They're, naturally, buddies. After all, they're members of a rather small fraternity — both winners of poker's Super Bowl, the Main Event — and they grew up 30 minutes apart. Ryan Riess from Clarkston, Joe Cada from Shelby Township.
But for the first time ever, the two were pitted in a heads-up showdown, in the $10,000 buy-in Heads-Up No-Limit Hold'em Championship, event No. 16 on the World Series of Poker's spring/summer circuit in Las Vegas.
It's a bracket-style event — think March Madness — and Riess and Cada drew each other in the second round, the Round of 64.
"We have never played heads-up before," said Cada, 30, adding, "I can't remember ever being at Ryan's table against him besides playing online."
Cada took the early lead, a commanding one, 160,000 chips to 40,000, but Riess battled back, and had two significant double-ups, leaving Cada short-stacked.
The final hand, Cada had ace-10, to Riess' ace-king. Cada was dominated, the board — or the five community cards — and didn't help either hand, sending Riess on to the Round of 32.
"The match was long," said Riess, 27. "We both have a very similar heads-up style so neither of us really had an edge. He has more experience, but it comes down to card distribution, and I was luckier yesterday (Wednesday)."
There was no side action between the two, but they did swap a piece of each other's winnings. Neither ended up winning a nickel, though. Riess went down in the Round of 32. Only the top eight spots paid out.
One Michigan man did make the final eight: Oak Park's Nicolai Morris, who bowed out in the Elite Eight. That earned him a payday of $31,086. He had only earned about $13,000 in his previous poker tournaments, according to The Hendon Mob poker database.
Crowded field, nice finish
The Colossus is one of the most-intriguing tournaments in the WSOP. The buy-in for the No-Limit Hold'em tournament is just $565, making it appealing to the everyday player who might just be in Vegas on vacation and want to try their luck in a prestigious tournament, and it's appealing to the pros, too, because the large field makes for a potentially large payday.
This year, 13,070 players participated in the event, the seventh on the WSOP schedule, making for a prize pool of more than $6.5 million.
Spring Lake's Jacob Baumgartner took home a nice piece of that pie, finishing in 21st place — meaning he outlasted 13,049 competitors.
"I was kind of frustrated. I played the last hand pretty poorly," said Baumgartner, who has played well lately, including an $18,000 in a tournament at Firekeepers in Battle Creek in February. "That being said, beating a small town is an accomplishment."
For his efforts, Baumgartner, who likes to play cards wearing a Lions hoodie, collected a prize of $22,003. That's the second-biggest cash of his tournament career, which dates to 2010.
Cada, having a nice WSOP with two final tables and one victory, finished 97th, Riess 970th and Ann Arbor's Jeff Gross 1,435th. The tournament pays a whopping 1,754 places.
Riess also cashed in the WSOP.com online tournament, finishing 13th for $7,799.
It's getting hot in here
The tweet of the week comes from Muskegon's Jordan Young:
Away from the tables ...
What do you do when you bust out of a tournament? A lot of WSOP players actually like to veg in front of a slot machine, and sometimes it pays — and big. Like it did this week for a fella named Bart Hanson, who decided to play some high-stakes video poker. Then this happened.