Born in 1978 in Tehran Iran, under the name Amir Esfandiari, Antonio Esfandiari moved to the U.S. in 1988 together with his family.(he changed his name to Antonio at the age of 19).
Back then he didn’t speak English, but he managed to master the language in less than 6 months, and soon became a model student.
Right up until 12th grade, he kept up his academic efforts, then however, he decided to move out of the family home in the San Jose, California area, and get an apartment of his own. He got a job as a waiter, and made enough to support himself. It was about that time that he got seriously into partying and as a result of that, the once model student quickly turned into a genuine party-animal, his high school results slipping, and his house a permanent hotspot for friends and entourage.
While working as a waiter, he once saw a colleague of his pull a magic trick to wow customers. He reckoned magic fit in nicely with waiting and had the potential to earn him more tips, so he began learning magic tricks himself. He eventually became so skilled at magic, that he gave up his job and focused exclusively on it.
Around that time, the Magician had a roommate who played poker for a living. At the suggestion of this friend of his, Antonio tried his hand at poker and won. That instantly got him hooked.
He always said that being a magician offered him a great head start in poker. Both professions were about keeping a keen eye on peoples’ reactions, and they were both based on deceit.
Based on his initial success as a poker player it made perfect sense to Esfandiari to move on to high stakes, where the big money was. He met Phil Laak around this time as the two shared a table at the WSOP. They would later become friends, and they’d both go on to become well respected poker professionals. Even today, they are co-starring in a show on MojoHD called "I Bet You”, which has them going up against each other, betting on all sorts of crazy props.
Esfandiari’s big break as a poker player would come in 2002, when he placed 3rd in the WPT’s 49 Gold Rush Bonanza for $44k. That was the first time that he showed his true colors by irritating fellow professional Phil Hellmuth, and making him lose focus.
Soon another nice cash-out followed, in the 2003 WSOP’s $2,000 NL Holdem event, where he made the final table.
By this time, the "Magician” - as he became known in poker rooms around the nation – already knew that the future had much bigger things in store for him. Sure enough, in 2004, he won the L.A. Poker Classic and took home a staggering $1.4 million.
In good old-fashioned party-animal style, Esfandiari was quick to buy himself an Armani suit and a Dodge Viper, before getting busy making people’s money disappear at the green felt again.
A few months after his monster-win, he found himself in the money again. This time, the WSOP gold bracelet couldn’t escape his grasp either. He took first prize in the $2,000 PL Holdem event, for $184k. This is his only WSOP bracelet to date, although he has 6 more WSOP money finishes to go with it.
He also has a WPT title to show, and 5 WPT final tables.
He moved to Las Vegas following his WSOP bracelet win, and nowadays it is rumored that he can be hired by visitors for $1,000 to give them a tour of the city.
He also wrote poker books, appeared in videos as well as in televised events like High Stakes Poker.