Afghanistan native is a surprise winner at the WSOPE

25 September 2008

In an event flooded with well-known professionals, a virtual unknown won his very first piece of poker jewelry during Event #2 of the World Series of Poker Europe in London Wednesday at the Casino at the Empire.

Sherkhan Farnood, who is reported to be one of the richest men in his native Afghanistan, overcame the most experienced final table in 57 WSOP events played this year to capture the £2500 H.O.R.S.E. event. All eight of the top finalists had previously made WSOP final table appearances and four were former gold bracelet winners, including Howard Lederer and Phil Ivey.

"This is for the people of Afghanistan," Farnood said proudly after cashing in for £76,999, which translates into $192,894 in U.S. dollars. "Because (I won), all the people of my country have a gold bracelet with me."

Farnood is a 46-year-old dual resident of Afghanistan and the United Arab Emirates. In 2005, he became the first poker player ever to cash from the nation of Afghanistan. He also made the final table of the £5,000 Pot-Limit Omaha event at last year's WSOP-Europe and finished second in the $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha with Rebuys at the 2006 WSOP. Farnood is the first player to ever win a WSOP gold bracelet from Afghanistan. He is also believed to be the first full-time resident of the Middle East to win poker's most coveted prize.

In accomplishing his feat, Farnood had to go through a stern field. About a quarter of the players who entered – 26 out of 110 – were former WSOP gold bracelet winners, including the aforementioned Ivey and Lederer as well as all-time leading bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth (11), Doyle Brunson, Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, Mike Matusow, Jeff Madsen, Barry Greenstein and Allen Cunningham.

Lederer, who has two WSOP bracelets to his name, but hasn't won one since 2000, was the chip leader heading into the final table with 283,500 while Farnood was one of two short stacks with 88,000. When heads-up play began against Ivo Donev, Farnood was at a 3 to 2 chip disadvantage, but managed to recover from an all-in situation late and stormed back to dominate the final 30 minutes of play. Farnood scooped virtually every pot in the later stages of the tournament. In all, the final table took more than 13 hours to complete.

Donev is from Lochau, Austria. In 2000, he won a gold bracelet in the $1,500 Limit Hold'em event. This marked his ninth time to cash in a WSOP competition and his fourth final table appearance.

Farnood's win, coupled with Denmark's Jesper Hougaard victory in Event #1 on Monday, means that U.S. players continue to be shut out at the WSOPE. Through five events, including the three that were played in last year's inaugural Series, the winners have hailed from England (2), Norway, Denmark, and Afghanistan.

The event also helped this year's WSOP become the largest and richest in history. A grand total of 59,240 players have entered the 57 gold bracelet events held so far – with two WSOPE events still to be played. This number exceeds last year's total entries, which was 54,288. In addition, a record grand total of $182,060,002 in prize money has been awarded so far in 2008.

Event # 3, a £5,000 Pot Limit Omaha tournament, began on Wednesday and entering Thursday's action 45 of the 165 entries remained in contention. Leading the way was Jason Mercier with 209,800 chips. Other notables included Neil Channing (128,000), who already has eight WSOP cashes this year, David Williams (122,400), Phil Laak (111,400), Andy Bloch (109,200), Ferguson (70,800) and Cunningham (64,600). The final table for Event #3 is scheduled for Friday and the winner will take home £218,626.

The first day of the £ 10,000 No Limit Hold'em Main Event begins Saturday, with the final table scheduled to start Thursday, Oct. 2.


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