Tonight, 24-year-old Floridian Adam Katz sits on the edge of World Poker Tour greatness.
The solid online pro is as deep as he's ever gone in a big-time live tournament and will enter the 2008 WPT Foxwoods Poker Classic final table Wednesday third in chips.
As if that wasn't enough pressure, the two guys on top happen to be two of the top players on the planet in five-time WSOP bracelet winner, five-time WPT final-tablist and 2007 WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star champ Ted Forrest and eight-time WSOP bracelet winner and 2008 Aussie Millions runner-up Erik Seidel.
AKat11 a New Force in Poker
Adam still has a confident air about him though and he sat down with PL.com after the final six was set to explain just how he got here and what he's going to do now that he's made it.
So Adam, tell us a little about yourself.
I'm 24 years old; I'm from South Florida. I moved down from New York when I was 14 so my dad could be closer to his mom and his brother, who was sick at the time. I've lived there since [then,] and I went to school in Orlando for a bit. I didn't graduate though because I found poker and I figured sitting behind a desk doing what I wanted was better than sitting behind a desk doing what someone else wanted.
What were you studying at school?
I was supposed to be studying to be a pharmaceutical rep but I figured I'd rather kill myself than do something like that. It just wasn't for me at all.
How do you get involved in poker?
I used to play as a kid. I was always like a little gambler. Me and my friends had a little side game - we would play ace-ball and follow the queen; stuff like that. We played in high school in class because there was nothing to do. Then when I got to college I started taking the game a bit more seriously.
I started playing online; winning sit-and-gos and when I started winning those I figured I could actually make money at this and it went from there. I had been playing before, but I really didn't start playing online until after the (Chris) Moneymaker era.
Have you had some serious success online?
I [have] reasonably. I'm not one of the top guys out there, but most of my friends are very good and I feel like I'm up and coming right now and I've been doing very well recently.
What's your screen name?
My name is AKat11 and you can see me in just about every MTT out there. People think it's like AK at the 11th hour or something like that, but it's just my name; Adam Katz.
Do you play cash games as well as tournaments online?
Not really. If I do play cash games it's usually because I'm messing around or I might be drunk playing Pot-Limit Omaha.
Is there a particular reason you've found success lately?
Most of my success really comes from talking to my friends. My little BCB road team: ShankingYou (Ben Palmer) and the Chronic420 (Jamie Rosen), and I have a lot of people who have helped me over the years tremendously... Chris Dombrowski, who went out 13th in this event, and a lot of big online guys who have helped me along the way.
Is that how you've progressed as a poker player, by talking to friends? Have you also read a bunch of books on the game?
I've never actually read one book on poker; ever. I've read articles. I just think a lot of the books out there are really outdated. They teach basic fundamentals when everything is really about situations. I really feel like you need experience combined with the ability to learn from better players to get better.
Heading into the final table are you nervous about playing in front of the cameras for the first time?
It's kind of crazy because this whole time, we are down to nine-handed at the World Poker Tour main event final table and I've never even gotten close to this deep before. I've cashed in World Series events and events and always go out like 40th or something like that. This is by far my biggest cash, but it just doesn't really feel like that big a deal for some reason.
We've watched you over the last couple of days and despite never having gone this deep before it would seem you've got a lot of confidence.
You have to be confident. I've got (Erik) Seidel and Ted (Forrest) at my table. If they start smelling weakness I'm going to get crushed. My backer always said all it ever takes is confidence. His mantra has won him millions of dollars so I figure he's right; all it really takes is confidence.
You are going into play at the final table tomorrow third in chips, with about the same as Ted Forrest in second and one million behind Erik Seidel. I understand you came into play today wisely looking to avoid confrontation with those two.
Yeah, well I'm coming into a World Poker Tour final table like 100 big blinds deep. I've never even dreamed of something like this. I'm just so deep I just never wanted to get so much money in a pot I couldn't get away from it. I just tried to keep the pots small, play pot control and when I knew I could take it down, take it down.
Eventually though, if you want to win this thing, you are going to have to butt heads with them. Are you prepared for that?
Oh yeah. I'm ready to have some fun. I'm not trying to move up pay jumps. I'm going for the win. That's why you are here. When you are here you got to go for first.
Good luck Adam. Enjoy.
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Not to say he's cocky, but if he's right and all it really takes to win a WPT title is confidence, we will probably see Adam Katz in the winner's circle tomorrow. Experience tells us it takes a little poker skill too and watching Adam play, it's clear he has that in abundance as well. Win or lose, PL.com is betting that although this is the first time we've run into Katz, it won't be the last.