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The Magician Invasion:
Are Magicians the New Internet Millionaires?

MagintChops here.

Ah…I remember it like it was 5-9 years ago. 

Back in the mid-to-late ‘90’s, the so-called “Internet” was minting new millionaires at an hourly rate that rivaled Phil Ivey’s. 

My first few gigs out of college were with new breed Internet consulting agencies.  “New economy Internet consulting agencies would rival the Big 5 one day,” we’d say. 

Unfortunately, not everyone cashed out at the right time.  Some got greedy and didn’t sell their options in time, convincing themselves that the market would rebound.  Others, like yours truly, didn’t sell because his boss, the founder and CEO, had him write an email to the company pleading all employees not to dump their shares when the first vesting date arrived, as it might flood the market and lower the stock price.  While yours truly did sell some shares anyway, yours truly did not sell enough to never have to work again…only enough to take about five months off the next year. 

Two prodigal Internet gurus did get out at the right time, however, retiring from the working-world grind to grind it out at poker tables...forever retiring words like, “robust,” “maximize,” and “bleeding edge” for words like, “jamming,” “position,” and “lay down.”  These two men, Phil Gordon and Paul Phillips, were two of the earliest and most successful new breed of poker players...the ex-Internet millionaire.

Now, a good five years after the dot-com era bust, there’s a new-New-Economy-Millionaire taking the poker world by storm: the Magician.

Antonio “the Magician” Esfandiari has been “tearing it up” for a couple of years now, winning a WPT event and cashing checks like he was David Copperfield.  Now, with the arrival of Scott Lazar at the WSOP ME final table, we have two bonafide ex-magicians proving they have wicked poker chops

I asked my good buddy Bones at Weathered Living why he thinks magicians are having so much success on the felt recently.  Bones is a magic aficionado who can be seen at bars across the country trying to win over drunk girls with his wizardry.  Bones explained the recent “magician invasion” phenomenon as follows:

    “First off, it’s important to differentiate between a true magician and a mere illusionist.  Illusionists, such as the Cris Angel’s and the David Blaine’s of the world, probably make for skilled poker players simply by their comfort and familiarity with a deck of cards. Having stared at decks for so many years as they perfected their craft, they’ve grown accustomed to every nuance of the shuffle, every sound of a card flip, every minute reaction from the viewers around them. They’re essentially subconscious card counters and amateur psychologists, which I would imagine could help in a poker game.  As for magicians?  Well, that’s easy.  They’re good poker players because they’re fucking magical.”

With this in mind, Wicked Chops Poker has decided to compare and contrast Internet Millionaires with Magicians to see who, in fact, make better poker players.  Our analysis may astound you (picture your monitor now getting blurry, fuzzy, and fading into dreamy sequence)…

Category Internet Millionaire Magician Edge
Pre-poker career Phil Gordon, Principal Software Architect for Netsys

Paul Phillips, CTO of Go2Net

Antonio Esfandiari, magician

Scott Lazar, magician

Tournament results 1 WSOP ME final table, no WSOP bracelets, 2 WPT titles, numerous cashings in non-hold’em events.

1 WSOP ME final table, 1 WSOP bracelet, 1 WPT title, no cashings in non-hold’em events.

Ability to read people Only care about closing the deal, making it happen, and making the quick buck.

Part of their act already; critical for success.

Aggressiveness More cerebral, analytical.  Selectively aggressive.

More likely to move people off hands through brute strength or via hypnosis.  Can backfire though if opponent has a monster or isn’t easily hypnotized. 

Mental Focus Used to working 16-18 hour days.

Usually off the stage after an hour or two show.

Ability to calculate odds Used to crunching numbers, algorithms, and code.

Only needed to really know if they had 1 cape, 1 cap, 1 rabbit, 1 deck of cards, and 1 wand for their act.

Chip tricks Standard rifling.

Too many to even mention, bordering on infinity.

Crew Tiltboys

Rocks & Rings

Cultural Impact Celebrity poker, rec.gambling legends.

Poking celebrities, pulling rabbits out of hats.



As you can tell by this scientific analysis, as of right now, Internet Millionaires make better poker players than Magicians. However, this can and likely will change. Both Antonio Esfandiari and Scott Lazar are relatively young in their poker careers, where Gordon and Phillips are grizzled vets. Gordon is one of the few pros who really has transcended poker, but he’ll likely retire to run for some political office one day anyway, effectively ending his poker career.

Claudia_schiffer_002That leaves Paul Phillips to battle it out with Esfandiari and Lazar. Despite David Copperfield inexplicably landing Claudia Schiffer, from what we’ve seen, poker players generally get much better looking girls than magicians. This singular factor, along with the money and stuff, will likely keep Esfandiari and Lazar focused on their poker careers, and they’ve proven to have the talent for continued success. Sure, I could just as easily see billboards down the strip in Las Vegas touting, “Esfandiari and Lazar’s Magical Spectacular!” as, “Esfandiari and Lazar battle heads-up at the Wynn!”, but let’s face it, there’s a certain “it” factor with poker right now that does not, and may never have, existed with magic. Esfandiari and Lazar are here to say.

Whether or not they eventually surpass the success of Phillips and Gordon, well, like that Asia song, “only time will tell.”

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Are Magicians the New Internet Millionaires?



"And for my latest trick, I will make all the pretty girls in the bar disappear!"



Bones is a magic god. Unbelievable skillz.

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