Melika Razavi got her start in poker playing home games with friends starting at the age of 16. (Pokernews)

By Valerie Cross

May 6, 2019

Gambling – and poker – are banned in Iran. Beauty pageants are banned in Iran. Magic is banned in Iran. So how did Iranian Melika Razavi become a poker-playing magician who participates in beauty contests?

We wondered the same and we caught up with her during a break of the EPT Monte Carlo €5,300 Main Event, where Razavi is battling it out late on Day 3.

“Coming from that culture and background, it’s a big step for me to actually represent women in magic and being a beauty queen; I’m also a motivational speaker.”

Without the support from her home country and culture, Razavi has always had the support of an unlikely family member.

“It’s actually very unusual for an Iranian woman to support her child to – they call it “gambling” but I don’t see poker as gambling – but my mom has always been one of my biggest supporters.”

Affinity for Cards

Taught poker initially by some of her mother’s friends who visited them in Iran, Razavi fell in love with the game and would go on to be a serious player about a decade later. Cards were destined to be in her future as she also fell in love with magic at an early age.

“I always loved playing with cards.”

After leaving Iran with her mother for a new life in South Africa at the age of 15, Razavi would pursue both passions, and got her start in poker playing home games with friends starting at the age of 16. At 23, she began traveling to play poker, starting with cash games.

Comparing poker and magic, Razavi couldn’t choose one over the other.

“It’s like saying which finger you like more,” she laughed. “I’m very passionate about both of them.”

Playing today with some heavy hitters including online high-stakes player Wiktor Malinowski, former EPT Monaco Main Event Nicolas Chouity and 2013 WSOP Main Event champ Ryan Riess, Razavi doesn’t concern herself with who is at her table.

Malikeh Razavi - Ryan Riess
Melika Razavi sat next to Ryan Riess on Day 3 of the EPT Monte Carlo Main Event.

“In my head I just want to be the best at what I’m capable of. I’m not competing with anyone – I just want to be the best I can.”

She also played on the big stage under the lights at the feature table that was live-streamed, but being in front of the camera is nothing new to the stage performer, Miss Global Iran 2016 nominee and Miss Power Woman 2017.

“I don’t let anything affect my game, or anyone. I just try to play my A-game and the rest is variance.”

Having been through a lot in her life, Razavi uses her story to inspire others, particularly young women, through motivational speaking and she’s also writing a book.

“I’m stepping out to show them and to tell them that no matter where you’re from, no matter what you have, if you put your mind into something, nothing and no one can stop you.”

Dream Come True

Here in the EPT Monte Carlo Main Event, Razavi is making quite a splash. In the fourth level of the day, she made a big river call with fourth pair to eliminate Jean-René Fontaine, who check-raised the flop, bet turn and shoved the river on a runout of {a-Diamonds}{9-Hearts}{3-Diamonds}{k-Spades}{10-Hearts}. Razavi told PokerNews, “It was just a pure read I guess; I put him on nothing and I was right.”

Razavi built up a big stack and then took some big hits to her stack in the middle levels of the day. She got low before dinner break but found a double through Riess to start back in the right direction. Since dinner break, she’s added more to her stack, putting pressure on shorter stacks at her table and showing she won’t be pushed around.

Asked about playing in Monaco and other places, Razavi explains it’s a dream come true.

“It’s changing my life. I mean, I love traveling and playing poker, especially being on a live tour. It’s my passion. I play here, I go home, I play online. I just don’t stop playing poker.”

Unfortunately for Razavi, U.S. governmental regulations may keep her from playing at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. Though she won a WSOP package to play in the Ladies Event, she isn’t sure she’ll be able to get a Travel Visa to get there because of her Iranian citizenship. Either way, expect Razavi to be playing in more live events around the world.

Strong Will

Razavi will continue to play cards, and also encourage other women to pursue their passions even if discouraged by others.

“I’ve been through a lot and that made me a really strong person. To me, believing and never doubting and never allowing anyone to tell you that you can or you cannot – that works for me.”

Razavi’s philosophy is working well for her here in Monte Carlo as she vies for a top-ten stack with five tables left and play winding down for the night. It’s quite clear that Razavi believes in herself, and she’s making believers out of many of her opponents here in Monte Carlo.

Pokernews

About Track Persia

Track PersiaTrack Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.