When Ryan Riess from Michigan won the 2013 World Series of Poker Main Event for $8,361,570, he fulfilled a common lifelong dream. By his own admission, that monumental victory was only the start of the adventure for the man they called ‘Riess The Beast’ in the corridors of the Rio around the time he won his Main Event. Four years on, ‘The Beast’ told PokerNews what the best and worst things about the World Series of Poker Main Event are to him.
Riess comes into this year’s WSOP Main Event with four WSOP cashes in a week, but what is the best aspect of the world’s biggest poker festival?
“Just being able to play poker, the variety of games on offer and just to play is the best thing. Whether it’s a $500 tournament or the WSOP Main Event, I love it. The worst aspect is probably that it’s really long. If you play a lot of tournaments, you can get worn out from playing every day. I’ve played maybe 25 or so events so far, so quite a lot.”
The gigantic banner that hangs in the Brasilia Room here at the Rio can only fill Riess with pride, and there are many things he enjoys about returning to the scene of his greatest career triumph.
"Whether it’s a $500 tournament or the WSOP Main Event, I love it."
“It’s nice that the Rio is off the Strip. You don’t have to deal with the traffic on the Strip, you can get right the freeway and you’re here. You don’t have to deal with the hustle and bustle of the Strip.
"One negative here is that there aren’t that many good food outlets. A lot of the casinos on the Strip have better food than the Rio. There are a very limited selection and a lot of people, so on dinner break, very often there are so many people that you can’t eat here or if you do, it’ll be really busy."
The WSOP Main Event itself will likely remain the pinnacle of Riess’ poker career. He can’t find a fault with what most players agree is the best tournament of the years hands-down.
“You can win life-changing money! You get all sorts of different people playing it. There are athletes, celebrities, recreational players all taking part. Everyone comes together for it and it’s really cool. The peer recognition I got from winning the Main Event is cool. Being able to reach my own personal goal of winning the World Series was really satisfying. That is the lofty goal. People want to cash, then reach the final table, then win. But if you don’t believe that you’re going to win, the chances are you’re not going to. So you have to truly believe. I want to win it again!”
Riess admits that back in 2013 he still had a lot to learn, even though he’d just become world champion. Fortunately, obtaining the most coveted WSOP bracelet each series earned him the right to do just that.
“My game has got a lot better. I thought I was really good back then but I was really just getting started and I made a lot of mistakes. After winning the Main Event, you get access to talk to a lot of the best players and you get to improve your game. You really get to improve your game by talking players who are better than you.”
The down side of winning the Main Event is probably obvious. Riess will never be anonymous again and finds himself in the unenviable position of having had to switch up his game even more than most I the last four years just to stay competitive.
“Sometimes I’ll play a hand and I won’t get as much value because I’m better [than I was]. A hand happened recently where four or five years ago, I would have re-raised him pre-flop, but now that I know better I didn’t. I may have lost the hand because of that. I could have scared him off.”
When it comes to the game of poker itself, Riess is clearly still in love with it. Forty-five months since winning the WSOP Main Event, his reasons for playing the game are exactly the same as they always were.
“The competition is why I love playing poker. I grew up playing sports, basketball especially. I never played college basketball but at high school, I loved to compete. I now compete at the highest level in the game for a lot of money.”
Ryan Riess may 'beast' his way to another WSOP Main Event bracelet or he may not. Either way, it’s clear that when it comes to his love for the game of poker and returning each year to defend his title, it’s a light that will never go out.
Just how bright Ryan Riess will shine this year, we are yet to know.