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SEOUL — What has longer odds? That a U.S. Forces Korea employee could place in the World Series of Poker or that he would come back to work after winning $285,000?

Vegas oddsmakers haven’t figured it out yet, but USFK civilian contractor Ronald Kluber did both.

Kluber returned to work at the USFK intelligence office Monday after spending six days in Las Vegas, where he placed 29th in the World Series of Poker’s Main Event.

“I did not expect to get that far into the money,” he said during a phone interview Monday.

After winning the money, he sent an e-mail back to his boss at Yongsan Garrison to say he would be back in time for a big training exercise.

Kluber beat more than 6,000 other Texas Hold ’em players for the right to call himself one of the best. Among his opponents were some of professional poker’s star players.

Despite sitting next to stars like Gus Hansen, Huck Seed and Scotty Nguyen, Kluber said he wasn’t worried about his chances.

“I wasn’t intimidated at all,” he said. “I know how to play poker.”

He said the game is more about skill than luck. Knowing how to read people and anticipate what cards might come are crucial skills.

Kluber said his faith also was crucial to his playing — he plans to donate 10 percent of his winnings to the Village of Jesus Church in South Korea.

“This was one of the most nerve-wracking events of my life, and I’ve been in four combat zones during my military career,” said Kluber, a retired Army colonel. “It wasn’t luck that got me through this. It was God’s grace.”

Kluber earned his way to Vegas by playing in the Korean Professional Poker Tour.

Tour organizers paid for his trip to Vegas — and his $10,000 buy-in — after Kluber won the Korean championship at the Sheraton Grande Walkerhill casino on June 16.

He earned a chance to play the Korean championship by competing in a six-month series of games.

Kluber took the championship after catching the last of his opponents in a bluff.

Kluber’s next tournament will be the Asia Poker Tour, where he will be competing with 250 to 300 players for $250,000.

In the meantime, Kluber, from Aurora, Ill., said he’s willing to give lessons to anyone who wants to learn how to play poker.

“Bring $1,000 to the table,” he joked. “I’ll teach you to play.”


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