INTERVIEW: Catching up with Ryan Riess

March 29, 2019inPoker

Ryan Riess first came to prominence in the poker world in 2013 when he won the tournament every player dreams about: the WSOP Main Event.

Ryan Riess (front, between Mark Newhouse and J.C. Tran) with the rest  of the 2013 WSOP Main Event November Nine.

Since that victory altered his life’s trajectory, Riess has added cashes worth nearly $6 million to his résumé, bringing his total live tournament earnings to $14.1 million.

Riess is also known as a formidable opponent online, where he plays as “MrMaximize.” He showed his prowess most recently in the High Roller Club $1,050 Sunday Supersonic, topping a field of 207 players and chopping heads-up with Kristen “krissyb24” Bicknell, then going on to eliminate her to take the title and a $36K prize.

We caught up with Riess earlier this week for a chat about life since the WSOP, the world of high roller tournaments, and how he’s feeling about his alma mater’s chances during March Madness.


PokerStars Blog: How has your life evolved since winning the WSOP Main Event, both in broad strokes and specifically with regard to poker?

Ryan Riess: My life has evolved in many ways since I won the WSOP Main Event in 2013. At the time I was 23 years old, and didn’t really know what I was doing in poker. I actually lost money the following year in 2014 playing poker, followed by two years of essentially breaking even. 2017 is when I really stepped my game up and started to get better and play higher stakes.

Ryan Riess and family.

The last few years have been great. I have been able to consistently compete and put up good results at the highest level. I still have a lot of improving to do, and am always striving to get better. I really am looking forward to the rest of 2019 and beyond.

Outside of poker, I have also changed a lot. I have an amazing girlfriend and two beautiful daughters who constantly empower me to be the best version of myself.

In the year leading up to your Main Event win in 2013 you collected cashes pretty regularly on the WSOP Circuit. Did those small-to-mid-stakes tourneys serve as building blocks that allowed you to refine your game to where you were ready to take on the WSOP Main Event?

When I was playing low stakes tournaments, it was essentially a learning experience. I tried a lot of different lines, some worked, others not so much. I didn’t know too many people in the poker industry at the time, so the way I learned was through trial and error. That can be an expensive way to learn at times, but losing money can often times be the best way to learn from your mistakes and get better. Nobody likes to lose money.

Ryan Riess at the 2014 PCA Super High Roller.

You play a lot of poker, both live and online. What is your routine these days as far as scheduling/mixing the two?

I mainly focus on live poker tournaments. The stakes are higher and the games are softer in my opinion. The only time I play online poker is on Sundays or during big series (SCOOP, WCOOP, etc.). Playing online poker is a great way to practice, though. You are able to see way more hands, against tougher competition, and really work on improving from a technical and fundamental standpoint.

The Sunday Supersonic that you won this past week is a hyper-turbo tournament. How many hypers do you include in your regular playing mix?

I enjoy turbo tournaments the most, both live and online. Hyper turbos are great, too. Players’ ROIs are smaller the faster the structure is, but you are able to win a lot of money in a short time span. I would much rather play a $2K turbo online than play a $2K that lasts 12 hours.

Even after winning the 2013 WSOP Main Event, it took until 2017 for Riess to find his best game and begin winning consistently. “I still have a lot of improving to do,” he says, “and I am always striving to get better.”

You play high roller tourneys fairly regularly, both live and online. Do you vary your approach to the high rollers at all compared to lower buy-in tournaments, or is your game plan pretty much the same regardless?

My game plan for high stakes and low stakes tournaments varies a lot. At the highest stakes, the players are much better. I generally choose to run lower variance lines, control the size of the pot, and play unexploitably. In lower stakes tournaments, you don’t have to worry about being exploited as much and can instead be unbalanced and exploit others.

What’s your perception of the PokerStars High Roller Club these days?

The High Roller Club is basically just all of the best online players in the world battling. It’s fun, I enjoy it.

Finally, speaking of advancing deep in tournaments… the Michigan State Spartans have made the round of 16 in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament once again. You attended MSU. Have you ever been to a March Madness MSU game? What do you think of the Spartans’ chances to go all the way this year, and what needs to go right for them to make that happen?

Yes, I have been to a few Final Fours that Michigan State participated in. The atmosphere is incredible. I am planning on going back this year if we can get through LSU and Duke. We have a tough draw and we have a few injuries. But we also have one of the best players in the country in Cassius Winston, so don’t count us out just yet.

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