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Gary Trask

Gary  Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has worked as a writer and editor more than 20 years. The Boston native was a member of the Poker Hall of Fame's inaugural Media Committee and a current member of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame voting panel.

Contact Gary at and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

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Experienced 'Chino' Rheem set to make bid for WSOP title

27 Oct 2008

By Gary Trask

David "Chino" Rheem certainly has all the necessary attributes to be the last man standing when all is said and done at the upcoming final table of the World Series of Poker's 2008 Main Event.

Everything except a big stack of chips, that is.

The 28-year-old Los Angeles resident is the most accomplished and experienced member of the November Nine. He's won his share of big poker tournaments, he has WSOP final-table experience and he not only knows how to handle the pressure of playing in front of TV cameras, he seems to relish the spotlight.

But when the most anticipated final table in WSOP history gets under way at the Penn & Teller Theater at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas Nov. 9, Rheem will be sitting down in front of the third-shortest stack at the table, which isn't exactly the best position to be in when you like to play as aggressive as Rheem typically does.

"I know I have my work cut out for me," a relaxed Rheem told Casino City from the Bellagio on Sunday night as he competed in the World Poker Tour's Festa al Lago event. "But I'm not going to change how I play the game. That's not my plan."

As Rheem speaks he is calm, relaxed and poised. Watch him on the WSOP telecasts on ESPN and he is a likable character; the kind of guy you wouldn't mind sitting next to at a poker table, other than the fact that he will more than likely take your chips.


(photo courtesy of PokerStars)

The David "Chino" Rheem File

Age: 28

Hometown: Grew up in Philadelphia, Atlanta and Miami. Now resides in Los Angeles

Occupation: Professional poker player

Chips heading into final table: 10,230,000 (ranks seventh out of nine players)

Bodog odds of winning the Main Event: 15-to-2

What he liked about the 117-day final table delay: "I think it's good for poker; and if that's the case, I'm all for it. I think the World Series of Poker and ESPN came up with this great idea because it's added a lot of excitement. It's made things more interesting and it's made it more like a real sport."

What he disliked about the 117-day final table delay: "When you play in an event like the Main Event and you're playing for eight or nine days straight you kind of get in a zone, but pausing for three months has taken me out of that zone. If I had a choice, I would have rather just kept playing in July, but like I said, this is what's best for the game so I'm not complaining."

Person who had the biggest influence on his poker career: "Robert and Michael Mizrahi. They taught me a lot and definitely helped me get to where I am today."

What's the first thing he'll do if you win the $9 million?: "Buy a nice house that I can actually call mine. And go on a very long vacation somewhere."

Rheem, who represents PokerStars, began playing the game 10 years ago as a skinny 18-year-old growing up in Miami, Fla. He started by competing in cash games at The Seminole Hollywood Casino and eventually befriended Robert and Michael Mizrahi, the poker pro brothers who took Rheem under their wings and taught him the basics.

"I really became fascinated with the game," Rheem remembers. "Once I got to know the Mizrahi brothers, I started to get real serious about it. They taught me so much. Once I had that base, I began developing my own style of play and then once I started to make some decent money I knew it was something I wanted to do as a way to get by in life."

Rheem ended up doing more than just "get by" with his budding poker skills. His first big finish in a major tournament came in 2005 when he finished third in the EPT Grand Final Monte Carlo and earned $10,129. Three months later he made his WSOP debut and cashed in two events for a total of more than $45,000, including a 193rd finish in the Main Event that brought home $39,075.

"I remember thinking at the time that my best poker was ahead of me," says Rheem, who takes great pride in his ability to read his opponents. "That just gave me even more confidence in my ability."

Since that time, Rheem has cashed in at the L.A. Poker Classic, Mandalay Bay Poker Championship, Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic and the Five Star World Poker Classic. In 2006 he was runner-up in the WSOP $1,000 No Limit Hold'em event where he lost heads-up to Allen Cunningham. In his career, Rheem has five WSOP cashes – including this year's Main Event and a fifth-place finish in the $5,000 Mixed Hold'em event that earned him $93,624. Erick Lindgren, who ended up as the 2008 WSOP Player of the Year, was the eventual winner of that mixed event.

"I've been tested in these kinds of events before and I have a lot of experience, but that doesn't mean I'm going to sit down at the final table and just breeze my way through it," warns Rheem, who was among the top three in chips when there were just 17 players left in the Main Event field, but lost a couple of big hands late in the day to fall back to a stack of 10,230,000. Dennis Phillips comes in as the chip leader with 26,295,000.

"All of the other eight guys are great players. Anybody is capable of winning it, man. I'm just hoping to make the right decisions at the right time and try to get some luck along the way."

Since qualifying for the November Nine back in July, Rheem's life has changed quite a bit. In addition to the $900,670 he has already received for finishing at least ninth in the Main Event that began with a field of 6,844, Rheem has had to deal with all of the attention that comes with being a final tableist. He's done his share of interviews and played as much poker as possible in order to stay sharp, including competing in WSOP Europe in London where he did not cash. He has watched every ESPN episode of the World Series in order to try and pick up any tendencies of his final table opponents and he's done a bit of traveling.

But no matter where he goes or what's he's doing, the Main Event final table – and the $9 million top prize – is always lingering in the back of his mind.

"It's been exciting, but kind of nerve-wracking all at the same time," he says with a laugh. "I can't wait to just get there and start playing poker. I know the spotlight is going to be on us and I'm comfortable with that. Hopefully some of these other guys will let the pressure get to them and then I can take advantage of their mistakes. That's what I'm hoping for."

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