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Look who's bluffing
Iranians in 2005 World Series of Poker


July 15, 2005

With only a handful of players left in this years World Series of Poker chamionships in Las Vegas, there were two Iranians who were still in the field as of Wednesday. My favorite Bonyadi finished 41st and won $235,000. Shahram "Sean" Sheikhan finished 11th and won $600,000.

You are probably unaware of this, but this is a HUGE money tournoument. Total prize money is $52 Million! More than 5,000 entrants paid $10,000 each to compete. All but a few have been eliminated so far. First place gets $7.5 million (plus just as much in ad revenues), and anybody who makes it the final table (top 10) will get at least $1 million. Poker is growing so fast that it is now bigger than professional tennis and golf combined!

Another thing you may not know is that Iranians are quite active and quite successful in professional poker these days. And, why not? Poker has its root in an ancient Persian card game called "aas naas". Here's where they stand in world rankings today before the end of this year's WSOP:

7th- Amir Vahedi: Sherman Oaks, California..... $602,049

8th- Amir "Antonio" Esfandiari: San Francisco, California..... $459,246

12th- Farzad Bonyadi: Aliso Viejo, California..... $748,490

22nd- Davood Mehrmand: Frankfurt, Germany $348,110

101st- Fred Lavassani: Burbank, California..... $172,881

120th- Reza Payvar: Tarzana, California..... $360,225

150th- Sirous Baghchehsaraie: Glendale, California..... $115,992

Vahedi and Esfandiari get the most attention, but in my opinion, Bonyadi is the best Persian player year-in and year out. Aside from Skill and nerves, he also has great patience, chip management and a champion's intuition, i.e., he can read his opponent well.

On Tuesday, he made an exceptional play against last year's champion Greg Raymer to separate himself from the field. Raymer was the chip leader at the time and had been on an unbelievable lucky streak. Every one was staying away from him. Here's how Bonyadi played the hand that could've easily ended his run: wrote: "With the board showing J-5-5-A-5, Bonyadi bets out $80,000. Raymer raises to $230,000. Bonyadi then reraises $400,000 more, and Raymer finally folds. Bonyadi shows the King high bluff. "

Bonyadi didn't really bluff. He doesn't do that much. He just knew Raymer was bluffing. Still, that's a scary board, and a scary player, to bet most of your chips into.

By the way, if Bonyadi or Sheikhan had won the world championship, it would not have been a first for an Iranian. Mansour Matloubi was the first to win in 1990, and Hamid Dastmalchi won in 1992. WSOP started in 1970).

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