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WSOP Finalist Ryan Riess: 'I Just Blow Money Like It Grows On The Tree In My Backyard'

Young Poker Pro Looking To Regain Respect For Money Before Huge Score


Poker pro Ryan Riess will enter the 2013 World Series of Poker main event final table in November in fifth chip position. He will be looking to cap off an improbable 12-month run of playing cards that could see him turn $50 into $8.3 million, even with heavy losses at roulette along the way.

Riess, who hails from Michigan but lives in Florida these days, might be the youngest at the table, but he thinks he is the best. His confidence on the felt is in part thanks to what he says is his lack of “much respect for money.” In many ways the 23-year-old is a fearless gambler.

Card Player had the chance to speak to Riess about his navigation through the toughest tournament in all of poker, as well as what precautions he will take with a possible seven-figure bankroll and a propensity to “blow money like it grows on the tree.”

Brian Pempus: Can you talk about your main event run?

Ryan Riess: This was my first main event, so I didn’t really know the structure and what I was getting into at first. But once I realized that the structure had two-hour levels and you could just play all day, it gave me the ability to be patient and just wait for cards. That’s the mindset I employed on Day 1 and kind of kept that throughout the entire tournament. I was pretty fortunate at times. On Day 1 I ran extremely hot and flopped sets like five times and made quads twice. Day 3 and Day 4 were kind of brutal because my tables were really tough. Day 5 was really good, but Day 6 was brutal. But on Day 7 I ran really well toward the end and here I am.

BP: Was the strategy to let other people blow up and make mistakes?

RR: Yeah, exactly. I was really patient and didn’t bluff much. I didn’t run any really crazy bluffs during the entire tournament. I wasn’t running anything elaborate like cold four-betting people preflop with nothing. With two hour levels, you can afford to be really patient. Over the course of a tournament there are a lot of spots that people would call “good,” but in the main event you can wait for “great” spots instead of just the good ones. I was just waiting for those opportunities.
I was only all in for my tournament life four times during the main event.

BP: Is that pretty amazing to be all in that infrequently during a seven-day tournament?

RR: It was really cool. Coming into the tournament I expected to be at risk eight or nine times, if I made it all the way to the end. There are so many people and you have to run so well. I was really fortunate to only be sweating four times. Those were the most nerve-racking moments of my life, though. I was shaking; I couldn’t even control myself because I was so nervous.

I am actually not nervous at all right now, though. When it gets closer, maybe the week before, those feelings might start building up, but right now I am just super excited.

BP: Do you think you are going to be nervous about the money or the fact that you are playing in front of such a huge audience and everyone’s moves are going to be scrutinized?

RR: I’ll be most the nervous because I want to win so badly. I set such high expectations for myself. Other people aren’t going to make me nervous; it’s just living up to my own expectations. I do think I am the best player at the table. Everyone is very good, but I think I am the best.

BP: You made the final table at such a young age, but do you feel you need to make the most of this opportunity since it could very likely never happen again?

RR: Yeah, I’ve talked to a lot people who keep telling that as a professional poker player money like this is hard to come by. I can’t think that this is going to happen many other times. They have helped me realize that this very rare and that I should take advantage of it to the best of my ability.

BP: The stakes you were playing just recently were a lot lower. Is it kind of surreal to be playing for millions of dollars at a final table come this November?

RR: Yeah, it is pretty crazy. I don’t have much respect for money. I just blow money like it grows on the tree in my backyard. I don’t really think about the money like how most people would in my situation; I don’t think.

BP: Have you had some pretty vicious swings with your bankroll over the years? Has anything like that been the result of your lack of regard for money?

RR: Well, I graduated from college (at Michigan State University) in December of this past year, so I was broke throughout college because I would go out partying everyday, and I would never really care too much about money; I had a job and was going to school to get my degree. I wanted to have fun and just live life. I didn’t really worry about money too much, but I had a couple downswings in the pit, playing roulette, blackjack and baccarat, and all of those horrible games. Once you sit down at a roulette table and lose $30,000 in one day, your respect for money goes down a little bit. I am trying to gain it back, but it’s hard.

BP: Are you trying to avoid those games going forward? Your bankroll could be boosted by a massive amount thanks to the main event final table.

RR: Oh yeah, I quit playing them awhile ago. That last time I played those games was the day after the Super Bowl in February. I lost like $50,000 in a month playing those stupid games, so I think I learned my lesson. I hope I don’t go back to them.

BP: Was that $50,000 a big loss for your poker bankroll at the time?

RR: Yeah, it was very big.

BP: You built your bankroll up from playing live tournaments?

RR: Yeah, I never had a bankroll until (WSOP Circuit Horseshoe) Hammond this past October. We chopped it, and I got $277,000. I had just $2,000 to my name before the tournament.

BP: So this is pretty sick parlay? You turned the $2,000 into that score, and then used that money to enter your first WSOP main event and make the final table.

RR: Yeah, it is pretty incredible. Actually the week before I had that $2,000 I was dead broke; I think I had $50 to my name. So in a year I may go from $50 to $8 million.

BP: Have you thought about ways to protect this money once you have it?

RR: Yeah, I am not going to pull a Chino Rheem and go drop $100,000 in the pit or play $100,000 poker tournaments. I am going to try to be smart and play $10,000 buy-ins at the most, and maybe a $25,000 here and there. I am going to try be smart with it because it is hard to come by.

Image via WSOP



8 years ago