Las Vegas, NV (June 3, 2011) – Chris Moneymaker may want to try playing poker for a living solely against Sammy Farha. The iconic poker underdog from Tennessee defeated his renowned adversary once again.
In what was billed as a “Grudge Match” redux of the epic poker duel which took place at the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event, Moneymaker beat Farha in the repeat match and still remains undefeated – at least against a stunned high-stakes Lebanese-born gambler who has done just about everything in poker, except beat Moneymaker. Chalk up the lifetime scorecard as follows: MONEYMAKER--2, FARHA--0.
The Moneymaker-Farha heads-up match held eight years ago, won by the then-unknown newcomer to the poker scene, is widely considered by most authorities as the quintessential moment in history which ignited what has been referred to as the modern poker boom. Following Moneymaker’s shocking victory at Binion’s Horseshoe in Downtown Las Vegas, everything changed. The recreational poker “Everyman” transformed the lives of millions of people who suddenly became devoted poker players and fans. Poker became popular on television. Everyone with a computer started logging on and playing poker online. Poker became chic.
Although runner up Farha later admitted Moneymaker’s stunning upset victory was great for the game, he was still cast in history in the undesirable role of a forgotten bridesmaid. He watched from the sidelines playing nightly for nosebleed stakes while Moneymaker took the field as one of the world’s most popular poker players. Eight long years passed.
Then, at this year’s WSOP at the Rio Las Vegas, Farha was given the chance to try and redeem himself. He took a seat at a special table designed especially for heads-up play in front of a live audience and an ESPN national television broadcast. Farha played heads-up against Moneymaker in a best two-out-of-three series of matches designed to repeat the unique circumstances of one of the most memorable duels in poker history.
Moneymaker won the first match and took a 1-0 lead.
Farha rebounded in the second match and drew back even with his rival. The match was count was tied 1-1, with one final match to determine the winner.
During the third game, no doubt many would say Farha probably deserved to win based on at least one quirky hand which developed late in the rubber match. Farha held the chip lead and had Moneymaker on the ropes drawing to a two-outer. It seemed Farha would win and enjoy his revenge. Then, disaster struck. Moneymaker magically rivered a deuce on what became the pivotal hand of the duel, catching one of only two cards that enabled him to survive. A dozen or so hands later, Moneymaker won another big hand and dragged the final chip of the match.
Farha was done. Moneymaker, true to his name, was the champion – again.
Moneymaker raised his hands high into the air, taking the familiar champion’s pose. Meanwhile, Farha, his trademark unlit cigarette still dangling from his lips, could only watch and muster a halfhearted smile, obviously masking inner disappointment and the ludicrous realization that he had lost, yet again. Farha explained later that he was quite happy with the way he played. But he was certainly not pleased with the final outcome.
In retrospect, Farha may have three WSOP gold bracelets – which happens to be two more than the former accountant-turned poker pro and ambassador has on his resume. But he’s still never defeated Chris Moneymaker. And for Moneymaker, he now holds some incredible bragging rights. Not too many poker players can say they have a perfect record playing poker against Sammy Farha.
Highlights of the Moneymaker-Farha match which will air later on ESPN along with a similar broadcast of the Johnny Chan-Phil Hellmuth heads-up confrontation from 1989. Immediately following the match, Farha and Moneymaker were interviewed near tableside. The highlights of the exchange went as follows:
Question: Did it hurt to lose this match?
Farha: Not really. It hurts when you play bad. It hurts you emotionally when you play bad and lose. You say to yourself, ‘Why did I do this?’ But, I don’t think I did anything wrong tonight. I think I played perfectly.
Question: Moneymaker is still undefeated against you. Does it bother you that some people may actually think of Moneymaker as the better poker player?
Farha: Not really.
Question: Did you enjoy yourself playing tonight?
Farha: I love the setup. It’s beautiful. This is really nice. It was a lot of fun, especially playing with Chris.
Question: Describe your relationship with Chris. Had you played with him since 2003?
Farha: No, we had not played together since that time. It’s been eight years. Back in 2003, he was lucky like 27 times. I was lucky once. Tonight, I think I was lucky once again. But he got lucky like 12 times. I think I played perfectly. You will see that on TV.
Question: Did you prepare yourself in any way for the re-match?
Farha: When I sit down and play, I don’t usually go in with any sense of strategy. I just let it come to me. But you have to adjust your play to the way he is playing at that moment.
(Note: Moneymaker joined the conversation at this point)
Farha: (Laughing) Tell them that Sammy Farha will never play against Chris Moneymaker again. He is totally embarrassed. One more bad beat, and I’m done. I’m going to go outside and cry right now. No seriously, I had a great time. It was fun.
Moneymaker: So did I.
Question: Chris, some critics insist you were lucky to win back in 2003. You were even called a fluke by some. What’s your reaction?
Moneymaker: I don’t think about it that much, actually. Of course, it takes some luck to win. But when two guys are walking by calling me ‘a fluke,’ I know it’s just jealousy. They want to be exactly where I’m sitting up on that stage. So, you can’t give any credence to that. I don’t worry about that.
Question: How much satisfaction do you get in beating Farha a second time?
Moneymaker: Anything can happen when playing heads-up. I do like the fact that I played well. I had some spots when I was (an underdog). But I am not sure I could have played much differently. Coming in, I think I am a much better player now than back in 2003. I played well tonight, and it worked out for me.
Question: Let’s say there was a WSOP gold bracelet and half-a-million dollars at stake here. Do you think you would have played the same way, and more important – would the final outcome have been the same?
Moneymaker: Yeah, one-hundred percent. I would not have played differently, and I don’t think Sammy would have played differently. I was actually surprised at how he came out and played. But I do not think things would have been much different.
Question: How were things different this time in terms of strategy?
Moneymaker: Back then (in 2003), I was a total amateur player. I wanted to make pots big. I wanted him to have to make some very tough decisions, so I decided to bluff a ton. I thought he was the superior player and I thought I needed to play big-bet poker to win. He wanted to play big-bet poker back then, too. He was tired and was just a different player. But today, we both came in fresh. This time, he came out and his game completely changed. He played much differently than the way I thought he would. That took me by surprise in the early going. So, I made some adjustments. I normally play most people the same when I first sit down, and then make adjustments as we go along.
Question: How have things changed for you in recent years?
Moneymaker: I’ve been doing this (playing poker and touring) now longer than the job I used to do before I won. What was normal before is now more normal for me being a poker player.
Question: You were one of the people who started the poker boom. Now, poker is changing again. What do you think about that?
Moneymaker: It’s been a weird year. There is so much going on. Poker is in a flux, right now. There are a lot of changes happening. But it was great to come back here to the WSOP and get on the green felt with
Sammy Farha and play again.
Question: Do you miss the WSOP when you are away?
Moneymaker: Not really. I have been doing this for eight years now. I always play four or five events each year. In 2004, I played in eight events, and I wanted to shoot myself for making deep runs and then busting. Now, I like to spend more time with my family. My daughter’s birthday falls in the middle of the WSOP and I want to spend it with her.
Question: Do you still have the hat, the shirt, and the glasses you wore when you won back in 2003?
Moneymaker: Yes, I’ve got the shirt. I’ve also got the hat that I wore. I’ve got the jacket….and, I’ve got the bracelet.