Antonio Esfandiari is a professional poker player who was born in Tehran, Iran. He garnered much of his fame on the World Poker Tour and was a magician before pursuing professional poker full time.
Antonio and his family struggled in the early parts of his life due to hardships in Iran. At the age of nine, he moved with his family to San Jose, California in search of a better life. Even while living in the United States, his family faced challenges due to their poor English. Sadly, his mother could not cope with the pressure and hardships of America and abandoned Antonio, his father and brother as she headed back to the Muslim state.
As a young man, Antonio changed his name from Amir to Anthony so he could sound more American. Even before he was a teenager, he began making several hundred dollars per week telemarketing and was able to afford nicer clothes and help his family with bills.
Hard working and motivated, he was a waiter by the age of 16 and was exposed to magic by the bartender at his local restaurant. He became hooked on magic and purchased many videos and magic kits trying to hone his craft. This led to another name change as he thought Antonio sounded more mysterious than Anthony. He began doing tricks at his restaurant and soon made a name for himself and was invited to do magic at private parties and gatherings.
While Antonio was thrilled with his success, his father was not so proud. Due to disagreements with his father, Antonio left home at the age of 19 and moved in with a friend. This is when he got his first taste of poker. His roommate invited him to a poker tournament, and it immediately ignited his passion for the game. Like he did with magic, Antonio soaked up everything he could about poker and made succeeding at the game a foremost priority in his life.
He grinded cash games and local tournaments before finally saving up enough to play in the 2000 World Series of Poker Main Event. Sadly, he lost the $10k buy-in amount he needed to enter the tournament when he hit Vegas. However, he headed back to San Jose more determined than ever.
He placed third in a WPT event that year netting him just over $40k. He then returned to Vegas and began placing WSOP events. In 2004, he won his first World Poker Tour title at the L.A. Poker Classic. He won $1.4 million in the event and won his first WSOP bracelet later that year in a pot-limit Texas Hold'em event. He currently has three WSOP bracelets and has 22 cashes. He finished 24th in the Main Event in 2009.
In 2012, he won the largest tournament prize in the history of poker. Antonio cashed $18.3 million in the WSOP's "Big One for One Drop", which featured a $1 million dollar buy-in benefitting the One Drop Foundation. This win catapulted Antonio to the top of the all-time money list. His career tournament earnings are just over $23.7 million.
Esfandiari currently resides in San Francisco, California.