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Jun 15, 2015

Belize at the World Series of Poker

It’s not a game that is followed by the masses but for those who know a thing or two about poker; it is understood that the World Series of Poker tournaments are a very big deal. One group of eleven persons representing Team Belize traveled to Las Vegas, Nevada last week to compete in one of the scheduled sixty-eight events at the 2015 World Series of Poker over the weekend. News Five was invited to follow Team Belize as they played in fifteen hundred dollar Monster Stack Texas Hold’Em Event. Marleni Cuellar and Rick Romero were there to follow the team and give us the weekend rundown of Team Belize in the Monster Stacks.


Marleni Cuellar, Reporting
The Monster Stack event is one of sixty-eight events that’s held over a two-month span of the World Series of Poker held at the Rio Hotel and Casino. Poker players from all the over the world try their hand at various tournaments hoping to walk away with cash, preferably millions, and poker prestige. The tournaments are massive attracting thousands of players, all ages and from all corners of the world….including Belize. For the first time, eleven players – Belizeans and some who live in Belize formed a team playing this individualistic sport united in the name of Belize. The players included Phil Rigby and Jason Southwell  of San Pedro; Vijay Vidhani of Corozal; brothers Mick and Gian Carlo Fabro, husband and wife, Emil and Amanda Arguelles, John Chee, Houston “Pros” Carr,  Michael “Yellow” Henry, and team leader, Bob BouNahra, of Belize City. A team of eleven is minute given the fact this year’s Monster Stack drew seven thousand done hundred and ninety-two players. But the expectations of the group when registering for the event were anything but small.


Amanda Arguelles

Bob BouNahra, Leader, Team Belize

“It is a great feeling to start with. I told you all from time coming, I will bring more people to represent Belize in the world series of poker and here we are, about fourteen of us are going to play tomorrow and represent Belize. It is always good to compete and be proud of Belize, outside of Belize.”


Amanda Arguelles, Team Belize Player

“It’s a big deal because probably every country is represented here. So to have Belize represented here, such a small country, I think it just makes people more aware of the country and it’s a big deal.”


Michael “Yellow” Henry, Team Belize Player

“It is always best to represent your country; in everything you do, you represent your country and you do it to the fullest and the best of your ability…it is always great.”


Antonio Esfiandari

The team was sponsored by the Princess Poker Room and players earned their spot by having the highest hands, attendance and some were selected by a lucky draw. For some of the players it was their first time to Las Vegas and first international tournament. And to sweeten the experience the team had dinner with poker champions Antonio Esfandiari and Joe Hachem


Antonio Esfiandari, Poker Champion

“Team Belize obviosuly they’ve come here and a lot of them are here for the first time and so I think for them to kinda know somebody here and have some support here would help them in some way or the other. You know I married a Belizean, so I have a soft spot in my heart for all Belizeans. And so I met team Belize and they were very warm, kind people and it was great to host them and hang out with them and I would love for one of them to win the tournament; that would be great.”


After meeting the poker elites, the team prepared for day one of tournament on Saturday. Their mission was to outlast as many of the other thousands of players and progress to the second day of play. That would mean surviving over twelve hours of play. The first few hours the team lost four players: Michael Henry, Emil Arguelles, Phil Rigby and Vijay Vhadani.


Michael “Yellow" Henry

Michael “Yellow” Henry
“Well I say I got flush and I got queen nine ina diamonds so I say I just wah lean and he call and he flop over ih hand…mien that just hurt me to just reach ina that way ina far and after that thing just gone. But it is a life experience. It is my first time; maybe next time, who knows.”


Phil Rigby, Team Belize Player

“So I had a really small stack and sometimes you just gotta keep pushing it in there. Sometimes with nothing, sometimes with something and in the end, I got caught.”


Rolando Fabro

The ousted players joined other Belizeans that showed up to support. Belizean Rolando Fabro, traveled from California to support his nephews who were competing.


Rolando Fabro, Team Belize Fan

“My nephews text me and tell me that they ina poker tournament dah Las Vegas, so I tell them I might meet them here. But almost for every Belize thing weh I could go I try make it. I even dry gone to Utah for the football game so why not for my nephews. I think the players from Belize wah pick up more experience and thing because dah wah completely different game than weh dehn play dah Belize. Noh everything dah all in, all in; dah wah completely different game.”


Bob BouNahra

Bob BouNahra

“We’ve been playing eight levels which is approximately nine hours. We are on dinner break. Seven of us are still going strong; unfortunately, four of us are out but we are going to make up the difference after the dinner break.”


The remaining seven: the Fabro brothers Mick and Gian Carlo, Amanda Arguelles, Jason Southwell, John Chee, Houston Carr and Bob BouNahra then moved into the final hours of play for Day One. But before the night was over Amanda Arguelles, Houston Carr and Bob BouNahra were out.


And while four players survived day one to progress to day two along with 2000 other poker players. It was a short lived triumph as within the first hour on Sunday, three of the four were out. By the fourth hour, all payers of Team Belize were out.


Gian Carlo Fabro, Team Belize Player

“You know it was pretty hard. I was…I just came to try my best and show others what I can do.”


Marleni Cuellar

“Mick did you think you would make it to day two?”


Mick Fabro

Mick Fabro, Team Belize Player

“The way how I was going, no. I didn’t think so. But it worked out. But I was running bad so I always had the better hands and the weaker hands were always out-flapping me and stuff so I think I did pretty good. But today, the way I got knocked out, I think about it…I thought I could have played it different.”


James Southwell

James Southwell, Last Team Belize Player

“Day two is a really good achievement when you have a field that size. So I feel good about making day two. I am obviously disappointed I didn’t make the money, but so many of team Belize that actually made day two; that’s a pretty big deal.”


For the group of fans, the players and their supporters the experience was bittersweet. While the players did not advanced in tournament but they were able to play alongside some of the top players in the world and got to do so while representing Belize.


Rolando Fabro
“People di see the T-shirt around weh di say Belize and ask a lot of questions so for tourism-wise, they know where Belize is and they want to visit Belize, you know.”


Bob BouNahra
“As an overall experience, I believe that everybody had learnt something. And losing a tournament is not the end of the world; determination is what brings you back.  So I am sure each one of them have their own stories and I hope that the experience from this tournament will make them do better judgments next year, including myself.”


Reporting for News Five Live from Las Vegas, Nevada, I am Marleni Cuellar.

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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