– General Information –
Ihsan “Sammy” Farha is a Lebanese-born American professional poker player. He was born in 1959 in Beirut, Lebanon.
Farha played a major role in what was one of the biggest watershed moments in poker history: Chris Moneymaker winning the 2003 WSOP Main Event. Bringing about a worldwide poker boom after, Moneymaker defeated Sammy Farha heads-up for the $2.5 million first prize and the coveted Main Event title.
Runner-up finisher Farha made a lasting impression on the audience – mainly because of his signature gimmick of sucking on an unlit cigarette while playing poker.
Although he’s best known for a No Limit Hold’em tournament performance, Farha’s favorite game type isn’t NLHE or tournaments – he’s specialty has always been live Pot Limit Omaha cash games, adapting the game ahead of the curve.
He’s also known for his TV appearances on Poker After Dark, High Stakes Poker, and the NBC Heads-up Championship. He’s a 3-time WSOP gold bracelet winner.
– Key Career Dates –
- c. 1984: After graduating from college, he moves to Houston, TX , then to Las Vegas where he starts to play poker for a living.
- 1996: He wins his first WSOP gold bracelet in the $2,500 Pot Limit Omaha event for $145,000.
- 2003: He comes in 2nd in the WSOP Main Event for $1.3 million. That is the biggest single live tournament cash of his career to date.
- 2007: He starts appearing on NBC’s classic poker show Poker After Dark.
– Sammy Farha’s Career –
→ Beginnings ←
Farha was born in the Middle Eastern country of Lebanon. A civil war erupted in the nation in 1975, so the Farha family moved to the United States in search of a better life.
The young Ihsan “Sammy” Farha went on to earn a degree in business administration from the University of Kansas. While completing his studies, he also learnt to play pool, ping ball, and the video game Pac Man so well that he earned substantial money by playing these games against others for cash.
After graduating from college, he moved to Houston, Texas. That is where he had his first encounter with poker. Shortly after, he made a trip to Las Vegas. His winnings at the poker tables made him realize he could make his living playing cards. So he quit his job and moved to Vegas.
Interestingly enough, he didn’t make Texas Hold’em his preferred game – rather, Pot Limit Omaha, which was very new in the mid-1980’s when Farha started playing professionally. He talked about the start of his career to Bluff Europe in a 2008 interview:
“When I started playing poker, I said I wanted a certain image all to myself. I said I want to make money; I want to make a living out of this.
So many Hold’em players, they can’t make a living out of the game. I started out playing Omaha, but that’s a dangerous game, and I wanted to learn it to the max and win the max. Omaha is an action game, so you’re either going to win the max or lose the max.
I built this image that’s different to every other pro. Poker is all about knowing what your opponent has and where you’re at – of course, you could be wrong – but in the long run, you’re going to be right. So I built an image for myself that would allow me to get paid off on the hands I play.”
→ Live Tournaments ←
Farha has collected $2.884 million in live tournament earnings, according to his Hendon page. He cashed in 25 different events over the course of 18 years. His last recorded tournament cash is from the 2014 WSOP.
His first recorded cash is also from a World Series event – it’s his first bracelet win in 1996.
However, the first cash of his from outside the WSOP is from many years after. In January 2002, he came in 10th for $3,713 in the $1K PLO event at the Third Annual Jack Binion World Poker Open in Tunica, MS. The scarcity of his tournament scores is because Farha has been focusing on live cash games throughout his career.
But he still managed to deliver some impressive results, especially in heads-up NLHE tournaments.
In March 2006, he took 5th place in the $25K NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship for $75,000. 3 years later, in March 2009, he managed to take 3rd place in the same event, this time pocketing no less than $125,000.
→ World Series Of Poker ←
Sammy Farha is a 3-time WSOP gold bracelet winner.
His first World Series title is from 1996. Given the fact that he made most of his money playing high stakes live PLO cash games, it’s no surprise that he took down the $2,500 Pot Limit Omaha event for $145,000.
In 2006, captured his second bracelet in another Omaha event, the $5K Omaha Hi-Lo tournament this time. He managed to beat none other than 10-time WSOP champion poker legend Phil Ivey heads-up for the title, for which he got $398,500. His last bracelet win to date is from 2010. He finished first in the $10,000 Omaha Hi-Low 8-or-Better Championship for $488,241.
However, his most memorable WSOP performance didn’t end in a victory for him.
At the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event, Farha made it all the way to the heads-up stage in poker’s most important tournament. There, he had to face Chris Moneymaker. The pudgy accountant from Tennessee captured the hearts of many Americans watching the coverage on ESPN. The amateur’s unlikely multi-million dollar win through an $86 online satellite inspired the famous “Moneymaker boom” of the early 2000’s – poker’s popularity and its player pool exploded across all stakes.
Farha did a good job of playing the villain in the story. He with his unlit cigarette in his mouth also made an impression on the viewers. Also, according to Moneymaker’s later tellings, Farha quite rudely rejected his proposal of a heads-up deal, citing the fact that he was a professional while Moneymaker was just an amateur player. Nonetheless, Farha was probably more than contented with his $1.3 million in prize money, which is the biggest single live tournament score of his career to date.
Overall, Farha has cashed in 11 World Series events for a total of $2.586 million combined.
→ Live Cash Games ←
As we wrote multiple times above, Farha has put most of his volume into high stakes live PLO cash games. That is where he made most of his money for most of his poker career. However, live cash game results aren’t tracked anywhere.
Luckily, Farha has also played cash on TV shows such as Poker After Dark on NBC and High Stakes Poker on The Game Show Network.
There, he played stakes as high as $300/$600 against the biggest names in poker at the time – Doyle Brunson, Daniel Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth, among others. He even played one of the biggest pots in televised poker against Patrik Antonius.
→ Online Poker ←
There is no account on any poker site known to be affiliated with Farha.
→ Sponsorships ←
Farha is a spokesman for Harrah’s Casino in Las Vegas. Also, he wrote a PLO strategy book titled “Farha on Omaha” which was published by Triumph Books in 2007.