July 7, 2014 at 7:00 pm

Clarkston's Ryan Riess off to a solid start in defense of World Series of Poker crown

Ryan Riess the reigning champion of the World Series of Poker Main Event, made it through his first day of play Saturday. (John Locher / Associated Press)

Ryan Riess’ long-shot hopes of becoming the first player to repeat as World Series of Poker Main Event champion in the era of the poker boom remains alive and well.

Riess, a Michigan State alum and Clarkston native, started play Saturday in Las Vegas. While the reigning champion got down early, he quickly rallied and finished the day well up in chips.

Main Event players start with 30,000 in chips each, and Riess had 70,225 at the end of Day 1 on Saturday.

Given the size of the Main Event field — it could top 7,000 entrants, each plunking down a $10,000 buy-in — there are three Day 1s. So Riess will resume play Tuesday.

“It was awesome,” Riess, 24, told ESPN. “I put a lot of pressure on myself, and last year … it was more of a dream. Now, since it’s a reality, I really want to do it again.”

The big hand Saturday for Riess came in the fourth level of blinds. Playing No-Limit Texas Hold ‘Em, he picked up pocket aces, to an opponents pocket kings. Riess’ hand held up and he doubled his stack.

Riess, wearing a Calvin Johnson Lions jersey, took down poker’s top prize last November, winning the Main Event bracelet — along with a cool $8.4 million.

Riess’ performance in the 65-event World Series of Poker summer circuit hasn’t been that eventful. He has just one small cash, for $3,180 in a tournament last month.

Just last year, though, Riess became the second Michigan man to win the Main Event in five years, following Shelby Township’s Joe Cada in 2009. Cada, 26, who won $8.35 million for his work in 2009, started play in the 2014 Main Event on Monday, at the Rio.

Cada told The News he suffered a few “bad beats” early Monday, and was down to half his original starting stack around 3:30 p.m. Eastern.

tpaul@detroitnews.com
twitter.com/tonypaul1984