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Young pro, amateur go heads-up at WSOP finale

November 5, 2013

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The richest prize in poker will not go to an old hand this year.

That much was clear as a 23-year-old poker professional and a Las Vegas club promoter who considers the game a hobby prepared to make a final run at the World Series of Poker top’s prize Tuesday evening.

Ryan Riess and Jay Farber beat out a field of 6,352 entrants in the no-limit Texas Hold ’em tournament in July, and then eliminated seven finalists during a tense all-night session Monday and Tuesday at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino off the Las Vegas Strip.

Farber left the brightly lit stage in the wee hours of the morning vowing to spend the rest of the night clubbing in triumph.

The two men took the lead early on Monday evening, then sat around for several hours waiting for four weaker competitors to bust out. In the end, all four were eliminated within 15 hands, over the course of about 45 minutes.

Reiss, a native of East Lansing, Michigan, with a boyish manner and a mop of strawberry blond hair, attributed his survival to lucky cards.

“Everything played pretty standard. No one had a huge blow-up and bluffed off their whole stack. Everyone was playing really solid and the cards ran my way today,” he said.

Modest explanation aside, Reiss exposed few bad hands on Monday, suggesting that he knew when to fold and when to play. The youngest of the nine finalists, he spent the night making small bets and raises to take down significantly bigger pots when his opponents didn’t seem interested in sparring. His fans cheered him on, shouting “Riess the beast!” when he took out competitors.

Farber seemed to play a more aggressive, straight-forward poker. He was not afraid to push all in, and he attempted to bully his opponents with raises, though he was also willing to fold when they pushed back.

“I’m really comfortable in the style that I play,” he said. “I think everybody underestimated me. The odds on me were nine-to-one, even though I was fourth in chips.”

Both players stayed well ahead of JC Tran, the most experienced of the final nine. Tran came in as the chip leader and had been the favorite to win the tournament, but he busted out in fifth place after a night of weak cards.

Farber will start with the chip lead on Tuesday, with 105 million to Riess’ 86 million.

Stocky and heavily tattooed, Farber has the look of a bouncer, but is in fact a VIP promoter who takes tourists to clubs and earns a portion of the money they spend. Many of his fans are also tied to clubs, and they stand out as particularly rambunctious even in a rowdy, drunken crowd of poker aficionados. His plush “combat panda” mascot was banned from the Rio after running onstage for the ESPN cameras.

Farber said he only plays cards for fun, but he also has the benefit of counting some of the world’s best poker pros among his friends.

His cheering section at the Rio is studded with well-known players. After Farber made the final table in July, his friends coached him through footage of world series past, and helped him game out some of the moves he’d use on Monday, according to Jesse Sylvia, who finished second at the final table in 2012.

“He doesn’t have as many years maybe as some other players, but he has heaps and heaps of ingenuity,” Sylvia said.


Dan Michalski contributed to this report.

Hannah Dreier can be reached at http://twitter.com/hannahdreier.

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