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He's the real deal

Math master Kenneth Borror's skills were honed on the Internet and at the Seminole casino. He knows when to hold 'em, when to fold 'em and all the odds.

By JAY CRIDLIN
Published June 18, 2004

BRANDON - Kenneth Borror is bespectacled, a gangly 6-foot-4, and proficient in calculus.

Not exactly the persona of a world-class poker stud.

"If that's the case, I'm happy with it," Borror says. "When I sit down and play, I just feel like that gives me even more of an edge."

Sure enough, there among the leaders at last month's World Series of Poker in Las Vegas sat Borrar, a 25-year-old online math tutor from Brandon who plays mostly on the Internet.

Borrar finished 73rd out of 2,576 players competing for poker's poshest pot - well short of the $5-million grand prize won by Greg "Fossilman" Raymer of Connecticut, but good enough for a consolation prize of $25,000.

"Yeah," he says, "but if I'd just hung in there until about 40th, the money goes up dramatically. It would have been like $80,000."

Considering Borrar doesn't even have a regular poker game - "The only game I know in town is at the Seminole Casino," he says - he's thrilled with his showing.

Borrar grew up playing poker and blackjack with his friends on the schoolbus to Armwood High School in Seffner. He learned the game from his father, Glen, who died in March.

"You pick it up immediately if you know exactly what to look for," Borror says. "It's perfect for me, because the game is an odds game."

Mathematics has always come easy to Borror, a graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach. He has even made a career of it, earning some $50,000 per year to tutor math students in college, graduate and distance-learning programs over the Internet.

Like Raymer and 2003 champion Chris Moneymaker, Borror earned his spot in the World Series by winning an online satellite tournament with a buy-in of $33, much less than the $10,000 many others paid. It took seven hours in front of a computer, but Borror won his buy-in plus $2,000 in walking-around money.

His friends couldn't believe the news.

"I knew he was good, and he's a pretty smart guy," says Scott Dishman, 27, a friend from Charleston, S.C. "But I never thought he would actually go there."

The Vegas strip is a little different from Borror's office-slash-bedroom. But he stumbled into some early luck in the No-Limit Texas Hold 'Em event. Players receive two cards, bet, then watch and continue betting as the dealer lays down a series of communal cards.

Low on chips on the second day, Borror was dealt an ace and a king, a solid starting hand. He went all in and was matched by two other players who, unbeknownst to him, had better hands - one had a pair of aces, the other a pair of eights. Borror could hardly watch as the dealer flopped over the remaining cards. Two were kings, giving Borror three kings and the pot. A single hand had tripled his stack to $30,600.

"The odds of me winning that hand before the cards were dealt were about 6 percent," he said. "I was ready to leave."

By the fourth day, Borror was up to $176,700. He found himself sitting with Raymer at ESPN's featured table, where the lights and cameras only intensified the pressure. Still, Borror increased his stake to more than $200,000 to remain in the game.

That he was out of the tournament the very next day is difficult to fathom.

After falling from $180,000 to nearly nothing in just two hands, he bet his remaining chips on an ace-10 draw. The player to his left turned up an ace-queen, and when the dealer's cards didn't help him, Borror knew his time was up.

When the pots are that large, he says, anything can happen.

"It's nothing to lose $100,000 at that level," he says.

The $25,000 check hasn't changed Borror's approach to poker, and he says he probably will shoot for next year's World Series.

"I learned some new tricks watching these guys," he said of the pros in Las Vegas. "I'm going to try to hone my game and try to become a great player."

Until then, it's back to trigonometry.

- Jay Cridlin can be reached at 661-2442 or cridlin@sptimes.com

KENNETH BORROR

AGE: 25

HEIGHT: 6-foot-4

HOME: Brandon

ALMA MATERS: Armwood High School, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

ENTRY FEE FOR 2004 WORLD SERIES OF POKER: $33

AMOUNT HE WON: $25,000

TRAINING GROUND: No-limit tournaments at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa

ON HIS LOOK: "Looks are always deceiving, especially in a game like poker, where deception has value. That's good for me going in, because people are going to underestimate me."

HOBBIES: Running; he has earned several medals and trophies in local 5K races.

[Last modified June 17, 2004, 11:58:12]

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