News hit on Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013, that poker pro Antonio Esfandiari had been signed as brand ambassador for Ultimate Poker. Ultimate Poker is a licensed online poker site that plans to launch real-money poker in the state of Nevada this year.
With more than $24 million career tournament winnings to his credit, Esfandiari is poker's all-time winningest tournament player. Included in Esfandiari's scores are two World Poker Tour titles, three World Series of Poker bracelets, and a one-of-a-kind platinum bracelet won at the 2012 Big One for One Drop where he took home $18.3 million.
Esfandiari will lend "the voice and weight of a true champion to a brand committed to becoming the players' choice for online poker," according to an Ultimate Poker press release.
"We're thrilled to have Antonio Esfandiari represent our company," said Ultimate Poker Chairman Tom Breitling. "Antonio is the ultimate champion and modern poker player. He brings the gaming lifestyle to the online arena with his work-hard, play-hard attitude."
Last October Fertitta Interactive LLC, owner of Ultimate Poker, received its interactive gaming license in Nevada. Fertitta Interactive can provide real-money online poker under the Ultimate Poker Brand. The development of Ultimate Poker began when Fertitta acquired gaming company CyberArts Licensing LLC in October of last year. The company expects to launch its real-money poker game in Nevada by the end of 2013.
Ultimate Poker is the exclusive online gaming partner of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and is also the online poker product of Fertitta Interactive and Station Casinos.
"With our unique ability to leverage the overlapping demographics between online gaming, traditional gaming and the worldwide sports and entertainment brand of the UFC, Ultimate Gaming is ideally positioned to rapidly capture a significant following in the United States and throughout the globe," Breitling said after the company received its license last year.
PokerNews.com reached out to Esfandiari and in their words:
"It feels awesome. I don't really know how else to put it. It's so wonderful to be with a company that is regulated by the Nevada Gaming Commission. It's just huge. For me, I sleep good at night knowing that my name is associated with a company where I know for sure that everybody is going to get paid back and it's completely legal and legit."
We also asked Esfandiari when he knew the deal was going to get done.
"It's been in the works for a while. I've been good friends with Tom Breitling for many years, and I like him very much. He's actually a good friend of mine, so to be in business with someone you like, trust, and respect - and in a way look up to, because he's a very successful, creative, business guy - feels great. Of course my agent Brian Balsbaugh was in those conversations. We hammered out the details, we signed the deal, and life is good."
Finally, we asked Esfandiari what he's looking forward to the most with Ultimate Poker.
"One is sitting in my apartment in Las Vegas, Nevada, in my underwear, and playing poker on a legal site. And two, the cross-promotions that we have with the UFC. Players will be able to win packages and be able to have experiences with the UFC that no one else will be able to have. I love the UFC, so it works out perfectly."