By Sean Chaffin
Poker runs in the family for Amal Bounahra (pictured). She knows a few things about catching cards, and not just from her husband, two-time WPT Champions Club member Antonio Esfandiari. Her father Bob Bounahra owns a poker room in her home country of Belize and was a member of the 2011 World Series of Poker November Nine.
All three ponied up $10,000 to get in on the action here at the WPT L.A. Poker Classic. And while Antonio may have hit the rail on Day 2, Amal was running deep and raked a nice pot just before the last break at the end of Day 2 with pocket aces. She’s hoping the good vibes continue after making a valiant comeback on the first day of play.
“It was good because I had just lost with aces the round before,” she said of the pot. “It’s been going well. Yesterday for the first four hours I was super card dead. I was down to 19,000 and then the level after that I shot up to 90,000. It wasn’t any major hands, I just kept building and building and trying not to get out of line. I got one double up and then from there it was kind of easy.”
Both have moved on to Day 3. Bob is playing 295,500 and Amal peaked at 208,000.
Poker’s always been in the family for the Bounahras, who are originally from Belize. Bob is a longtime player with $2.1 million in live tournament winnings.
“I have poker running through my veins,” Amal says. “It’s just been in my life since I was young.”
That 2011 WSOP run stands out for both father and daughter.
“I’ve watched so much poker in my life,” Amal says. “I railed my dad when he made the November Nine for eight days straight, morning to night.”
“She was my lucky charm,” Bob adds. “If it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t be here.”
Ultimately, Bob finished seventh and took home more than $1.3 million. Amal has limited tournament scores, but cashed in the WSOP Main Event in 2018 – finishing 728th for $19,900. Bob has also owned the Big Slick poker room in Belize City at the Princess Hotel and Casino since 2008.
While it was nice seeing her father perform on poker’s biggest stage, it was also special for another reason.
“Antonio and I met while I was railing my dad for that tournament,” she says. “I met him at the World Series and we started dating, moved to Vegas, and got married and had kids. We decided to move to L.A. to raise them.”
The poker love story continued here at the Commerce.
Mom and Poker Player
Despite her skills at the table, poker isn’t Amal’s profession. She and Antonio were married in 2014 and have two young boys. Working as a stay at home mother keeps her busy, and getting away for a tournament has been a welcome excursion.
“I just play for fun,” she says. “This is only my second time here but so far so good – it’s treating me well.”
While she may not be a big name in the poker world, Antonio knows she’s a queen when it comes to being a wife and mother.
“She’s never not given our boys 100 percent,” he says. “Not one time has she caved in any department and taken the lazy or selfish route.”
So far, Amal’s fun day of poker has translated to a deep run, and no one could be happier than Antonio and Bob. How are her skills at the table?
“I think she’s intimidating,” Antonio says. “She’s so gorgeous how could anyone check-raise her?”
For Bob, his trip from Belize has been special – seeing his grandchildren, daughter, and son-in-law, and now battling it out at the LAPC. Making a deep run with his daughter has only added to a great trip.
“It’s been good,” Bob says. “We usually run good together when we play tournaments together.
The question has asked to be asked. Who’s the better player between father and daughter? They both quickly point at each other, but Bob makes it clear: “She is. She always is.”
Sean Chaffin is a freelance writer in Crandall, Texas, and his work appears in numerous websites and publications. Follow him on Twitter @PokerTraditions.
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