Amir (Antonio) Esfandiari, born in Tehran, Iran on December 9, 1978 was a funny character from very early in his life. At age nine, the Esfandiari family relocated to America and settled in San Jose, California. Not speaking any English it was an initial struggle for the youngster, but learnt the language with the aid of a friend. At sixteen years, he got a waiters job where the bartender introduced him to magic with card tricks.
Educating himself for over twelve hours a day for a two-year period, he started performing his magic skills. He built up such a clientele by promoting himself that he received bookings for private shows at parties. For a year during this time, he also attended college. Three years later at nineteen, he went to a poker room in San Jose with a friend and using his magic skills took to bluffing in poker and loved it.
After continuing to play poker for small stakes, he built up a bankroll, large enough to enter WSOP’s main event in 2001 where he lost all of his money. Although he was broke, he became close to Phil Laak who taught him the importance of money management and control in order to play with discipline. He entered a 2002 WPT event, his first ever and came in third place. During the 2003 WSOP, which was another first for him, he won $34,060 with a 5th place finish.
Antonio’s success for his first event of each large tournament categories proved to him that he could make it big as a professional poker player. He won his first major title later in 2003 when he played the WPT Poker Classic Main Event and won $1,399,135. His first WSOP title came later in the same year when he won $184,860 in a PLHE $2K event.
His greatest win up to date was in July 2012. He won The Big One for One Drop event during the WSOP where he collected $18,346,673 (yes, million!). This is still the biggest ever prize payed out for a poker tournament.
He collected nicely during the 44th WSOP in June 2013, when he came 4th in the One Drop High Roller ($111,111 buy-in) and won $1,433,438. Antonio has 3 cashes already for 2014 with EPT Season 10’s Hold’em 8 max for a $100k buy-in where he came 4th, winning $575,920. During February’s Aussie Millions’ 2014, he reached 42nd place winning $17,580 in the AUD$10,600 Hold’em Event.
Winning the largest buy-in and the highest amount ever won in poker history to date, makes Esfandiari stand out in the poker world. Beating 48 of the richest players in the world, the Big One for One Drop buy-in, was S1 million. He holds other titles, which he is famous and respected for in the world of poker, which includes winning a televised WPT 2004 main event.
In 2004 he won a WSOP bracelet as well. He currently holds 3 WSOP bracelets with a total live earnings of $26,219,676. He is currently #1 on the all-time poker tournament money list. There is however another $1 million event at this years WSOP which could see another player leapfrog him into first position.