November Nine: James Akenhead – Short Stack at 2009 WSOP Final Table

November Nine: James Akenhead
by Chad Holloway of

James Akenhead, a 26-year old poker professional from London, is a member of the 2009 World Series of Poker November Nine. He is only one of two non-U.S. players at the final table, joining Frenchman Antoine Saout. Akenhead enters the final table on the short stack with only 6.8 million, but is guaranteed to win at least $1.2 million for his efforts. Born in 1984, Akenhead became the youngest railroad conductor in England, which made his parents very proud and produced some interesting stories.

Aside from being a successful train conductor, he was a former professional pool player; in fact, he was once ranked 15th in the United Kingdom in nine-ball. Akenhead describes how poker became a big part of his life:

“Poker came into my life about the same time as train driving, around 2004. There was a group of Chinese guys who used to come to the snooker hall where I played and they had a game in their shop, after hours. I loved it immediately. I learned pretty quickly. I put a lot of hours in. When I wasnt working I was playing online or going to the Gutshot. My first tournament was a 5 rebuy at the Gutshot. I just loved it. I couldnt wait to go back there the next week and play again. I was hooked. I played as much as I could and read some books. Poker books were the only books I would read. So I started live and online came later, and my live game has always been so much better than online. Ive put in a lot of hours on the internet and Ive done OK but my live results have always been so much better because I rely a lot on my reads and how I am with other people.”

After a single night where he won more money playing online poker than he would have made in an entire year as a train conductor, Akenhead made the decision to turn professional. He became a member of the “Hit Squad” along with Praz Bansi, Chaz Chattha, Sunny Chattha and Karl Mahrenholz.

Before making the final table of the 2009 WSOP Main Event, Akenhead had a runner-up finish to Grant Hinkle in a 2008 $1,500 buy-in No Limit Hold’em event for $520,000. Thanks in large part to his WSOP success, Akenhead received sponsorship and is now a Full Tilt Poker Pro. When asked if he believed his final table appearance would have an impact in his native England, Akenhead responded:

“Look at the population of scale when you compare America and England. There are a lot of good players, young players, who have begun to head over from England, and they have posted good results. I think this year especially we have really shown America what we are capable of. I just think there are a lot of good players from England. Everyone is going mad over it back home with me making the final table.”

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