Buchman in position for breakthrough victory at WSOP Main Event

3 November 2009

During the last few months, Eric Buchman has heard all about Darvin Moon's big stack and Phil Ivey's superiority. Neither one, however, will intimidate him when he finally sits down at the final table of the World Series of Poker Main Event Saturday in Las Vegas - and with good reason.

First off, Buchman will have the second-most chips at the table, with his 34.8 million stack the only one even remotely close to Moon's massive 58.9 million mountain. Secondly, and probably even more importantly, Buchman feels his skill level is as good as anyone else at the table, and in most cases, even better.

"I'm not one to brag," says the 30-year-old native of Long Island, NY in a heavy hometown accent. "But I know for sure that I can play with the best in the world. I don't care who's sitting down next to me, I know that I can beat them. And win or lose [this weekend], I'll still feel that way."

eric_buchman

Eric Buchman likes his chances when play gets underway at the WSOP Main Event final table this weekend at the Rio in Las Vegas. (photo courtesy of PokerStars)

A win on poker's grandest stage in the most prestigious tournament in the world is the only way Buchman may be able to get the rest of the world to feel that way about his poker chops. Sure, he's got more than $2 million in tournament winnings and 10 WSOP cashes on his resume. But until a guy like Buchman wins a big tournament, he's not going to be a household name or be considered among poker's elite players.

"And I'm fine with that," says Buchman, who was the most popular pick to win the Main Event in the Casino City poll of poker professionals and media. "That's how it should be. When I leave Las Vegas, I'm either going to be the world champ or I'm not. Second place is just the first loser. That may sound harsh, but that's the way it is."

Becoming a world champion isn't why Buchman began his journey as a poker professional nearly 10 years ago. He made the decision to play poker for a living because he was good at it and he was making a decent living. While attending the University at Albany-SUNY as a business major, Buchman played his share of poker, particularly on weekends when he and his older brother Ari would head to Atlantic City or Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut. In 2002, during his final semester before graduating from college, Buchman built a bankroll of between $12,000 and $13,000 from his weekend poker trips. When he graduated that spring, the appeal of playing even more poker – and, in turn, winning even more money – was too much for him to pass up.

"My parents weren't real happy about it," says Buchman, who grew up in a close knit family with Ari and his parents -- Fran and Yigal. "They would have rather seen my go for my master's or something. But I wanted to give poker a try and I've never looked back."

Buchman – a big fan of New York sports teams like the Giants, Mets and Rangers – has remained on the East Coast for his entire career, playing mostly at the Borgata in Atlantic City and in Connecticut at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. His signature victory came in April of 2004 when he took down the New England Poker Classic at Foxwoods for $275,400. He earned his first WSOP cash later that year and that's when he knew he had made the right career choice.

Three more WSOP cashes in 2006 – including a second-place finish in a $1,500 Limit event – solidified him among other players as a legitimate threat.

"I think the other players know me and respect my game," says Buchman, who took 10th in the $10,000 Limit Hold'em event this past summer at the WSOP and was sixth in the $2,500 Omaha/Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo event that was eventually won by Ivey. "The average person on the street doesn't know me, but that doesn't mean anything to me."

Buchman's notoriety has skyrocketed since he made the Main Event final table in July. There have been countless interview requests and phone calls from people he hasn't heard from in a while. Buchman says he's taking his new-found fame in stride and is just trying to focus on the task at hand. He's taking a lot of time off and hasn't played much poker since July. He went to London for an EPT event and has played online at PokerStars, but says he wants to be fresh when he sits down at the final table this weekend.

"It's been like a mini-vacation," says Buchman, who has made some short trips to Maine and Massachusetts to visit friends. "I'm trying to get a lot of R&R. I don't want to play too much poker. I'm focusing on the eight other guys that I'll be sitting down with in November. I don't want my head to get messed up thinking about any other players. Those eight guys are my focus right now."

Of course, the most notable of "those eight guys" is Ivey, a player Buchman won't give any more consideration than anyone else when play begins.

"[Ivey] being there is great for poker, but it doesn't do anything for me," Buchman says about the player who will be the third-shortest stack at the table with 9.8 million chips and will be seated three spots to Buchman's right. "I've played with him before and I'll play against him again, I'm sure. But going into the final table, he's got a lot less chips than me. If he doubles up a couple times early on then he'll be a factor. But until then, I'm not thinking too much about Phil Ivey."

Buchman's carefree approach to the Phil Ivey effect on the final table goes back to the fact that he feels from a skill level, he can compete with anybody, including the undisputed "best player in the world."

"To be honest, when you get to this level I really don't think one player can be that much better than another because at the professional level, everyone is a great player," explains Buchman, whose Main Event almost ended on Day 7, but his pre-flop, all-in call with a pair of 8s beat a pair of Queens when he hit a runner-runner straight. "What it comes down to is reading your opponents, picking up tells and betting patterns. I think that's my strength."

If Buchman does outlast the final table and win the Main Event and the $8.5 million that comes with it, he says he'll probably buy a new house, but it won't be anything elaborate and it will be in the same location he lives now, which is within a 20-minute drive of the house he grew up in. He says he would likely cut down on the amount of cash games he plays in and probably play strictly tournaments.

Overall, he says, being the Main Event champion wouldn't change much, except for the fact that he'd be a world champion; a title he admits would mean a lot.

"It would something that nobody could ever take away from you," he says letting down his guard a bit. "Hey, if you gave any poker player in the world the choice to win one tournament, 99 percent would pick this one. This is the tournament you grow up thinking about winning. I have a chance to win it and that's a pretty cool thing. Hopefully I can pull it off. If I play my best, I don't see any reason why I can't win."


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