This weekend, the poker community has been coming to terms with the untimely death of poker pro Amir Vahedi. The popular Iranian professional had been a mainstay on the U.S. tournament circuit for over a decade and was very well regarded by his peers. The news first disseminated to fans, players, and press via the blog of fellow pro Mark Seif. It has been reported that the 57-year-old died of blood sugar complications relating to his diabetes on January 8th.
Amir was known as much for his jovial attitude and ever-present Cuban cigar as he was for his poker playing prowess. Following the news of his passing, there has been a huge outpouring of compassion from professional players. “Amir was one of the nicest, gentlest guys on tour, and everyone loved him,” said Phil Hellmuth, echoing the sentiments of many of his grief stricken colleagues.
Amir Vahedi was born in Iran, where he lived for a number of years. He joined the army and fought in the Iran-Iraq war, before moving the states as a political refugee. Amir did not begin to play poker for a living until 1997, but it did not take long before he was recognized as an affable personality and a formidable opponent. “What a nice, sweet, funny soul,” said Annie Duke, “I keep picturing him with his cigar and his smile.” He was known for his ability to gamble, unafraid of risking chips on a big bluff. Kenna James remembers his style fondly: “He played the game hard and fast and put opponents on their heals. But always with a broad smile and a laugh that exposed his love of the game.”
His talent came to the fore in 2003, when he burst onto the nations’ television screens at the final table of the WSOP Main Event. His 6th place finish in the tournament (that ended with a victory for Chris Moneymaker) contributed $250,000 to lifetime tournament earnings of over $3.2 million. Other big scores included $270,000, plus a WSOP bracelet, for first place in a $1,500 No Limit Hold ‘em event and a victory in the Ultimate Poker Challenge worth $446,292.
“We will miss Amir Vahedi,” said Doyle Brunson, reflecting emotions felt by many of poker’s most respected players. “I trusted him, and admired his work ethic,” said Daniel Negreanu, “He was a dedicated father and worked very hard to try and support his family, hustling in all kinds of tournaments.” Joe Sebok remembered that, “Few people showed me as many smiles and as much love as Amir Vahedi in my poker infancy.” Howard Lederer was also moved to comment, stating, “Amir Vahedi was one of the good guys. I’m very sad.”
His good friend “Hollywood” Dave Stann has led calls for a charity tournament to be set up in his honor at the upcoming Los Angeles Poker Classic. Vahedi made his home on the felt in and around LA and Vegas, making the LAPC an apt and suitably timed place to pay tribute to one of poker’s most beloved characters. Heartfelt condolences go out to the friends and family of Amir Vahedi from everyone at Flop Turn River.
“RIP my friend, your laugh will always be missed!” – Tournament Director, Matt Savage.