Ryan Hiller is a professional poker player from Lake Orion in the Detroit area, who is number one in tournament profit on BetMGM Poker MI for 2022 and recently won his first career World Series of Poker bracelet during the WSOP MI online bracelet series in June and July.
Now 26, Hiller has been playing since he turned 18. He started playing online in 2018 and moved to Atlantic City in 2020 during the pandemic, quitting his job selling insurance to chase his dream of playing professionally, as online poker is legal in the Garden State.
His family was concerned, but he said he could never forgive himself if he didn’t take the shot. Two years later, Hiller is still playing professionally and back in his home state of Michigan and coming off the most profitable summer of his career.
With six more bracelet events soon up for grabs on Sundays in September and October, PlayMichigan caught up with Hiller to discuss his recent successes and the overall Michigan online poker scene.
Getting redemption in “Second chance event”
A week earlier, Hiller final tabled the $1,000 Championship Event, taking seventh place for $3,826. He was second in chips and saw his ace-king lose to the chip leader’s ace-jack after getting stacks in preflop. Had his hand held, he would have been in great shape to win his first bracelet of his career.
The “Second Chance” event proved fitting for Hiller, finding himself with a second chance to close out a WSOP bracelet event final table. This time, he came out on top, outlasting a field of 123 and earning the top prize of $21,947 and the coveted gold bracelet.
“It felt like a monkey off my back,” said Hiller. He has had a lot of scores and wins in smaller tournaments throughout his career but didn’t have any hardware, so to speak. “It was nice. It felt awesome.”
Putting in the volume
Hiller plays primarily online and has played over 4,000 tournaments already this year, with results in major events on WSOP.com dating back to 2019.
Even before online poker became legal in Michigan, he amassed more than a dozen cashes in circuit and bracelet events from his time in AC, with plenty more through daily tournaments and other smaller series.
His most notable score was a 21st-place finish in the 2020 Online Main Event, which had its traditional $10,000 buy-in and paid out over $1 million to eventual winner Joseph Hebert. The tournament was a hybrid format where the final table of nine finished the tournament at the WSOP’s former home, Rio Las Vegas.
Despite missing out on that experience, Hiller earned $35,194, still his largest official score to date.
Missing Vegas worked out just fine
While much of the poker world was in Las Vegas during the WSOP, Hiller stayed home for personal reasons.
After playing a full schedule during the 2021 WSOP last fall, he was disappointed not to make it out this year. However, he made the most of his time in the Mitten with nine WSOP MI scores over June and July, including five circuit scores and four more in bracelet events. Three of those scores were final-table finishes, and of course, one was good for his first career bracelet.
“I had my best month ever online, profit-wise,” said Hiller. “Also, I got the bracelet. So, now when I look back on this, I won’t just feel like it was a totally lost summer. It ended up working out.”
Comparing Michigan to New Jersey, including interstate poker
Given Hiller’s history playing online in both New Jersey and Michigan, we asked him how he felt the two compared.
New Jersey’s markets for PokerStars and PartyPoker/BetMGM are ring-fenced, but WSOP.com shares player pools with Nevada (and Delaware for cash games). Hiller said he does miss being able to play on WSOP NJ against players from both sides of the country.
That can change soon, though, as Michigan will soon be joining the likes of New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware with their interstate poker compact. Hiller said it will be “huge” when that day comes.
On a personal level, he would love to be able to battle with his friends from Nevada and New Jersey. Beyond that, he is excited to see larger tournament fields (and prize pools) and would love to see more states come along. He is hopeful that WSOP.com becomes available nationwide one day, offering year-round satellites to the Main Event and possibly even a 15,000-person field. All good things for poker.
“But Michigan is nice. It’s my home state, so I take a little bit more pride in my scores. It was never about that in New Jersey,” said Hiller. “I like it here. I think poker’s awesome and more people should play.”
Closing things out, Hiller also wished to give a shout-out to his former roommate in AC, Minh Nguyen. Nguyen won “The Closer” event at the 2022 WSOP in Las Vegas for $536K, and Hiller said he is one of the nicest, most positive, and hard-working guys he knows.
WSOP MI fall bracelet series to run Sept. 11 through Oct. 16
Much like the summer, WSOP MI has an online bracelet series coming this fall with weekend events to go with the larger bracelet series in NV/NJ. The series kicks off on Sunday, Sept. 11, and will offer a bracelet event each Sunday through Oct. 16.
We will be publishing a full breakdown of the series in the coming weeks. In the meantime, here’s a look at the schedule. All six events are No-Limit Hold’em.
|Sept. 11||Monster Stack||$500|
|Sept. 25||Ultra Deepstack PKO||$400|
|Oct. 2||Lucky 7s||$777|
|Oct. 9||Big 500||$500|
Photos Courtesy of Ryan Hiller.