Come Monday, Amir Lehavot will have had more than three months to think through the possibilities at the World Series of Poker final table.
Lehavot, of Weston, sits in second place as the WSOP wraps up. The field will narrow down to three starting at 4:45 p.m. Las Vegas time Monday.
The tournament started on July 6, and the field of 6,352 dwindled to nine by July 15. Since then, ESPN has been showing the action leading up to the final table. During those three months, some players study everything they can about every competitor, but Lehavot has taken a more relaxed route.
“I was planning on playing a good amount of live tournaments, then I decided against it,” he says. “I’m a pretty experienced player already, and what I’d gain wouldn’t be all that significant. I think it’s more important to just come in very well rested and relaxed, and have a good head on my shoulders and taking it easy.”
Even so, Lehavot is already in Las Vegas, and has set up a live simulation of the final table with a few friends, hosted by noted pro Matt Stout.
Lehavot says the WSOP is “about playing good poker, making good decisions,” rather than the $8.3 million first prize.
“I'm really not trying to think about the money and that type of stuff. I think I’ll do better if I can put that aside,” says Lehavot, 38. “You can’t ignore it completely, but I think I’m doing a pretty good job on not focusing on that.”
Lehavot, the oldest player left in the tournament, also declined to make sponsorship deals. Online poker sites and other companies pay players to wear patches at the final table, which the WSOP limits to three.
“I explored it a little bit, but decided not to pursue it,” he says. “And sponsorship money isn’t all that significant. I realized it’s important to be at least semi-excited about the company that I’m going to represent, and that’s kind of difficult in [some cases].”
Lehavot was born in Israel, and arrived in the United States at age 16 an accomplished chess player, a pursuit he continued by becoming a junior champion in Texas. He earned a degree from the University of Texas at Austin and worked as an engineer, specializing in design. Along the way, he learned poker. Lehavot and his wife, Idil, moved to Weston five years ago from San Francisco to be closer to his parents. Better details here from an ESPN profile.
He has a strong love for his home country, and has asked the WSOP to play the Israeli anthem if he wins. He hopes to honor his birth nation and protest the failure of the U.S. government to legalize online poker. He runs an online poker training site, PokerWit.com, and tweets under the name PokerWit.
The tournament will air on a 30-minute delay at 8 p.m. Monday on ESPN 2 and 9 p.m. Tuesday on ESPN.
Since the WSOP switched to the November Nine format in 2008, four South Floridians have earned a spot in the final table: David “Chino” Rheem, Kevin Schaffel, Michael “the Grinder” Mizrachi and Badih “Bob” Bounahra. None has won, or even reached the final three.