Ryan Riess is a Beast and It’s No Burden

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“In the master’s chambers, they gathered for the feast. They stab it with their steely knives, but they just can’t kill the beast.” – The Eagles, “Hotel California.”

Poker’s newest world champion is a beast. At least that’s what he calls himself after being given the nickname by his childhood best friend.

He is Ryan “The Beast” Riess, a 23-year-old Michigan State University graduate from Waterford Township, Michigan, USA, and he won the 2013 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event Tuesday night at the Rio All-Suites Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Beating out 6,351 other entrants in the $10,000 buy-in, Texas Hold’em tournament that was the 45th annual WSOP Main Event, Riess for his efforts won a diamond-and-gold championship WSOP bracelet… and $8,361,570.

“I just think I’m the best player in the world,” Riess told reporters after the big win, exhibiting the Grand Canyon-sized ego a poker player needs in order to dominate such a massive poker field full of teeth-baring professionals. “I expected to win.”

Up until a year ago, however, “The Beast” hadn’t won anything. According to official tournament records, his first poker payoff occurred in October of 2012, and it was a big one. Riess finished in second place in a WSOP Circuit tournament at the Horseshoe casino near Chicago, Illinois, USA, and earned $239,063. After that, he finished in the money in 20 other poker tournaments around the country, earning a total of about $80,000. His $8.3 million payout for winning the WSOP brings his total career earnings from tournament poker to around $8.6 million.

Finishing as runner-up in this year’s WSOP Main Event was Jay Farber of Las Vegas, who earned a not-too-shabby $5,174,357. In the final hand of the Main Event, Farber, wearing a t-shirt and showing off a kaleidoscope of tattoos on his beefy arms, came up short when his hole cards, a queen and a five, were out-slugged by the ace and king of Riess, wearing a Detroit Lions NFL jersey, as the flop, turn and river helped no one.

One of the most enduring images of the 2013 WSOP Main Event final table action will be the dozens of Riess fans wearing T-shirts reading “Riess the Beast” cheering him on. The nickname “The Beast,” however, may be more than just lyrical. In the Bible, and other places, the phrase “The Beast” refers to the Devil, as in Satan, the Guardian of Hell.

Shortly after Riess’ win in the WSOP, his father was interviewed on ESPN, the American cable TV network that televised the tourney’s final table. What, the elder Riess was asked, was the secret of his son’s success?

“His faith,” Dad replied.

So much for embracing “The Beast.”

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