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WCOOP champ ckingusc poised to go far
Since the beginning of online poker's boom, the computerized version of the game has often been seen as a stepping-stone to the live game, where the fields are smaller and the money much bigger.
But every now and then someone bucks that trend and makes his big score online, as Carter King did last week when he won the main event of the PokerStars World Championship of Online Poker.
If you don't know him the Georgia-born King by name in the real world, you might know him by reputation online, where he plays under the screen name ckingusc. He makes a habit of grinding online tournaments, which paid off handsomely when he made a single addition to his normal schedule last month.
"Every Sunday there was a $320 satellite [for the WCOOP main event]," King told PL.com by phone this week. "So in addition to my regular Sunday grinding schedule I added the satellite, and I won my seat."
It wasn't immediately clear that the satellite investment was going to pay dividends, though. Day 1 of the main event was a tough ride, thanks to not one but two set-over-set confrontations that left King lagging behind the pack.
"Luckily we were pretty deep-stacked, so I was able to not lose my entire stack," said King. "But I was really short for almost the entire tournament."
The final table
After managing to survive to the end of Day 1 with about 40 big blinds in his stack, King held tight through the beginning of Day 2 until the final-table bubble approached. At that point he won a big coin flip to pick up enough chips to move on to the final table. Once there King wanted to get aggressive, but the situation dictated otherwise.
"Originally I wanted to be a little aggressive, but everybody was three-betting so much that I pretty much just tightened up and just played solid poker. That helped because I was pretty card-dead as well," said King.
"So once I made that final table it just came down to making standard plays and hoping everything worked out all right."
The 22-year-old South Carolinian took out one player before play became five-handed, at which point negotiations for a chop began.
"I didn't really do any negotiating - I was pretty happy with the amount being offered," said King. "I had made a mistake in my ICM (Independent Chip Model) calculations where I thought I was getting $50,000 more than I needed. If I had realized that I would have asked for more money, but I thought I was getting a good deal so I didn't really say anything.
"But AJKHoosier - you know, the short stacks get a really crappy deal in those spots, and he's one of the best players in the world, so he wanted more money," King said.
"And liberace, who was the chip leader, was willing to give up $300,000 to the rest of the table without anyone asking. I probably should've pushed for some money at that point but I didn't want to ruin any deal."
A big deal
With a deal finally in place, King said the five-handed game took a turn.
"The game definitely loosened up quite a bit. Now first place was all that mattered. The strategy changed completely - no more bubbles and no more monetary considerations. So I've got good chips and I've got to win this thing."
King said that for a bit he found it hard to concentrate - not only from the long hours of play logged to get so far in an online tournament, but also because "it's hard to focus once all that money's been chopped up."
"Luckily I was able to get in some good spots and find myself and start focusing again, because I was like, 'Wow, I could actually win this thing.'"
In the end it was former table chip leader liberace and King heads-up for the title and an extra $200,000. It could have been a tough spot for King, who says he is "pretty notorious" for not being able to close out opponents heads-up in tournaments.
"In a lot of spots I just run bad at the wrong time or make a simple mistake that can cost me," said King. "You don't get a lot of opportunities to be in that spot. But [in the WCOOP main event] I felt really confident. I just wanted to play him strongly and take it down."
In the end, King's decision that led to claiming a key pot was influenced by the fact that all the money had already been chopped up.
"When I won my first big pot with K-J suited, with a flush draw and two overs, I was happy to call off with it. With the money already chopped up and $200,000 on the line I thought, 'I've got to win a big pot so I might as well make it this one.' Whereas if it was a $700,000 difference [between 1st and 2nd], that's a really scary spot to call off with just king-high."
The flush came in on the river, giving King a lead that he would use to finish off his opponent six minutes later. The WCOOP main event title, and more than $1,250,000, now belonged to the young pro.
King has played in a relatively small number of live events in the last two years. Most of them have been in Las Vegas during the WSOP, as there is no legal live poker in King's hometown of Columbia, S.C.
He has managed to score five WSOP cashes and $149,026, including a $1,500 Pot-Limit Hold'em final table, despite playing such a limited live schedule.
With the WCOOP win under his belt, he hopes to branch out and play more live tourneys, which he finds easier than their online counterparts.
"With online tournaments there's so much volume, and the field is often so very large, that you just accept the variance," King said.
"In live tournaments there's much more information available, and you get to practice all the stuff you learned playing online and you can really focus. I really feel like I can win every time I play live, where online I just don't have the same mental process coming into it."
If his track record so far is any indication, anyone playing at the upcoming Foxwoods and Niagara WPT events or the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure will have to be on the lookout for this rising young star.