Antonio Esfandiariworks hismagic for Dan FleyshmanandVictoryPoker THEFACEOF THINGSTOCOME By Aaron Todd W hen Victory Poker held its official launch party in February, it already had more than a dozen pro- fessional players endorsing the site. Most of them have built successful careers as online poker pros, and many — like Paul Wasicka, who won more than $6.1 mil- lion as the runner-up at the 2006 World Series of Pok- er (WSOP) — have made waves in live tournaments. Hard-corepoker aficionados and Internet poker forum read- ers are sure to recognize some of thenames onVictory’s ros- ter. But the Average Joe, who might casually watch poker on TVwhen nothing else is on, probably wouldn’t recognize any of them even if theywere sitting at the same poker table — includingWasicka.Well, all of themexcept forone — AntonioEsfandiari. Esfandiari burst onto the poker scene be- fore the “Moneymaker” boom, finishing third at the Lucky Chances GoldRush tournament in San Francisco during theWPT’s first season inNovember 2002. Nicknamed “TheMagician” thanks tohispreviousprofession, Esfandiarimemorablyoutplayed Phil Hellmuth, winning a legion of fans by bullying, and even- tually eliminating, the “Poker Brat.” “Antonio is The Magician, he’s the magic man, and right now, PhilHellmuth is thewizard,and [Esfandiari is]making his chips disappear,” saidWPT commen- tator Mike Sexton during the TravelChannel’sbroadcast. While the performance gave him notoriety in thepokerworld, Esfan- diari’s take for his third-place finish was amodest $44,000, as the event’s buy-inwas just $3,000 and therewere only 152players.