With the 2014 November Nine around the corner, the reign of Ryan Riess as the most recent WSOP Main Event champion is about to come to an end.
Riess knows all too well what’s it’s like to prepare for the biggest final table in the world. He also knows what it’s like to have won more than $8 million and feel the weight of the poker world on his shoulders.
Since his victory, Riess has been trying to prove to everyone that he’s the best player in the world and will be hoping that proof will come in the form of a gold bracelet or two at the 2014 WSOP APAC.
PokerListings caught up with Riess during the $1,100 No-Limit Hold’em Accumulator to ask him to reflect on his victory and to find out if he has any advice for the current November Niners and the eventual next WSOP Main Event champion.
PokerListings.com: Your reign as the most recent WSOP Main Event champion is about to come to an end. What have you enjoyed most about being the champ?
Ryan Riess: Everything really. It’s been amazing. I was able to be on “College Game Day” for a televised Michigan State Vs. Ohio State game. It was awesome and probably the highlight of the year outside of poker.
I’ve also been able to travel around the world and go to amazing venues like this. It’s just been amazing and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
PL: Reflecting on the last 12 months, how do you think you have handled being the champion - The pressures, the media and everything that goes along with it?
I hope I have handled it good. I’ve tried. I have always been relatively shy, so it’s a little hard at first to do all the interviews and do all the extra things that were asked of me. I hope that I did a good job.
PL: Now that you’ve had time to really let it all sink in over the last 12 months, what can you definitively say was the biggest change from before you won to now?
Well as far as poker is concerned, just a lot of people knowing who I am. It’s really cool. I enjoy playing poker and I always have and I always will.
People ask me, “You’ve reached the pinnacle of the sport, why do you keep doing it?” I just love playing. So it’s cool to just talk to all the fans and people who honestly love the game and coming here and talking to everybody is fun.
PL: Do you think that your profile has affected the way people play against you, even here in Australia, thousands of miles away from the USA?
Definitely. Even today, this guy sits down at my table and limps the first hand he plays even before he looks at his cards. I raise, he re-raised, I re-raised and he called. All this before the flop and before he even looked at his cards.
He gave me a double up in the first couple of minutes. I don’t know if he would have done that to anyone else, but he did it to me.
I feel like a lot of people do weird stuff with me. They want to play hands with me and want to try and bust me.
PL: Do you think that sort of thing will ease off once there is a new WSOP champion in November?
I hope it never eases off. I enjoy the action. I love when people give me action. I would rather them play hands with me than fold. I guess only time will tell how long it lasts.
PL: When you won the WSOP Main Event you said you were the best in the world. Do you still think you can prove that you are the best?
Yeah definitely. This last year has been kind of tough. I’ve had to do a lot of adjusting. At first when I started playing after the win I played a couple of $25,000 buy-ins and $100,000 buy-ins here actually.
It was an expensive lesson, but I did learn from it. I feel like I was trying to do much. Because I had never played a tournament of that stature, with a buy in that big. I was levelling myself into playing not the way I should have been playing. I learned from that.
But I’ve gotten into a groove lately and I’ve been playing really good for the last month or so.
Hopefully I can keep that up.
PL: What advice would you give the current November Niners around a month before the big day?
First of all, just enjoy it. For most people it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, unless you are fortunate enough to get there twice. So just enjoy the moment.
Come prepared though. I feel like a lot of people don’t prepare as much as they should and then it’s over and they finished eighth or ninth and I feel like they kind of regret not putting in enough preparation. Because you are playing for a life changing amount of money.
I was especially lucky to win this very early in my career. I feel like somebody else in my situation may think they are only 23 and so a win like that will just happen again. But most likely it’s not.
Basically my advice is to just have fun and be prepared so you don’t regret it.
PL: Were you prepared a month out from your November Nine? Do you remember how you felt a month before the final table?
I actually did no research on any of the other players. I was more preparing myself, then looking into my opponents.
I just didn’t know a lot of people’s stories. I didn’t do any research on them. I was more travelling and playing big buy ins and just working on my game and trying to perfect it.
PL: Do you still have the same amount of confidence and adrenaline playing poker in the first few months after your win compared to now?
Yeah, I think so. I may even be hungrier now than I ever was.
I'm an extremely competitive person and I just want to win. It’s not even really about the money, it’s more about just wanting to win and wanting to be the best at what I do.
I also want to win another bracelet, so hopefully I do that here in Australia.
PL: You didn’t travel much for poker prior to your Main Event victory. How have you found travelling around the world to play poker?
It’s awesome to travel the world now. The flights are really long though. At least 14 and a half hours from the west coast to Australia. But I love it. Before I won I did no travelling outside of the country. It was just local stuff, just driving around. I just wasn’t bankrolled for it.
I bring my girlfriend everywhere with me. It’s cool to travel the world with her. Neither of us had seen any of the places that we now go to.
There aren’t many people who can play poker one day, then the next day have an off day and just go to the beach, or go to the mall, or do whatever they want.