Fear the Great Unknown

How is Scott Clements not a big, big star? He’s young, has looks worth being jealous of, looks like he could wrestle the new-Mike Matusow to the ground in three seconds flat, owns two World Series of Poker bracelets, has two World Poker Tour victories, speaks well…this kid should be marquee.

But this is a player who unlike so many, isn’t about the spotlight. He’s about the winning.

“I don’t really like talking about my success” Clements said. “I mean, it’s great to win, but I don’t want it to be the focus of everything I do. I went home for Thanksgiving after winning one event and all people could talk about was the win. I just wanted to relax with my family.”

Right there, one sees that Clements is not your average poker pro. Hailing from Mount Vernon, WA, Clements started out on the competitive road as a baseball player, and believes his success is owed in large part to those beginnings. “Playing sports bred my competitive streak. In sports, we (his teams) had success, but we never reached that peak you get to when you know you’re the absolute best. Winning tournaments lets me reach that peak. I focus on tournaments because the competitiveness is heightened. Cash games are like a job. You can obviously make more money in then, but I choose to play tournaments because I’m a competitor and I like that broader goal of winning a tournament”   

From baseball, the conversion to poker was an easy one. “I started out playing with a bunch of friends, we had a home game every week with like 50 people. I started going to casinos at home, playing smaller stakes and built up a roll. Then, in late 2004, I won a couple of tournaments up in Seattle won my ring in 2005 (for winning the WPT’s 2006 Canadian Poker Open) and played then at the World Series of Poker. I didn’t do great there but I built on that the next year.” The understatement is typical of Clements; he won a bracelet, managed a fifth place finish and cashed three more times.

According to Clements, his athleticism and conditioning have been crucial to his success; “I played baseball, football… soccer when I was younger. I’ve always been one to work out. I like to go to the gym 5-6 times a week. I think it helps me stay in shape and I don’t come into any tables tired. I like to go to the gym before playing for half an hour to get the blood flowing. I think it breeds longevity.”

The benefits are starting to rear their head once again at this year’s WSOP. Now five days into the marathon, Clements is thriving in Event #6 ($1,500 Omaha Hi-Low Split-8 or Better), sitting 20th out of the 171 remaining from the starting field of 832. He’s ready to make a run. “I love the WSOP and this is my best game. I feel very confident going in. Anything other than a final table would be a disappointment.” With both of his bracelets thus far coming in Omaha events his confidence and high expectations are understandable. He’s now being regarded as one of the best tournament Omaha players in the world.

“I think I’m somewhat faceless to a lot of people, especially at WSOP. Most of these players here don’t know who I am. I’ve only played one tournament televised in the US, so outside the main core of poker, I don’t think the other know me. That doesn’t really matter to me though. It’s the most exciting time of the year for me…I get to play 40-some straight days of poker. I love playing Pot Limit Omaha, Hi/Lo Omaha and even some seven Stud Hi/Lo.” 

Scott Clements is a star to those in the know. The skill, drive and intensity he’s shown over the last two years have made him the kind of player people want to see do well. He’s representative of a new wave of athletic poker players who are taking the future of the game in a new direction and figures to be around for a long time. Keep an eye on his name in the standings today on WorldSeriesofPoker.com. It’s likely to be there tomorrow as well.
Gary Wise is covering the WSOP all summer for WorldSeriesofPoker.com, espn.com/poker and in his blog at www.wisehandpoker.net.