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6 November 2013
By Vin Narayanan
LAS VEGAS -- Ryan Riess and Jay Farber battled for 90 hands in a tense, back-and-forth affair before Riess finally beat Farber to win the World Series of Poker Main Event and $8,361,570. Farber won $5,174,357 for finishing in second.
It's the first time someone wearing a Detroit Lions jersey -- Riess sported a Calvin Johnson jersey -- won a championship since 1957.
"I'm from Detroit (and) I'm a huge Lions fan," said the 23-year-old champion as he explained why he wore the jersey.
"I was overwhelmed with joy," Riess said as he described the moment of victory. "I was just so happy, I started crying. I was speechless. (My parents) said how proud of me they are and that they love me, it was awesome."
"It's just amazing," added Riess. "I was so excited waiting 100 days or whatever it was to play this, and I'm really just speechless. I'm just so happy that all my friends and family were able to watch me and support me. It's just an amazing feeling."
For the first several hands of the night, Riess -- who was about 20 million chips behind Farber when the day started -- was nipping at Farber's heels. But he couldn't quite pass him. All of that changed on the 20th hand of the night when Riess stared at a board reading Ac-8h-4d-7d-As. There was 36.7 million in the pot already, and Riess fired out a 15-million-chip bet. Farber thought about it and then folded. The fold gave Riess his first chip lead of the day, and from there he slowly began to take control of play.
Though Riess was in control of the heads-up match the rest of the day, the most memorable hand of the night went to Farber.
On a board reading, 3s-3h-7c-2c-9s, Farber bet 24 million to creat a pot of 62.7 million. Riess agonized over his decision for several minutes before folding what turned out to be the better hand Qx-7x. Farber had bluffed Riess with 6x-5x, though Riess didn't find out until 15 minutes later when the hand appeared on TV and his rail let him know.
But even Farber's big bluff wasn't enough to stop Riess. Riess continued to take pot after pot and kept pushing hard as Farber's chip stack dwindled.
Riess seemed to make the outcome inevitable when he took down a 58-million-chip pot on a board reading 4s-8d-3c-2h-7s. Riess showed a pair of jacks to take the hand, and when Farber mucked, everyone in the Penn & Teller Theater seemed to know Riess was on his way to a Main Event championship, with Riess holding 134.375 million in chips. Farber, who began the day with 105 million, had just 56.3 million remaining.
Riess, a Michigan State University graduate, heard chants of "Go Green, Go White" all night as he tried to end the match with Farber.
Farber dodged elimination when he moved all in for 16.3 million on a board reading Kc-5h-Qs. Riess called immediately and showed Ks-10h for top pair. Farber had Jc-10s and hit a nine on the turn to pick up the straight. When the dust cleared, Farber had doubled up to 28.1 million while Riess fell to 162.575 million.
Farber built off of the momentum from the double up and started to dominate play. Riess thought Farber was bluffing on a board of Kc-3s-2c-9d-3c. So he called a big 13-million-chip bet on the river (there was already 23 million in the pot) with queen-high, and then Farber started to pick up steam. Farber eventually built his chip stack up to 65.4 million, and Riess fans were starting to wonder whether Riess, much like Calvin Johnson, had been tackled at the one-yard-line.
"I was picking up a lot on his body language and facial tells, and when everyone was screaming, he did the exact same thing that he did when he had six-high," Riess said of his call with queen-high. "Initially I just wanted to fold. I just didn't believe him the whole hand. I knew he didn't have a king. He just bet so huge on the river it threw me off. It was either a flush or complete air, in my opinion. It was probably a really bad call and I'm probably going to be criticized for it, but I made it based on the body language that I got off of him."
But Riess rediscovered his aggression and regained his confidence when Farber folded to a big bet on a board reading 8h-6d Jd-As. And he started to chip away at Farber's chip stack again.
Two big hands crippled Farber. First, Farber lost about 12 million when Riess showed 10d-9d on a board of Ad-10c-5s-2d-2c. Farber mucked his hand and knew he was in trouble.
Farber lost another 13 million when Riess, holding Ks-9s, picked up three nines on a board of 4d-Js-9c-9d-Ac. And Farber exited the tournament when he pushed his final 14 million to the center of the table while holding Qs-5s. Riess called with Ah-Kh. And a board of Jd-10d-4c-3c-4d gave Riess the victory.
"I knew if I could ever catch a hand, I could beat him," a frustrated Farber said after bowing out of the tournament. "I was outplaying him.
"Most of the time I would make a hand, he would make a better one," Farber added.
The VIP host from Las Vegas wasn't taking any comfort from his $5.17 million paycheck for second place either.
"The money is great and all, but like I said, once I got here, I wanted to win," Farber said. "It's (the money) a consolation prize."
Farber also said he thought he was back in the game when he'd run his chip stack from about 16 million to almost 70 million.
"I felt like I was back into it," Farber said. "I felt like I was going to outplay him if I could ever make a hand, and I never did. He kept picking up cards and making hands.
"Every time I got something, he would river something better."
Farber admitted it was hard to keep believing he would win as he watched Riess pick up hands.
"It was difficult. But the cards were the cards and hopefully they were going to come my way eventually. I felt like I was playing fine and all I wanted to do was not walk away feeling like I didn't play my best."
Farber also said he would travel more to play poker, but other than that, his life wasn't going to change much.
"I'll still work my job here," said Farber of his gig as a VIP host. "It's arguably the best job in the world."
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