Top Poker Players of 2005 - Part 4
Dec 22, 2005  
2005 Jason Kirk  

Here's a final look at some of 2005's top tournament poker players.

Hieu "Tony" Ma

Ma is another of the top Vietnam-born poker players in the game today. The former ship welder has been a fixture at the tables for some time, but in 2005 he had a particularly good run in tournaments. After a few modest finishes in preliminary events, Ma placed 44th in the main event of the LA Poker Classic. He followed that by placing 27th in the Bay 101 Shooting Stars main event, 10th at the Rio WSOP Circuit main event, and 25th at the World Poker Challenge main event. Before placing 14th at the WPT Championship, he took home 1st place in the $5,000 no-limit hold'em event at the Five-Star World Poker Classic. Ma then made two final tables at the WSOP and cashed in 4 events at the Legends of Poker before winning the California State Poker Championship main event. He capped off the year with a 2nd place finish in the $1,500 no-limit hold'em event at the Five-Diamond World Poker Classic. With his 14 cashes in events with buy-ins over $1,000, few players in 2005 had a tournament record to match that of Tony Ma.

Amir Vahedi

While Vahedi is probably best known among casual players for his appearance at the 2003 WSOP Main Event final table, he hasn't rested on his laurels by any means. He made 9 final tables over the course of the year - in limit, pot-limit, and no-limit hold'em - and at 4 of those final tables he managed to end up holding all the chips once the final hand had been played out. The LA Poker Classic saw him win both the $500 limit hold'em shootout and the $1,500 limit hold'em tournament. At the Mirage Poker Showdown he took 1st place in the $2,000 pot-limit hold'em event. Finally, in November, he won the $10,000 Ultimate Poker Challenge no-limit hold'em main event. He only managed to cash in one event at the WSOP, but the rest of his year was a study in success.

Mark Seif

Mark Seif has been honing his game for a long time, and in 2005 all his efforts finally paid off as he reached a high water mark that most people can only dream about. After a small handful of positive tournament results at the start of the year, Seif made the journey to the Rio in Las Vegas for the WSOP. He cashed in the first event of the series, placing 53rd in the $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em tournament. Then he made the sort of run that makes people remember your name years down the road. First he waded through the field of the $1,500 Limit Hold'em Shootout to claim first place, $181,330, and his first WSOP bracelet. Then, less than a week later, he outlasted an even larger field in a $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em event to take home $611,145 and his second bracelet. He finished off the year by making two WSOP Circuit final tables, cashing at the World Poker Finals main event, and making two strong finishes at the US Poker Championships: 1st place in the $2,500 Seven-Card Stud tourney and 11th in the main event. Seif will be hard-pressed to win another two bracelets in 2006, but he'll stand a solid chance of making a run at them.

Max Pescatori

The man known as the Italian Pirate finally decided to focus on tournaments in 2005 - and in retrospect it's easy to say he made the right decision. Pescatori made an amazing 16 final tables in 2005, in a variety of games, and cashed in 14 more tournaments along the way. Less than two weeks into the year he took home his first title, winning the $1,500 limit hold'em event at the inaugural WSOP Circuit in Atlantic City. He then moved on to the LA Poker Classic, where he made final tables in Seven-Card Stud and No-Limit Hold'em events. He placed in his first Omaha Hi-Lo tournament of the year at the Mirage Poker Showdown, and also took 2nd place in the $2,500 No-Limit Hold'em event. Then came the WSOP, where Pescatori cashed in 6 events including the $2,000 Pot-Limit Omaha tourney. The Harrah's Las Vegas WSOP Circuit saw him take home his 2nd title of the year, this time in the $2,000 No-Limit Hold'em event. He finished out the year with solid showings at the Festa al Lago IV, the National Championship of Poker, and the Five-Diamond World Poker Classic. After such a strong showing in his first year of concentrating on tournaments, the poker world will be watching the Italian Pirate to see if he can continue his success.

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