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Nov 8, 2011

Behind the Scenes at Bob’s Poker in Vegas

Marleni Cuellar

The World Series of Poker placed Belize on the international stage when Badih “Bob” Bou-Nahra competed among the finalists.  The lead up to this event started in July with six thousand, eight hundred and sixty-five players and a ten thousand dollar buy-in. After almost a week of twelve hour days of playing, the November nine final table was established. In the last four months all nine players have become international poker celebs, including Bob. This station was the only local among the international press to follow the event; we were privy to all the behind scenes that invariably included a large contingent of Belizeans. Here is our report from Las Vegas.

Marleni Cuellar

“What brings over 200 Belizeans congregating in none other than las vegas for one weekend? Well Belizean Bob Bounahra has been able to secure a seat in the final table for the world series of poker. Now, it’s an incredible experience of him individually but even more so for our country as he sits with some of the worlds’ best poker players with camera and media from all over the world and the spotlight is on him and on us.26.13

Since his return to Belize after making it to the final nine, Bob along with the rest of the November Nine have become international poker superstars. The WSOP Final table is the equivalent of the Olympics of Poker and Belize securing a seat via Bob Bou-Nahra was an unprecedented occasion. During the past four months the hype has been building around all the players including the oldest, and only non professional player, Belizean Bob Bou-Nahra. His countless international interviews included a shoot with ESPN in Belize and continued leading up to the day before the event.  Family and friends from Belize and those living in the states travelled to Las Vegas to be a part of this event. The night before, as a show of appreciation & pep rally of sorts, a reception was held at the Bellagio. The room was overflowing with excitement and best wishes.

Dion Leslie,  Bou-Nahra’s Poker Buddy

“We’re expecting bob to go all the way and bring home the bracelet for Belizean.”

Pierre Bou-Nahra

Pierre Bou-Nahra, Bob’s brother

“I think Bob has played lost of tournaments more than all of us. He has more than all of us and that’s why he has good enough experience to get where he is right now and hopefully he will win it on Tuesday. As family he has reached farther than anybody has expected or would have.”

Rommel Berges, Bob’s Poker Buddy

Rommel Berges

“He’s playing for all of us. This is Bob’s goal; this is all poker players goal and Belize to reach the final table and to win the bracelet. He will make Belize proud and he will make all of us proud. The dream he is living we’re living it with him.”

Mike Hotchandani

Mike Hotchandani, Bob’s Friend

“Why was it important for you to come out here to support Bob? To support my friend, he’s our fellow colleague, He’s my lucky charm. And he is going to win the tournament I’m guaranteeing. We ware with full wishes.”

Anthony Lambey, Belizean living in Vegas

“All I gotta say is I so excited and shocked that I’m here, her e to support you my brother. Cause we gotta big up Belize.”

Kenrick Lambey, Belizean living in Vegas

Kenrick Lambey

“Me myself da wah poker player know how hard it is fi get weh paat he deh right now. So I give this man all props fi how far he done reach already, wish ah all the best of luck, all the best.”

Noel Young, Belizean living in Vegas

“For me, right now, it’s ecstatic. We don’t have this ever. To represent Belizean—Las Vegan Belizean; we’re gonna go all out tomorrow.”

Elvin Penner

Even government ministers made the trip to Vegas for the main event shared their well wishes and appreciation for the exposure to Belize.

Minister Elvin Penner

“I don’t think we could have found a better ambassador to take us to this point than my friend, Bob Bou-Nahra.  This means much more than anybody could imagine. I was telling somebody earlier we could have spent millions of dollars on magazines putting ads on the diff channels. It would not do half of what this specific event has doesn’t for Belize. This is one of the most famous events in the world being watched all over Belize and to make a player from Belize make it to the final table is just amazing.”

As for Bob, he kept his poker face even the night before the main event, not showing an inkling of nervousness.

Badih ‘Bob’ Bou-Nahra, Finalist for World Series of Poker

Badih ‘Bob’ Bou-Nahra

“I feel very relaxed and very calm. It gives me a little bit more encouragement for tomorrow and maybe preps me a little better so that I can you know feel my way into this tournament. So for me personally I’m fine right now.”

Marleni Cuellar

“You’ve kept a sense of calm over our past couple interviews. Some might mistake it as over confidence.”

Badih ‘Bob’ Bou-Nahra

“Actually it’s the opposite; I‘m not over confident. But I don’t want to build it up for bigger than it is cause I don’t want to lose track of how I play in this situation. So I prefer not to think about it as it’s huge. As long as Belize is promoted I will go in there and play my game tomorrow. In my personal opinion there s is not much you can do to prepare for something like this. Nobody knows what will happen in the cards. You have to get in there tomorrow and feel your way through it…and then you make your game plan.  I don’t believe that there is anybody of out of the final 9 that has an advantage over the other. Everybody got there and they didn’t get there by chance. They fought their way in and obviously tomorrow you gotta try to eliminate player by player. There is no one that can tell you what will happen tomorrow. The lowest stack can win it and the highest stack can be the first one out none of there by chance. I respect all of them I fear none of them.”

With eight point seven Million US dollars up for grabs, it is undeniable even for Bob that the money was an incentive.

But he made it clear that promoting Belize was a large part of his focus. He was even dubbed Bob Belize by the international commentators.

Badih ‘Bob’ Bou-Nahra

“I chose to put Belize out there because really and truly this has nothing to do about Bob. It has been about Belize. The crew with me made sure that I kept my Belize hat every single day from day six and I will keep my Belize hat until tomorrow. One of the ESPN guys ask me “what do you want the world to know about Bob Bou-Nahra?” I said to him is the world does not need to know anything more about bob Bou-Nahra all I need you t o do is talk about Belize and that’s all its about.Poker is a fun sport for me and this is just another event the money is about business yes I’ll spend some on leisure. But at the end of the day it’ll go back to Belize in investments.”

And on the eve of the WSOP main event, the city that never sleeps lit up, while the poker player & fans called it a night for what was sure to be an Epic event at the Pen & teller  theatre on Sunday.

Marleni Cuellar

“You will be seeing with their Belize flags, caps, t-shirts. The smallest country represent in the tournament has the biggest support group. It really is such an energetic type of feeling. We had some people chanting earlier.  The gates will open shortly where people will be able to enter the theatre and watch how things play out, literally.

Once the game has started obviously all focus is going to be in here. And obviously the grandness of this occasion is magnified by the room itself…do their best to make it for Tuesday.”

Once everyone was seated, the energy of the Belizean delegation saturated the theatre. The family was seated on the stage behind the players where there was an empty seat for his late brother Ben. The visibility of the flag was constant whether it was being waved in the air hanging off the deck or flashing on the chest of the couple hundred Team Belize T Shirts. The Belizean delegation was hard to miss when the Garifuna drums & maracas were brought in to add to the festive atmosphere: A sight that instinctively grabbed the attention of the foreign press. Then after our poker celeb Bob Bounahra made his entrance to a screaming audience, their bet was on Belize. The game commenced with the signature phrase: Shuffle UP and Deal.

Bob entered the final table ranking 6th in chips. He was also the oldest player at forty-nine and considered an amateur since the other players played poker professionally. The crowd echoed the highs and lows of the card game. Jumping to their feet in the excitement with every pot that Bob collected and when the odds started to stack against Bob an occasional “we love you bob” to show their continuous support. When he went all in, the crowd stood in anxiety quietly waiting for each card to be laid on the table; then the “river” or the final card was laid out: a six of diamonds, leaving the Czech player Martin Staszko with the higher hand and thus diminishing Bob’s chances of playing further. Even then the Belizeans graciously gave him a standing ovation as he made his exit. A less enthusiastic, Bob, conducted his interview among surrounded by his supporters who ensured that it was will the same revelry and nationalistic pride as when he made his entrance.

Bob Bou-Nahra

“I just knew in the first hour that I sat down that things were not running my way and instead of taking big gamble and big risk, I just wanted to see if the cards would change and they didn’t change, actually they basically went to the worse.”

Marleni Cuellar

“How did you keep yourself motivated while you were going or did you lose that motivation anyway?”

Bob Bou-Nahra

“I did not lose the motivation. I just did not feel that yuh know today is not your day. You know in poker you have days that are for you and days that are not for you. In poker there are ups and downs, no matter what is your strategy; you still can’t fight it no matter what. Nobody knows what’s in the cards.”

Marleni Cuellar

“You had two missions coming into this final table. One was to walk away with this top prize; the second was to put Belize on the world map. How do you feel about this second mission? The amount of support, the drummers, the flag, the chanting of your name the entire while?”

Bob Bou-Nahra

“The people who came to support me, there is no way I can ever thank them for what they did. This is something that Belize has never seen ever before. I really want to thank them

Marleni Cuellar

“And of course not even 7th place can break the Belizean spirit. What has happened today is that we had a Belizean make his mark in poker and make our mark internationally. It definitely is one of those occasions that will go down in history. We are proud of Bob and we’re glad we are here. Let’s go Belize.”

The final table convenes today with the three finalists to remain after Sunday: Martin Staszko, Ben Lamb, & Pius Hienz. When we last checked, the results of the grand finale were still not made available.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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7 Responses for “Behind the Scenes at Bob’s Poker in Vegas”

  1. concerned citizen says:

    Congrats brother you represented well and with the utmost love for Our Country Belize! Well done bob

  2. Ruben Munoz says:

    BOB,

  3. Rizzo says:

    Dion…. I thought you were sick???? Belize has other problems! Your support from home would have sufficed!

  4. Marie says:

    Its great to see all Spanish, Black, Arab, Indian, whites and Chiney supporting together

  5. SIR ANTHONY LAMBEY says:

    CONGRADS BOB, YOU DESERVE IT. IT FEEL SO GOOD TO SEE A BELIZEAN TAKE POKER TO SUCH A LEVEL. I WAS EXCITED BECAUSE I WAS THERE TO SEE THE TOURNAMENT LIVE. NEXT TIME YOU DO AGAIN, JUST HIT ME UP, I’LL STILL BE HERE IN BEAUTIFUL LAS VEGAS NV. HOPEFULLY I WILL SEE YIU NEXT YEAR. PEACE BROTHE!!!!!!!!

  6. SIR ANTHONY LAMBEY says:

    CONGRADS BOB, JUST WANT TO SAY THANKS FOR HAVING US SEE THE TOURNAMENT LIVE. ME AND MY BROTHERS HAD A GOOD TIME HANGING OUT WITH OUR BELIZEAN BROTHERS AND SISTERS. MAYBE NEXT TIME YOU WILL MAKE IT TO 1ST PLACE MY BROTHER. UNTIL NEXT TIME MY BROTHER, HOPEFULLY NEXT YEAR, HIT ME UP AGAIN I’LL STILL BE HERE IN BEAUTIFUL LAS VEGAS NEVADA. PEACE!!!!!

  7. George says:

    WOW dion! I thought you were sick too! I guess it could have not been that bad if you found time to go to Vegas! At least you were there to support bob, that’s what is important. Oh…and your health too. See you soon!

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