Play or pass: Sammy Farha

Cash-game king and WSOP bracelet winner Sammy Farha tells us how he likes to play key starting hands

With his slicked-back hair, an unlit cigarette hanging out of his mouth and wit as sharp as his suit, Lebanon-born Farha is easy to spot. Although he prefers high-stakes cash games, his tournament record is still impressive. Not only does he have a WSOP bracelet, but he finished second to Chris Moneymaker in the WSOP main event in 2003, a title that many think he deserved to win.


On the button, I’ve limped in before because I’m hoping they hit the flop and I can bust them. I don’t get scared of being outdrawn. I’ve had them beaten many times, but I’m there to pick up chips. I’ll still make a decent raise in early position, maybe two times the big blind – just enough to get some action. I’ll always take my chances against another person, because what’s the chance that I’m going to lose when it’s just their two cards against my two cards? If somebody makes a big raise pre-flop, I might reraise if I think he’s committed to the pot. If your table is aggressive, you might want to go all-in prefl op, because you know you’re still going to get some action – it all depends on your situation.


You get A-K and make a big raise pre-flop and only get one caller. The flop comes 6-10-Q rainbow. You have to read your opponent and try to put them on something. Small pair? Overcards? If he checks to you, you have to remember that you made the raise pre-flop so a good player will always put in a good bet on the flop to make the other person think. If you check, you might not make your hand on the turn and they’ll bet it. In a way, you’re now giving them the ‘button’ – that is, you’re giving away your positional advantage. Don’t under any circumstances give away that edge. I’m well known for betting on the turn and the river – even if I miss. That’s what makes me dangerous: other players know that if they call my bet on the turn, they’re going to have to call on the river as well. It makes it hard for them to gamble.


I’ll play it in position only – that is, on the button and to the right of the button. If I get reraised, I’ll lay it down. It’s a dangerous hand to play with, though, as even if you do hit the flop with the Ace, somebody might have limped in with A-Q or A-K. Basically, you’re hoping that you hit two pair with it. Of course, if I’m playing heads-up, then it’s an automatic all-in. What are the chances that the other player can beat my Ace? Sometimes you do get caught, but if you want to win, you have to get lucky.


I’ll usually try to create a situation where it’s heads-up play. Some people say you should muck small pairs if you don’t make a set, but you have to remember that if you raised it before the flop and got a caller, they’ve usually got Kings, Queens, Aces or Jacks. If the flop is something like 10-8-5, they’ve probably missed it, so put a good bet in and try to take it away there and then.

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