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Ryan Riess, Poker Biography

by Jennifer Newell

Ryan Riess is the 2013 World Series of Poker Main Event champion, crowned in front of a theater full of friends and family on November 5. The 23-year-old won more than $8.3 million for his victory.

Riess was born in 1990 in East Lansing, Michigan, and was raised as a sports fan as well as a participant. And it was his passion for competition that took him to the poker tables during his years at college, though he taught himself how to play the game at the age of 14. He played low stakes games with friends but pursued ever larger goals as he went forward. Riess did finish college after studying at Michigan State University, graduating with a BA in Business.

When he was a senior at MSU in late 2012, he worked part time as a poker dealer for college money and heard about the World Series of Poker Circuit in Hammond, Indiana, not far from his home. He traveled there and played that Horseshoe Chicago Main Event and did well, finishing in second place for a massive take of $239,063. Upon his return to school, he stayed focused, graduated two months later, and then hit the poker road as soon as the calendar hit 2013.

Riess immediately made a splash on the WSOP Circuit, finishing in the money and at the final table of one of the events in Los Angeles during the first week of the year. He stayed on the West Coast for the L.A. Poker Classic series, and he cashed in seven events there, one of which was a fifth place finish in a $340 No Limit Hold'em event worth $7,650. From there, he cashed in a WSOP Circuit event at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas and in two events at Black Hawk in Colorado, finishing fourth in a $365 NLHE and running deep for a 21st place finish in the Main Event. He cashed at the WSOP Circuit Cherokee stop, final tabled an event at the Chester stop, and cashed in the New Orleans Main Event.

He felt ready for the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas in the summer of 2013. With less than a year of live poker tournament experience under his belt, Riess cashed in Event 6 ($1,500 NLHE Millionaire Maker) for $7,278, then ran deep in Event 30 ($1K NLHE) to finish 11th for $20,015. He min-cashed Event 49 ($1,500 NLHE) and then proceeded to run deep in the $10K NLHE World Championship.

Riess did so well that he made the coveted November Nine with a solid stack of 25.8 million chips.

In the time between that finish and the November WSOP final table, he played numerous other tournaments, cashed in the World Poker Tour Borgata Poker Open Main Event in Atlantic City, finishing in 68th place in the $3,300 NLHE Reentry event for $8,828.

His focus on the Main Event found him leaning on friends like Loni Harwood and Bryan Campanello, both WSOP bracelet winners and friends from the Circuit. With their advice, his own instincts, and a great amount of confidence, Riess played the November Nine in Las Vegas. His aggression took him to the top of the chip counts, and he finished that first day of play close but trailing opponent Jay Farber.

Riess went into heads-up play on November 5 with confidence but patience. He picked his spots wisely and eventually roared into the lead. While Farber put up a fight and the heads-up match lasted nearly four hours, Riess emerged with the victory and $8,361,570 in cash, not to mention the WSOP gold bracelet worth approximately $500K.

In his winner interview, he said, "I just think I'm the best poker player in the world." Riess holds that particular title now as the 2013 WSOP Main Event champion.

Read Ryan Riess's Profile for more information including tournament results and total winnings.

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Jennifer Newell Jennifer Newell is a freelance writer, originally from St. Louis but now living in Los Angeles. She fell in love with poker while working at WPT and began writing about it in 2005.