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Poker News | World Poker News

The Agent, the Kid, and the Stud

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There are nine men who've made it to glory, outlasting the largest field in the history of poker to reach the final table. They hail from Texas via Honolulu, from New York, Hollywood, and Stockholm, the newest capital of poker. The players at the final table:

1s: Richard Lee; San Antonio, TX
2s: Erik Friberg; Stockholm, Sweden
3s: Paul Wasicka; Westminster, CO
4s: Dan Nassif; St. Louis, MO
5s: Allen Cunningham; Las Vegas, NV
6s: Michael Binger; Atherton, CA
7s: Doug Kim; Hartsdale, NY
8s: Jamie Gold; Malibu, CA
9s: Rhett Butler; Rockville, MD

The Agent
Hollywood and Poker have a number of similarities. Many people are looking for an angle, a way to gain access to the means to an end of riches. Often, people in both worlds present a façade of who they really are and what their success is. Many times, poker players will suddenly be in games several rungs below their normal game as their bankroll melts away. Similarly, the Hollywood machine constantly measures and passes judgment on everyone, deciding who is on the A-list and who is down and out.

Jamie Gold has bridged those worlds this August, proclaiming his Hollywood prowess while accumulating mountains of chips at the table. His success this week has not been playing the maniac or luck box but in being paid off when he hits hands. His major bluffs can be counted on one hand, with his suck outs counted on the other. He's gotten to the final table with the chip lead by catching big hands and grabbing someone's chips at the right time.

But if you've been able to watch him closely, another player emerges that may be exploited today. He is someone who wants to prove he belongs here, that he didn't luck his way to this point in time. More than one pro has whispered the name Moneymaker as they peer at Gold and his stack, and to do so does an injustice to both Moneymaker and Gold. With his large stack and his sound fundamentals, Gold has shown the will and conviction to move against players and pots when the mood arises. Yet again and again, he exposes these times as well as his great hands by turning over cards, by explaining himself at the table. It seems to be a plea for respect, a cry that he belongs when it shouldn't matter if he does or not. Rather than let his outsider status fuel him, Gold seems to be burdened by it. The bio from Harrah's on Gold says, "This is Jamie's 15th time to cash in a major poker tournament..." yet when you look at these tourneys, they are mostly $200 buy-in tourneys at a local LA poker room. Does this make Gold's achievement any less marvelous? No, on the contrary; it makes it more remarkable that he's walked in with the chip lead at the World Series of Poker without experience in these types of tournaments. But why the spin? Insecurity and uncertainty would be a safe guess.

Jamie Gold has yet to face adversity, and today he'll be confronted with that certainly. How he adjusts will be the real sign if he belongs.

The Kid
Doug Kim stands out for his normalcy more than anything. He's the new America, Asian descent, educated in the South, reared on video games amidst the biggest stage in the world in New York. His upbringing has not been one of indifference but one of achievement, yet he's not been the superstar until this week. He's done well in school and his pursuits, but he's worked hard to get there. He's all things American in the 21st Century.

Doug came to poker casually, and he treats it like a game to learn and improve on - not an addiction to feed. He spent over $3k to gain his seat into the Main Event, finally getting there with the last $650 satellite offered by PokerStars. He hasn't been in the shadow of his friend Jason Strasser since he really hasn't been in the same sunlight. Strasser is an accomplished online player who has achieved greatness at a very young age, leading EPT tourneys and taking down large sums online. Jason and Doug are good friends from Duke, and while Strasser was in a great spot to go deep in the Main Event heading into Day 3, Doug was plugging along in the masses. A horrible beat sucked the chips and the life from Jason, his A-A covering another player all-in with As-Ks, then the flop hitting with 4s-7d-Jc only to see Qs-6s complete the board and bring Jason to his knees. He would have the chip lead in top form, a real force in the tournament, but it was a crippling blow for him. Earlier Jason said Doug had "...screamed like a little school girl..." after taking down a big pot when his kings were way behind to a flopped set of jacks only to catch a king on the river. "Yeah, I did. I'm a hypocrite-whatever!"

Doug is the friend we've all had but picked on, not because of a deficiency but out of respect and warmth. You can't fold your way to the final table, but he has avoided idiotic play when it was all around him. "I've been surprised at how bad the play has been here," said Doug. "Players have made really poor plays, putting all their chips in play when much less would get them the same information."

Doug has not been a person who has dreamed of winning the World Series or of capturing the top prize with the riches that would come with it. For him, it's been a competition to test him and to steel his resolve for the challenges to come in his life. He's now in the midst of life-changing money and results. We now know the names of people like Steve Danneman, Scott Lazar, Andy Black, on and on and on. Doug Kim isn't the next of any of these guys; he's really a unique yet familiar person at the final table. He's one of us, just a guy who plays online and in a home game, one steeped in the depth of strategies and analytics required of today's game. But ultimately, he's a young man who has graduated from Duke and took the summer off to enjoy himself before "...my life ends and I have to work the rest of my life."

The Stud
"We're not rock stars or celebrities; I'm just a poker player," said Jennifer Harman at a press conference before the Main Event. Truly, there is no one that personifies this more than Allen Cunningham. Go on FullTilt's website, and you'll see that Allen is a Friend of FullTilt rather than part of the FullTilt team. Search the commercials or the made-for-TV poker events, and you won't find him anywhere. He's ready with a smile most anytime, but he's not a man to stop and chat. His comfort truly comes in the intimacy of solidarity, at the felt or in the quietness of a couple of close friends.

Allen Cunningham is simply a terrific poker player, one of the few that are truly elite players. There are no rules for membership, just that you have all of the skills and know-how to achieve success and results. The World Series of Poker in the era of mega-fields has been something he's adjusted fine to, winning four bracelets including one this year. He gets deep at tournaments, never limping into the money with few chips. He rarely does anything other than focus quietly at the table, although he'll occasionally chat with a player with his easy smile showing a softer side.

The biggest difference between a player like Cunningham or Ivey or Ferguson and the other players at the final table is that the best pros have whole topics that they don't have to think about. Pot odds, implied pot odds, pot equity, outs-all these things are like muscle memory for Tiger Woods or Roger Federer, while for the rest of us, we would have to figure these things out during a hand. This allows Allen to focus on other things, all of the invisible tells given off before, during, and after a hand. For the other eight players today, they will be confronted by situations that they've never seen before. Allen Cunningham truly won't. He's headed into the final table before with few chips and with a lot of chips; he's played top pros and maniacs. He's lost chips then won them back. A victory here would be a crowning achievement at a relatively young age, but it won't be required to stamp his resume. He's already a great player, but a victory here would reinforce the Main Event as the championship of poker.

Will these three sit around the table at the end of the day, or will someone else sneak into this thing? The drama will unfold at 5:00PM Eastern, and sometime Friday the newest star in poker will be crowned.

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