When you look at the outpouring of media stories that have emerged from the bwin sponsored World Poker Tour (WPT) Merit Cyprus Classic, you will believe that Alexey Rybin won the tournament with ease – and after leading from start to finish he deserves those accolades.
However, this tournament was also about Albert Daher, a young man from Lebanon who is playing the best poker of his life. I heard Rybin tell Daher, during heads-up, that he was the most creative player at the table and there are few who will disagree. I caught up with Daher just moments before his first final table appearance in a major poker tournament.
“I am a bit stressed, but feeling good and hope that I take this. I am always going to have a lot of adrenaline, especially at a WPT final table, but hopefully I won’t let this stress get in my way.
“I finished runner-up in the Merit Cup a few weeks ago. We cut a deal and I got the most money. I also won the €1k Six-Max at the WPT National Series as well so I guess I am on a bit of a rush.”
His experience at the Merit Cup, and WPT National Series, would have helped him as no doubt some of the players he has faced during this run in the Main Event would have also played in those events.
“I played a lot with Kayhan Tugrul in the Six-Max and I know how he plays. That’s helped me a lot as I got some chips off him at the start of the day yesterday because I know how to get into his mind.”
I was interested to learn more about poker in Lebanon.
“Poker in Lebanon is booming. Everyone loves to play this game but the government doesn’t want any poker club to open. There are underground games but they are illegal. The only legal games are in the casino, but the games are run very poorly. The man in charge doesn’t care about poker. All they care about is money and so they want players for the casino games and not poker. There used to be a $10k event and a $5k event but they stopped doing them.
“Online poker in Lebanon is also banned. It was pretty ugly for a lot of the young players who used to grind online. There are a lot of players who do this for a living so it’s disappointing for them. It ran for six years and we were able to play then suddenly they just stopped, but they can never stop players from playing online; there is always a way.
“I have to travel all the time to play. The local tournaments are too small and the cash game action is not good enough. I come to Cyprus and I also play the EPT’s. We still have the underground cash games, but recently they switched to PLO and its not my best game, so I can’t play that either.”
Daher has not been alone during his Main Event run. His girlfriend Cara has been on the rail for every minute he has played. I asked her how difficult it is being in a relationship with a professional poker player.
“It’s very difficult. The lifestyle is very difficult, but each day is an adventure, and I am privileged to travel around the world supporting him.”
And is he going to win this thing?
“He is already a winner.” Says Cara.