For the first time in history, poker players and fans everywhere able to watch the final stages of the World Series of Poker tournament live and Belize was center stage as November Nine finalist Badih Bob Bounahra took our country into celebrity status yesterday, November 6, 2011.
Belize’s championship finalist became the third player to exit from the WSOP Main Event Championship final table, but not before playing excellent rounds of poker and creating much buzz for Belize as the first Belizean to make it into the final ‘November Nine’ players.
Accompanied by music, lights and all the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas, each finalist barged onto the stage to a chorus of cheers, chants and an adrenaline rush that one would normally think fitting for a major sporting contest. Bob Bounahra was considered an amateur amongst the poker elite at WSOP, but he was clearly one of the crowd favorites and came into the finale with the right attitude.
Even Channel 5 News reporter of Belize City Marlenie Cuellar traveled to Las Vegas to document this historic and proud moment for Belize. She reported that even though Belize was the smallest country represented at the poker tournament, we had one of the biggest fan groups cheering and supporting Bob/Belize at the finals. We even saw some familiar San Pedro faces along with the large Belizean delegation at the event.
“I came here to play poker and have fun,” the 49-year-old amateur poker player stated moments after coming up short in a fateful hand against the Czech Republic’s Martin Staszko. “Having fun is what it’s all about. This was the experience of a lifetime and I have no regrets,” Bounahra added.
The odds were stacked against Bounahra from the start. He arrived at the finale ranked sixth in chips, down by more than 2 to 1 to the chip leader. Even more of a challenge was his status as the finale’s only non-pro. Hoping to join the ranks of some similar former champions who pulled off monumental upsets in the world championship – Robert Varkonyi, Chris Moneymaker and Greg Raymer to name a few – Bounahra shed the jitters that normally affect players on poker’s grandest stage.
Chomping on an unlit cigar during his nearly five-hour stay, Bounahra was finally knocked out when he lost his final hand against Martin Staszko. Accordingly, the Belize amateur joined the ranks of 6,858 other (eliminated) players who entered this year’s championship, the third largest live tournament ever, who are now forced to look forward to next year, and beyond.
Bounahra was eliminated on the 67th hand played at the final table. Nonetheless, Bounahra could certainly take great pride in what was a remarkable accomplishment. He collected his biggest poker payout ever, $1,314,097 for seventh place. This marked only his second time to cash in a WSOP event, following an in-the-money finish three years ago. Had Bounahra managed to win, he would have become the first Central American poker champion in history. He thus joins Humberto Brenes (Costa Rica) as the only player in history to make it to the Main Event finale from that region of the world.
Bob is certainly number one in Belize and he made us all proud of his great accomplishment. The last three players will return to the same stage at the Rio on Tuesday, November 8, with the final stage of poker’s world championship starting at 5:30pm.
For official reports of the entire tournament, complete with statistics, historical information, records, and quotes from each of the nine players visit www.WSOP.com
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