Afghanistan’s Top Poker Player Shekhan Farnood Dies in Prison

Afghanistan’s Top Poker Player Shekhan Farnood Dies in Prison

Shekhan Farnood has died in an Afghanistan prison where he was serving a 15-year sentence for money laundering and embezzlement. The 57 year-old’s official cause of death is listed as heart disease, although his older brother Sherin Khan believes the circumstances surrounding his demise were suspicious, telling Tolo News on August 25:

“I talked with my brother one day before his death. He was fine. We have no idea about it, the government knows how he died.”

In 2004, Farnood founded the Kabul Bank, which was then given responsibility for doling out Western-funded money for the country’s soldiers, police and civil servants. It later transpired that Farnood and a number of business associates had allegedly been also using the bank as a huge Ponzi scheme in which massive off-the-books loans were given to a small circle of cronies with little expectation that they would ever be repaid. In the end, it turned out that around $861 million, or roughly 92% of the bank’s loans, were ultimately handed out to just 19 individuals or companies.

Afghanistan’s No 1 Poker Player

Shekhan was his country’s most successful poker player having racked up $627,647 in winnings from 24 tournament cashes between 2002 and 2008. He enjoyed a particularly fondness for the World Series of Poker, and in 2006 finished runner-up at the $1,500 WSOP Pot Limit Omaha w. Rebuys event for $165,274, representing his biggest score to date.

In 2008, Shekhan Farnood then captured a career first gold bracelet at the WSOP Europe £2,650 Limit H.O.R.S.E. event for £76,999 ($140,039), having overcome a field of 110 players, including a tough final table which included the likes of Jeff Lisandro, Phil Ivey, and Howard Lederer.

Poker in Afghanistan

Afghanistan, like the whole Muslim world, forbids gambling with serious fines or jail time awaiting those who contravene the law. Anyone taking a risk by trying to play online is also likely to find the experience a challenge due to low internet penetration throughout the mountainous country.

Obviously, the same laws apply to poker, and as explained on the Poker website, the Taliban banned the game when they seized control of the country, with gambling still remaining outlawed since their fall. As stated on the website:

“There’s really only one accomplished professional poker player from here, Sherkhan Farnood, who made a bit of a splash on the international tournament scene and won over $600,000 total, but this was back in 2007 and 2008, and he’s out of the scene now, so there really isn’t much inspiration from poker heroes for people to take up the game here.”

Afghanistan ‘All Time Money List’

Shekhan Farnood earned $627,647 throughout his poker career, placing him at number one on Afghanistan’s ‘All Time Money List’. Obviously all his wins were recorded outside of the Muslim country, including in the USA, Finland, Denmark, Netherlands, France, Australia, and England.

Despite the Poker website singling Farnood out on as the country’s “one accomplished” player, though, it fails to mention Qushqar Morad, who in 2002 won Afghanistan’s first WSOP bracelet after taking down the $5,000 7 Card Stud event for $172,960. He also finished runner-up at the 2007 WSOP $1,500 Pot Limit Omaha event for $279,595, still representing his biggest score to date, with the pro currently boasting $501,806 in winnings.

While Qushqar Morad has only cashed in during four years since 2002 (2002, 2007, 2015, 2018), he has been very active this year, with his latest result a victory at the $330 NLHE Turbo event at the Merit Poker Cash Game Festival in Turkish-occupied Cyprus for $3,000. Meanwhile, a 3rd placed Mahmod Hanif lies a fair way back on just $36,415, although all those winnings have at least have come in 2018 alone. After that the level of competition drops off quite sharply, as can be seen in the following top 10 list:

1st: Sherkhan Farnood $627,647
2nd: Qushqar Morad $501,806
3rd: Mahmod Hanif $36,415
4th: Amani Ezatulla $2,768
5th: Amani Ezatula $1,935
6th: Mohammad Karzai $504
7th: Elison Khaliki $416
8th: Nasir Mangal $328
9th: Dariz Hamidi $306
10th: Mohammad Omari $291