Annie RKH
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'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.


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.


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


excellent, very informative !