The World Series of Poker crowned a new champion on Tuesday night, awarding its $8.4 million purse to 23-year-old Michigan native Ryan Riess. In order to claim the title, Riess navigated through a grueling week that ended with a 3 1/2 hour session that saw him take down his last opponent, Jay Farber.
Starting off behind on the day, Riess used his cunning ability and sharp reads to eventually shift the chips to his side of the table. When the match got to heads up, he built a lead over Farber that would prove insurmountable.
On the last hand of the night Farber, who is a 29-year-old Las Vegas club promoter, pushed all in with a Queen-five of spades. A move that would prove fatal against Riess’ Ace-King of hearts.
After the chips were in the center of the table and the player’s hands shown, Riess ran to his rail, or fan section, to watch the rest of the hand. A four-Jack-ten flop left Farber needing only one of the remaining three fives in the deck to come on the turn or river if he wanted to stay alive. That would not happen, and Riess had won his first WSOP bracelet with his girlfriend holding him.
Throughout the tournament Riess developed quite a following as he took down opponent after opponent while wearing his now signature look, the jersey of Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson Jr. Now Riess has done something that the Lions have never done, won a championship.
Choking back tears of joy as he was awarded the coveted bracelet that comes with a WSOP title, Riess thanked his biggest supporters, saying that “I want to thank my family and my friends, they’re the best friends in the world.”
The victory silenced the noise that had been coming from Farber’s camp. The club owner who considers poker to be nothing more than a hobby had garnered quite a following of his own, even drawing comparisons to Chris Moneymaker, a fellow amateur who won the WSOP Main Event in 2003.
Farber’s image of fuzzy panda hats and tight t-shirts, as well as ample trash talking towards Riess throughout the tournament on things such as his need for a haircut and the struggles of Detroit caused a significant portion of the crowd to support him.
A professional, Riess’ victory marks the sixth straight for the pros of the poker world at the WSOP Main Event, but he still likens his story to that of Moneymaker.
“Ever since I saw Chris Moneymaker win this event in 2003, I knew it was something I wanted to experience too,” he explained. “I’m surprised it came so quickly.”