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Nov 22, 2013

Weekly Flop: Riess going Mainstream, Tran's Sad Finish, and German Domination

By RTR Dennis

2013 wsop winner Ryan Riess1

German cow

It's not hard to spot the biggest poker story from this past week - Ryan Riess winning the 2013 WSOP Main Event along with $8,361,570. Riess capturing the Main Event title was only the beginning, though, since it opened up a number of interesting side stories too. We'll cover each of these stories in depth, along with JC Tran's disappointing finish and Germans crushing tournaments...

Ryan Riess: "The Best," Sponsorless, Acknowledged by Megatron

Riess certainly didn't hold back during his post-victory speech as he mentioned, "I just think I'm the best in the world." This comment opened up a can of worms as many pros reacted to the boast, with some thinking that he was being plain cocky and others appreciating his confidence.

Love him or hate him, Riess is definitely one of the more memorable Main Event champs in history. Not only did he refuse to sign with a sponsor, but he also wore a Detroit Lions number 81 jersey to the final table. This happens to be the number of star wide receiver Calvin "Megatron" Johnson, who said, "To see that he won even though he could've been paid to wear some stuff that sponsors would've paid him to wear, you know that's some love he's showing for the Lions."

It's hard to tell what level of fame Riess will achieve in the future. But from his confident boast to shrugging off a sponsorship deal in favor of a jersey, it's clear that he's quite different from many other Main Event champions. And if Riess stays relevant, the 23-year-old could certainly appeal to a more mainstream crowd.

JC Tran's Finish hurts Skill Argument
In the modern era of poker, it's rare for a big-name player like JC Tran to have the chip lead going into the WSOP Main Event final table. So with his wealth of experience and large chip lead, Tran was an easy choice as the favorite to win the 2013 WSOP Main Event.

But it wasn't enough for the 36-year-old as he struggled to a very disappointing fifth-place finish ($2,106,893). In the aftermath, Tran said that the best final table hands he was dealt were A-K (once) and A-Q (twice) in tough spots. Anybody who knows poker realizes that even the best players struggle when they go this card dead.

Unfortunately, it doesn't exactly help the 'poker is a skill game' argument that the industry is preaching to politicians around the world. Governments that frown upon online poker often use the excuse that it's just like any other form of gambling. And with Tran bowing out in fifth place after leading the world's most prestigious final table, the skill-game argument takes a hit - no matter how unfair this may be.

German Domination Continues
Philipp Gruissem kicked last week off with a victory in the $100,000 WPT Alpha8 High Roller ($1,379,840). His German countryman, Tobias Reinkemeier, also had a very strong showing after taking third place ($564,480).

The Alpha8 event marks yet another outstanding recent tournament for German players. Just last month, Martin Finger won the UKIPT £50k London High Roller (£821,000), while Reinkemeier (£593,900), Christoph Vogelsang (£383,200) and Johannes Strassmann (£224,400) finished second, third and fifth, respectively. October also saw Germans take the top three spots in the 2013 WCOOP Main Event. And let us not forget Niklas Heinecker winning the GuangDong Asia Millions along with $4,456,885 back in June.

German poker players have a reputation for being strong in the mathematics and odds of the game. And based on what we're seeing in the tournament world these days, there's little reason to dispute these claims. That said, it'll be interesting to see if the recent German domination will continue at major poker events.