Michigan State University graduate Ryan Riess became the first person born in the 1990s to win the Main Event at the World Series of Poker.
Riess defeated 29-year-old club promoter Jay Farber on Tuesday at the final table of the World Series of Poker’s no-limit Texas Hold’em tournament, the Associated Press reports. The 23-year-old earned an $8.4 million cash prize after outlasting Farber and 6,350 other competitors.
With his money in hand and the coveted World Series of Poker bracelet in his possession, an emotional Riess attempted to put his victory into words. “I want to thank my family and my friends,” he told reporters. “I just think I’m the best player in the world.”
Riess, who started the heads-up battle at a slight chip disadvantage, outplayed Farber for several hours before finishing him off, AP reports. Eventually, Farber went all-in with a Queen and 5 of spades, hoping to catch a lucky flop. But Riess’ ace-high hand proved to be enough to secure the title.
In a post-tournament interview, Riess explained that he played aggressively in the hope of forcing Farber into untenable situations. “I just decided to turn the pace up and drive him down,” he told reporters, according to AP.
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A Michigan native, Riess wore the jersey of star Detroit Lions football player Calvin Johnson throughout his two-day appearance at the final table, AP reports. Throughout the tournament, the event’s commentators compared Riess to Chris Moneymaker, another amateur Hold’em player who won the Main Event in 2003 after building experience by playing online poker.
While Riess is a professional, he admitted that Moneymaker’s 2003 win inspired him to seek similar glory. “Ever since I saw Chris Moneymaker win this event in 2003, I knew it was something I wanted to experience, too,” he said. “I’m surprised it came so quickly.”
Farber may have finished in second place, but he didn’t leave empty-handed. The club promoter walked away with a $5.2 million prize, but revealed that he planned to continue to work at his job. In fact, he believes that his performance will provide some good publicity.
Ironically, Farber nearly didn’t have the money to enter the tournament in the first place. He sold stakes in his winnings to friends in order to cover the Main Event’s $10,000 entry fee, AP reports. The benefactors will reportedly earn as much as $840,000 for each thousand they contributed to the fee.