This afternoon, as the World Series sets were being struck and the Amazon Room emptied, PL.com began a lonely vigil, lying in wait for the nine players who comprise this year's final table. Not long into our stakeout we spied Rheem and moved in for the interview.
Chino, you're definitely the most recognizable face at this final table. How are you feeling knowing you've got one of the seats locked up?
Now that I've made it to the final table I feel like everyone's looking towards me to see what's going to happen. I'm a bit more recognizable because I've made a few WSOP final tables before. I'm really not going to let anything like that affect me though.
I don't feel any pressure though. I'm freerolling in this tournament anyway. I should have been out already but I got lucky. I hit a two-outer and a six-outer to get here. If I win the tournament it's meant to be. I'm going in there with no fear. I'm just going to play my game and whatever happens happens.
In these four months all your opponents are going to get the chance to learn the way you play - like you said, you've been on some final tables before - so what are you going to do to counteract that?
Well, if the other eight people at the table are reading this I'm just going to get piss drunk every night from now until the final table. I'm not going to plan or think at all. I'm just going to raise every pot without looking. [laughs]
The Main Event is such a long tournament, just getting to the final table is huge. Were you happy with the way you played to get this far?
Oh, I was definitely very happy with the way I played. Each day I finished in the top 10 or 20 in chips and it's always great to be at the top of the leaderboard, especially in the Main Event. In the first couple of days I had awesome table draws.
I had a lot of chips so I was able to play table captain and run over a lot of people. Towards Day 3 or 4 I played with Mike Matusow. We played at the same table for two days and we had the most horrendous table draw.
Mike said it perfectly when he said I had murderer's row to my left. It was Owen Crowe, Mike Matusow and Phil Hellmuth, and those aren't the three players you want behind you when you're trying to come in and open a lot of pots.
In the end it could have been a good thing because I couldn't play my game as much. I had to play a much more solid ABC style. So that can be good because that gets you through the day. Most of the time my stack is fluctuating a lot but that's just my style.
The key really is not giving up no matter how short you are. Even if you have the shortest stack in the tournament you're still in it. Yesterday I was way down, probably the short stack out of the last 17 or something, and I won a flip and then got lucky to win an all-in and all of a sudden I had more than I [had] had before I got crippled.
Not long after that I lost a huge pot with pocket tens against nines and I flopped top set. But the funniest thing was that usually when I lose a big pot like that I get rattled. The kid who won the pot, the first thing he said was, "Sorry." But I told him that it was just poker and he's entitled to win one, just like I'm entitled to suck out once in a while. I should have been out anyway so it definitely goes both ways.
In the next four months there's going to be a lot of attention on you. Do you welcome that spotlight or would you rather just get on with it?
I'm not really trying to get in the limelight or anything. I don't play poker for the fame. I play for money. This tournament is a little different though. I obviously really want to win and if the limelight comes with it that's fine.
It's not like I'll be basking in it or anything but I will try to take advantage of all the opportunities. I'm just really going to try to win.
Thanks Chino and good luck.
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This final table may not have the star appeal that many were hoping for but in the next few months we'll have the time to get to know Rheem and his eight final-table opponents. PL.com has interviews planned with each and every one so stay tuned in the next few days to brush up on them. Start by checking out our chat with Kelly Kim here.