When you see Scott Clements, you might think you're looking at a welterweight rather than a poker player. The 28-year-old Washington native is built like a truck, and when he leans his massive arms on the poker table with shoulders hunched forward and eyes firmly locked on the matter at hand, it makes for an aggressive pose that can't help but intimidate.
Clements is one of poker's best-kept secrets. He's a two-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner who is widely considered to be one of the best Omaha tournament players in the world. The good news for his opponents in the 2010 WSOP main event is that the game they're playing is hold 'em. The bad news is he's been applying the same work ethic that built those arms towards bringing his hold 'em game to his Omaha level.
"A lot of players have been getting so much better at hold 'em," said Clements after finishing Day 3 with 459,900. "When I first started, players still had a lot to learn, but people have really caught up, so my game needed to improve to keep an edge. I met Jason Mercier a couple of years ago and started talking with him and really respect everything he does in hold 'em. I also like to discuss hands with him and a couple of the guys he hangs out with, Allen Bari and Dan O'Brian, because there are some fundamental mistakes I've made. I've done well live because I usually try to address and play against the weaker opponents, but there are fewer of them now, so I'm addressing each hand, making sure I make the right play in each situation. They've really helped me do that."
Clements said he looks to that group for support during his main event run.
"Yesterday, I made a mistake on a hand where I played a little too timidly," he said. "I went and started to talk to them about the hand and they gave it to me, like 'Yeah, you played that hand really bad.' That triggered me, reminded me I had to think through every situation. It was just another thing that led me towards that goal of thinking through every play and making the right play."
Mercier praised Clements for his development in hold 'em.
"Scott definitely been working on his no-limit game," said Mercier, who is also still alive in the main event. "He'd been focused on Omaha and the mixed games, but he's working hard on hold 'em now. I think he's just striving to be a better player, and I knew he was struggling in no-limit tournaments and felt like he wanted to get better, so I've been trying to talk to him a little bit here and there, talk hands. I'm not taking any credit, but I think he has a real shot to go deep in this one. In this field I think he's a huge favorite."
After a slow start to this tournament that saw Clements finish Day 1 with 21,000, he made his move on Day 2, doubling up with the better hand twice to bring his end-of-day total to 128,000.
"Day 3 wasn't about any big hands or double ups," said Clements moments after play had ended Monday night. "It's just been slow and steady, making good value bets and making good reads. My table's been on the tighter side, so I've been able to steal a little."
Long-time poker pro Shawn Rice was impressed by Clements' play.
"I knew he was a world class pot-limit Omaha guy, but it's my first experience really playing with the guy, and he plays super solid," said Rice, who was at Clements' table for about six hours. "I mean, he really, really understands no-limit play. I'm really impressed."
Clements' road towards poker success started in the summer of 2003.
"My brother asked me to host his game," he recalled. "I had a house and they needed a place to hold it. The first time I played, I was horrible. I ran really lucky and got second, and then the next time I got first. It pretty much hooked me from there.
"After playing with my brother, I started out with Omaha high-low. A buddy showed me the game, and I just thought it was really interesting with all of the cards and possibilities and it was something else to learn. I actually had success right away. I really understood the concept of half the pot going to the low. I think it came from being a kid and playing games like Chicago, where the high spade card in hand takes half the pot. I was focused a lot on winning the low hands where a lot of the players were just focused on the high. Players back then were really bad. It gave me a really quick edge in the game and the success and profit made me just want to play more. I felt like that's where I had the biggest edge, since everyone else was playing hold 'em."
He was obviously right. Clements won his first bracelet in 2006, earning $301,175 after taking down a $3,000 Omaha high-low event. He followed that success with a $1,500 pot-limit Omaha win the following year. In late 2007, he won more than $1.4 million in the WPT's North American Poker Championship. In all, his live tournament winnings have earned him just short of $4 million.
The help from Mercier and company came in part because of Clements' inherent likability.
"[Scott]'s a great guy, one of the nicest guys in the poker world," Mercier said. "He has such a great relationship with his wife, exercises all the time. He's what I eventually want to be as a poker player if I wasn't so lazy."
Clements gives the workout regimen plenty of credit towards his success.
"I try to work out quite a bit -- my wife, Courtney, and I both," Clements said. "She takes really good care of me, eating and everything else. It leaves me set to make deep runs in tournaments. I'm more focused when I've worked out in the morning, where when I've been lazy for a few days, I feel like my game kind of suffers. If I go to the gym, my body feels better, I feel stronger and I feel like I'm stronger mentally. Probably just getting out the endorphins of any workout.
"Being in shape allows you to stay in shape mentally. It keeps you keep throughout the whole tournament instead of lagging later on. I feel like working out and staying in shape allows me to stay 100 percent a lot more often."
It's an advantage that looms large as the remaining 1,203 players prepare to play five successive marathon days of poker. For Clements, the wear and tear of the tournament isn't a concern. But it should be for those facing him and his big stack.
Gary Wise is a poker columnist for ESPN.com.