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Top-10 final table tips for this year's November Nine

28 September 2009

When the World Series of Poker made the decision to move the Main Event final table to November last year, it changed the dynamic of the entire tournament. The final table participants now had to go through a four-month pause in which they had to deal with interview requests and ESPN cameras poking into their personal lives. Then once they got to Las Vegas to actually sit down and play poker, the stage was much, much bigger – both literally and figuratively. They were instant celebrities in the poker world and beyond, something previous Main Event finalists never had to deal with.

This year's November Nine are currently in the midst of their four-month delay. And since the final table was decided back in mid-July, the participants have probably been getting advice from everybody they have come into contact with. But truth be told, there are really only nine other people in the world who know exactly what these guys are up against and that's the 2008 November Nine.

So we turned to two members of last year's November Nine – Darus Suharto and Scott Montgomery – to get some insight on their experiences last year

Suharto ended up finishing sixth at last year's Main Event, which was the amateur's second cash in the event. Overall, he has three WSOP cashes to his name that have earned him more than $2.4 million. Since last year he has left his job as the associate director of the internal audit department at York University in Toronto to begin his own consulting business, which has allowed him to focus more on poker.

darus_suharto

Darus Suharto would have found the time to play more poker during last year's final table break if he could do it all over again. (photo courtesy of PokerStars)

Montgomery finished just ahead of Suharto last year in fifth place, which earned him $3,088,012. The poker pro from Canada has six WSOP cashes in his career.

Both players were willing to speak to Casino City about last year's November Nine and tell us how they dealt with the delay and the increased exposure and what they would change if given the chance again. Here's what they had to say:

10. Get yourself a coach
Last week, 2009 final tableist Jeff Shulman announced that he was going to receive coaching during the final table delay from none other than 11-time WSOP bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth. None of last year's players made any kind of official announcement about a coach, but Montgomery said he wishes he got some professional advice during the break.

"I think it could have helped," Montgomery told us from his hotel room in London last week as he was preparing to play in the 2009 WSOP Europe Main Event. "I decided not to work with anyone because I thought it might just be confusing listening to someone else's thoughts and strategies. But looking back it would have helped if I worked with bunch of different people and talked to them about they would handle certain hands and certain situations."

9. Study your opponents
Suharto told us that he wishes he spent more time last year researching the other final tableists. He said he did a little prep work, but not nearly enough.

"Sometimes it's hard to find out a lot about your other opponents, but between TV coverage and talking to other people, I think I could of done a better job of studying the other guys' tendencies," he said. "For this year's guys there's plenty of info about there about how Phil Ivey plays. They should take advantage of it."

8. Don't get fooled by ESPN
While watching the Main Event coverage on ESPN during the break can be helpful, Montgomery said that he didn't pay too much attention to it because it shows so few hands.

"[ESPN] has to edit the coverage down so much you really only see a few hands of each guy," he said. "And the ones they show are the ones they usually win. So you really can't take too much from it. It's just too small of a sample to use it as valuable information."

7. Don't take too much time off
Suharto's biggest regret about last year's final table delay is that he didn't play much poker at all during his time off. He was busy at work and he thought it might be a good idea to get away from the table and clear his head. But in the end he feels this was a mistake.

"I lost my edge," he admitted. "I concentrated too much on my job and not enough on poker. At the time I thought that would be good for me, but once we started playing I really felt like I was off my game early on. I would definitely recommend that these guys play as much poker as possible during the break."

Montgomery said that he did just that last year and it was definitely beneficial.

"I think it might help to take a little time off for some people, but for me it was important to keep playing," he said.

6. Don't get distracted by the media
Last year leading up to the final table, Dennis Phillips was interviewed by nearly 200 different media outlets (including us here at Casino City ). Others – namely Chino Rheem and namely Ylon Schwartz -- weren't so forthcoming.

Montgomery said that this year's players should only do what they feel comfortable with.

"Some guys like to be interviewed and some guys don't," he said. "It's that simple. If you think doing that kind of stuff is going to be a distraction, just do what's required of you and that's it. Don't do more than you feel comfortable with."

scott_montgomery

Scott Montgomery expects the players at this year's final table to play more aggressive from the start. (photo by Vin Narayanan/Casino City)

5. Get to Vegas early
Suharto strongly recommends that this year's participants get to Las Vegas a day or two before they have to be there in order to "get grounded."

"Once you get there they have a bunch of interviews for you to do and there's a lot of TV stuff that needs to be done," he said. "I think it would help to get there the day before they want you there and just get acclimated."

4. Surround yourself with family and friends
Montgomery said that one thing that helped him remain calm during the days leading up to the final table was the fact that he had a small group of family and friends in Vegas with him.

"To some people that might be a distraction, but I thought it was great to have those people there with me," he said. "It's a huge moment in your life. You want to be with the people that care about you the most."

3. Calm down
One thing that is very apparent about Montgomery is that he's one laid back dude. He doesn't seem to get rattled very quickly and he's basically a soft-spoken type of guy. But even he said that the enormity of the November Nine was daunting.

"You really have to calm your emotions because when you walk out to that table it's an amazing scene," he said. "I've never seen that kind of crowd in one room to watch poker. It can be something that can throw you off so you have to do whatever it takes to calm you down.'

2. Don't play tight early
Looking back at how the final table played out last year, Suharto wishes he got involved with more hands early on.

"I guess it was only natural for everyone to play a little tight at the beginning," Suharto said. "But I should have known that was going to be the case and I should have played more hands. I think I could have picked up a few more small pots and that would have been a big help later on."

Montgomery, however, made the point that this year the players may not be as tight since the payout structure is much different. Last year the difference between 9th place and 6th place was around $1.5 million, a nice chunk of change. This year the difference between 9th and 6th is only a little more than $300,000.

"I think you may see some guys taking chances early on because the structure is so different," said Montgomery. "I know that's what I'd be doing."

1. Be yourself
Montgomery may have had the best piece of advice when he said this year's players should simply do what go them there, both at the table and away from it.

"With all the media and all the attention you're getting, it's easy to try and be someone you're not and to change your approach to things," he said. "But the way I look at it, you must have been doing something right to get all the way to the final table. Why change now?"

Top-10 final table tips for this year's November Nine is republished from CasinoVendors.com.
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Best of Gary Trask
Gary Trask

Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT
Gary Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT