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'Regular guy' Suharto makes unlikely run to Main Event final table

30 October 2008

By Gary Trask

Darus Suharto tries to convince you of his poker ignorance and, quite frankly, he sounds sincere. But in the end you don't believe him.

In two weeks, Suharto will be sitting on the grandest stage in poker as one of the November Nine, attempting to become the 2008 World Series of Poker Main Event champion.

How can he possibly be the poker "donkey" that he claims to be?

"It's true; I'm still a donkey," says the 39-year-old Toronto resident with a giggle, but not so much that you get the impression he's kidding. "I guess you could say that I've been lucky in some regards."

We should all be so lucky. Just by qualifying for the Nov. 9 final table, Suharto has already picked up $900,670 for finishing at least ninth. Now he has his sights set on the $9.1-million top prize. If he is indeed the last man standing inside the Penn & Teller Theater at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, the improbable victory will rank right up there with Chris Moneymaker's Cinderella win in the 2003 WSOP Main Event.

darus_suharto

(photo courtesy of PokerStars)

The Darus Suharto File

Age: 39

Hometown: Born in Indonesia. Lives in Toronto.

Occupation: Accountant

Chips heading into final table: 12,520,000 (ranks sixth out of nine players)

Bodog odds of winning the Main Event: 17-to-2

What he liked about the 117-day final table delay: "The potential endorsements. And it was a lot of fun having the ESPN cameras come follow me for a few days (for the Final Table preview show that will air Nov. 4). They came to my weekly home game and on the front door my friend put up a sign that said, 'Welcome to the Home Game of Darus Suharto of the 2008 Main Event Final Table.'"

What he disliked about the 117-day final table delay: "I think it's going to be hard to get back into the zone that I was in when it ended. I was feeling real good. A couple days off would have been fine, but three months is a long time."

What makes him a good poker player?: "I don't really know. I'm good with numbers; I guess that helps. I think I also have good character judgment. I have worked in some forensic investigations on people who have committed fraud and that may help me."

What's the first thing he'll do if he wins the $9.1 million?: "I'm a very conservative person. After helping some people out, I'll probably just put it in the bank."

If he wins the $9 million will he become Canada's Most Eligible Bachelor?: "Dream on. I don't think $9 million would be enough. (Laughs)."

Suharto is a regular guy. He wears a tie and shirt every day while working a regular 9-to-5 shift. He's the guy in the cubicle next to you or the person who sits across the table from you at your weekly poker game.

Suharto was born in Indonesia and came to the U.S. in 1996 to attend graduate school at the University of Arkansas, where he played an occasional game of poker, but nothing serious. Upon graduating with a Master's degree in business administration, Suharto returned to Indonesia. In 2001 he decided to move back to North America to take a job as the associate director of the internal audit department at York University in Toronto. But when the Moneymaker-induced poker boom erupted, Suharto somehow missed it.

"When a friend of mine told me that you could actually play poker online, I was amazed," he remembers. "I had never heard of Chris Moneymaker. I didn't know what the World Series of Poker was. But I was intrigued by the thought of playing online so I decided to give it a shot."

Despite his lack of experience, Suharto had his share of success online at PokerStars and began to accumulate a decent-sized bankroll. He won a WSOP Main Event satellite in 2006 and left Las Vegas with a 448th finish and a cash for $26,389.

"It was my first live tournament and to this day I have no idea how I cashed," he says once again in that same self-deprecating tone. "I really had no idea what I was doing. I just tried to do what I always did when I played online or with my friends and it worked well enough for me to make some money."

Even still, Suharto, has no grand illusions of playing poker for a living. Still single, he continues to play in his weekly home game on Monday nights – a game he says he has limited success in – and spends 10 hours or so each weekend playing online. He won another Main Event $80 buy-in satellite at PokerStars this year and headed back to the Rio hoping to improve on his 2006 finish. But if you think he ever thought in his wildest dreams that he'd still be alive heading into the historic 2008 final table, guess again.

"Are you crazy?," he says incredulously when asked if he expected this kind of success. "Of course not. Once again, I'm a donkey. I'm a recreational player who was just sort of doing this whole thing for fun. I guess every poker player's dream is to win the World Series. So it's impossible for me to try and explain what it's like to be in the position I am in right now. I still can't believe it."

Since the 117-day Main Event pause began back in mid-July, Suharto hasn't played any more poker than he has in the past. The only "preparation" he's done for the final table is watching all of the WSOP telecasts on ESPN. He has continued to report to his job at York University, where he says he is very happy. Happy enough that he says it's more than likely he'll be back in his office in mid-November, even if he is crowned Main Event champion and takes home the $9.1 million.

"I really love my job and all of the people I work with, they have been very supportive," he says with extreme sincerity. "Nine million dollars is a lot of money. And it would be great to not have to worry about any bills and to be able to help people out that need the financial help. But to go ahead and quit my job? I don't know if that's what I would do. I don't know if that's for me."

'Regular guy' Suharto makes unlikely run to Main Event final table is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
Gary Trask
Gary is an expert on all things gambling. The Boston native has worked as a writer and editor for more than 15 years, including a few at Casino City and was a member of the Poker Hall of Fame's Media Committee.

No Limit Hold'em tournaments are a favorite of Gary's, but he also enjoys a night of dealer's choice with a variety of games like Seven-Card No Peek, Guts or Five-Card Draw with a qualifier. In addition to playing cards, another of Gary's interests is golf, a game that allows his two favorite hobbies to collide quite naturally.

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