Russell Thomas to 2014 N9ers: “Practice Your Short-Handed Play”

Russell Thomas
Russell Thomas

With a little over one month until the conclusion of 2014 WSOP Main Event there’s no doubt the pressure is mounting for the nine final-table contestants.

One player will walk away with $10 million while the player who busts ninth will receive no extra cash beyond their ninth-place payout in Las Vegas this summer.

There are very few people in the world who understand the pressure involved with being in the November Nine better than Russell Thomas.

Thomas finished fourth in the 2012 WSOP Main Event to take home a staggering $2.8 million.

He also studied more than most of his competition and ran multiple mock final table scenarios. It paid off as Thomas made a tough call with pocket queens that was one of the highlights of the final table.

Thomas had some sound advice for players heading to the big dance in November.

“I think people need to practice their short-handed play,” Thomas said while on break at WSOP APAC.

“Three-handed, four-handed and head-up. If you actually get to heads-up you want to be good at it because you’re playing for the Main Event title.”

$5 Million Between First and Second Place

Russell Thomas
Russell Thomas at the 2014 WSOP APAC

The difference between first and second place in the 2014 WSOP Main Event is $5 million.

You'd think that would be enough motivation to put in some extra training but Thomas was surprised by the number of players who don't focus on heads-up.

“A lot of players don’t practice heads-up,” said the 888poker pro.

“They practice normal nine-handed poker, which really isn’t the entire tournament. A great deal of it is played short-handed. In prior years you’ve seen players who haven’t played much heads-up.”

The other major challenge for November Niners is the extended break between the summer and the actual final table in November.

Some players despise the waiting but Thomas was grateful for the extra time to practice during his November Nine experience.

“I didn’t find it hard,” he said.

“I needed more practice playing final tables anyways. I spent as much time as I could getting better. I was mainly a cash game player at the time so obviously it played a lot differently.”

Hard to Get Over the November Nine Experience

Russell Thomas
Russell Thomas at the 2012 Main Event final table.

Thomas did say that although he didn’t find the time leading up to the final table particularly challenging but there was a period of adjustment after the final table.

“It kind of felt like, ‘What now?’”, he said.

“That was really the only thing I was worrying about in my life at the time. I felt like I had such purpose trying to get better. Eventually you just move on though.”

Thomas' advice for the potential winner was much simpler.

“Just don’t spend it all the cash on ridiculous things I guess,” he laughed.

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