Antonio Esfandiari is a member of the most ultra-exclusive of high stakes poker tournament clubs – a winner of both a World Series of Poker and a World Poker Tour title. Not only that: Esfandiari has already made it to a final table in the newly created European Poker Tour and is a common fixture in many of the highest stakes poker games in the world.
But the man known as “The Magician” did not begin his career as so many poker prodigies do (i.e. underage and sneaking into clubs illegally and still dominating) but rather as a different sort of card player: at the age of 19, the Tehran born Amir Esfandiari changed his first name to Antonio and became a professional magician.
For years, Antonio Esfandiari made his living as a magician, travelling across the country performing small theaters, clubs and eventually, casinos. In those same casinos, Esfandiari would be invited to join in on poker games, where the eventual superstar would learn the game that would build his fortune.
In 2004, Antonio burst onto the tournament scene after shunning it for the previous 6 years, instead choosing to get involved with cash games almost exclusively. But with the 2003 Chris Moneymaker tournament poker explosion, Esfandiari was persuaded to become a more active member of the poker tournament circuits.
Antonio Esfandiari exploded onto the scene in 2004 with major successes in both the World Poker Tour and World Series of Poker, winning his first bracelet in the $2,000 Pot Limit Hold’em for $184,860. During his travels across the world to follow the major poker circuits, Esfandiari often found himself rooming with fellow poker pro, Phil Laak. During that time, Laak and Esfandiari would form the basis for the friendship which has been the inspiration behind the popular HD network MOJO show, “I Bet You” featuring many of the more outlandish prop bets to have ever been broadcast on television.
In 2009, Esfandiari was on the verge of teaming up with Phil Ivey to form a star studded November Nine before being eliminated in 24th place for $352, 832 – his largest Main Event cash to date.