Scott Montgomery won't be the only mathematician among the World Series of Poker Main Event finalists on Nov. 9, but odds are he's going to be among the most difficult players to knock out of the event.
Montgomery joins Ivan Demidov as one of the two 20-something players at the final table with a university-level background in mathematics. He graduated with a bachelor of mathematics from the University of Waterloo in his home country of Canada before he started to play poker more seriously.
Montgomery enters the most highly anticipated final table in WSOP history with the third-largest chip stack and said his "insanely, psychotically aggressive" style of play makes him very difficult to play against.
"I play poker because I have no emotions," said Montgomery. "I never care. Because I know that to win that's the attitude you've got to have. So I tell myself not to care and that's what I do."
Montgomery cashed in all three of his first major $10k buy-in tournaments. In addition to making the final table of the 2008 Main Event, these finishes include a fifth place at the LAPT and 16th at the 2008 WSOP Heads-Up World Championship.
Montgomery played well throughout the WSOP Heads-Up Championship, besting Isaac Haxton to get into the sweet 16 before eventually losing to Alec Torelli.
Montgomery dropped Haxton after Haxton moved all-in holding K♦ J♥ and against Montgomery's dominating A♦ K♥, which held.
Against Torelli, Montgomery was also a favorite to advance, holding T♥ 9♦ on a 9♥ 2♠ 8♠ board. Torelli moved all-in with his A♠ Q♠. A 7♦ on the turn didn't help Torelli's flush cause but a second seven on the river, this one a spade, sent the Canadian off with more than $36,000.
Montgomery appears to be having a great time during his run, never taking himself too seriously and being willing to crack a few jokes here and there. Despite his relaxed attitude, though, one thing remains obvious: he's confident in his skills.
"I'm going to win," said Montgomery. "I planned on winning from day one."
There are a few people who aren't so convinced, however. Tiffany Michelle being one.
"Well you know he's there and I'm not, but I think I saw a few holes in his game for sure," claimed the 2008 WSOP Main Event 17th-place finisher.
But there are apparently many other pros who disagree and say Montgomery is in fact the one to beat. A survey of pro players conducted by DuplicatePoker.com shows Montgomery is viewed as the most skilled player at the Nov. 9 final table. He is a 29% favorite to win the 2008 WSOP Main Event among the people who should know best.
"The most skilled poker players have the ability to effectively manage a game and rely purely on technique," said Moshe Davidovich, chief operating officer of DuplicatePoker.com. "In this regard, Scott Montgomery stands out. And as our poll indicates, he has gained a high level of respect for his skills among poker circles."
No doubt everybody who has played against him since his run to the final table knows exactly who he is. His distinctly Canadian, oddball charm makes him stand out nearly as much as his hyper play.
"Not to sound arrogant," Montgomery told CardPlayer Magazine. "But with the ridiculous, crazy hands that I [play], my hands are really going to stand out, so people are likely to remember me."
We'll see if he brings that same style to the table against the other November Niners, who consist of the aforementioned Demidov as well as Craig Marquis, David "Chino" Rheem, Peter Eastman, Dennis Phillips, Ylon Schwartz, Darus Suharto and Kelly Kim.
One of the other players at the 2008 WSOP final table who might recognize Montgomery better than most is Marquis. The two coincidentally ended up sitting next to each other at the WSOPE on Day 1a of that event.
No telling if either got more of a read on the other as a result. Montgomery said he saw more than a few weak players among the November Niners but won't yet say if Marquis was one of them.
"There are a couple of bad players at the table, but you have three or four months to study up and they're going to improve a lot. There's no way they're going to have the same weaknesses as the last couple days. It'll be a whole different game."
Montgomery did outlast Marquis in the WSOPE, although he too missed the money.
Although Montgomery has not played many major live poker moments in the three months since he made the 2008 WSOP final table, he's definitely playing a lot of poker and wouldn't have it any other way.
"[Half of the reason I keep playing is] if I took the next three months off and went in cold, I'd be playing badly," said Montgomery. "My instincts would be completely gone. And the other half is just that I love playing poker."