Amateur Israeli poker player Ofer Zvi Stern is among the finalists vying for a $7.6 million prize at the World Series of Poker Main Event in Las Vegas this week.
Outlasting 6,411 others in days of near marathon-length games earlier this year, Stern is one of 6 players to advance to the final table of the WSOP’s no-limit Texas Holdem game.
With 57 percent of the chips after the end of the qualifying round in July, the 36-year-old Herzliya native placed second after American player Joe McKeehen.
In addition to McKeehen, Stern is facing off against American payers Neil Blumenfield, Max Steinberg, Joshua Beckley and Thomas Cannuli.
Stern told the Poker News website on Saturday that he was relying on his ability to adapt to his opponents’ strategy in order to win the final game.
“I hope that I’ll adapt and maintain control,” he said. “I hope I can have a good strategy that will work for me. It’s gonna be life-changing for me.”
“Max Steinberg and Joe McKeehen [are the two best players at the final table],” Stern added. “I feel really confident facing them, but I think it’s going to be a challenge for me. I have a lot of respect for the other players.
Although Stern is competing in poker’s most prestigious event, he told the website he almost didn’t make the tournament due to prior work commitments.
“I’m in technology,” Stern said. “I play poker as an amateur. We don’t have any poker in our country. Poker was not a big game in Israel for many years.”
At the last minute, he said he decided to compete and booked a flight to Las Vegas a day before Saturday’s game.
Stern is the second Israeli player to make the “November Nine” finalists, following in the footsteps of Amir Lehavot, who finished third in the 2013 World Series of Poker Main Event for $3,727,823.
The battle started May 27 with 6,420 players each paying $10,000 to enter. After 68 events, the tournament will culminate with the main event on Sunday.
No-limit Texas Holdem involves each player getting two cards unseen by the rest of the table and five community cards, the first three on the “flop,” the fourth on the “turn,” the fifth on the “river,” with betting between each.
The World Series of Poker has been crowning a champion since 1970, when it was by invite-only at Binion’s Horseshoe and the players voted on the ultimate winner. Since then, only four players have won the main event more than once.
AP contributed to this report.