Antonio Esfandiari vs. High Stakes Amateurs on This Week’s ‘Poker After Dark’

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Tuesday and Wednesday should be a magical couple of nights on “Poker After Dark,” with Antonio Esfandiari headlining this week’s episodes of the high-stakes cash game livestreamed on the subscription PokerGO app.

Antonio Esfandiari, Poker After Dark
Antonio Esfandiari knows his way around the televised cash tables of “Poker After Dark,” where he could be seeking some redemption after a previous smackdown on the show. (Image: YouTube)

Dubbed “the Magician,” and not just for confusing his opponents at the poker table but because he was previously an actual professional magician, Esfandiari was a regular on “Poker After Dark” during the late-night NBC era from 2007-2011, and has returned a few times for the PokerGO relaunch that began last August.

With $27.6 million in career tournament winnings, Esfandiari is fourth on the all-time money list, a ranking he owes primarily to winning the 2012 WSOP Big One for One Drop, the first ever $1 million buy-in tournament, for $18.3 million.

Last time Esfandiari appeared on PAD, he took a beating against a table full of pros, to the tune of nearly half a million dollars. The competition this time should be a bit different.

Joining him at the table for the first of two $50/$100 NLH cash game sessions at 3 pm PT on Tuesday will be a basketball star, a Hollywood producer, and three businessmen. 

While the Magician won’t be putting anyone in a box and sawing them in half, he has to like his chances of making their money disappear.

High Stakes Who’s Who

Randall Emmett, Bob Sura, Devon Chon Watt, Bob Nouri, Robert Sanchez, and Darol Rodrock will take a seat next to the pro on Tuesday, during what PAD is calling “The Prestige” week.

Emmett, a recently divorced 40something Hollywood producer now dating 27-year-old Lala Kent, model and star of Bravo reality show “Vanderpump Rules,” has appeared twice before on “Poker After Dark,” most recently during the 2017 season-ending “Holidays with Hellmuth” episodes.

Also at the table this week will be Sura, Florida State University basketball’s all-time leading scorer and one of a growing list of former athletes who have taken up poker as a favorite post-retirement hobby. After graduation in 1995, the Seminole hoopster spent 11 seasons in the NBA, averaging 8.6 points per game.

He’s no fish at the table, however. Sura has competed in numerous WSOP events and once appeared on the PokerStars “Big Game” televised cash game series.

Among the businessmen taking on Esfandiari (and each other) are Rodrock, a prominent Kansas real estate developer and philanthropist, and Nouri, an Oklahoma car dealership owner. Chon Watt and Sanchez are unknowns (at least to this poker writer), so we’ll be learning what they’re all about this week.

Make Room for Bill Perkins

On Day Two of “The Prestige” action, hedge fund manager Bill Perkins will take Emmet’s seat. A high-stakes regular and crowd favorite with a propensity for making outrageous prop bets, Perkins is an action player (and fellow University of Iowa alum, go Hawkeyes) who likes to see flops and isn’t afraid to stick his money in the pot on a draw.

He’s competed in numerous televised poker shows over the years and has been a regular on the high-roller circuit.

Away from the felt, Perkins is a movie producer (After Life, 2009; Unthinkable, 2010; Cat Run, 2011) and one of the most successful hedge fund managers in the America, having honed his craft by working for billionaire Texas oilman and energy trader John D. Arnold.

Perkins is no slouch at the table either. Though still considered an amateur, he has more than $2.6 million in career tournament winnings, including nearly $2 million for finishing third in the 2013 $111,111 Big One for One Drop WSOP tournament.

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