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Two out of Nine Ain’t Bad

GOM catches up with a couple of fascinating characters making up the opposite ends of the final table of the World Series of Poker. They still have a few more weeks to get their heads in the right space before they all re-assemble on November 9 at the Rio in Vegas. But from what Dennis Phillips—chip leader—and Kelly Kim—short stack—tell us, everything is already in the right place.

Dennis Phillips, St. Louis, Missouri

GOM: You were a sleeper sensation at the Main Event this summer. Did you stick to a certain strategy from the beginning?
Dennis Phillips: It definitely depended on the situation, but I started off playing a fairly tight game until I got a “feel” of the table and tournament as a whole. Then I just played my game.

How much time are you devoting during this time off before the final table to hone your game?
Not as much as I’d like to. It’s been kind of a whirlwind since the WSOP that I’ve played only a handful of times.

Are you in touch with any of the other guys who made the final table?
Not at all, but I look forward to maybe seeing them on the felt at a couple upcoming tournaments like the EPT London, and of course back at the WSOP final table in November.

Who do you think is your biggest threat?
Making it this far really awakens the competitor in you. At the final table, everyone’s a threat.

How was your hometown reception when you came back home from Vegas?
Absolutely great! St. Louis has an outstanding poker community, and everyone has been extremely supportive.

What do you miss most when you’re away from home?

Now that you’re on the PokerStars team, are you going to play a lot of international tournaments?
I’m playing in the EPT London and I’m excited to play more international games with PokerStars.

Do you have any plans for the money you’re guaranteed from the Main Event, or the winner’s take if you claim the bracelet?
I’m really not even thinking about the money yet. The money that I received in July is sitting in a bank. After the Main Event, I will make those decisions, but for now I’m just enjoying the ride.

Who did you get to sign your red cap during the WSOP?
It was signed by all of the top pros I saw in between hands like Chris Moneymaker and Joe Hachem.

How is the trucking business in the US these days, considering the state of oil prices?
Oil prices have hit our industry pretty hard. It has been in a downturn for the last year and may stay there for a while.

Can you please enlighten the great English public: What, exactly, are grits?
One of life’s great mysteries comparable to what is in Al Capone’s vault. My lips are sealed.

Kelly Kim, Whittier, California

GOM: What did you think of your chances making the final table? Did you stick to a certain strategy from the beginning?
Kelly Kim: You never think too highly of your chances of making the final table. Only thing you can do is come in every day and play your best and as people get eliminated and each day you play and more players get eliminated, you realise that you get closer and closer to the final table. It wasn’t until about five tables that you really think you have a chance at this thing. My strategy remained the same throughout the whole tournament. They were to survive each day, play small pots, don’t put yourself in a position to go bust (if you’re not all in, you can’t be busted) and play the best to my ability.

Describe what your poker schedule is like now.
I’m going to play cash games and some tournaments like the Legends and the WSOP Europe, and try to invest some of my new-found wealth. Take care of family as well.

What inspired you to start playing poker?
Nothing really inspired me; I just loved the game and the competition of it.

Who do you think is your biggest threat?
A little unfair of a question because I didn’t play any poker with a few of the final 9. However, I think Peter Eastgate plays exceptionally well and is probably the man to beat.

How was your reception when you came back home from Vegas after making the final table?
The reception back home has been amazing. The Bicycle Casino hosted a small dinner party for me to invite family and friends. My girlfriend Jocelyn threw me a celebration party where I got to see high-school and college friends that I haven’t seen in years. In the LA casinos, a lot of players approach me and congratulate me on making the final 9.

Now that you’re on the Full Tilt team, are you going to play a lot of international tournaments?
I’m certainly going to play WSOP Europe and Aussie Millions. As far as any other international tournaments at this point, I am not sure how much I will travel outside of the US.

Do you have any plans for the money you’re guaranteed from the Main Event, or the winner’s take if you claim the bracelet?
I definitely have some ideas for the money. I want to invest a lot of it and help out a lot of people that need it.

Considering you have the smallest chip stack, what’s your first move when you all assemble again?
Well I’m going to wait and pick a spot to double up. I’m going to gamble a lot because I have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

What’s the best scenario for the first hour or so, knowing the styles and chip stacks of the other players?
Obviously, the best scenario is to get a couple of big hands and double up twice. I’m hoping to find a hand and get a call from someone that is pot committed but on a steal and for my hand to hold.

You’re 50-to-1 to win the bracelet. Are you determined to prove naysayers wrong or are you content to have made it this far?

How can I be content to make it this far? This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity at becoming world champion so I’m going to play to the best of my ability. The 50-1 is a realistic situation given I have less than 2 percent of the chips in play.
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