most areas. Certainly if I'm dark-skinned in America today I'm a lot better off than I was even 50 years ago, when I was born. Life is a lot easier in terms of racial discrimination in this country than it was 50 years ago, and hopefully it'll be much better again in another 50 years, and the same for everything else...

I think attitudes and opinions are better despite us fighting for online poker against conservative Christian groups and stuff like that. In the US, I still think things are a lot more liberal in that regard, people don't seem to want the government to be imposing morality on society as much as they used to. So things will improve, it's just a question of how much, how soon.

What has been your main drive to play poker - beating your competitor or making money?

Well, it's the competition and then whether you win the game is measured by winning money, so it is certainly a big part of it for me. But I understand completely that for the vast majority of poker players that's not really it because if they're being honest with themselves they would know that they're not winning money, they would know that they're losing money. It is essentially entertainment.

And even though they lose, poker remains comparable to, or even less expensive than some other hobbies. If you're a guy who instead of playing poker once or twice a week, you buy a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and ride it around the countryside and that's your entertainment, I suspect buying the motorcycle, gasoline, maintenance, insurance etc, ends up costing you a lot more money than the average poker player loses when he plays poker.

Speaking of motivation to play, do you think social aspects and every sort of innovation around social can play a big part in making a positive experience for the players and making poker fun again?

It's obviously impossible for me to know but my guess would be that those things have a relatively high likelihood of being beneficial.

Simple things like volume, how many hands you have played or how many tournaments you have entered - awarding points or some distinction like a digital ribbon. I can see that being something that people would be happy about, and would like to brag about to their friends. And certainly, since it doesn't cost you anything as a site or a live room to warrant such things, you’ve got no downside really.

The big hurdle standing in our way everywhere, not just in the US, but in Europe and other parts of the world, are the problems with governments either wanting to segregate their country when it comes to online poker or outlaw it, or tax it at ridiculous rates.

I think our biggest issue is just dealing with politicians, whether it's the US, Europe or anywhere else in the world, make them want to stay out of our way or promote our business just like they would want to promote some other industry.

Maybe a good analogy is the guy who's making the Harley Davidsons and the sailboats - you don't need those… You don't have to have a Harley or any kind of touring bike, those are not bikes that are really used for transportation in the sense of getting to and from work or anything like that. They don't really have any value in a utilitarian sense. They are for fun.There's no difference between that industry and live or online poker, it's there for fun. So if you're going to promote one, why not the other?

What positive role could/should professionals play in supporting the industry? Are they doing it?

You know, Wil Wheaton is an American actor and author, you might remember him from Star Trek The Next Generation. He postulated a simple and universal rule which is now referred to as “Wheaton’s Law” in gaming culture: “Don’t be a dick!”

In other words, yeah, the game itself might be violent, you're shooting zombies and so on, but don't be a dick towards the other players. Don't say nasty stuff to them in the chatbox, don’t be abusive.

And I think poker players should follow that rule as well - ‘don't be a dick’. I mean, be a nice guy, whether it's online or live, treat people with respect. Don't be a dick, don't be a douchebag, don't be an angle shooter, make the game fun.

If you're playing for fun, then try to make it fun for everybody. If you're a professional trying to make money - well, you're making money because other people are coming to play for fun. Make it fun so they want to come play.

People who are deliberately trash-talking and being abusive to other players thinking they will put everyone on tilt so they'll lose their money quicker, are probably wrong. And even if they're right, they're being short-sighted because they will chase away the players that are going to lose to them. And so these guys make the game worse for themselves and for everybody else in the long run.

That would be my main advice to players: make it fun, have fun yourself and make it fun for everyone else, and it'll be a better game, whether you're a pro or not.

Greg, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you for your insights and good luck at the tables!

Read on:

2004 WSOP Champion Greg Raymer Bio & Poker Profile

Official website:

 

#RKHinterview