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Discovering Saout: The unknown November Niner
With seven Americans and an Englishman making up eight of the November Nine, it was little surprise when ESPN's Norman Chad admitted Frenchman Antoine Saout was the player he knows the least about.
But in an interview with PokerListings before leaving his home in Saint Martin des Champs, France for the 2009 World Series of Poker Main Event final nine in Las Vegas this weekend, Saout said that's just the way he likes it.
"It's even better if nobody is talking about me," he said.
The 25-year-old former engineering student, who qualified for his seat in the Main Event through a $50 satellite on Everest Poker, will likely need any edge anonymity can give him, coming into the final with the second shortest stack.
But he is also coming with a relaxed attitude.
"For the moment, I don't feel any pressure," he said. "Maybe it will come when I see the supporters once I arrive at the final table. I don't know."
Saout spent the end of the summer and early part of fall preparing for the Main Event by playing major tournaments across Europe.
There he proved his spot at the final table was no fluke, joining fellow November Niner shortstack James Akenhead at the final table of the World Series of Poker Europe main event.
He's now hoping the confidence that experience has helped him build will carry him forward in Las Vegas.
"I have had the opportunity to play a lot of tournaments thanks to my sponsorship with Everest Poker," he said. "That helped me gain more self-confidence, confidence in my game, and to earn more experience. Now I feel like I'm ready to play in the biggest tournaments."
Saout, who played much of the Main Event at a table with Phil Ivey, also spent some of his time studying the rest of the November Nine.
"I have been able to see a little bit of their game on ESPN videos," he said. "But I think that's not a guarantee. Within three months they have had time to change their game. And when it's time for the final table, it will be a special atmosphere, which could make them play differently."
Saout credits his math and analytical skills for his recent success in poker.
He multi-tables online and regularly leans on a close knit group of friends for strategy advice.
"I still talk about hands with my friends, both live and online poker hands," he said. "It is always good to get some other points of view. I also learn thanks to the big volume of games that I can play. And of course, I learn from my mistakes."
With Darvin Moon, Eric Buchman, Steven Begleiter, Jeff Shulman, Joe Cada, Kevin Schaffel, and Ivey all holding more chips coming into Saturday's final, Saout has his work cut out for him.
But the former junior champion Pétanque player sounds more than prepared for it.
"Everything is possible," he said. "But the road to victory is still long."
- With files from Fred Guillemot