Circle this day in red on your poker calendar and call it Sami The Dealer Day, because the man can’t lose on November 11.
Exactly one year ago today, Sami “The Dealer” Bechahed won nearly $275,000 and a WSOP Circuit Ring at WSOP Choctaw Durant. Tonight, he won nearly that same amount and an historic NAPT title.
“It’s just insane what’s happening to me,” he said. “It’s just surreal.”
And why is this so historic?
Well, a picture may be worth a thousand words. The championship of this tournament paid $268,945. But what this trophy below represents could be worth countless millions and the final ingredient in poker’s rebooted primordial soup recipe for Big Boom II.
Note this: the trophy came from PokerStars. And it’s in Las Vegas. If you don’t know why that’s meaningful, you’re either fairly new to poker or you slept through the first poker boom.
Right now, Bechahed is taking home that first place money and the trophy as the first North American Poker Tour champion since Vanessa Selbst won the 2011 Mohegan Sun main event on the eve of the poker industry’s Black Friday.
Mark the moment, because this is more than Sami The Dealer Day. This could could soon represent something much more significant in the poker history books.
Sami the Dealer takes a new seat
Those people who didn’t know Bechahed as a player before now might have already seen him in the box dealing on the popular Hustler Casino Live stream.
Last month, he won his third WSOP Circuit ring at WSOP Thunder Valley for a little more than $10,000, and despite his reputation as a dealer, he’d amassed nearly $1 million in winnings prior to this event.
Bechahed was among the 1,095 entries to the NAPT Las Vegas Main Event, the signature tournament of the weeklong series at Resorts World on the Las Vegas Strip. The $1,650 Main Event and surrounding festival was PokerStars’ first major push into the American poker scene since retreating from the 2011 Black Friday assault. PokerStars brought its trademark European Poker Tour-style branding and player experience packages to Vegas. All week long, players queued up for tournaments, and PokerStars wowed its qualifiers with special stuff like tickets to Tina Fey, a Golden Knights game, or a trip to the Las Vegas Sphere. If you knew the old PokerStars, you know this new PokerStars.
In the Main Event, seven players returned on Saturday to battle for that trophy. They stacked up like this.
NAPT Las Vegas 2023 Main Event final table:
Seat 1: Sami Bechahed, USA, 10,570,000 Seat 2: Nick Schulman, USA, 4,390,000 Seat 3: Ping Liu, USA, 3,095,000 Seat 4: David Coleman, USA, 1,610,000 Seat 5: Sandeep Pallampati, USA, 4,300,000 Seat 6: Sergio Aido, Spain, 6,670,000 Seat 7: Jonathan Borenstein, USA, 2,200,000
NAPT Las Vegas final table
Sandeep Pallampati, a data scientist from New Jersey, wasn’t fully settled into his seat before losing his entire stack to Sergio Aido on a first-hand with two-pair versus flopped set cooler. Fan favorite Nick Schulman lasted a couple hours into the final day, but having been whittled down to ten big blinds, called all-in and lost with a pair of fours in a blind vs. blind battle against Sami Bechahed’s overcards.
Nick Schulman reflects on the NAPT, live misclicks, and the fan support he got during his final table run
Nick Schulman $54,680
After a long afternoon of back and forth, Sergio Aido found himself clinging to his last few chips, and though he took his little stack to the dinner break, he lost it immediately upon returning from dinner after shoving blind vs. blind with K3 into Jonathan Borenstein’s ace-ten.
Ping Lui didn’t last much longer and was gone a few minutes later. Although he had the second-biggest stack of the remaining four players, he got slapped in the face with another blind-vs-blind mess, this one against the chip-leading Bechahed. They made it to a nine-high flop which should have been good for Lui’s queens, but it wasn’t because Bechahed had flopped a set of nines. What is a man to do on Sami The Dealer Day?
Lui was gone in fourth place.
David Coleman was on the verge of elimination the day before when he managed to get it in with an ace-king versus ace-queen for a crucial double-up to save him from elimination with two tables left. Nevertheless, he entered final table play on Saturday with the shortest stack at the table.
No worries, though, as he managed to take that short-stack and ride it all the way to a third place finish for more than $130,000. His last chips went to, of course, Bechahed, the runaway chip-leader. From there, the outcome seemed almost pre-determined. And so it was that only a few minutes later, Jon Borenstein put his last few chips in with an unsuited ten-nine, and Bechahed snapped him off with his ace-ten. That left only the actual dealer, Sami the Dealer, and a trophy at the table.
Two years ago took $2,000 from his savings account and combined it with his dream of being at the table in a place that wasn’t the dealer’s box. Over two years, he racked up a lot of cashes and some wins, but he didn’t come in for this event thinking he was going to win. Last night, he hadn’t even booked a hotel room. Today, his only clean t-shirt (the one he wore under his jacket) was one he got from Hustler Live. Now, he’s an NAPT champion.
But is he still The Dealer?
“I love the job. I love doing what I do,” he said.
Want to see all the best photos, videos, and stories from entire NAPT week? Visit our Pokerorg Instant Live feed from the NAPT.
Welcome to The Big Boom II?
Sami The Dealer is the champion of the hour, but this festival rises even higher than his accomplishment.
Modern poker scholars have long proclaimed there would never have been a poker boom without a combination of unlikely ingredients coming together in an unexplainable industry Big Bang. The creation of the lipstick hole card cameras introduced televised poker to a hungry audience. That invention met TV execs and networks willingness to broadcast those shows. Those poker shows wiggled through the early modern genetic soup and found online poker companies that devised the online qualifier for live poker events.
And then there was poker. The Big Boom. The Garden of Eden with Chris Moneymaker in the role of Adam (and thank heavens Moneymaker wears more than a fig leaf when he’s not at home).
Those early days were heady times, and there is no proper accounting of how many bites of that apple the industry took before April 15, 2011 when Black Friday plunged that decade of light into what could have been perpetual darkness. Only heaven knows how many times life has tried and failed to flourish, but poker people know it has been a long time since anyone had a good apple.
We might not even be speaking of those dark days again but for the fact that we now know what the beginning of life looks like for poker. We have seen that unlikely alchemy happen before. Now, keen observers are noting the conditions for life are once again as ripe as a honeycrisp in early October.
The past 12 months have seen the WPT World Championship’s primal scream, the WSOP brazenly stamp its logo on Paradise, and Chris Moneymaker, most famous for turning a PokerStars satellite into a WSOP Main Event bracelet 20 years ago, now has his own tour. Now PokerStars and its online qualifiers are traveling once again to Las Vegas and crowning new champions.
Now, on Sami The Dealer Day, PokerStars has a new champion in Las Vegas.
What’s next? Well, PokerStars reps aren’t saying anything publicly yet, but they’ve just kicked off Poker’s Greatest Winter.
Really…if the Big Boom II is going to happen, do you think PokerStars is going to miss it?
Watch Sami The Dealer’s full post-win interview with PokerOrg’s Tiffany Michelle here
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