WSOP October Nine Profile: Steven Gee
“I want the public to know that poker is not associated with crime, drugs, loan sharks, robberies. That poker is a game of skill, a competition, and that there are a lot of good people in poker.” For Steven Gee, his appearance in this month’s upcoming WSOP “October Nine” final table might seem like a tale of lightning striking twice. After all, the poker veteran has always been known more as a cash-game player than a tournament specialist.
All that changed in 2010. Gee, whose largest tourney cash before that summer’s WSOP was a modest $4,500 score in a Bay 101 prelim, came from nowhere to capture a bracelet in one of the WSOP’s popular $1,000 no-limit tourneys. Gee’s breakthrough win over a giant 3,042-player field was worth $472,479 –- more than 100 times his previous largest cash.
Along with the money came the freedom and confidence to enter larger, more prestigious events. 2011 didn’t showcase Gee’s talents, but he returned to the limelight at the 2012 WSOP, where his deep run in the main event has already guaranteed him a $754,798 payday.
Not bad for someone who plays mostly cash games. But the 56-year-old Gee is no flash in the pan, even if his road to the final table was longer than most.
Gee arrived in the United States at age six, his family immigrating from a small village outside Guangzhou (then known as Canton) in mainland China. They arrived in Sacramento, the area Steven Gee has called home ever since. Gee grew up early, inheriting the babysitter’s duties for his younger siblings while both his parents worked long hours to make ends meet.
Yet life improved, and Gee attended the local California State University in Sacramento, receiving a business degree, which he put to use first in a job with California’s Department of Transportation and later, after a quick fling as a poker pro, in the state’s booming software industry, a job he held until he turned poker pro for good in 2008.
Poker, however, wasn’t Gee’s only fancy. While many of his friends these days find his poker prowess unusual, Gee admits that his poker game isn’t the only place his competitive streak comes to the fore.
“We have taken a lot of public hits recently with the scandals at AB, Ultimate Bet, and now Full Tilt. Poker is a microcosm of life, there is the good, bad, and ugly, just as in rest of society.” As Gee told the fuse, “I was a competitive tournament tennis player before I turned pro poker four years ago. I haven’t played much since turning pro as I am always on the road and don’t pick up a racquet (while on the road), so my game has really suffered. I played number-one singles and doubles on my tennis team way back in my college days and have kept up until turning pro.”
An Ambassador for Poker
Yet poker always remained part of Gee’s life, too. When not on the court or working, he played the game from his teens on and was a casino poker regular at several different times. Gee played a lot of lowball from the 1970s onward, and even admits to playing a few times while still underage at the local Oaks club. But that was then, and this is now, with a trip to poker’s biggest stage only weeks away.
Steven Gee sees the chance of a lifetime in his main event run, and would welcome the opportunity to serve as poker’s next ambassador. “Absolutely, the champ has the responsibility,” Gee said.
As he sees it, the champ “…has the platform and must make himself available for interviews and appearances to educate the public about poker. We have taken a lot of public hits recently with the scandals at AB, Ultimate Bet, and now Full Tilt. Poker is a microcosm of life, there is the good, bad, and ugly, just as in rest of society.”
Continued Gee, “I want the public to know that poker is not associated with crime, drugs, loan sharks, robberies. That poker is a game of skill, a competition, and that there are a lot of good people in poker. There are a lot of charity tournaments and that poker has given back to society. I play poker with doctors, lawyers, accountants, engineers, and we should all have the right to play poker in any state and at home.”
Gee’s openness and willingness to work for public’s betterment has already paid personal dividends as well, as PokerAces recently added him to a lineup including Joe Hachem, Nam Le and JC Tran.
Road to the Final 9
Even then, the chance at poker glory almost never happened. Gee battled a short stack for most of the main event’s first five days, and that final table seemed a long way off.
“I never thought about the final table until end of Day 5, when I finished 41 out of the 97 remaining,” relayed Gee. “I never had any chips in previous days, finishing in the bottom ten percent of the field every day, so I was in survival mode.
“During Day 6, a guy played ABC poker all day; then we got on the TV table and he pulled a hero bluff on me. He raised me on the flop and fired a three-barrel bluff and I mucked top two at river –- a six-million pot.
“I finished 22 out of 27 remaining for Day 7. I couldn’t sleep that night as I thought that six-mill pot cost me a chance at the final table. Day 7, I didn’t give up and clawed my way back and when I tripled up with 8-8, that was the critical hand that vaulted me back into the pack for the final table. After that hand, I was thinking more of chipping up for final table and not just trying to qualify.”
He was successful in that as well, finishing Day 7 with 16,860,000 in chips, which places him fifth as play resumes. Gee also noted how the dynamics at his table changed as the final table bubble neared:
“With 12 left I think we all tightened up a bit at our table as we all had decent stacks. We knew that there were three short stacks at the other table so it was a waiting game for short stacks to bust out.”
The wating paid off, as it has so many times before. For Gee, it’s been a long trip to center stage. And if he outlasts eight more players, he’ll still find more work to do.