Antonio Esfandiari

Name: Antonio Esfandiari
Nickname: The Magician
Birth Date: December 8, 1978
Birth Place: Tehran, Iran
Current Residence: San Francisco, California, USA
Poker Room: PokerStars

Antonio Esfandiari is the magician that turned poker pro. He was born in the city of Tehran, Iran and his parents moved the family United States in 1988 when he was 9 years old. He had very basic English communicative skills but had to start school in a new homeland and learned the language in less than six months. He grew up in the San Jose area and proved to be a great student in his early teenage years. His original birth name is Amir which he changed because of teasing at school.

Later on as he grew older, he got heavily involved with the party scene and ended up moving away from home at the young age of just 17. Antonio found an apartment alone and started working as a waiter to gather up the money for rent. Living alone was the perfect excuse to party all night and his studies deteriorated fast.

This is when Esfandiari showed interest in magic tricks as he was waitering and observed a bartender performing a magic trick and that changed everything. He was impressed with the show and went to the store in order to learn more. He started doing small magic tricks while waitering, performing for extra tips and started making $300 to $400 an hour just doing magic. He convinced the owners to allow him do a few magic tricks to entertain the venue customers. Soon enough, he gave up waitering at this point and focused on magic, worked hard on his magic and practiced coin tricks and card tricks.

By this time, Antonio was sharing the apartment with a roommate who happened to be a professional poker player and thus started experimenting with the card art. This worked out well and he started playing outside the casinos, due to his young age but still made money. One day during a poker tournament, Antonio tagged along and played his first poker tournament. He was knocked out early but he had already caught the poker bug and went home to learn more from the poker books.

Esfandiari started entering the high-stakes poker world and came across fellow poker pro Phil Laak while sitting at a WSOP table. Esfandiari was amusing the other people there with his magic tricks with Laak investigating how he did it but they ended up chatting and have been good friends since then. In fact, they bonded so well, that they ended up sharing an apartment and move forward in the poker world.

Eventually, the poker world started noticing Esfandiari as he made a name for himself and placed third at the 2002 WPT 49′er Gold Rush Bonanza in San Francisco for $44,000 ahead of Phil Hellmuth. This was the first major tournament win for Esfandiari and then in 2003, he fought till the final table of the $2,000 No-Limit Hold’em tournament at annual WSOP. He took 5th during this year as his first WSOP cash in the $2,000 No Limit Hold’em event against the likes of Jim Meehan, Juha Helppi, Mike Sexton, and Kathy Liebert. This is when Antonio moved to Las Vegas and started keeping up a high-profile image.

In 2004, his best year so far, he faced the L.A. Poker Classic in Los Angeles where he went through a field of 382 and won first place and a huge $1.4 million. At the time, he bought a Dodge Viper and an Armani suit to celebrate the prize money. Also in 2004, he participated at the L.A. classic once again and beat Phil Nguyen in the $2,000 Pot-Limit Event for $184,860 and his nemesis Phil Hellmuth for a victory in the $2,000 Pot Limit Hold’em event and the WSOP gold bracelet.

He also made two final tables on the WPT in the same week, winning almost $1.4 million at the WPT L.A. Poker Classic at the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles. During the same week, he made his third final table on the WPT coming in 6th at the WPT Invitational at the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles. In the 2005 WSOP he got to the final table in the Short-handed NL event and finished in 5th at a final table.

Antonio has an aggressive style of play, showing he is a fearless player who senses weakness in his opponents before attacking.

Nowadays, he writes books, appears in video games and instructional DVD. Antonio also appeared on television in shows like High Stakes Poker and the National Heads-Up Poker Championship and starred in the reality show I Bet on You. On occasion, he can be tempted to give Las Vegas nightlife tours for $1000. He confesses his dream is to open a magic-themed restaurant. He lives in San Francisco, California at the moment where he plays on the tournament circuit.

Antonio Esfandiari’s other achievements

  • 13 cashes and over $ 2,000,000 in winnings
  • 1 first place finish
  • 1st at the WPT Season 2, L.A. Poker classic
  • 5th at the 2005 WSOP, Event 6 Short Handed No-Limit Hold’em
  • 3rd at the 2003 WSOP, Event 5, No-Limit Hold’em
  • 3rd at the WPT Season 1, Gold Rush

Esfandiari’s beginning as a magician turned out to be helpful in the poker world as he has said that his two professions complement each other. When he was a magician he learned to estimate human behaviour and this skill helped during card play. Since then he’s been a huge asset to the poker community where he is known for his flashy lifestyle and fantastic tricks.

Antonio balances card-playing ability with his magic tricks and is a rising stars in the poker scene today. He had fantastic performances on the WSOP and the World Poker Tour, where he was the youngest player to ever win a televised poker tournament. We are sure Antonio Esfandiari will achieve even more and rank it out with the best pros at the moment as he holds all the skills necessary to make it far.