Doug Kim Heads to the Final Table

by Craig Cunningham


Doug has had a bit of a roller coaster of a ride to start the day, raising the first two hands only to fold to reraises by Jamie Gold and Richard Lee. Gold then called a raise by Dan Nassif, flopped a set of deuces, and knocked out Dan while Doug moved up to at least $1.979MM. Doug next played a key hand with Gold, checking from the big blind. Flop comes 7-J-2, Doug bets $400k and Gold calls. 5d hits the turn, Doug checks and Gold bets $800k, then Doug calls. Qs comes on the river, and Doug moves all-in. Gold chats him up a bit then mucks, then Doug collects the pot. He gave most of it back when he raised a couple of hands later, was re-raised by Rhett Butler to $1.2M, then Doug called. The flop came 3-9-A, Butler moved all-in, then Doug reluctantly folded.

The ESPN questionnaire that players fill out has a final question: What's one thing you'd like the television audience to know about you? Doug left it blank, finally writing No comment in the space. It's not that he is void of interest, it's just that he's just a young guy like many of us or our kids.

Doug grew up in Yonkers then moved to Hartsdale, New York for his childhood. His father is a physician, and his mother helps out in his office. "I did a lot of typical kid things growing up, played video games, was in the orchestra, started playing the guitar. I was a fairly normal guy." Off to Duke, he enjoyed the college experience including Duke basketball, but the thing he liked most about Duke were the fellow students. "I think college is mostly about the people you meet. Most of the ones at Duke were not a-holes, and I found some good friends while I was there."

His poker career started fairly innocuously as often happens. "I started playing $0.15/0.30 with buddies, then when I got to Duke I played in the home game there. I lost something like $500 in a semester when I was a freshman, and I was devestated. It was alot of money then. During the summer, I started reading more about poker, and when I was a sophomore I played better. I didn't win big money, but I didn't lose alot. I had a friend of mine from Northwestern who told me about bonus hunting as a way to build my bankroll, and that coupled with the $25 NLHE cash games started building my bankroll. I've been playing bigger recently, probably $3/6 NLHE as the biggest game I play now."

Coming into the World Series, Doug had a practical view of his outlook. "I have $10k in chips, but maybe my equity is a bit better than most. It's like I'm in a lottery with 8,700 other people, but I have a few more tickets than others. The big thing I've seen are people playing too poorly, pushing with poor hands or overbetting. Pushing pre-flop is what everyone wants to do here." Heading into Day 3, Doug sat with $95,200 good for 295th out of 1,159 players. "I was just trying to get in position to get more, to get further. I never wanted to get ahead of myself." With each day, the situation changed. He headed into Day 4 with $372k, 43rd out of 481 players. Day 5 $939k, 24th of 135, and Day 6 $1.3M (27th of 45). Day 7th he had $3.6M in chips and sat 10th place of the 27 players left.

There are a few traits that all of us can learn from Doug. The first is patience. This is somewhat similar to playing tight, but it also has to do with not feeling compelled to act. When he's drifted from this patience, he's suffered. Another very important characteristic is humility. That may not be the right word necessarily, but he doesn't see every small battle as a war. That has served him well when he's made reads that he's beaten. They haven't always been the right read. On the last hand of Day 6, Lee Kort made a big bluff at a pot that would have been nice to win heading into the last 27 players. Doug folded, and Kort showed the bluff. "That last hand, congratulations to him. If he's willing to risk that, then I'm OK with that. I can't think about how many chips I could have or did have, I just have to go on from there."

While Johnny Chan can be seen hovering behind Jamie Gold from time to time, Doug draws from his friend Jason Strasser and a couple of other players for advice and pep talks. It is a stark difference to see Gold with Chan vs. Doug with Jason. Gold seems to seek out Chan for approval or reinforcement, leaking a bit of insecurity along the way. Doug is more prone to spend some time with Jason over a dinner break talking about a couple of situations. Doug is a peer of Jason's from an understanding of the game and the complexities of theory that are being advanced today.

Doug has shown a real ability to adjust and deal with adversity. We've seen that from a couple of other players, like Richard Lee, Erik Friberg, and Paul Wasicka at this final table. Doug Kim is at the final table of the Main Event, an incredible feat. If he wins it, he'll be the newest version of Chris Moneymaker, Greg Raymer, and Joseph Hachem. In fact, he'll be a fusion of these three. He's the everyman that Moneymaker brought to the felt, but more the college-age player taking the game by storm. He'll be the poker student and theoritician like Raymer, but drawing and learning from those like Raymer and others who have contributed so much to this simple game. And like Hachem, underneath Doug's skin burns a fire to succeed, an emotion under control but feeding his pursuit. "I haven't tried to get ahead of myself, but everyday changes your perspective. I've had a couple of talks with my friends, and they've urged me to play for first. That doesn't mean playing recklessly, but it means that I have my eyes set on getting to the end." He's one of nine players with a chance to accomplish that goal. He'll start well behind chipleader Jamie Gold and at a disadvantage to Allen Cunningham as all there will, but as this World Series has shown, anything can happen.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in World Series of Poker