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Why Does Michigan Produce Such Excellent Poker Players?
The Great Lake State of Michigan is known for fishing but its poker players aren’t fish. They are sharks, especially the five biggest winners from the state.
Those five stars have almost $42.2 million in live poker tournament winnings. They have two WSOP Main Event titles and nine bracelets in total. But who are they? Who are the five biggest live poker tournament winners from Michigan? These guys, that’s who.
Ryan Riess: The $15 Million Michigan Man
Ryan Riess of East Lansing, Michigan, was a relative unknown until 2013. Riess finished second in a $1,675 WSOPC event in Hammond and banked $239,063 but still people didn’t really know who he was.
That completely changed at the 2013 World Series of Poker. Riess cashed four times before entering the $10,000 buy-in Main Event. Some 6,352 players bought in that year and Riess outlasted them all to become World Champion. It was an accolade that came with a gargantuan $8,361,570 prize.
Riess proclaimed to be the best poker player in the world after his impressive victory. That wasn’t and isn’t the case, although he now has $14,993,143 in live earnings, proving his Main Event wasn’t just a flash in the pan.
The former champ also has $1.8 million in online poker cashes. He lives in Las Vegas these days so his choice of poker site is somewhat limited.
Joe Cada: The Michigan Man With Four WSOP Bracelets
Joe Cada of Macomb, Michigan is second in the state’s all-time money list with $14,255,396. Cada, like Riess, was an unknown quantity until an epic victory put him on the map.
Cada headed to Las Vegas for the 2009 WSOP. Two cashes gave him the confidence to buy into the Main Event. What a decision that turned out to be. Cada came out on top of a 6,494-strong field to bank $8,546,435. A sponsorship from PokerStars quickly followed.
It took another five years before Cada won his second bracelet in the $10,000 NLHE Six-Max. Bracelets three and four came in 2018. He’s been around for more than a decade now but Cada still has the skills to pay the bills.
Dan Heimiller Has 100 WSOP Cashes
Dan Heimiller is another Las Vegas resident with Michigan roots. Heimiller called Livonia home before heading out to Sin City to seek fame and fortune. It worked out well because Heimiller has $6,347,515 in winnings, thanks in part to 100 WSOP cashes.
Two of those cashes resulted in bracelets adorning Heimiller’s wrists. 2002 saw Heimiller win the $2,000 Hold’em / 7 Card Stud mix event. A 12-year bracelet drought followed before Heimiller won the $1,000 Seniors Event. That is still his largest score from over 400 live MTT cashes.
Jeff Gross: The partypoker Team Online Pro
Jeff Gross, formerly of Ann Arbor, Michigan is the only player on this list without a WSOP bracelet. He does, however, have $3,383,836 in live winnings and an additional $1.985 million from online.
Gross has come close to winning a bracelet several times. His second-place finish in a $5,000 NL Hold’em Shootout in 2009 is his closest shave.
Highly intelligent, Gross is one of many modern players to embrace technology and is one of the world’s most popular poker streamers. He regularly streams his action when he’s grinding online. Gross creates regular podcasts with members of the poker community, too. His all-round skills led to partypoker snapping him up and making him a member of its Team Online.
David “Bakes” Baker the All-Round Crusher
David “Bakes” Baker has $3,249,486 in live tournament winnings, placing him fifth in Michigan. Baker is skilled in almost all poker variants and formats, one of the game’s elite players.
He honed his skills among poker-playing friends including Vanessa Selbst and Shaun Deeb.
The first of Baker’s pair of bracelets came in 2010 when he won the $10,000 No-Limit 2-7 Lowball event. Baker won the $10,000 H.O.R.S.E. event in 2012. The $10K HORSE is one of the toughest events on the WSOP schedule.
Baker has $5.2 million in online cashes, although he’s not recorded a result since 2019.