The November Nine is here as poker’s most-coveted prize is on the line. This year, the moniker “World” Series of Poker is truly fitting as just three Americans join a melting pot of international players at the final table.Ireland, Czech Republic, Germany, England, the Ukraine and even the tiny country of Belize are all represented this month.
American sports fans love the underdog, and I’m no different. So this year, I’ll be pulling for the likable character from Belize City, a part-time South Florida resident who spends several days each month staying with relatives in Ft. Lauderdale.
Badih Bou-Nahra, a Lebanese immigrant who owns a wholesale grocery business and is part-owner of a poker room in Belize City, is the only amateur at the November Nine, a veteran player nearing age 50 at a table full of 20-somethings.
A table full of Internet poker whiz-kids who figure to send the old man packing early. Bou-Nahra is so unknown that his first and last names were reversed on official WSOP published chip counts for the first seven days of the event. He plays little online, preferring to concentrate on live games.
Though this is his fourth year at the WSOP, his only cash came in 2008 at a $2K hold’em event, where he finished 51st.
But with his laid-back demeanor and infectious laugh, this man is tougher than they think, a grinder in the truest sense of the word, especially during the main event. On Day 5, he was 118th out of the 142 remaining players, and on Day 7 was the short stack with 27 players left.
The man known to friends as Bob has a habit of walking away from the table when his remaining chip stack is at risk, almost afraid to watch, a fact that led to one of the more humorous moments of the WSOP broadcasts during Day 5.
Bou-Nahra went all-in, for the first time in the tournament, with about 400K chips left and holding 8H-7H. He had run into the pocket kings of Andrey Pateychuk, but a 4-5-6 flop gave him the straight, only to have another king come off on the turn. Standing about 15 feet from the table and sweating it out with friends on the rail, Bou-Nahra couldn’t see the final card, but was needled by Bryan Devonshire, who signaled an opponent’s full house.
Disconsolately returning to the table, a shocked Bou-Nahra realized there was no full house and gushed, “I won? I won!” The hand rejuvenated him. Though he would remain near the bottom of the chip counts for another day and a half, he would continue to grind until a critical hand less than an hour into the final day of play would change his fortunes.
After seeing a 6-5-J rainbow flop, Bou-Nahra led out with a bet of about one quarter of the pot while holding 5-6 offsuit. Phil Collins, not the singer, but the former South Carolina student, shoved while holding K-J offsuit. Bob felt he had no choice but to call with his remaining 4 million chips. A harmless 10 on the turn and 4 on the river made it the right call, and suddenly the amateur from Belize found himself rocketing into the top half of the dwindling field. Later, with just 10 players left, Bou-Nahra would severely cripple John Hewitt with pocket kings vs. Hewitt’s K-Q, leading to the elimination of Hewitt as the 2011 Bubble Boy.
Now with the 14-week hiatus between Day 8 and the final table nearly complete, Bou-Nahra makes his final preparations for the most important sit-n-go of his life. The big difference in this one, though, is a monstrous pile of cash awaits the winner, giving Bob the opportunity of a lifetime to take care of his family, including three children. Meanwhile, he has used this unique opportunity to promote his beautiful, yet unrecognized country of Belize, going so far as to ask reporters to “talk about my country, not me.”
A 12-1 underdog at the final table despite his sixth-place chip stack of nearly 20 million, the semi-regular at the Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood promises the pressure, the possible fame and looming fortune for the winner will not change him one bit. “I am not going to change my style of play,” he told me, but would not offer a prediction either, saying, “No one knows what’s in the cards.”
Litvin named director at Big Easy
I’m pleased to announce the promotion of long-time friend David Litvin to director of poker operations for the Big Easy Poker Room at South Florida’s Mardi Gras Casino. Litvin, 49, started at the Hallandale Beach property as a dealer in early 2009 and after being promoted to shift manager about a year ago was named the cardroom manager in August.
Promotion has been the key word as Litvin has instituted several aggressive and interesting ones to the Big Easy lineup, including a freeroll for area college students. Next month, I’ll talk with David about his innovative ideas for attracting new customers in this competitive market, along with his background in the parimutuel business and an interesting side project he hopes will hit the stage in the near future: a poker-related theatre production.
— Big Dave Lemmon is Ante Up’s South Florida Ambassador. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.