Ryan Riess (East Landing, MI), the 2013 World Poker Champion (Photo by Joe Giron)
Ryan Riess, from East Lansing, MI is the 2013 world poker champion.
I witnessed all the drama unfold late last night at the Rio in Las Vegas. Moments after his victory, Riess was interviewed by members of the media while sitting next to more than $8 million in cash, his reward for the victory. The 23-year-old Michigan State graduate was also presented with a custom-designed gold-platinum-diamond bracelet, valued at more than $500,000.
Riess overcame a chip disadvantage on the final day of the tournament, topping Jay Farber heads-up for the win. Once Riess took the chip lead, he was in no serious danger of busting from that point forward. The tournament capped yet another WSOP, which I’ve now been affiliated with for many years.
Here’s a ten-minute interview (raw unedited footage) with the new champion:
At about 10:30 last night, the monotony of another mostly chatterless WSOP Main Event final table was broken by a giant panda rushing onto the stage and subsequently crashing at the feet of six stunned poker players, playing for millions of dollars.
That was undoubtedly one of the highlights of a November Nine final table atmosphere which has become the equivalent of poker’s giant one-ring circus held the Rio’s big top — an excuse for anyone and everyone who can spell POKER to dress up, drink up, chant, celebrate, and party like there’s no tomorow, all interspersed with a mind-boggling marathon of down time during which nothing much happens.
This is televised poker. This is the World Series of Poker championship. This is the culmination of the profound wisdom pontificated by recent Poker Hall of Fame inductee Tom McEvoy when he said, “Poker is hours and hours of boredom, punctuated by moments of sheer terror.”
Here are some of my most memorable moments from last night:
When it comes to poker, I receive far too much credit.
I’m lucky because I often get to stand in front of the camera, or very close to it. I get to sign my name to things I write. I get to enjoy an occasional bow in front of the crowd.
Truth is, gargantuan events like the World Series of Poker really run on the backs of a lot of people you never hear about, and rarely see. But were they not to exist, then operating something as extraordinary as the world’s richest sporting event simply wouldn’t be possible.
I’d like to tell about an exceptional man I have come to know as both a trusted colleague and dear friend. His name is Alan Fowler.
Alan just completed his final day working for Caesars Interactive Entertainment (and the WSOP). He’s officially been a part of the WSOP ever since 2006. Alan recently became a proud father. He’s moving his family to Atlanta where he plans to start a new life.
To say we will all miss Alan would be a gross understatement.
In a stunning final hand of the 2013 summer series, former world poker champion Carlos Mortensen was eliminated just one position short of making the famed “November Nine.”
The 2001 World Series of Poker Main Even winner appeared to have a decent shot at getting to the so-called big dance and possibly becoming the first repeat champion since the late Stu Ungar. He moved steadily up the leaderboard on this, the final day of the championship, which is the final playing session prior to the mandatory 3.5 month break. However, the Spaniard busted out on the final dramatic hand that will be played here on this stage. The world championship finale takes place in November here in Las Vegas, thus the nickname — “November Nine.”
Here’s Mortensen exiting the main stage with obvious disappointment, yet typical grace. He’s being interviewed by ESPN’s Kara Scott (photo above).
There’s now a move to include Mortensen as a serious contender in this year’s Poker Hall of Fame nominees. While I do think there are others who are equally credible, and perhaps just as overlooked, I do believe Mortensen measures up as someone who should receive that honor sometime in the future.
Congratulations to Carlos Mortensen and the 2013 November Nine.
At the Rio, even with the final stages of the 2013 Main Event Championship still going on, it’s already the start of a new day. Nearly 400 poker tables, dozens of television cameras, miles of cables and electrical wires, thousands of lights, and tens of thousands of bad beat stories are but a distant memory of the 52-day poker festival that was the busiest overall tournament series in history.
So, what happens next?
Remarkably, much of the former main tournament room called the Pavilion has already been converted over to the next big thing about to happen — a national billiards championship. That’s right, poker tables have been wheeled out, and pool tables have been put in place. Oddly enough, the room looks strikingly similar to the way it looked during the WSOP. The same floor once covered by tables and low-hanging lights is now covered again by — stop the presses — tables and low-hanging lights. The only thing missing are the chairs.
The 2014 WSOP — which is coming next summer — will be here before you know it. In fact, our game is about to enter an exciting new era. The spread of legal online poker in the United States and poker’s continued growth internationally are two major reasons for optimism. I expect that next year’s WSOP will reflect many of these changes we are about to see both inside and outside the U.S. Somehow, the WSOP always seems to mirror where poker is at the moment.
As for me, very soon I’ll be long gone from this place where I have pretty much lived non-stop since May 26th. I’m looking forward to some rest, followed by many new challenges, which includes my direct involvement in a major television production which is currently in development. I also look forward to getting back to writing about lots of issues in the news lately, which merit reflection. Be on the lookout for a bursting dam of commentary on politics, religion, and all the things that make me either joyful or furious.
And so looking out now over the vast see of pool tables here at the Rio, my parting words are — go ahead, give me a break.