Poker Tales - The Magician and The Unabomber

4 years ago
Poker Tales - The Magician and The Unabomber
06 Jan

If it is a variety of characters you are looking for, casinos and poker rooms are a place to go. From young to old, from loud to quiet from playful to plain rude, you will find all kinds of personalities at the poker tables. But few of those will leave an impact on you similar to that of one of the most interesting couples of the poker world, Antonio “Magician” Esfandiari and Phil “The Unabomber” Laak.

Antonio Esfandiariwas born under the name Amir in Teheran, Iran in 1978. At the age of nine, his family took him to America, and as he grew up he changed his name to Antonio and took up magic as his primary source of income. Young Antonio worked as a magician in Las Vegas and became well known for his magic, but the allure of poker soon took him down a different career path.

Phil Laak, on the other hand, was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1972 and was raised on the East Coast of the US. Unlike Antonio, Phil learned how to play poker and various other games at a very young age, and has been a games' player practically his entire life. He started his career playing Backgammon, but he too was lured by the fascinating nature of poker, and became a professional player.

The pair became popular in the early 2000s as they both started winning major tournaments, and appearing on television in various poker related show. The friendship between the two and the ultra relaxed demeanor they both displayed while playing for hundreds of thousands of dollars immediately made them crowd favorites, but the shenanigans they would pull off in the coming years mad them the absolute hit in the poker world.

In 2008 they gave the world a deeper insight into their lives off the felt in a show “I Bet You” that was aired on the MOJO network. In it they roamed Las Vegas, doing random prop bets with random people and among each others, and showed their true nature, one of crazy gamblers with an extremely positive attitude towards life.

The coming years saw both players achieve great success in poker. Antonio won the 2010 Doyle Brunson Five Diamone World Poker Classic and in 2012 won the greatest victory of his career, the “Big One for One Drop” for an amazing $18 million. A year later he won over $1.4 million in the “One Drop Highroller”.

Phil, on the other hand, is mostly a cash game player, making his results less known to the public. According to all reports, however, Phil has been crushing the Vegas games for years, much thanks to his amazing stamina which helped him break the world record for the most hours spent playing in a poker game in 2010 when he spent 72 hours straight playing a $10/$20 no limit hold’em game.

When it comes to the ladies, the two seem to be leading different lives. The Unabomber has been happily in love with the actress and poker player Jennifer Tilly for many years, while Antonio is widely known as a womanizer, famous for stating that he had slept with a “B list actress” who we “would know”. But even the Magician has reportedly taken the foot off the gas and slowed down his life of the party.

The pair continue to surprise us with their shenanigans year after year, and we remain hopeful that 2015 will bring us many more tricks, jokes and perhaps coin some more phrases such as “felted”, “cherry bomber” and “the pay off wizard”. At the very least, we are guaranteed to see them on TV in some of the regular poker shows, and without a doubt play a game or two of “Lodden Thinks”.

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Charles is a Chicago native and long time poker player who dusted off his journalism degree and began writing about poker following the events of Black Friday in 2011. He has written for a number of leading poker websites, offering his insights and expertise on subjects ranging from online poker leg...Read more


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