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Ryan Riess rocks the Calvin Johnson Lions jersey, wins WSOP and $8.4 million. Oh, he’s 23.

Yep. But it’s actually not that impressive that he’s 23 — each of the last six Main Event winners have been under 25. A lot of people paid attention to the Megatron jersey, including the Detroit Lions themselves, but the bigger story might be how he won. He was dominating Jay Farber, $176 million to $14 million, and Farber decided to go pretty much all-in with a queen and five of spades; Riess was holding an Ace and King of hearts. The flop came as four-Jack-10; a Queen would make a straight for Riess, whereas Farber need one of three remaining fives in the deck. He didn’t get it.

Farber is a Vegas club promoter; he won $5.2 million and is keeping his day job. He’s said he considers poker a “hobby,” so the poker world has created allusions between him and Chris Moneymaker, whose 2003 WSOP win “revolutionized poker” since he qualified via online means. Interestingly, Riess noted that he’s wanted to win WSOP ever since seeing Moneymaker win in 2003 (when Riess was all of 13, and the Lions weren’t exactly good).

Quick note for Farber and Riess: it’s entirely possible Moneymaker is broke, so be careful.

Detroit could be the new poker capital of America. Riess grabbed this one, and Joe Cada won the 2009 WSOP (he was 21 when he did!); he’s from Chesterfield Township (Riess is from East Lansing, a fact I probably should have stated at the very beginning of this post). Dean Hamrick, another East Lansing kid, came in 10th overall in 2008, just missing the ‘November Nine’ status. Mike Duggan, The D’s first white Mayor in four decades, should have some poker gambits on his initial agenda.

You win a diamond-encrusted bracelet for winning WSOP, a prize with some serious legacy behind it. Jason Arasheben is the man behind the current bracelets; he also designed the 2009 Lakers and 2011 Packers championship rings. Doyle Brunson, a 10-time WSOP winner, appears to be the ultimate leader in bracelets. (I’m not sure he actually has all 10 currently, though.) He got his 10th bracelet back in 2005, two years after Moneymaker burst on the scene:

For good, detailed coverage of WSOP, check out The Las Vegas Review Journal’s live blog, as well as the same blog offering from The Las Vegas Sun (featuring ‘Riess The Beast’ t-shirt photos). For a refresher on the entire November Nine:

This is an interesting, if potentially over-long, video about Riess’ path to the final table and ultimate final heads-up with Farber:

For now, Riess is the champion. We’ll see how he does defending the title over time — as well as holding on to his money. Jay Farber is out there, and he’s popping bottles. Maybe it’s a poker feud for the ages, eh?

WSOP has been going on since the early 1970s; Johnny Moss, now deceased, won the first two and about $830K in his WSOP career. I wanted to end this post by finding the earliest possible WSOP footage I could, as I assumed early 1970s televised poker would be classic. I was mostly right. Here’s the 1973 final hand between “Puggy” Pearson and Moss. Ah, poker … now a young man’s game, but always an overly-dramatic television spectacle.

Ted Bauer

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