Turning Back the Clock: A Feature on Belize’s Biggest Poker Ace

January 12 16:26 2018 Print This Article

It’s been more than six since Belizean poker pro Badih “Bob” Bounahra secured a place at the prestigious “November Nine” final table of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event 2011. Bounahra started at the final table in sixth place with almost 20 million chips accrued since day one. It was only Bounahra’s second World Series of Poker event that he played in that year, with the other being a $1,500 buy-in side event. For Bounahra, playing the WSOP Main Event was only a hobby; it was anything but business to him.

Nevertheless, once he had secured a place in the November Nine, things suddenly became serious indeed. Playing for millions of dollars of life-changing prize money, Bounahra was thrust into the spotlight, with the nation of Belize talked about on a global platform. Prior to the 2011 Main Event, Bounahra ran a wholesale grocery business and he stated publicly before the November Nine that becoming the Main Event champion would help him to ease off on the business front.

Disappointingly, Bounahra’s world championship dreams were eventually shattered when he became the third player to leave the final table in seventh place. The first four hours of final table action saw zero eliminations before a flurry of three eliminations in just 40 minutes. Bounahra, who was one of the most popular figures among the live audience at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino. Bounahra wasn’t one for making a fashion statement at the poker table nor was he one of the most colorful characters at the 2011 final table, but what he lacked in charisma, he more than made up for in his poker play.

In all fairness, the odds were stacked against Bounahra from the word go at the final table. He was the only poker amateur at the table who was looking to become part of a select group of nonprofessionals, including Greg Raymer, Robert Varkonyi and Chris Moneymaker; each of whom upset the applecart and won a Main Event world championship. The latter’s success was known as the Moneymaker Effect, kick-starting the online poker “boom.” Bounahra was short stacked at the point of his final hand at the final table. He shoved all-in preflop with a marginal ace-five offsuit and was called by Czech pro Martin Staszko who also had an ace with a higher kicker, which eventually sealed Bob’s fate.

Bounahra’s seventh-place finish secured him an enormous $1.31 million payout in only his second ever winning at a WSOP event. The Belizean became the second Central American to cash out at the Main Event final table, with Costa Rican Humberto Brenes being the first man to achieve the feat. Since then, Bounahra has earned an additional $220,000 in tournament poker earnings, achieving his second-best cash out in June last year, finishing fifth in a $3 million guaranteed tournament at The Venetian in Las Vegas, scooping $158,515 with only a $3,500 entry. With nearly $2 million in total winnings, it’s fair to say that the game of poker has treated Bounahra well.

There’s no doubt that the Belizean is happy to continue playing poker as a hobby rather than a career. He’s only played one poker tournament in the last six months, finishing in 41st place in a $2 million guaranteed tournament at the Rock ‘N’ Roll Poker Open. It’s always heartening to see amateurs capable of defying the odds and outlasting those that grind the poker tables day in, day out. People like Bob are an inspiration to us all.