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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Interviews

David "Chino" Rheem - Ready For Another Shot At Glory

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David Rheem was all ready to be the pitcher before the World Series, the football coach before the Rose Bowl, or, in this case, the player before the World Series of Poker's Main Event.

He was ready to spout clichés.

Hey, it's just another game, he told himself.

Only Rheem, 28, knew what it was like to come close to a bracelet and lose. He lost to Allen Cunningham in 2006, and though the match was a turning point in his career - in fact it's what gave him the confidence to turn pro and play poker tournaments for a living - he still laments the lost chance to win a bracelet.

He always told people he plays for the money. He still does.

"But I didn't understand what I was playing for then," Rheem said in a phone interview. "Just walking away from that match gave me what the objective is when I do play in a World Series of Poker tournament. A bracelet really does mean something.

"Now I know what it means."


So, yeah, this 90-day delay was a good thing in many ways for him and the rest of the November Nine at the final table, he said. He got more endorsements, and he got his life in order (including clearing up an arrest, more on that later), and he and his girlfriend got to travel, some of it on Pokerstars' dime to play in tournaments across the country.

But WOW, in other ways, it's been tough. Imagine being that pitcher waiting three months for Game 7 of the World Series.

"I'm trying not to let the pressure in," he said, "but to be honest, it's kind of hard. It's just naturally really scary. Even when I'm not thinking about it, someone will come up and ask me about it."


He knows what winning the event could do for his career. Look at what it did for Greg Raymer, or Joe Hachem, or Chris Moneymaker. It turned all of them into celebrities and got them millions in endorsements and other opportunities. Plus they'll always be legends, even if they never won another tournament in their lives.

Even if the break is hard, Rheem was glad for it in many ways, perhaps no other than the chance to clear an outstanding warrant  for trespassing.

"I could figure everything out," Rheem said. "My life wasn't too organized before this final table. It's a lot better now. I'm able to live the poker life the way all my friends have lived it for the last four or five years. I get to do it on my own now, and it's nice to be able to do things on your own."


That poker lifestyle began 10 years ago, but it wasn't until that match with Cunningham, when he finished second in the $1,000 No-Limit Hold'Em Rebuy Event, that he started to consider turning pro. He took in almost $328,000.

"It taught me a lot, for me personally, it let me know that I could get there," Rheem said.

Even so, he still has some regrets about the match, as any poker player who doesn't put away the final player.

"He definitely had a lot more experience," he said. "I wasn't prepared to give Allen Cunningham a good heads-up match. I did give him a decent match, but I gave up at the end."

He did notch a couple scores after that, but nothing too significant until this year's fourth tournament of the WSOP, the Mixed Hold'Em event. He placed fifth and won $93,624.
That helped with his confidence, but Rheem still didn't have many expectations heading into the Main Event.

"My goal was to make it past the first day," he said. "I knew that if I could do that, I had a shot."

He finished that first day in the top 10 in chips, and Rheem's confidence soared.

"I knew then that with my style, I could put the pressure on other people. I really ended well every day, where I was near the top of the leaderboard, and that really helped, too, with my confidence," he said.

He admits he caught a few cards at the right time - one time he was all-in with Queens against Kings and hit a Queen - but he also believes he played well.

"That was the first time in many days that my whole life was on the line," Rheem said. "I wasn't all-in unless I had the nuts."

Rheem, who is guaranteed to make at least $900,000, won't say much about his chances, except to say he doesn't dislike them. Ultimately, he believes the delay was a good thing. It helped the game of poker, which needed a boost, he said.

Even if the long wait, and thinking about the high stakes, may just drive him nuts, he did like the break.

However, he's ready to play.

"It's like we were given a summer break," he said, "and now it's time to go back to school."

News Flash

The IRS Scores Big at 2015 WSOP ME Final Table

The IRS managed to snag 34.13 percent from the payouts of the 2015 November Nine, totaling $8,467,091.

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