Poker Hall of Fame profile: Antonio Esfandiari

Jon Sofen
Published by:
Posted on: December 8, 2020 2:00 pm EST

Antonio Esfandiari is one of the leading candidates for the 2020 Poker Hall of Fame inductee. “The Magician” always finds ways to make his opponent’s chips disappear.

Contrary to popular belief, Esfandiari’s claim to fame isn’t just his 2012 WSOP Big One for One Drop win. While that victory was one of the most memorable in poker history, he has a proven track record of winning big events and performing at a high level.

The Poker Hall of Fame is set to induct its one and only member for the year on Dec. 30 at the Rio in Las Vegas, during the WSOP Main Event final table. Esfandiari, 42, became eligible two years ago (40 is the minimum age for enshrinement).

In year’s past, two individuals have been selected for the Poker Hall of Fame. But starting in 2020, the WSOP has decided to drop it to just one in order to maximize the prestige of the club.

What has Antonio Esfandiari accomplished?

Prior to becoming a professional poker player, Antonio Esfandiari was an entertaining magician. He used those magic skills to take chips away from his opponents at the poker table.

Esfandiari was a regular on popular poker shows High Stakes Poker and Poker After Dark during the poker boom era. He was young back then and played a wild style, but was always a fan favorite and often left the session with a big win.

Early in his career, he won the L.A. Poker Classic in 2004 for $1.4 million, his first ever World Poker Tour title, and the victory he credits as propelling him to poker greatness. In 2010, he again won a WPT title, this time in the prestigious Bellagio Five Diamond World Poker Classic in Las Vegas for $870,000.

He would go on to reach six additional final tables, including the 2011 Five Diamond World Poker Classic where he nearly won the same event in consecutive years, but was eliminated in 6th place for $119,000.

The former magician was just getting started. At the 2012 World Series of Poker, he won the first ever $1 million buy-in poker tournament — the Big One for One Drop charity event — for a then-world record $18,346,673, his second bracelet.

That year, during the WSOP Europe series, he won another bracelet, this one in a low-limit hold’em tournament for $126,000. He also landed a WSOP title in 2004 in a $2,000 pot-limit Omaha event.

So, despite what you may have thought, Esfandiari’s greatness hasn’t been limited to the One Drop in 2012. He’s been highly successful in major poker tournaments for many years. In total, he has $27.8 million in live tournament cashes, good for 15th all-time. That means he’s cashed for more than $9.4 million beyond the One Drop.

Away from the felt, Antonio Esfandiari has always been one of the most approachable poker stars in the game. He rarely shies away from a fan seeking an autograph. And he’s also served as a co-commentator during the ESPN WSOP Main Event final table live-stream since 2011.

Featured image source: Flickr