Imposter poses as Esfandiari to enter land-based mini-tourney

An unknown poker player named Antonio attempted to maneuver his way into a Las Vegas mini-tournament for the prestigious Quest of Champions event by posing as famous player Antonio Esfandiari, it was recently revealed.

The mini-tournament was held at The Palms Hotel & Casino on Labor Day weekend in anticipation of the $25 million event slated to take place at The Palms in January 2006. Participants were hand-picked, with only top players asked to compete in the preliminary mini-tournament which offered a $250,000 seat to the Quest of Champions as a first place prize. The imposter allegedly assumed the identity of pro player Antonio Esfandiari when organizers contacted him assuming he was the Antonio they were looking for.

Jason Augustine, chief executive officer of the Las Vegas-based PokerQuest Entertainment, was interested in inviting Esfandiari to compete but had never met him. Instead, he reached an unknown player also named Antonio who pretended to be Esfandiari. The faker managed to keep up appearances until the start of the satellite, which featured 10 well-known pros playing for one of the 100 main event seats. After realizing they had the wrong Antonio, tournament officials tracked down Las Vegas resident and 1983 World Series of Poker (WSOP) champion Tom McEvoy to take the final seat. McEvoy went on to win the tournament and the $250,000 seat to the Quest of Champions.

The Quest of Champions tournament will feature an unprecedented first place prize of $15 million, and boasts the highest buy-in and first place professional poker payout in the history of the sport. Play will feature just 100 players at ten shootout tables, with the winner of each table advancing to the final table.

One-quarter of the seats will be 'sponsored' or reserved for 21 high-profile pro players and four Hollywood celebrities. The money for these seats will be raised through television contracts currently being negotiated. Organizers believe that pro players should be treated like pro athletes, thus the sponsored seats. The remainder of the seats will be filled by players who have either paid the $250,000 buy-in or won their way in through satellite events or mini-tournaments with smaller buy-ins.

The line-up currently includes T.J. Cloutier, Mel Judah, Howard Lederer, and Daniel Negreanu. Some big name Hollywood celebrities have also signed on, including James Woods, Mimi Rogers, and Michael Vartan.

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