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Farha wins third WSOP bracelet, $488,241

15 Jun 2010

Sammy Farha, best known for his runner-up performance against Chris Moneymaker in the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event, won his third WSOP gold bracelet at approximately 7 a.m. PT on Tuesday. Farha's win netted the Lebanese-born professional gambler $488,241.

Farha initially burst onto the poker scene a decade ago when he won a gold bracelet in the Pot-Limit Omaha championship at the 1996 WSOP. But it wasn't until his television appearance on ESPN in the 2003 Main Event championship that he became a household name. While Farha technically wasn't the winner of that event, in many ways, he did win. Love him or hate him, Farha became a bona fide poker celebrity.

Farha has played in many poker tournaments and high-limit cash games since, with mixed results. Six-figure money swings are not only common, but a daily occurrence whenever Farha chooses to take a seat in any game. The Lebanese-born self-made multi-millionaire is an instant attraction at any table, which is why he is perhaps television's favorite poker face.

Farha may be Lebanese by birth, but he is unquestionably an American success story. He left his birthplace of Beirut and arrived in the United States in 1978 to attend college, graduating from the University of Kansas. A successful pool player before becoming a full-time poker pro, Farha has played just about every kind of game for big money, including video games, pinball, and backgammon. But poker has proven to be Farha's game, and he is now indelibly linked to those who have mastered it.

Given Farha's enigmatic character, it is impossible to measure the true impact or meaning of a third WSOP victory. On one hand, Farha was overjoyed to win his first gold bracelet in four years. On the other hand, the prize money he received — a mere pittance of nearly a half a million dollars — is roughly equal to the typical buy-in at Farha's regular poker game.

In one of the tougher fields in poker history, 212 players — the vast majority of them top-notch tournament players and high-limit cash-game specialists — entered the $10,000 buy-in Omaha High-Low Split championship at the 2010 World Series of Poker.

"This is very special, of course," said Farha. "Anytime you can beat a tough field, it's special."

Farha's competition at the final table was formidable. The biggest menace was England's James Dempsey, who won his first WSOP gold bracelet just two weeks ago in the $1,500 Pot-Limit Hold'em championship. Two other former gold bracelet winners — Michael Chow and Abe Mosseri — graced the final nine.

Farha ultimately triumphed in a brutal finale that was just as much a test of mental stamina as it was poker skill. The final table lasted nearly 13 seemingly endless see-saw hours, including five nerve-racking hours of heads up play, and included lots of boisterous support for Dempsey.

"I was a little bit frustrated because the audience was so loud," said Farha. "They were out of line a bit, but it was fun. It was fun in the beginning, but after a while you get tried. But it never bothered me."

The final hand of the tournament came when both players were forced to play three 10s on the board and Farha's jack-nine out-piped Dempsey's jack-eight.

So far this year, English poker players are enjoying quite a strong WSOP. Dempsey nearly won the fourth gold bracelet for the U.K. this year, following his earlier win as well as victories by Praz Bansi and Richard Ashby. Dempsey collected $301,789 for his efforts.

Yueqi "Rich" Zhu, an engineer from Rowland Heights, Calif., won $225,325 with a third-place finish. The only non-pro at the table now has nearly two dozen in-the-money finishes at the WSOP, dating back to 1999. This was his fourth final table appearance.

Sergey Altbregin, from St. Petersburg, Russia, finished fourth to win $169,368, while Tony Merksick, from Council Bluffs, Iowa, was fifth for $128,097.

Chow, from Honolulu, Hawaii, was sixth after winning the $1,500 buy-in Omaha High-Low Split tournament, held two weeks ago. Eugene Katchalov, from New York, N.Y., was seventh, Mosseri was eighth, and Steve Wong, a poker pro from Haarlem, The Netherlands, finished ninth.

The top 27 finishers collected prize money. Aside from the four who made the final table, other former WSOP gold bracelet finishers who cashed in this event included Mike Sexton (10th), Eric Baldwin (11th), David Baker (15th), Steve Zolotow (16th), "Miami" John Cernuto (22nd), Jeffrey Lisandro (24th), Huck Seed (25th), and Dan Heimiller (27th).

Modified from notes provided by Nolan Dalla for
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