College dropout makes good, wins WSOP title, $205,065

5 June 2011

Don’t try this at home, folks.

A few years back, a twenty-something recreational poker player no one had ever heard of named Harrison Wilder was attending college at the University of Oregon. After floundering in classes for a few years, Wilder received some stunning advice from the two people who one would think would be the last to make such a declaration.

Quit school and try and play poker, they insisted.

Fast forward six years and Wilder is the 2011 World Series of Poker $1,500 Limit Hold’em champion. The Las Vegas native earned $205,065 and a coveted WSOP gold bracelet for the first-place finish. Originally from Beaverton, Ore., this is Wilder’s first WSOP victory.

In fact, it was Wilder’s parents who recognized his devotion to the game and encouraged him to take poker more seriously. They were even supportive of his decision to finally suspend his enrollment in college in order to make the commitment to improve and potentially play professionally.

"They have always been very supportive of me," Wilder said of his parents. "I was racking up student debt; they told me to drop out of college and start playing professionally. One of the biggest regrets I have was that I did not listen to them and I continued to be responsible and stay in college. They encouraged me to get better.”

The support Wilder received from his parents sparked a deep devotion to self-improvement and better focus. He gradually improved, became a winning player, and ultimately was able to support himself by play for a living.

Today, Wilder is a 29-year-old professional poker player. Within a few weeks of the WSOP starting this year, Wilder packed his belongings in Oregon and moved to Las Vegas. His parents also joined him in the move, preferring a sunnier climate to the constant rain in the Pacific Northwest.

The sun certainly shined on Wilder during this tournament, which was only the second WSOP event he had ever entered. Wilder managed to overcome a strong field of 675 players and won what he hopes will be the first of many victories.

Wilder has been playing poker full-time for about five years. He concentrated his time and attention online for the most part, since there were few middle-to high-stakes games back in his home state. When the events of what has been called “Black Friday” took place in mid-April, Wilder decided once and for all that he was going to move to Las Vegas and grind it out. He now plays daily in cash games, concentrating on $40-$80 Limit Hold’em, and higher.

The tournament’s runner up was Thomas Jamieson, from Bakersfield, Calif. He is a 47-year-old teacher. He has been playing poker for about 20 years. The second-place consolation prize was $126,654.

John Myung, who lives in the Washington, D.C. area, was third. Myung burst on the
poker scene eight years ago by winning the “Showdown at the Sands” in Atlantic City. Myung drew close to even with the chip leader when play became three-handed, but
then went card dead late in the tournament and finished third.

Bill Davis, a 63-year-old attorney from Albuquerque, N.M., was fourth. Davis is a
former Air Force pilot who flew 77 combat missions. He also served as a New Mexico state senator.

Matt Elsby, from Los Angeles, Calif., was fifth; Sean Nguyen, a 24-year-old poker pro from Las Vegas, Nev., was sixth; Craig Laben, a 49-year-old engineer from Litchfield Park, Ariz., was seventh; Mitch Schock, a 40-year-old poker pro from Bismarck, N.D., was eighth; and Scott Clements, a two-time WSOP bracelet winner from Las Vegas, was ninth.

The defending champion, Matt Matros, finished 11th this year. Other former gold bracelet winners who cashed in the event included Bob Slezak (18th) and Ross "Dutch" Boyd (46th).

This was the sixth official tournament event on this year’s WSOP schedule. Attendance increased by eight percent over last year’s turnout. The turnout for this year’s event reverses a five-year decline in attendance for the $1,500 buy-in Limit Hold’em event. The 2006 tournament attracted 1,069 entries. In 2007, the number declined to 910 players. In 2008, the tally was 883. There were 643 entries in 2009. Last year, the final number was 625.

Tournament summary by Nolan Dalla, WSOP Media Director, reprinted by permission.

Related Links
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