Runner Runner: Q&A Antonio Esfandiari
The poker community is awaiting the highly-anticipated release of the newest poker-themed movie called Runner Runner and OddsShark.com interviewed poker legend Antonio Esfandiari, who was involved in shooting for the upcoming flick. Here's what he had to say about the film.
Q&A with Antonio Esfandiari courtesy of Dean Stone
The movie paints a worst-case scenario of the online poker industry with Ben Affleck cast as the uber-villain, who rules an online poker empire with an iron fist (and a man-eating crocodile).
Justin Timberlake also stars as a down-and-out student who finds himself emerged in Affleck’s character’s offshore underworld. The movie also includes a few professional poker players making cameo appearances including the top live tournament money winner of all-time, Antonio Esfandiari.
[ See the movie trailer for Runner Runner ]
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We caught up to Antonio and asked him a few questions about the movie and the developing online poker regulation in the U.S.
Q: The poker community is anticipating the release of the newest poker-themed movie Runner Runner. What was it like working on the set of such a big budget movie?
A: It was a blast to work on Runner Runner. My part was small but it took an entire 16 hour day to shoot what was initially a 15 second clip in the movie. It was really interesting how they shot it from different angles and perspectives. We had a blast doing it.
Q: Most of the movie was shot in Puerto Rico, was your scene shot there or somewhere else?
A: Yeah, they flew us out to Puerto Rico to shoot the scene. We were very well taken care of by the production staff during the entire shoot, and we even got to hang out with JT for a good part of the day. I would do it again in a heartbeat if the opportunity to work on a movie like that ever comes my way in the future.
Q: So you were able to spend some time with Justin Timberlake? What is he like behind the scenes?
A: I have met a lot of famous personalities in my line of work over the years, and I have to say that JT was easily top-three of the coolest, most laid back celebrities I’ve ever met. And the guy was so funny. He had everyone laughing all day. I was surprised at how approachable and down-to-earth he was to everyone.
Q: The movie paints a dark picture of the online poker industry. Do you know if the story is based on one of online poker’s real villains?
A: I don’t know who the movie may have been based on, I haven’t seen the final cut of the movie and I only know about the part I was involved in, which was a very small scene. I can’t really comment on that until I’ve seen the entire movie.
Q: Now that online poker is opening back up in the U.S., what is the general consensus about regulated online poker among professional poker players in Las Vegas?
A: Everyone is excited to see the online games come back. We’ve been playing in Nevada for months now and I’m very happy to have been named the first member of the Ultimate Poker Team Pros.
Q: So many U.S. born online poker pros have had to leave the country to play the game where online poker is legal. Are you noticing an influx of online pros returning to Vegas now that the game is legal and regulated in Nevada?
A: I haven’t really noticed that. I don’t really keep track of other players. I don’t think that the player pool in Nevada is big enough to attract all the players back just yet, maybe once more states offer online poker and they all join together the player pool will be big enough for that.
Esfandiari has become one of poker’s most respected ambassadors and he continues to tear it up on the tournament circuit. He followed up his $18 million win in The Big One for One Drop at last year’s WSOP with a fourth-place finish in this year’s One Drop High Roller Event for another $1.4 million.
We can’t think of a player to better represent the new era of the game in the regulated U.S. online poker market. Besides his cameo in Runner Runner you can see his 2013 One Drop High Roller final table battle on ESPN coverage and you can also follow Antonio on his Twitter @MagicAntonio.