I had just started on my first cup of coffee of the day, preparing to interview Platinum Pass winner Amir Epstein. We hadn’t yet met, but I was told by a mutual friend that he “interviews well.” Friends, any jolt from the coffee paled in comparison with the energy Amir brought to our call.
“I’m going into this pretty seriously,” Amir starts out with wide eyes and conviction. “I really do expect to at least get to the final table, that’s the bare minimum.” He oozes confidence. I like it.
We talked about other Platinum Pass winners, including some from nearby in Toronto, Canada, and how they have formed a tight-knit group. Amir is keeping his focus on the task at hand.
“I don’t really want to hang out with other poker players that I play to assassinate,” he jokes with a gleam of truth behind his smile. “I don’t want to become friends, then that affects my play. I don’t want them to learn about me. I know it’s antisocial, but I’m not going to do that. I really am going in to win.” A man on a mission.
“I’m really friendly, I want to be able to hang out with them, but I’m taking this really seriously,” he repeats. “Even though we’re all from Toronto and there’s going to be this camaraderie, no. I’m going to take you all down, I’m going to assassinate everybody at that tournament.” I’m telling you, based on his conviction, I wouldn’t want to be on his left when the cards fly on Monday. “I’m here to destroy,” he states simply.
Winning his Platinum Pass in a charity tournament
Amir won his Platinum Pass in a charity poker tournament in Toronto. After reaching three-handed play, Amir was short-stacked, but he didn’t let that affect his confidence. “This is a story I haven’t told anybody,” he starts. “The chip leader had the majority of the chips, I probably had five or six big blinds left. I asked that they paused the clock and spoke with the [chip leader]. We should do a deal,” said Amir.
That’s right. Short-stacked with crumbs, Amir offered the dominant chip leader a deal. “He says, ‘I’m crushing, I have way more chips than you guys.’ And I look at him dead-faced and said, ‘I’m going to take every single one of those fu*king chips from you in the next hour.'” His confidence convinced the other two players to give up 15% of their potential PSPC action to each of the other players, including Amir.
And then, as predicted, Amir took every single one of his opponent’s chips and won the tournament. The rest is history. At least, the beginning of history. There are still more chips to be won, and Amir is coming for them. “Now I have to give up 30% of the five million when I win it,” laughed Amir. “Now he’s bringing his whole entourage to cheer me on. We became buddies and he’s excited.”
He makes it clear that he’s not a professional, but he’s no stranger to the poker felt.
“I’ve played weekly with my friends for 20-plus years. We play stupid cards and have fun. There’s one guy I love beating with sh*t cards,” he lays it out. “Multi-table tournaments are my thing, that’s where I think I do best.”
A Talented Musician
Poker isn’t Amir’s only passion, though, He’s been involved in music longer than he’s been taking money from his friends on the felt.
“I started when I was thirteen when I was in a band. By the time I was 14 or 15 years old we were playing a club downtown called the Gasworks,” recalled Amir. “We’d go in, we’d set up, we’d play, they’d go, ‘get out.’ We’re underage, we’re not allowed to be in the bar; we’re kids. Still, our manager got us the weekly gig there.”
“We went on to do really well. I was in a band called Zygote, which had a cult following,” Amir says. “We’d sell out venues, people would know all the lyrics, it really blew up. Then that ended, and I said, ‘I’m going to law school. I want to have a profession.”
From music to law school, poker has been a part of the journey throughout his pursuits. Especially on Sundays with the boys.
A special shout-out to his poker buddies
I asked if Amir wanted to use this opportunity to get a message out there to the world. He launched into a passionate monologue directed at his long-time poker buddies that was hard to believe wasn’t rehearsed.
“Everybody that I play with on Sunday are horrible players. I am their leader. They always look up to me and always ask me for advice.” His words hint at the obvious decades-long friendly rivalry that can only be read between the lines. “They all suck a*s and I am far superior to all of them. I like being the person they look up to and to help them, in life and poker.”
This article is only a portion of the stories Amir shared with me. If you have the pleasure of running into him in The Bahamas, you should get to know him. You won’t regret it. But, on second thought, maybe wait until after he wins the Main Event to try and make friends with him.
Best of luck, Amir. I’ll be here waiting for your post-win interview.