Poker tournaments come and go, even those the size of the World Series of Poker Main Event. Bust-outs are all part of it, and we grow immune to to the emotions, standing distant on the rail. But when Garry Gates stood in the media room of the 2019 WSOP and could barely speak as the tears and emotions overwhelmed him, some of the most hardened reporters in this game found themselves similarly dewy eyed.
“I know I’ve said that it meant everything to me, but it really truly did,” Gates said. “I just felt so much love from everywhere, every corner of the world. I’ll never forget that. I know I’m crying right now, but deep down I’m f—ing happy. I really am.”
Gates is now out of this Main Event, perishing in fourth place and picking up $3 million. He is an industry veteran, who has dedicated his life to poker, but remains resolutely a recreational player just in it for the love of the game. Coming into the penultimate day second in chips, the smooth-flowing waters became distinctly more choppy on Monday night, but Gates had nothing but overwhelming joy at what he had achieved over the past nine days.
“It was a whirlwind,” he said. “You come into a final table with as many chips as I had and you expect a higher result. At the same time, those are some world class poker players. I don’t do this for a living, but to get this far and to have as much love and support as I’ve had along the way, I knew I had already won. On one hand it’s a little disappointing, but I’m a lucky guy. This has changed my life.”
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Gates has been a mentor to players and reporters alike across the poker world and they came out in force to show their love for one of the most popular men in the game. He has shown endless support for countless people through the years, and everyone rode the wave of success along with him — a fact that Gates acknowledged with customary grace.
“Being on the other side of the rail, I’ve been in people’s corners before, with the Platinum Pass winners, pros that I’ve become friends with throughout the years, my own friends making deep runs,” he said. “We’ve seen a million times how this community can come together and get behind a cause, but when that cause is you, phew, that’s something else. I just feel super grateful.”
He paid particular thanks to Jason Mercier who invested a huge portion of Gates’s $10,000 entry fee and is now set for a seven-figure payout of his own. But Gates too now pointed to the enormous amount of money he has now secured, and how it allows him to look to a very bright future.
“I’m a millionaire,” Gates said. “My debt is gone. I can buy a house. I can buy a ring for my girlfriend. I can take care of my daughter. It’s amazing. My future is a whole heck of a lot brighter now.”
He added that he was behind at work — Gates is a long-time employee of PokerStars, and the entire community had been hanging off his every move — and said after a huge party tonight, he’ll be keen to return to a more regular existence.
“I don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring,” he said. “I’m excited to get back into a routine. This takes a lot out of you for nine days, it really does. But I wouldn’t change it for anything. It was once in a lifetime.”
He said he intends to “reply to ever last message” and wants to make sure “that people know how much I appreciate them.” He added: “I did the best with what I have, and what more can I do?”
Garry, I can speak for the entire poker world: Know how much you’re appreciated by all of us too.
Amazing run @GarryGates. You are the fucking man!!
— Adam Levy (@Roothlus) July 16, 2019
Gates’s elimination in fourth place took the World Series into it final day. For the second day in succession, Germany’s Hossein Ensan was the dominant force and bagged an enormous chip lead over his two rivals, Alex Livingston and Dario Sammartino.
Gates was the final player from the United States in the field, so the World Series of Poker title will be heading overseas for the first time since Martin Jacobson in 2014. Here’s how they stack up ahead of the grand finale at the Rio Hotel tomorrow:
Hossein Ensan, Germany — 326.8 million
Alex Livingston, Canada — 120.4 million
Dario Sammartino, Italy — 67.6 million
WSOP photography by PokerPhotoArchive