17 September, 2018 (Lincoln, Calif.)Aaron Messmer, a recent convert to tournament poker, just earned his first major victory by winning the High Roller tournament at the WSOP Circuit at Thunder Valley Resort and Casino. Messmer bested a field of 57 entries to earn a payday of $42,750 and his first WSOP Circuit ring.

“I’m ecstatic,” Messmer said of winning his first ring. “That was my goal coming into this.”

Messmer is an amateur poker player. He works for a project management first in Orange County, and has played poker as a hobby for a while, but almost exclusively cash games until this year. “The transition to tournaments has been recent,” he said. “Poker’s been a hobby, cash games mostly. I just recently started moving my focus away from cash games in my free time, and to tournaments. And so far, so good. I know it’s an uncertain world, but for now I’m enjoying it. I might play a little more frequently, but I don’t want to dive headfirst into it. It’s a high-variance world, so I want to have a good feel for the environment before going full steam.”

He is off to a strong start in the tournament world. All his recorded cashes are from 2018, but he already had a Circuit High Roller victory, and earlier this year he got his first six-figure score.

This tournament was essentially a two-horse race. Messmer defeated Mike Giardina heads-up. Giardina had taken the chip lead early on Day 1, and from then on, no player other than Giardina or Messmer ever had the lead. Messmer first overtook Giardina in the last level of Day 1, and he started Day 2 as the leader on Monday. Giardina briefly retook the lead, but Messmer pulled ahead just before the first break, and they played a big pot right after the break which ended up deciding the winner.

“Michael was a great competitor the whole way,” Messmer said. “He got the better of me on Day 1. Fortunately I had the chip count to tiptoe around some delicate situations. At the end of the day, I got lucky a few times, and that always tends to happen when you make a big run like this.”

Eight players of the 57 entries advanced to Day 2. Only the top six made the money, so two players – Anthony McLaughlin and Joe Nguyen – advanced to Day 2 but left empty-handed. Then four more players were eliminated within the first two hours of play: Jordan Meltzer (sixth place), Maxwell Young (fifth), Devon Hulse (fourth), and Pedro Rodriguez (third).

After Rodriguez was eliminated, Messmer and Giardina battled for about 20 minutes. Then shortly after the break, Messmer won the climactic final hand to secure his victory.

Here are the in-the-money results:

1 – Aaron Messmer - $42,750
2 – Michael Giardina - $26,448
3 – Pedro Rodriguez - $17,328
4 – Devon Hulse - $11,980
5 – Maxwell Young – $8,778
6 – Jordan Meltzer - $6,726







I’ve been hitting milestones gradually. I’ve been making some deep runs, and I really wanted to make it a point to try to take something home this time. It feels good, and it’s great validation of the work I’ve been putting in.