Ryan Riess eliminated as WSOP Main Event closes in on the money

11 July 2014

LAS VEGAS -- There will be no repeat champion at the World Series of Poker Main Event this year. Ryan Riess, who won $8.4 million for finishing first in last year's Main Event, busted out of the tournament on Thursday.

Riess was one of 1,864 players that started Day 3 hoping to take one step closer to winning $10 million.

Riess began the day with 84,900 in chips. But he couldn't gain any traction at his table and he saw his chip stack start to dwindle. Eventually, the television camera crews taping early action in the Brasilia Room began to circle Riess's table -- hovering in an attempt to catch the elimination of the defending champion.

Riess refused to go down without a fight, drawing an amused chuckle from 2003 Main Event champion Chris Moneymaker, who was sitting at the table next to Riess. Moneymaker told Riess he should give the camera crew a break and go ahead and lose. Riess told Moneymaker he had other plans.

Ryan Riess was hoping to become the first Main Event champion to repeat since Johnny Chan. Instead, he busted out of the tournament Thursday, well short of the money.

Ryan Riess was hoping to become the first Main Event champion to repeat since Johnny Chan. Instead, he busted out of the tournament Thursday, well short of the money. (photo by Vin Narayanan, Casino City)

Eventually, Riess pushed all in for 20,400 with pocket fours. He ran into pocket nines and was eliminated.

Every Main Event winner knows winter is coming. Only four have won back-to-back championships. No one has repeated as Main Event champion since Johnny Chan did it in 1988. And the odds of beating a field of more than 6,300 players two years in a row are impossibly high.

And that's what makes Riess's final bow at this year's Main Event so impressive. Even though he looks like a Lannister, he embraced his last hurrah as defending champion like a Stark.

Riess was 23 when he won the Main Event last year. But the Michigan State University graduate embraced the role of being one of the public faces of poker. From picking games on ESPN Gameday to handling media appearances and interacting with the fans, Riess matured into a natural spokesman for the game. And his comfort with that role showed at the Main Event. He was gracious with fans. He did his best to have fun at the table. And as a result, the people playing with him had some fun.

The next champion of the Main Event will be sitting in the Amazon Room by the end of play Thursday night. With short stacks being eliminated at a brisk pace, there were only 991 players left in the tournament shortly after the dinner break. Tournament officials stopped play 53 minutes early with around 747 players left in the field.

And there were some monster stacks among the remaining players. Mehrdad Yousefzadeh became the first player to break the 1-million-chip mark. He had 1,050,000 in chips midway through the fourth level of the day. He ended the day with 1.003 million.

Other players with big chip stacks include Andrew Liporace (975,000), Jesse Wilke (965,000) and Matthew Haugen (935,000). Phil Ivey, who started the day as the chip leader with just over 500,000, finished with 455,000.

NBA free agent Paul Pierce (formerly of the Celtics and Nets) looked like he was in strong position to survive Day 3. In fact, he had around 200,000 when he moved all in with 7-2 and forced a player to fold.

But a few hands later, Pierce busted out of the tournament when he pushed all in with Ad-4d on a board reading As-Jh-3d-6s-4s. Christopher Smith thought about it for a while before calling with Ah-Jd for a better two pair. And just like that, Pierce’s run in the Main Event was over.

Only the top 693 players get paid in this year's Main Event. The prize money for 693rd is $18,406. The Main Event champion will win $10 million. Day 4 play begins at noon, local time. And the field should reach the money within the first four hours of play.

NOTABLE INJURIES
Mike Matusow twisted his ankle on the ESPN featured table while celebrating a big win in a fun feature ESPN was shooting for its Main Event coverage. All of the participants in the feature, including Matusow, had already busted out of the Main Event. And Matusow was easily the most boisterous of the group. A few players complained about the noise. But after they see the results, they probably won’t mind. We won't spoil the feature, but it's the funniest poker injury since Billy Gazes graced our screens.



NOTABLE CHIP STACKS
Andrew Liporace 1,128,000
Mehrdad Yousefzadeh 1,124,000
Jesse Wilke 975,500
Matthew Haugen 815,500
Michael Aron 716,500
Brian Townsend 543,500
Phil Ivey 522,500
Jeff Madsen 350,000
Nick Yunis 364,000
Maria Mayrinck 293,000
Huck Seed 249,000
Ronnie Bardah 108,500
Vitaly Lunkin 37,200

NOTABLE ELIMINATIONS
Ryan Riess
Chris Moneymaker
Barry Greenstein
Matthew Ashton
Blair Hinkle
Jake Cody
Erica Lindgren
Kevin Pollak
Johnny Chan
Ted Forrest
Billy Baxter
Andrew Lichtenberger
Daniel Negreanu
Dan Kelly
Gavin Smith
Humberto Brenes
Theo Jorgensen
Paul Pierce
Antonio Esfandiari

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