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Vin Narayanan

Vin  Narayanan
Vin Narayanan is the former managing editor at Casino City and has been involved in the gaming industry for over a decade Vin is currently based in Hong Kong, where he runs his own consultant group and works as head of gaming and public relations for Mega Digital Entertainment Group.

Before joining Casino City, Vin covered (not all at the same time) sports, politics and elections, wars, technology, celebrities and the Census for, USA WEEKEND and CNN.

More about Vin Narayanan
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Riess, Farber reach heads-up play at WSOP Main Event

5 Nov 2013

By Vin Narayanan
LAS VEGAS -- Jay Farber and Ryan Riess survived 8.5 wild hours of final table play at the World Series of Poker Main Event Monday and will play heads up for $8.36 million Tuesday night.

Before a rowdy crowd in the Penn & Teller Theater at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, Riess knocked out Amir Lehavot to set the heads-up matchup. Lehavot won $3,727,823 for finishing in third. Tuesday's second-place finisher will win $5.17 million.

Riess, a 23-year-old from East Lansing, Michigan, and Farber, the 29-year-old VIP host from Las Vegas, seized control of the final table early and never let go.

Riess was the first to blast off, when he made the first five-bet of the final table. Riess, who started the betting with 1.1 million, five-bet it to 11.1 million. Lehavot and McLaughlin, who were still in the hand, folded and Riess took the chip lead for the first time with close to 45 million. Riess began the day with 25.875 million.

Riess became the first player to crack the 60-million-chip mark several hands later, when his pocket 10s connected with a board reading Qs-10c-Jd-9s-Ad. Riess checked on the flop, turn and river and called bets from JC Tran on the flop and turn. When both players checked on the river, Riess showed his three 10s and Tran mucked.

Ryan Riess (left) and Jay Farber will play heads up Tuesday for the WSOP Main Event championship.

Ryan Riess (left) and Jay Farber will play heads up Tuesday for the WSOP Main Event championship. (photo by Vin Narayanan, Casino City)

While Riess treaded water around the 60-million-chip mark, Farber began climbing his way up the leader board. And in one five-hand stretch, he jumped from around 50 million to a little more than 65 million. Farber dipped back below 60 million before winning the hand that changed the final table.

With six players remaining, Marc-Etienne McLaughlin raised to 1.6 million. Farber raised it to 3.8 million. McLaughlin refused to back down and bumped it to 8.7 million. Farber pushed it to 19.4 million and McLaughlin moved all in for a total of 38.6 million. Farber called and it was off to the races. Farber had aces. McLaughlin had kings. And Farber's aces held up on a board reading 8s-7s-2h-Jd-Jc. The 79-million-chip pot was the biggest of the night. And Farber had 94.825 million in chips at that point. Riess was second in chips with 62.9 million. Sylvain Loosli had 12.625 million, Tran had 11.525 million and Lehavot had 8.8 million.

"I looked over and Ryan and I basically had about two-thirds of the chips in play," Farber said describing the big hand. "Everybody was really short and I knew that at that point it was going to be between us unless something really bad happened."

Nothing bad did happen. But Farber's elimination of McLaughlin began a wild 30 minutes of eliminations that culminated with Riess and Farber reaching heads-up play. Farber knocked out Tran when his Ks-Qh cracked Tran's Ah-7s by hitting a king on the flop. Riess then knocked out Loosli when his Ac-10h held up against Loosli's Qh-7c. And Riess ended the night by snap calling Lehavot's all-in bet of 21.15 million. Lehavot had pocket sevens. Riess tabled pocket 10s and a board of Qc-8c-4h-2d-Jd sealed Lehavot's fate.

"It's pretty awesome," Farber said after play ended for the night. "It's incredible. It's every poker player's dream to get to this stage."

Both Farber and Riess left the Rio after play ended at 1:15 a.m. Tuesday morning to hit the clubs and celebrate -- decisions completely in character with their approaches to the final table.

Riess was sporting a Calvin Johnson jersey during final table play Monday.

Riess was sporting a Calvin Johnson jersey during final table play Monday. (photo by Vin Narayanan, Casino City)

"I didn't really have a game plan (for the final table)," Riess said. "I just wanted wanted to sit down and feel out my opponents, figure out how they were playing and adjust accordingly."

"I did absolutely nothing (to get ready for the tournament)," Riess added. "I did not study one person. I didn't look at any of the hand histories from the tournament. I played a little bit (in Europe and the WPT), but no preparation at all. I just played my game."

"I will be preparing for the heads-up match," Riess added with a chuckle. "I didn't prepare for anything else because I didn't want to overprepare and throw myself off, but I will be preparing tomorrow afternoon to play Jay heads up."

Farber shared a similar approach to Riess when it came to preparing to play at the final table.

"In all honesty, not very much at all," Farber said when asked how much he prepared for Monday. "We talked strategy, we talked game plan and we talked certain situations that might come up, but I felt like the way that I played got me to where I was, and we weren't going to try and change anything.

"I said coming in, I'm happy to be the underdog and I thought everyone was underestimating me," Farber added. "Just because I didn't have a lot of tournament (experience) doesn't make me a poor poker player."

Tran, who won $2,106,893 for finishing fifth, was quick to credit the other players after his elimination.

"When you play in a tournament where there's 6,300 players and you play seven days of poker, I don't care how hard the deck hits you, you've got to do something right to get there," Tran said. "The other eight guys, they all have a chance of winning regardless of what their stack is."

Tran, who began the day as the chip leader with 38 million in chips, was still in shock after he busted out of the tournament.

"I definitely didn't expect this," Tran said. "Finishing fifth was definitely possible in some other ways, but not the way I went out. I had zero pairs all day, ace-king once, ace-queen a couple times in really tough spots. To be honest, I'm not 100 percent happy with how I played, but when you're on the bottom end of the cards, you're facing tough decisions all the time."

McLaughlin, who won $1,601,024 for finishing sixth, seemed more sanguine about his ousting from the tournament.

"It was a lot of fun, to be honest," McLaughlin said. "The crowd was crazy.

"Of course I'm disappointed, but it's poker," McLaughlin added. "What can you do? I played the best I can, gave it my all."

McLaughlin's rail was easily the loudest of the night. And McLaughlin seemed humbled by their support.

"I think it was the biggest rail of the final table," McLaughlin said. "They made a lot of noise, cheered me up. They were crazy."

When play began Monday evening, caution ruled the day. Short stacks David Benefield (6.375 million) and Mark Newhouse (7.35 million) looked carefully for spots to double up. Tran, Marc-Etienne McLaughlin (26.525 million) and Amir Lehavot (29.7 million) looked for spots to pick up chips. And Jay Farber (25.975 million), Michiel Brummelhuis (11.25 million) and Ryan Riess (25.875 million) studiously avoided mixing it up.

Benefield and Newhouse both doubled up at points. But they quickly fell back below the 10-million-chip mark and the players -- and fans in the crowd -- began marking time waiting for their exit. And when Benefield and Newhouse busted out of the tournament, it was like a dam had burst, and the real poker had finally begun.

Newhouse was the first to exit the final table. Newhouse pushed all in for 5.9m with 9c-9s and Riess called with As-Kh. A king hit on the flop and the rest of the board missed both players, giving Riess 37.835 million chips and Newhouse the boot from the tournament. Newhouse won $733,224 for finishing in ninth.

"I tried not to have great expectations," Newhouse said after his elimination. "(I) just came in to play the best poker I could play and whatever happens, happens.

"I'm happy to have made it this far, and hopefully I'll do it again next year," added Newhouse. "In 2014, we need to do better than ninth."

Two hands later, Benefield exited the tournament in eighth place. Tran, as he had for much of the night, opened the betting from the button. Benefield pushed all in for 8.5 million with Ks-2s and Farber, who had played very few hands up until that point, called with Ac-Kd. A board of 5d-10s-Qc-Js-2d gave Farber a straight and sent Benefield home.

After his elimination, Benefield said he was pleased with the way he played.

"I think on average I'm going to do a little bit better than eighth place, but it's really hard to be unhappy," Benefield said. "I made a couple really big folds, one with 10s, one with Jack, but (they) turned out to be right. I got lucky with king-nine suited vs. king-jack; I mean I should have been out then, I should have got ninth. But all things considered, I feel pretty good. I feel happy with the way I played and I don't think I would take back anything I did."

As happy as Benefield was with his play, he seemed even more pleased with the way the final table brought his family together.

"I really liked getting to see all my family together," Benefield said. "My girlfriend's family came out too, and we got to hang out a lot the last couple days, and that was a lot of fun. It was really cool having people here to support me, and I got to see the love that they felt ... it was a great experience."

Riess continued his aggressive play after Benefield's elimination, betting other players out of hands, and eventually busting Brummelhuis from the tournament.

Riess needed two cracks at Brummelhuis to send him packing. The first time, Brummelhuis pushed all in for 7.525 million with pocket nines and Riess called with Ax-Qx. The nines held up and Brummelhuis doubled up.

Two hands later, Brummelhuis re-raised all in with pocket nines again. This time Riess called Brummelheis -- almost before the Dutchman finished saying all in. Riess tossed his aces to the middle of the table, and they held up with the board missing both players. Brummelhuis won $1,255,356 for finishing in seventh, while Riess's chip stack grew to 55.8 million.

Brummelhuis was disappointed he didn't advance further. But he acknowledged he did achieve his main goal.

"I'm happy with the experience," Brummelhuis said. "I'm happy that I didn't finish ninth. I was a little afraid when I saw Benefield and Newhouse double.

"I just took it one step at a time and (tried) not make too many mistakes, and I didn't," Brummelhuis said. "I couldn't because I had such crappy hands, and I think all the other guys had really big hands, kings and aces. I think there were a lot of big pairs in the hands."

Another player happy with his finish was Loosli, who won $2,792,533 for placing fourth.

"I think it was a great final table," Loosli said. "I just wanted to play my best poker tonight. I think I did quite well. I couldn't do any better. I don't want to ... obviously it's disappointing to be fourth, to be so close to the title, but it's such a great result."
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