Ryan Mattson can play poker with the best of them, and he proved it by competing in the 2011 World Series of Poker, winning $21,295 and placing 564th out of nearly 7,000 competitors.
His skills at Texas Hold ‘Em poker began when he first tossed some cards around with a group of friends. From there, he has begun to play in tournaments and at casinos in the area. He also plays with his family.
“My sons-Ryan and Josh-taught me how to play,” said Keary Mattson. “My wife also enjoys playing, so it’s something we all enjoy together. I don’t have the patience to play for long stretches at a time, so I could never do what Ryan did.”
His strong nerves and poker prowess have been in the refining process for a long time, and Ryan said he plays in tournaments locally and has found some success that carried over to Vegas.
“I usually play about four tournaments per year in Keshena,” Ryan said. “I went to Vegas and played in an event that had a $1,500 buy-in. I was down on chips and thought I was going to go out, but wound up playing for another 14 hours. I finished in 181st place out of 3,000 people and won $3,920 back in June.
“Two days before the World Series of Poker main event, I won a satellite to get into the main event. It usually costs $10,000 to get into the tournament,” continued Ryan. “I made it to day four. Each day was about 10 hours of playing poker, so it was grueling.
“On day four, there were 822 of us remaining, and the top 693 get paid,” Ryan stated. “Throughout the tournament, I had hands that would have normally put me out, but somehow I survived. I went all in with 703 people left, picked up pocket aces, got called by a King-10, and doubled up. Then I started winning a few hands.”
Meanwhile, his family was preparing to fly out to Vegas to watch him play.
“It was so nerve-wracking to follow his progress each day,” Keary said. “I only got a report in the evening, and Ryan told us he’d call if he went out.
“Thursday night was tough. We didn’t want to buy plane tickets if he was going to be out of the tournament. We had one flight left, so we booked it and flew out to Vegas. We walked in just in time for the start of play on Friday,” continued Keary. “It was even more nerve-wracking once we were there! I’ve done lots of coaching in my life, and I’ve seen games come right down to the wire-but there is nothing more intense than those five hours before Ryan made the money rounds. It was intense, but I’m glad I went out there to watch.”
In addition, Ryan received lots of support via Facebook, and he had a large group of friends and family following his progress online.
“When I finally did go out, I had 7’s against Ace-10. On the flop, there was queen, jack, two, queen, jack. The ace high took me out, and I placed 564th,” commented Ryan. “I really appreciate everyone who followed the action and supported me along the way.”
Ryan said the experience was quite impressive, as he got to play with a number of famous poker players and other celebrities.
“I played with Phil Helmuth (poker champ) and Paul Pierce (Boston Celtics All-Star). I also sat at the next table over from Jason Alexander (Seinfeld’s George Costanza). It was pretty incredible. I have been to Vegas before, but being at the World Series of Poker is almost a once-in-a-lifetime chance,” Ryan said. “Now I know I can play with these guys, so I want to do more on a professional level. I’m going to keep playing and look for more tournaments that feature higher levels of play.”
Ryan is contemplating going to the US Poker Championships in Atlantic City, and he hopes to go back to the World Series of Poker next year. He got some encouraging words from Dwyte Pilgrim, a 3-time World Series of Poker circuit event winner and a 2-time World Poker Tour bracelet winner. “I played with Dwyte for about seven or eight hours, and after the day was over, he told me I played really well and he had been trying to stay away from me. That was a huge confidence boost,” Ryan said.
“When you see these guys on TV, you put them on a level beyond yourself,” Ryan explained. “Then, you go out and play them and you realize they aren’t any different than you. It makes you want to go back again and go toe-to-toe with them.”