November Nine: The Redeemer

On Sunday, July 14 poker fans watching GSN’s coverage of the World Poker Tour’s L.A. Poker Classic were treated to one of those final table blow-ups that happen from time to time. One of those train wrecks where a player comes in with an overwhelming chip lead only to bow out early, left to wonder what could have been.

As the episode aired, that very same player, Scott Montgomery, was at the Rio fighting his way towards the final table in the World Series of Poker Main Event. He was hoping to avoid a similar departure as the event played down to the November Nine.

“I did watch some of it on the dinner break,” recalls Montgomery, who did survive that night and will return in November. “I was pretty focused on what was happening here though. I’m sure I’m getting ripped up in the forums right now.”

With 19,690,000 in chips, Montgomery sits in third place. He hopes that his experience at the LAPC final table will not only give him an edge on the felt come November, but will help him better handle the attention that’s sure to come once his face is all over ESPN.

“I have made a final table on the World Poker Tour, but that hadn’t even been on TV until that night of the World Series. I’ve done some smaller interviews, but nothing like this,” says Montgomery. “It will all be different once it actually gets on TV and people start to recognize my face. It will be different, especially if I win. It’s going to be strange knowing you’re not going to be able to walk around without lots of people recognizing you.”

Once that night was over – and tournament director Jack Effel put the nine players on a 117-day break – Montgomery returned home to his family and some much needed rest.

“I haven’t been doing much so far, taking some time off and visiting family. I was down there for the whole World Series, so after a couple months of playing poker every day I could use some time off,” admits Montgomery. “[Friends and family] were all super happy, everybody congratulated me, saying how proud they were. Lots of them had been following it online, so they knew exactly what was going on up to the minute. But my parents, my sister – they were just ecstatic, way happier than I was at the time probably.”
Montgomery is part of a collection of Canadian players that attended the University of Waterloo and have found success in big-time poker tournaments. That group includes 2007 European Poker Tour Dortmund winner Mike “Timex” McDonald, 2006 PokerStars Caribbean Poker Adventure winner Steve Paul-Ambrose, and WPT and WSOP winner Nenad Medic. But much to the chagrin of conspiracy theorists and UW recruiters, Montgomery says there’s nothing special going on at Waterloo, at least poker-wise.

“Honestly I don’t know any of those guys and I never played poker at Waterloo,” says Montgomery, who picked up the game while teaching English just outside of Tokyo, Japan. “I see all these Canadian poker players and they’re always from Waterloo. I don’t know what the connection is, but I don’t have anything to do with it.”

Montgomery has been playing on the professional circuit full time since his LAPC performance. Rather than spend some of the $900,670 he took home when play was suspended in July, he hasn’t splurged on anything beyond a new computer and a few wardrobe updates.

“I had just won the [LAPC] money a couple of months before and I went out and bought myself a new car then. But mainly I’m a pretty frugal guy, most of my money just goes into investments and paying for all the tournaments and travel over the next couple of months. I’m not the type of guy that’s going to go out and spend a couple hundred thousand on a car or anything like that.”

Another thing the 26-year-old won’t be spending any money on before returning to the Rio is coaching from other pro players, something a lot of poker industry observers assumed all of the November Nine would do.

“I’ve heard all the talk about it beforehand, but it seems kind of silly to me. If I got together with other pros I could discuss strategy and stuff, but I wouldn’t consider it coaching. I’ve had offers from people online saying ‘I’ll coach you for five percent of your winnings’ and that just sounds crazy to me,” says Montgomery. “I never thought poker was the kind of thing you could be taught. I read some poker books, but I never found them helpful. And I never watched any of those poker training videos or got into long drawn-out discussions about poker tactics.”

With one major tournament final table under his belt, Montgomery already has a leg up on his competition and doesn’t believe that any coach will help him come November. Instead, he’s focused on getting back on the circuit and playing as many live tournaments as he can before resuming the Main Event.

“Seems to me the way to learn poker is to play, not to have somebody tell you how you should be playing.”