AN INTERVIEW WITH THE CHAMPION -- ANTONIO ESFANDIARI
Question: Antonio, you walked off this stage about a week and a half ago in a very disappointing third place. You were crushed. At that time, could you have possibly thought you’d get to this moment.
Esfandiari: Yes. I believed it. I declared it. I wanted to win even more since I took third and didn’t win that tournament. I got pretty unlucky when it was three-handed, and so I was determined to come back and win another one.
Question: On a scale of Antonio Esfandiari’s greatness, how great is this?
Esfandiari: It’s like 182, feels like. It’s better than sex that’s for sure.
Question: Talk about the last hand when you’re sweating the last two cards – the flush draw. How hard was your heart beating?
Esfandiari: It wasn’t beating that hard actually. I just went through the process and I was thinking: Okay here we are. This is the moment. If you fade this flush draw, you win the biggest tournament in history of the world. And that’s it. This is the moment. It’s here, right now. I was like please Jesus, this one time. And I’m pretty sure I used up all my one-times on this tournament, but I’m okay with that. I said earlier if I use my one-times for the next five years in this tournament, I’m happy with that. So, from now on, it’s one more time.
Question: How does your approach change when you’re playing against…
Esfandiari: I feel like the President! I like this!
Question: How does your approach change when you’re playing against people for whom, over a million dollars isn’t a lot of money at all?
Esfandiari: Honestly, it didn’t change. It’s really just a poker tournament. You get two cards, your opponent gets two cards. So, you just have to play the chip stack, the position, and the player. And, you know, it really didn’t make a difference. I just wanted to win the tournament.
Question: Talk to us a little bit about growing up. You were doing a lot of partying about half a decade ago and....
Esfandiari: Who says I’ve grown up?
Question: I think you’ve grown up a little bit. I think you matured a little. I think you were doing a lot more partying and not focusing that much on your poker game. I think that you’ve matured. Am I right?
Esfandiari: Absolutely. I did some self-awareness work, and just kind of took things into perspective; you know, what was and what wasn’t important. And going out and partying at the end of the day, it really didn’t make me that happy. I loved it, don’t get me wrong. I kind of grew out of it. I’m 33 now and so I just decided to live a better life, and this World Series I decided I was going to wake up every day and go to the gym and just be disciplined and win a bracelet.
Question: Do you think that stuff has resulted in winning the bracelet? Is it because you had that more disciplined life?
Esfandiari: I mean it's just one-hundred percent. It’s not even close. I have to thank Corrine June. She’s been coaching me the whole tournament. Where’s Corrine? Right there, she’s been coaching me the whole tournament, every single day before the tournament, every single break. So if you guys want to interview her, I’d interview her too. She’s amazing.
Question: When was the first time you actually visualized yourself winning this bracelet?
Esfandiari: This one in particular? Honestly, I’ve been visualizing it the whole time. But I’ve been visualizing that for every tournament I’ve done in this World Series. So this time it just came true. I really saw it last night at the final table. I just felt it. I just knew it was my time.
Question: Was this your tournament from the get-go? It seemed like you were really relaxed. You were playing with Bill Perkins. Running around, calling out people, calling out David Einhorn for giving to charity. You seemed comfortable more than anybody else in this field. Is that fair to say?
Esfandiari: I mean, I think so. I think some people were comfortable. They were just weren’t as outgoing. You know, my style is to talk and have a good time at the poker table, I might as well enjoy my life, instead of sitting there and being bored. Because pokers, as we all know is boring sometimes. So, I was just trying to have a good time, and I would do that any hand, any tournament, anywhere. The fact that it was the One Drop made no difference.
Question: How do you feel this tournament has changed your life, Antonio?
Esfandiari: I came on the poker circuit many years ago, and I’ve had some success. And then for many years I really didn’t care I didn’t win anything. But thanks to other shows I was still in the poker scene, but I won a WPT a few years ago and that felt great, but I think this kind of just really lays down the foundation that Antonio Esfandiari is a poker player.
Question: Where do you go from here?
Esfandiari: Where do I go from here? To the bar?
Question: Did you think about that 18 million dollar payout?
Esfandiari: I swear to you, believe it or not, I never once thought about the money. I just wanted to win.
Question: Filming at the end, you gave your dad the bracelet. What did that mean to you? When did you decide you were going to do that?
Esfandiari: I said it last night, I told my little brother that “this one’s for dad.” And I’m giving him the bracelet. My dad has been my biggest supporter. The very first time I invited him to a casino to watch me play he sat behind me and he watched my cards, and before poker was ever popular he was like, “Son, I support you a 100 percent.” He was totally cool with it, which was surprising. At first he wasn’t, but when he came down and watched me play and I told him what people had he was like, “Okay, I get it.” And so he’s been my biggest supporter. I love him to death. He’s the greatest man on the planet. He gave up a lot to move us to this country, everything basically. To win this for him and give him the bracelet, means the world to me. So, I’m going to wear this tonight, but after tonight, it’s my dad’s bracelet.
Question: Antonio, is this more important than winning the Main Event for you?
Esfandiari: Well you know I had a conversation with somebody about that, and I don’t know. I think it’s like a history thing. This is unprecedented. If I could go and pick one tournament to win this year, this one or the Main Event, I’d almost pick this one. I don’t know what it feels like to win the Main Event. After I win it this year, I’ll let you know.
Question: Was it important to overcome Phil Hellmuth for the all-time money yesterday?
Esfandiari: No, but it was weird raising him with nine deuce. Question: Do you have any charity of some sort to donate any money to? Esfandiari: Sure, One Drop.
Question: Have you thought about how much?
Esfandiari: No, not yet.
Question: When did you decide to play in the One Drop?
Esfandiari: Just a few days before the tournament. I wasn’t going to play, because I was going to do the commentary. But then I took third and I was like “Ugh!” And so I decided to play last minute.
Question: Are there some pretty happy investors out there right now?
Esfandiari: I plead the fifth.