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Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Advantage: Ausmus

By Bernard Lee
ESPN.com

Editor's note: Coverage of Jeremy Ausmus' run to the WSOP main event final table continues every Tuesday night on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET.

In the early morning hours of July 17, 2012, Jeremy Ausmus achieved one of the ultimate goals of every poker player as he made the World Series of Poker main event final table. The 32-year-old poker pro has the dubious honor of returning to the Penn & Teller Theater on Oct.. 29 as the short stack. and since its inception, the short stacks at the final table (Kelly Kim -- eighth in 2008, James Akenhead -- ninth in 2009, Jason Senti -- 10th in 2010, Sam Holden -- ninth in 2011) have not fared well when making their big return to the Vegas felt. None of the four finished higher than seventh, and most of them were not really considered a true threat at their respective November Nines.

Jeremy Ausmus is in a different situation.

Ausmus will be part of the first "October Nine" in WSOP history, but more importantly, he may possibly be one of the favorites, even as the short stack. Although chip leader Jesse Sylvia has almost 145 big blinds when they reassemble, Ausmus has a comfortable 32 big blinds. Since the final table bubble lasted only 15 hands, Ausmus was able to preserve his stack for a possible final table push.

Commonly though, the most difficult stack to play in tournament poker is a stack within this range. With this stack size, you are frequently put into many difficult decisions, often for your tournament life. Some of the best players in the world find this stack size extremely difficult to play well. Ausmus feels differently and may actually be relishing his chip stack, as his previous online cash game experience may work perfectly to his advantage.

Jeremy Ausmus
Jeremy Ausmus, 32, enters the WSOP main event final table ninth in chips.

"I played a ton of cap [cash] games on Full Tilt the last couple of years before Black Friday," recalled Ausmus. "Thirty big blinds. That was kind of my primary game. I'm very, very, very comfortable at 30 big blinds."

Ausmus' proficiency with this awkward stack size has not gone unnoticed by his fellow October Nine competitors with whom he's played against in the past.

"Jeremy is one of the best cap players in the world, especially around 30 big blinds," explained fellow October Niner, Russell Thomas. "He is obviously in his comfort zone, and he's obviously going to be able to play it better than me. So I'm going to have to be weary of that and prepare for how he is going to play … I'll need time to figure out how he is going to play against me."

"Jeremy was one of the best cap players on Full Tilt," said Sylvia. "He is one of the top five players in playing a 30 big blind stack. Thank goodness he is on my right."

Ausmus started playing poker at Colorado State University after watching "Rounders." With a background in strategy games, Ausmus became intrigued with poker and wondered if you could really make money playing.

"I was just in love with the movie. I remember watching it several times that week," he said. "My grandfather taught me chess at a young age, and I was addicted to Nintendo growing up. So any game with a strategy component where you can gain an edge, I always liked. Since poker was blowing up on television and online, everyone was getting involved. So I became pretty absorbed with the game."

After graduating with a degree in economics, Ausmus decided to move to Las Vegas and give professional poker playing a shot. Continuing his studies of the game by reading and playing countless hours live and online, Ausmus' bankroll swelled.

"I am very confident in my game," Ausmus said. "It has gotten stronger since I moved out [to Las Vegas] in 2005, and remember the game has gotten tougher too. I feel my live reads are very strong … and I feel like that I'm one of the best players when I sit down at the table in tournaments or cash."

In his career, Ausmus has had 14 WSOP cashes, but 2012 was his true breakout year with nine cashes. While extremely impr essive, this number could have easily have been higher and potentially could've broken the record of 11, set this year by Konstantin Puchkov.

"I played 29 tournaments, I cashed in nine … but it was kind of ridiculous. There was nine other tournaments where I got within 15 percent of the field left and I did not cash … I was literally just a few hands away from cashing 11, 12, [13], 14 times."

Cashing 14 times in a WSOP would've been nice, but for Ausmus, the experience of making the 2012 October Nine is what it's all about. He's enjoyed the experience thus far and has high hopes for what lies ahead.

"It was very exciting … the stands were packed," said Ausmus of the final day. "Every hand, people are yelling. There is a lot of energy in the room. I mainly felt very fortunate to run good in the main event and make the final table."

Ausmus has another reason to feel fortunate. His wife, Adria, is pregnant with their second child; they have a daughter, Calia, 2. Adria is due Nov. 3, just a few days after the WSOP November Nine, and since only 4 to 5 percent of babies are born on their due date, this obviously creates a unique situation.

"We've decided that I'm going to play," said Ausmus. "My wife said she can't think of any other reason that she would be OK with me missing the birth of our second child besides this. This opportunity comes up once in a lifetime for most people."

The Ausmuses have contingency plans for every possible scenario, and if she has not delivered yet, Adria plans to support her husband on the Penn & Teller stage. "She will come, if she's feeling OK -- she would be just at home with 15-minute delay, stressed out in front of the television."

Nevertheless, even with all of the chaos and stress that Ausmus will have to handle in the upcoming weeks, he summed it up best.

"Yeah, it's going to be interesting. It's been a wild ride. But, it's every poker player's dream. Overall, life's good."

It certainly is.