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Amir Lehavot Discusess Third-Place Finish In World Series of Poker Main Event

Lehavot Talks About His Unique Final Table Preparation


Amir Lehavot at the WSOP Final TableAmir Lehavot started playing online poker back in 2008, turning pro in 2009. It was a late start for the now 38-year-old from Tel Aviv, Israel, but in that short span of time, he’s managed to earn over $6 million in combined live and online winnings.

In 2011, the man who now lives Weston, Florida finished fourth in the WPT L.A. Poker Classic for $421,680. A few months later, he won a bracelet in the $10,000 buy-in World Series of Poker pot-limit hold’em championship event, along with the $573,456 first-place prize.

Earlier this year, he won a side event at the Bay 101 Shooting Star for $140,500 in San Jose, California, an area he spent 10 years working in as an electrical engineer. Most recently, he finished third in the WSOP main event, banking a whopping $3,727,823.

Lehavot recently spoke to Card Player about his final table experience and the interesting way he prepared for it.

Julio Rodriguez: Let’s talk about the final table bubble itself. Did you have a particular strategy for making the November Nine?

Amir Lehavot: I won’t really say that I had a strategy, it was more about playing the situation. I had chips, so I wasn’t really concerned with bubbling at all. I was more concerned with optimizing my stack. However, I had two active players on my left with a lot of chips, so it wasn’t a situation where I could run over the table. Also, to be honest, I felt incredibly tired at the time. We had just played for seven straight days and during the last few hours of play, it really hit me. I was trying to consciously monitor my decisions very carefully and not let my fatigue affect me.

JR: So I’m guessing you were a fan of the break then, because it gave you a chance to rest up before the final table?

AL: I’m not a fan of the break. I would’ve loved a one or two-day break, but stopping until November was too much for me. I really feel that it messed with the integrity of the final table. A break that long affects table dynamics, players can go get coaching and change their playing style. At that point, there was momentum, there was established history and reads, but then we stop and all of that important information is gone.

JR: You came into the final table in second place, but a cooler with Marc-Etienne McLaughlin saw you get short stacked relatively quickly. Given what happened, are you disappointed with your third-place finish?

AL: I’m very happy with third place. I felt that I was very fortunate to be in this situation, so I came in with no expectations on how I would finish. I think over the last few years that I’ve developed an emotional maturity that allows me to handle any sort of variance that comes with the game. So much of this game is out of your control. I just think it’s healthier to go in and be happy with any possible outcome. It’s impossible to play perfectly, you got lucky to get to this point, so just be happy you got this far in the first place. Things could have gone better for me, but they also could’ve gone much worse.

I think I played very well short stacked, but I also got very lucky. I shoved a bunch of times and no one ever really had a hand to call me with until the end. Then some other players went out for a variety of reasons, so I was able to move up and make some more money.

JR: You cashed for just over $3.7 million. What does this money mean to you and your family?

AL: The money significantly adds to my family’s financial security. We don’t have any huge plans to spend any of it, but we will manage it wisely.

JR: Was there anything you did to prepare yourself for the final table?

AL: I ended up participating in a live simulation of the final table that I think helped me to prepare. It was organized by Matt Stout and held at his house. There were nine total players, including myself. There were some players who traveled from far away to help, along with Steve Gross, James Carroll and Ryan Welch.

The biggest surprise for the other guys was Carlos Mortensen, who agreed to play as well. I first met Carlos at the WPT L.A. Poker Classic final table, which also included Steve.

All of the players agreed to play as someone else at the final table and I couldn’t think of a better person than Carlos to play as J.C. Tran. Of course, I asked him very carefully because I didn’t want to upset him, but he didn’t hesitate to say yes. He felt like 10th place was a good score and he didn’t feel bothered about how it ended for him. I really value emotional maturity and I think Carlos handled it in the best way possible. It really just reinforced my own mindset going into the final table that I should be happy with whatever happens.

So everyone else played as a different player and we started up the final table with the accurate seating assignments and chip stacks. I didn’t expect to learn a ton from it, but I definitely got more from it than I expected. It really gave me a good idea of how fast players would bust and table dynamics with changing stack sizes. The level of play was so high that discussions would break out and I’d learn a lot about how these players would approach a particular hand.

We ended up running two simulations over two days, but never got to finish. In one of them, we got down to four-handed play and I had half of the chips in play. In the other, we got down to five-handed play and I was the short stack. Both of them played very differently than the final table played out, but the experience was valuable. I think everyone played their counterpart at the final table accurately and as a result, I wasn’t surprised by anything I saw at the Rio.

Look for a special edition of A Poker Life with Lehavot in an upcoming issue of Card Player Magazine