Top 2010 Poker Player Stories – #15 Sammy Farha
Sometimes, all it takes to make a great story in poker is to have one player win a championship. At the 2010 World Series of Poker, event #25 produced such a story when Sammy Farha found himself heads up for a bracelet against young British Poker Pro James “Flushy” Dempsey. The $10,000 Omaha high-low split eight or better event isn’t typically a tournament that most pundits circle on the calendar as being a “can’t miss tournament.” But when heads up play began, a drama unfolded that made it more of a Hollywood Script than a WSOP Event.
To set the stage, most people remember Farha from his 2003 WSOP Main Event Final Table, where he chomped on his unlit cigarette all the way to a heads up duel with Chris Moneymaker. After getting bluffed off a gigantic pot, Farha would finish runner-up and very unintentionally launch the poker boom. But Omaha was the game that Sammy really excelled at, booking a bracelet in the $2,500 PLO event in 1996 for $145,000, and a 3rd place finish in the $1,500 PLO event in 2002 where Jack Duncan won a bracelet in a final table that also included brothers Ross and Barney Boatman finishing in 7th and 9th places respectively. Farha final tabled another PLO event at the 2004 Five-Diamond World Poker Classic, and then won his second bracelet in the $5,000 Omaha Hi/Lo event at the 2006 WSOP for another $398,560. But despite several $10k Championship final tables, Farha was in search of his first bracelet in a $10k event.
His opponent was a man known across the pond as “The Doctor” and online as “Flushy”. By whatever name you knew him, James Dempsey had been racking up scores in the U.K. and other casinos in Europe since 2005. His first career WSOP Cash was in 2009 in the $2,500 Omaha Hi/Lo event where he’d finish in 14th place, which was his only score in the series. But in 2010, Dempsey returned to the Las Vegas WSOP and struck gold in Event #9, the $1,500 Pot Limit Omaha Event. Dempsey bested the 650 player field to win his first career WSOP Bracelet. After a min-cash in the $5,000 No Limit Hold’em event, Dempsey found himself again at the final table of an Omaha Event in what would be an epic heads up battle for a bracelet.
Dempsey was seeking his 2nd career bracelet and the second of this World Series, while Farha was looking to make history again with his 3rd career bracelet. 23 players began the final day of play at 3pm in Las Vegas with hopes of winning it all. When Mike Sexton was eliminated in 10th place, the final table was set, and it was a beauty. Steve Wong exited in 9th place, and was followed out by cash game specialist Abe Mosseri in 8th place. On the next hand, Eugene Katchalov found a 7th place finish, and a few minutes later it was Michael Chow gone in 6th. Then in the biggest pot of the tournament to date, Tony Mersick came out on the wrong side of a 3-way all in and was eliminated in 5th place. At a little after 1am, Sergey Altbregin was knocked out in 4th place, and three handed action created quite a rail. The Farha and Dempsey rail was huge and loud, much to the annoyance of Yuequi Zhu, who grew increasingly annoyed by the railbirds, kicking one of them out after exchanging a few expletives. Then after 3am, the short stacked and agitated Zhu was eliminated by Dempsey creating the heads up battle that began at 3:05am.
Farha began the battle with the chip lead and used the first half hour to extend that lead to an almost 3 to 1 advantage. But Dempsey found a double and picked up some steam. At a little after 4am, Dempsey doubled again to get healthier and at 4:30am, another Dempsey double up gave the Brit the chip lead. At around 5am, Farha reclaimed the lead but the two would pass chips back and forth for another half hour. Then Farha kicked up the aggressiveness and raked several pots in a row, and by 6am, Farha had reclaimed the 3 to 1 chip lead he once had. But whenever he would get it going, Dempsey would respond by doubling through, and find himself level in chips with Farha when the clock hit 6:30am. At around 7 in the morning, one of the players took a monster hit, and it was Farha who came out on the right side of it. A river of the Ace of spades was just what Farha needed to improve his hand of Ad-Ac-Ks-Kd and give him the winning Aces Full of Queens, and left Dempsey crippled with just 200,000 chips. On the next hand, the two got it in and Dempsey was finally eliminated in 2nd place, earning $301,790 for the runner up.
But the story was all about Sammy. The heads up battle lasted four hours, and the see-saw war was an epic heads up, but neither player seemed to be bothered by the fact that they played for more than 16 hours on the day. Farha even said as much when during the celebration was caught saying “I didn’t get frustrated. That’s not normally me. I didn’t get a good night’s sleep so I was surprised that I wasn’t getting frustrated, which is good.” The composed Farha walked away from the Amazon room at almost 8am with $488,241 for the top prize, and his 3rd career WSOP Bracelet. And for the rest of us, he left behind one heck of a story about an amazing battle that will be remember for years to come.