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Reversal of Fortune Redux: Sirous Baghchehsaraie Stages Greatest Comeback in Jack Binion World Poker Open History

What are the chances that any poker player down 87 to 1 in the chip count would come back and win?  Add the obstacle that the player holding the chip lead just so happened to be one of England’s top poker pros, having finished high in several big tournaments recently -- including the 2004 World Series of Poker.  Then, consider the game they were playing – Omaha High-Low Split, normally not a game contusive to massive chip swings.  Finally, what are the odds this unprecedented reversal of fortune would all happen within a lightening-fast 35-minute period?  Oddsmakers would certainly lay some pretty long odds on that proposition.

At 9:52 pm CST, on January 14, 2005 a hundred or so spectators were gathered around the final table of Event #8 at the Jack Binion World Poker Open.  After nearly six hours, the outcome seemed to be a foregone conclusion.  Sitting at one end of the table, with a massive chip count of $437,000 was steely-eyed Brit, Gary Jones.  At the opposite end of the table was the well-known Los Angeles touring pro Sirous Baghchehsaraie clutching onto his last five chips like an illegal alien gripping bus fare – a paltry five chips in all.  Baghchehsaraie didn’t have enough chips to post the big blind, let alone wait for a playable hand.  Everyone rose to their feet and watched, anticipating the final hand of the night. 


Instead, what they witnessed was quite possibly the single greatest comeback in poker tournament history.  It was baseball’s Boston Red Sox upsetting the hated Yankees after being down 0-3, pro football’s Buffalo Bills overcoming a 32-point second-half deficit to stun Houston in the playoffs, basketball’s Los Angeles Lakers rallying from 33-points down to shock Dallas -- all rolled up into one whale of a poker tournament that is sure to be discussed for years to come.  Recall poker’s famous ‘chip and a chair’ story from the 1982 World Series.  Jack Straus, may God rest his soul, now has a rival.  His name is Sirous Baghchehcaraie.


When the tournament started, no one could have possibly foreseen what was to come.  Following Day One, during which 433 players were eliminated, the nine finalists took their seats at the final table.  Thereafter, players were eliminated in the following order:

9th Place – Andy Karon, lowest in chips from the start, went out first when he was dealt a normally-strong A-2-3-7, got counterfeited, and lost to two pair and a better low.  Karon, from Duluth, MN received $4,287.

8th Place – Billy R. Woodrum, a poker dealer playing in only his second High-Low tournament ever, was bounced off the final table when his A-5-5-7 was clobbered by Luis Velandor’s king-high-straight.  Woodrum collected $6,238.

7th Place – Luis Velandor failed to capitalize on an early rush, ran card-dead his final twenty minutes and exited next, in 7th place.  Velandor backed away from the table when his opponent, Hilbert Shirey flopped quad deuces.  Velandor, a California poker pro walked away with $8,318.

6th Place – Dustin Sitar went out next when he lost to Baghchehsaraie’s two-pair.  Sitar, who won the main event here at the 2004 Mid-America Poker Classic and is a member of the self-titled “D-Squad” of poker players (a small elite group of young Las Vegas-based pros).  Sitar was paid to the tune of $10,397.

5th Place – Mark Dickstein survived three ‘all ins’ before having his poker tournament hopes guillotined.  His A-4-6-7 was cut off by a flush and a better low, made by Gary Jones.  Dickstein, a New York City investment advisor who made two final tables at the Bellagio’s December tournament in Las Vegas, added $12,476 in investment capital to his poker bankroll.   

4th Place – Hilbert Shirey, a professional gambler from Florida with several major tournament victories, including WSOP gold bracelets, to his name, was eliminated next when he lost to Baghchehsaraie’s straight with a low.  Shirey picked up $14,556 in prize money.

3rd Place – One of poker’s classiest gentleman, former baby doctor-turned poker shark Max Stern arrived at the final table with the chip lead.  However, Gary Jones took the lead when play became three-handed.  Dr. Stern’s final half hour at the table was a disaster.  He failed to scoop a pot of any significance.  Like his wife, the lovely Maria Stern just a few days earlier (second in Event #5), Stern’s finish was bittersweet.  Stern, one of the original members of the famed ‘Costa Rica Connection’ was eliminated when Jones made a powerhouse High-Low hand – a wheel.  He received $16,635.   

When heads up play began, Jones held a 2 to 1 chip lead over Baghchehsaraie.  Twenty minutes later, his lead had increased to 4 to 1.  After another twenty minutes, Jones made a wheel, which cracked Baghchehsaraie’s set.  Sirous was now in serious trouble. 

Then it began.  The winds changed.  The sky opened.  Lightening struck.  Jaws dropped.  Sirous Baghchehsaraie went on the biggest poker rush of his life.  Outchipped by a count of $437,000 to $5,000 – a whopping 87 to 1 -- Baghchehsaraie posted his ‘all in’ big blind.  He scooped the pot.  He posted another blind, and won again.  He posted the big blind on the next hand, and won yet again.  And again.  And again.  And again.  And again. You get the picture.

One railbird hollered out, “Hey Sirous – where were these cards earlier?”  It was as though Baghchehsaraie had nine lives and used every last one of them in a 35-minute poker display that cancelled dinner plans, bruised egos, and stunned a jam-packed poker room at the Gold Strike.  When Baghchehsaraie drew even in the chip count, the seating area around the final table was uncharacteristically silent.  No one could believe what they were seeing.

Recalling any ‘comeback’ hands or one single ‘key’ moment would be impossible, because there were so many of them.  Baghchehsaraie must have scooped or split just about every one of the 30 or so final hands.  At no time during the rush did Baghchehsaraie lose any part of his stack. 

What was going on inside Gary Jones’ head could only be presumed as an utter state of shock and disbelief.  It was though his stack was engulfed by a giant mudslide, flowing towards the opposite end of the table.  And he was totally helpless to do anything about it.  To his credit, Jones never lost his composure or temper, and handled the catastrophe as well as anyone ever having to suffer such indignity.

The final hand was typical of the last half hour of heads-up play.  Jones started with J-J-4-4.  Baghchehsaraie started with A-10-8-5.  The board showed K-10-10-7-A – completing a full house for Baghchehsaraie.

In some ways, the final hand was anti-climactic.  The real ‘drama’ had taken place when Baghchehsaraie was down to the felt earlier and miraculously managed to survive, and then staged a dramatic comeback.  Stunning, startling, miraculous, incredible, implausible, inconceivable -- there are no words to describe Sirous Baghchehsaraie’s victory in the $500 buy-in Omaha High-Low Split Championship.  Let’s just say – you had to be there to believe it.

2005 Jack Binion World Poker Open - Horseshoe Casino Hotel and Gold Strike Casino-Resort, Tunica, MS Event #8 Results and Winners

Daily Report

January 14, 2005

Event #8

Omaha High-Low

Buy-In: $500

Number of Entries: 442

Prize Money: $209,224

Official Results:

1. Sirous Baghchehsaraie
Los Angeles, CA $64,467

2. Gary Jones London,
England 33,270

3. Dr. Max Stern
San Jose, Costa Rica 16,635

4. Hilbert Shirey
Winterhaven, FL 14,556

5. Mark Dickstein New York, NY 12,476

6. Dutin Sitar Las Vegas, NV 10,397

7. Luis Velador Lake Elsinore, CA 8,318

8. Billy R. Woodrum Lexington, KY 6,238

9. Andy Karon Duluth, MN 4,287

10. Song Webb Dallas, TX 2,572

11. John Kiersky Memphis, TN 2,572

12. Matt Allen Chillicothe, OH 2,572

13. Tom Reynolds Hurst, TX 2,144

14. Richard Bahl Shawland, WI 2,144

15. Hugh Barlow Glencarbon, IL 2,144

16. Costa Mavroudis Winnipeg, Canada 1,715

17. Joe Meyers Tonkawa, OK 1,715

18. Earl Key Indianapolis, IN 1,715

19. David Veike Catharpin, VA 1,286

20. Maxwell Southern Harrogate, TN 1,286

21. Stan Goldstein Cypress, CA 1,286

22. Larry Dingler Sycamore, IL 1,286

23. Steve Shelley Brighton, England 1,286

24. Philip Krane Westmont, IL 1,286

25. John Buzbee Riverview, FL 1,286

26. Eddie Fishman New York, NY 1,286

27. Bill Alexander Palm Springs, CA 1,286

28. John Jacoby Cheyenne, WY 857

29. Michael Lutz Bloomington, IN 857

30. Raymond Davis Los Angeles, CA 857

31. Fred Koubi Van Nuys, CA 857

32. Dan Heimiller St. Charles, MO 857

33. T. Bill Melms Ft. Worth, TX 857

34. J.C. Chapman Kansas City, MO 857

35. Herb Tapscatt Decatur, AL 857

36. Brad Saterfiel Monroe, LA 857

Final Table Started at: 4:00 pm CST

Final Table Ended at: 10:30 pm CST


Report by Nolan Dalla – JBWPO Media Director


Tournament Director – David Eglseder

Co-Tournament Director (Horseshoe) – Ken Lambert, Jr.

Co-Tournament Director (Gold Strike) – Robert McGovern


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