November Nine: The Protege

Anybody who has closely followed poker the last three or four years is very familiar with David “Chino” Rheem – except, they might not know they’re familiar with him.

Michael Mizrachi, and later his brother Robert, burst onto the poker scene in early 2005 and if you look closely at each final table broadcast you’ll see a young  Asian kid wearing a slightly crooked baseball cap standing on the rail, cheering on his good friends – usually to victory.

But when the November Nine reunite at the Rio this weekend, it will be the opposite way around as Rheem, the young Asian kid in the baseball cap is hoping to turn his stack of 10,230,000 – the third smallest stack – into his own poker riches while the Mizrachi’s crowd the rail to cheer on their boy.

“(The Mizrachis) have been great, very supportive and really good friends,” said Rheem, who has known the brothers since they were friends in Florida. “I watched them do well for so long and hopefully it’s my turn. I know they’re in my corner.”

But don’t kid yourself, Rheem isn’t some poker groupie who luck-boxed his way to the final table. He’s a well accomplished player with some decent results that include a final table in Event #4 ($5,000 Mixed Hold’em) just days after the start of the 2008 WSOP. He also finished as the runner-up to Allen Cunningham in Event #14 ($1,000 No Limit Hold’em w/rebuys) in 2006.

“I really just wanna get back there and start playing again,” said Rheem. “All I can do is play my A-game and hopefully make something happen. I’ve been on the tour long enough I think that it gives me a bit of an edge.”

Also part of his edge will be turning to the Mizrachi clan as he prepares for the final table. Some others may have hired coaches to give them an advantage, but Rheem is surrounded by extremely successful players and they all have a huge amount of faith in Rheem.

“Chino’s a very good player. He’s not the chipleader but he’s at the final table and I think he can be dangerous,” said Michael Mizrachi, shortly after the final table broke in July. And Rheem has been playing big time tournaments since 2005, but since making the final table he’s been on poker’s version of a world tour and been seeing places he’s never seen before and playing poker in some of the world’s most admired locales.

“I’ve been to Italy, Barcelona and South America and of course London for WSOP-Europe and the European Poker Tour event,” said Rheem, who has an endorsement deal with PokerStars through the conclusion of the Main Event.  

While the three month break has certainly given him new experiences it hasn’t been all good news for the 28-year-old. Within hours of the elimination of Dean Hamrick in 10th place the media began to scrutinize all members of the November Nine and word surfaced that there was an outstanding warrant for Rheem in South Florida. It wasn’t exactly good news for Rheem or the WSOP, but he took care of it as soon as he could while not taking any focus away from his play.

“I actually found out the day before (the final table) that it would be coming out,” said Rheem, who had had two previous run-ins with the law in Florida as far back as 2000. “So as soon as I could I got on the phone with my lawyer and had it handled. It wasn’t that big of a deal really.”

He’s since been given the okay to show up at the Rio and not fear the Broward County Sheriff showing up to slap on the handcuffs. Thankfully that’s been the only real headache that Rheem has had to deal with. Like most of the November Nine he’s done his best to enjoy the new found wealth and celebrity that has come with being at the most highly anticipated final table in poker history.

“I bought my girlfriend a car, got her a Range Rover,” said Rheem. “I’ve been so busy since then though, travelling a lot and stuff. It’s been a lot of fun so far, hopefully November goes good for me and I can take care of my friends.”