Table Talk: Modesty is Still a Virtue

2013 WSOP Main Event Champion Ryan Reiss

Mind if we have some tea today? It seems as if World Series of Poker Main Event champion Ryan Riess and runner-up Jay Farber have partied enough for all of us, and I’ll gladly sit on the sidelines with a cup of tea. The drinks were flowing at Farber’s blow-out nightclub party in Las Vegas, and while Riess may have celebrated differently with a trip to Disneyworld, it’s all a little much for me.

Pardon me, as I believe my age is showing. LOL, as the kids say these days. I’ve had some time to reflect on the final table, having watched much of it live on ESPN when it happened but a little taken aback by the winner interview.

Kara Scott: All the way, you’ve had this incredible certainty that you were going to win this. What gave that to you? 

Ryan Riess: I just think I’m the best player in the world.

One could say that he was caught up in the moment. He just won the largest and most prestigious tournament of the year, becoming the WSOP world champion and winning more than $8 million and a $500k gold bracelet. But Riess said something similar when he made the November Nine in this WSOP interview:

WSOP: You’re 23 years old and the youngest player in the field. Does that mean anything to you?

Riess: No, not really. A lot of other people are probably more experienced; like JC Tran, obviously. I honestly feel like I’m the best player at the table, so I’m just going to play my heart out.

WSOP: What kind of odds do you give yourself to win?

Riess: Oh I have to be the favorite.

What seems to be lost in this entire scenario is modesty. Good sportsmanship includes more than simply congratulating one’s opponent; it requires a person to be a good sport and maintain a certain amount of dignity and modesty.

Of course, confidence is required in poker. Anyone who sits at the table and doesn’t have a certain amount of confidence will not win. But I believe that confidence has to be partnered with some humility, some sense of the larger picture and a recognition of the game as a whole.

It reminds me of past WSOP winning moments. When Greg Merson won last year, he was so emotional that he could only utter a few words, like, “It doesn’t even feel like real life.” And even when Kara Scott said to him on the ESPN stage, “You’ve been called a great player by one of the greats; Phil Ivey’s been talking about how amazing your game has been. Everyone’s been talking about how amazing your game has been,” he was too emotional to respond.


And when Joe Cada defeated Darvin Moon to win the 2009 WSOP Main Event, I vividly remember his reaction. As he was mauled by his family and friends on the stage, he pushed away from them and immediately walked over to Moon to congratulate him on a well-played game. His first and immediate reaction to the win was to be a good sportsman.

In a game like poker, I believe this is a necessary component to being a good player and gaining the respect of your peers and fans, as well as being a good ambassador of the game. A good sportsman will find a balance between confidence and modesty.

There is time for Ryan Riess to make other statements and take up his unofficial role as ambassador for the game. He is busy bathing in his victory and celebrating with friends and family at the “happiest place on earth.” I’m sure there are many conversations being had about money management, taxes, poker goals, and all kinds of plans for his life going forward. I only hope there is someone in his ear with a little advice on how to be a grand and confident yet humble champion.