Hammond, Indiana (October 25, 2016)Dylan Linde is the newest champion on the WSOP Circuit, outlasting a huge field of 1,308 entries to claim the Main Event title at Horseshoe Hammond. Linde’s performance earned him his first gold ring, the top prize of $348,269, and a reserved seat in the 2017 WSOP Global Casino Championship.

Linde is a 35-year-old professional poker player from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. He grew up playing video games and strategic card games, so poker was a relatively easy transition. “I was in college for six and a half years doing… nothing,” he said. “I stumbled into it.” Linde and fellow-Idahoan Kevin MacPhee became close friends along the way, and the two of them started to learn and progress in the game together. At first, they were mostly just chasing bonuses from online poker sites. “I was just folding every hand to try to get the hundred bucks,” Linde laughed. “Hell yeah, free hundred dollars? Thank you. But I’m so competitive that, eventually…,” he let the thought hang.

Eventually, Linde started to spend more time playing tournaments, both live and online, and he soon built enough of a foundation to feel comfortable pursing the game in a more serious way. His tournament stat sheet is full of results over the past decade, but none of them, to date, have been nearly as profitable as this one. This victory moves him well into seven figures in career live tournament earnings and into second place on Idaho’s all-time money list. There’s still, however, quite a gap between him and the leader on that list — Kevin MacPhee.

“This is fantastic,” a smiley Linde started his postgame interviews. “It’s nice to finally win a live tournament. I haven’t really had that much success live. I’ve had a lot of, like, 8th- through 18th-place finishes.” Not only is this Linde’s first significant live victory, it’s also his largest score ever, including some big results online.

It certainly didn’t come easy for the champ. Linde had a bit of a slow start out of the gate, and he needed all four of his available entries to advance to Day 2. “Four bullets,” he said. “Max pain. I busted my first two super fast on Day 1A. On Day 1B, I had stayed up really late and played this really good mixed game here. So I came back with no sleep.” Linde’s third bullet misfired nine minutes before the dinner break, and said he was pleased that he could at least beat the rush to the exit. He returned for his last entry after the break, and things finally started to click. “I came back after dinner and, yeah… bagged up one-twenty,” he said, as if it was the easiest thing in the world.

He was still in the middle of the pack by the time Day 2 ended with 28 players remaining, and he slowly picked his way through the remaining field as Day 3 whittled down toward the final table. He was seventh in chips with 10 players left, then got very lucky to stay alive with nine players remaining.

Linde first got his last 13 big blinds into the middle preflop with ace-jack, running into Brad Albrinck’s pocket jacks. The ace-jack-four flop left Linde dead to an ace, but he managed to find one of them on the river, as the Ace of Hearts peeled off to save his tournament life. The next level, he got himself in trouble again, this time running his pocket kings into Michael Campbell’s pocket aces. It takes a fair bit of luck to win a tournament, though, and Linde had a lot of good fortune on his side in this hand, flopping kings full of treys to once again stave off elimination.

Linde eventually found himself heads-up with Arif Rahim, a local high-stakes cash game grinder who was on a freeroll thanks to a promotional giveaway in the poker room. He had a big group of his local friends on the rail, while Linde was all alone at the table — a bit of an outsider on Rahim’s home turf. The two had a small amount of history together from the cash games downstairs, and Linde exuded a lot of respect for his opponent’s game after the fact. “I watched him play all day, and he was the player I least wanted to get heads-up with,” he said. “He’s a very, very good deep-stack player.”

The local grinder began the heads-up match holding nearly a 3:1 chip lead, but Linde made relatively quick work of erasing that deficit. About 90 minutes into the duel, Linde had Rahim on the ropes, and although the latter doubled up a couple times, he ultimately could not fend off defeat. On the final hand, Rahim took his stand with ten-three of spades, and Linde’s ace-seven ended up best as the board ran out full of blanks.

Linde has spent most of the last few years playing primarily in Europe, but he said he’s recently decided to spend more time exploring the broad slate of events on his home soil. This was, in fact, the first WSOP Circuit event he’s ever played, and so far, he’s batting a thousand in his Circuit career. “You’ll see a lot more of me in the American tournaments from now on,” he said. “Tournaments are like a drug.”