"Super High Rollers won't break the high stakes community"PokerStrategy.com: We are coming up to the second $1 million buy-in One Drop. Does this year's event feel like the real defence of the title, rather than the $100k event last year?
Antonio Esfandiari: Yes, correct, although it did feel like it last year. This year I feel the essence of the million-dollar buy-in. I don’t think that you can take a million-dollar buy-in, and even though it's kind of the same thing the next year with $100,000, it's not the same thing.
I think that the real true One Drop is this one coming up, and I think that, when I win it, it will be back-to-back.
PokerStrategy.com: You were already famous in poker circles prior to winning, but you have become a mega star since One Drop, what's the experience been like?
Antonio Esfandiari: It's been an amazing couple of years. I had some recognition before the One Drop, but this really escalated me to a different plateau. I enjoyed riding that wave for the last couple years. It's not that a lot more doors opened up, but certainly they opened up further.
As much as I don’t believe I deserve the number one on the all-time money-winner list, because it was one tournament, I'll take it. I took advantage of the privileges and perks that come with it. It's been a very fun ride, no question about it.
PokerStrategy.com: A lot of people are concerned that these Super High Roller events could break the high stakes community, what are your thoughts on that?
Antonio Esfandiari: I don’t think that it's going to break the pro community. In all the Super High Rollers you get some business guys, and you get some guys that really can't even spell poker. Really, if you think about it, those guys can't win consistently, so that’s just money feeding into the poker community.
"Magic brings out the kid in people"PokerStrategy.com: It's been great you leverage your new found fame by returning to your magic roots with the Strip Magic shows.
Antonio Esfandiari: Doing the magic show was phenomenal. Sometimes I forget how much I love to give magic to people, because it really brings out the kid in them. They forget about everything, and they're just zoned in on what's happening. To give that to people, to watch people's reactions, that’s what really does it for me. It's fantastic.
PokerStrategy.com: Had you kept up your skills all this time or were you rusty?
Antonio Esfandiari: Good question. I found that the beautiful thing about magic is, once you learn it, you have it for life. My performance was not as good as it used to be ten years ago, like my ability with the cards is probably 70% of what it used to be, but it's still plenty to just get everybody and never get caught. It's just that I used to be really good at sleight of hand.
"I've seen games of Lodden Thinks go from $10 to $24,000"PokerStrategy.com: Other than your success at the tables and magic, you are also well known for your fun prop bets, particularly with Phil Laak. Why do you like them so much?
Antonio Esfandiari: When a lot of people sit at a poker table, they're shy. I just believe that, wherever you are in life, you can always have fun. Whether you're at a poker table or whatever you're doing, it's your choice to make the best of it.
When you're at a poker table with a bunch of guys, why not have banter? Why not learn something about someone else's life? Why not bet on random stuff? Why not entertain yourself?
We all know the first couple days of a poker tournament are super boring, so all of a sudden you have an opportunity to have fun. I always try and maximize my life units by betting on stuff.
PokerStrategy.com: The best example of this is Lodden Thinks - were you surprised at how popular this game became? People play it all the time.
Antonio Esfandiari: I am surprised that it spread the way it did, but not at the same time, because the true essence of the game is so pure. All sorts of crazy twists and turns can come up.
Sometimes after a game of Lodden Thinks for $10 - I've seen this happen before - $10 Lodden games turn into a $24,000 side bet after the question because two people at the table were so sure of their answers. Lodden Thinks is just a fantastic way for people to engage their brains, because you're not only thinking of the answer, you're thinking what this person would think of the answer … so a) you're thinking of the answer, and b) you're trying to read someone else. For that reason, it's incredibly stimulating.
"I bought out of the 'no sex bet' after nine days"PokerStrategy.com: You were rumoured to have made, and then bought out of, a $1 million 'no sex' bet with Bill Perkins, was this true?
Antonio Esfandiari: It's true. What happened is we were in Sweden drinking. I was a couple of gin and tonics in, and it came up somehow. My buddy, Bill Perkins, said, "For a million dollars you'd have to go the whole year." I'm someone that values and respects money, and I just said, "I think I could do it for 500K."
All I could think of was another buddy of mine, who's a very spiritual, Yoda, Zen kind of guy, he went two years without any release. He did it, and he said it was one of the greatest learning experiences of his life.
That’s all I was thinking about, and while I'm thinking about this in my head, my friend, Bill, puts his hand out and he goes, "Offer expires in ten seconds." I'm like, "Shit. Half a million bucks, but I can't release for a year?"
PokerStrategy.com: But what about if you 'released' in your sleep, (Which is probably what would happen)?
Antonio Esfandiari: That wouldn't count. But if I induce release, self or assisted, in any way, shape, or form, I would lose.
Anyway, he's like, "Ten, nine, eight …" and I'm thinking, "Wow. Half a million dollars is a lot of money," but I'm not even thinking about that as much as I'm thinking about the experience of actually doing it, and the accomplishment after the year, and then I could focus and put all my energy towards other things in my life. It takes a lot of energy.
When he got to six seconds, I just put my hand out and shook his hand; and then afterwards, as soon as it was done, I was like, "Wow! Did I really just do that?"
I wasn’t even worried about it. Then the next couple days I spent doing a little bit of research and calling my other friends who I know had done it, and I realised that, as much as I thought I could do it, it was something that I didn’t want to do. As a man, what is my purpose of being here? To put one of those things, one of the most important things, on the shelf for a year was going to be really tough.
It wasn’t that I couldn't do it, but it was because I all of a sudden didn’t want to do. After nine days, I wrote a very heartfelt letter to Bill, and I said, "Look, I'm going to do this bet. There's no part of me that’s going to lose the half a million; but it's something that I don't want to do." I offered a buyout for X amount, and he took it. If he wanted more than that, I probably wouldn't have paid him; but I just paid it, got it out of the way, and broke out of the bet. So yes, it's true, and I did buy out, and I'm happy to have paid the money and be done with it.
"I refused to play Gay Chicken with Phil Laak"PokerStrategy.com: What's the craziest prop bet you have been involved with?
Antonio Esfandiari: One of my favorites was for season three of 'I Bet You' which never aired. Phil and I made a bet on who could take two Ambiens and stay up longer. That was really fun because Ambiens are very, very hard sleep medication. I found myself hallucinating and totally tripping out trying to fight the sleep. That was a really interesting experience.
I actually won that one. He fell asleep first, but the best part is he didn’t realise he had fallen asleep, so we had played it out once he woke up and we went again, but he didn't realise that he's already lost. We had a really good laugh at it. It was a lot of fun.
PokerStrategy.com: Are there any prop bets you have refused to do?
Antonio Esfandiari: Gay chicken. It's when two guys walk towards each other, and either they're going to kiss or one guy's going to pull away first. I didn’t want to do it because I knew I would lose. I would not kiss Phil, but Phil is so sick he would kiss me just to prove a point.
PokerStrategy.com: Thanks Antonio, good luck with One Drop this year.
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|Barry Carter is the editor of PokerStrategy.com and the co-author of The Mental Game of Poker 1 & 2. He has been working in the poker industry for nine years and in 2013 won the APAT Award for Best Poker Media Provider. You can learn more about his work here.
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