This was the week… Antonio Esfandiari lunged his way to a DQ at the PCA

Adam Hampton
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Posted on: January 10, 2024 9:00 am EST

Anyone who plays poker tournaments knows how it feels to lose. Even the very best players can only expect to cash in a fraction of the tourneys they play.

The reasons for your eliminations will vary. It could be a cooler, a lapse in concentration, a long streak of terrible cards, or you were simply outplayed.

Or, in the case of Antonio Esfandiari at the 2016 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA), you could literally piss it away.

It was eight years ago today that ‘the magician’ won a bet, but in the process lost his tournament life. Let’s take a look back.

Antonio Esfandiari posing with his winnings at the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic in 2010
The golden boy: Esfandiari posing with his winnings at the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic, 2010

Taking Perkins’ lunge money

Prop bets between poker players are nothing new. Amarillo Slim, to pick one famous name, was celebrated for his bizarre bets, outrunning racehorses or defeating tennis champions using skillets for rackets.

In more recent times you can add Bill Perkins to the prop bettors’ hall of fame. The hedge fund manager and sometime poker high roller is more used to laying the bets, though. In 2022 he offered $200k at even-money that Doug Polk couldn’t reduce his body fat by 50% in a year. He won. He currently has a similar bet ongoing with Shaun Deeb, which will come to a head at this summer’s WSOP.

Poker player and hedge fund manager Bill Perkins, pictured at the poker table in 2013
Bill ‘Perky’ Perkins, pictured living up to his nickname in 2013

But back at the 2016 PCA, Perkins was looking for something a little more immediate than a year-long challenge. Physical prop bets during play were a bit of a thing back then: the previous year Perkins had challenged Mike McDonald to do 300 air-squats within one 60-minute level of play (he did, winning $10,000), and then to do 350 push-ups in another (he didn’t, falling short by just a few dozen).

And so it was, this week in 2016, that Perkins challenged Antonio Esfandiari to lunge, instead of walk, everywhere he went for 48 hours. $50,000 was at stake, and Esfandiari was playing to win – in his mind there was no way he was going to end this challenge $50k down and without a pot to piss in.

A step too far for the whizz kid

Late on Day 2 of the Main Event, Esfandiari had built a stack of around 115,000 chips with 90 minutes of play remaining – and just six hours of lungeing to go.

The tournament took a short 30-minute break, just long enough for the dealers, players and production crew to grab a quick bite and use the restroom. But to use the restroom, you first have to make it there, and Esfandiari’s legs were jelly.

“I cannot explain the pain I felt in my legs,” he explained the following day, “I did what I thought was the best play at the time.” Without the strength in his legs to make it to the toilet from his seat at the table, and with his father and a (presumably very close) friend acting as human shields, Esfandiari relieved himself into a receptacle under the table.

It didn’t take long for news of the incident to leak – metaphorically speaking – and tournament staff were quick to issue a DQ. His stack was removed from play and Esfandiari was ejected from the tournament room for a ‘breach of etiquette’.

Poker pro Antonio Esfandiari plays at the WPT Alpha8 event in St Kitts, 2023
‘You’ve got to know when to hold it’ – Esfandiari at the WPT Alpha8 St Kitts event in 2023

“If I ran a tournament, I would have DQ’d me too”

To his credit, Esfandiari immediately owned his mistake and raised no objections to his disqualification. He retired to the bar – lungeing all the way, of course – and waited for the clock to hit midnight. Once it did, he celebrated his win and hobbled off to bed, $50k richer and with a great, if embarrassing, story to tell.

The following day he released a statement:

“I am embarrassed of the actions I took to win that bet. On paper I won, but in life I lost. No matter how much one loves a prop bet there is a limit to how far you should go. And in this case I failed…I won the prop bet and $50,000, but I lost my way. It was a grueling two days, both emotionally and physically, but that is no excuse. I have been mulling over how to have some good come from this sorry situation and to this end I have decided to donate the entire amount to charity.”

Ironically, one of the charities to benefit from Esfandiari’s donation was One Drop (slogan: “turning water into action“), but far be it from us to make a joke about that. As we say in the UK, that really would be taking the piss.

Images courtesy of the WPT and PokerStars