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2009 WSOP Best Bets: Carter King
Having appeared in a now infamous photo with 14-time Olympic Gold Medal winning swimmer Michael Phelps, Carter King's bong is probably more recognizable than he is.
But if the 23-year-old South Carolinian runs as well at the 2009 World Series of Poker as he has in some of the Internet's biggest tournaments, it won't be long before that changes.
"All I can say is that is that it was my bong in the picture," King told PokerListings. "I'm basically just an innocent bystander. His best friend is a mutual friend."
King had met Phelps before and played poker with him, but was at Foxwoods playing in a World Poker Tour event the night his bong made the front pages of tabloid newspapers the world over.
Although he laughs about it with friends these days, King was charged with possession of marijuana.
"The bong was really the target there so I'm not sure I understand their logic," he said. "But it was really no big deal."
In fact, the misdemeanor charge didn't prevent the man they call "ckingusc" from what really is a big deal: Winning the PokerStars Sunday Million March 22, a little over six months after taking down the massive $10 million guaranteed World Championship of Online Poker [WCOOP] Main Event.
That, and the fact he made the final table in just the second event he played at the 2008 WSOP, taking seventh in the $1,500 Pot Limit Hold'em, has him looking forward to another summer in Las Vegas.
"I love the World Series because it gives you a great chance to play a lot and have a good time," he said. "I'm just going to go down there and be ready to grind everyday and hope it goes well."
Not a huge fan of travelling, King plays very few big buy-in live events on the circuit throughout the year, but plans to head out to the desert early this year and play everything he can with buy-ins between $1,500 and $5k, plus a few $10,000 events.
"The one I'm really looking forward to is the $5k six-max," he said. "With 15,000 in chips you can do so much. But the $1,500's and the $2k's is where I think I'll make my money."
Essentially, the WSOP's lower buy-in events set up much like online tournaments, King's specialty.
"I think that's a valid assumption," he said. "Especially when it comes to field size and field strength."
King started playing poker as a way to make friends when he moved to a new high school, then began taking it seriously while studying history and political science at the University of South Carolina.
The first steps in taking his game to the next level were reading everything Theory of Poker writer David Sklansky has written about the game as well as Phil Gordon's Little Green Book, before moving online to the Two Plus Two Poker Forum where he found the "situational things the books just can't teach you."
King admits he's not really a math guy, although he says it's a necessary evil.
"I've always been good at math, but I despise it," he said. "I studied it, I didn't enjoy it, but at last it's paying dividends. The truth is you can't beat online poker without it."
As he has in the past, King plans to room with a group of fellow online players this summer that includes PokerListings blogger Matt "allinat420" Stout.
But since the WSOP is a time for serious business, his famous bong may not make the trip from South Carolina.
"I like to have a good time, I like to party, but if you're playing 10, 15, 20 tournaments, most of the time you're just too tired to party too hard," he said.
"I'm going down there with the serious mentality that I'm going to grind every day."