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"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 

Excellent interview i thought he was a shallow guy and it's quite the opposite !

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.