June 1, 2017 (Las Vegas, NV) - Bryan Hollis earned his first career World Series of Poker cash on Thursday evening, but he made it one to remember.
Hollis topped a field of 651 players to win $68,817 and the first bracelet of the 2017 WSOP in the $565 Casino Employees No-Limit Hold'em.
"It's incredible," said Hollis after the win. "I felt like I was freerolling after a couple hands yesterday. I'm just on a high that I can't explain right now."
Even though the 33-year-old poker dealer doesn't have much of a tournament resume, he is well-versed in the game. He's spent most of his 15-year playing limit cash games and has only played a handful of tournaments in his life. He's had nowhere near the level of success he earned on Thursday in any of his previous tries.
"This is my first tournament since playing this event last year," said Hollis. "This is my first cash. I've played the Millionaire Maker once and this is the third year in a row I've played the employee event. I've actually never made it past the first break, except in the Millionaire Maker.
"Last year, I busted this event in seven hands. I was in the nine seat, the button was in the one seat and by the time I was the big blind, I was felted. I just went back home and went to sleep."
Like other high-profile limit players, Hollis got his start in poker after getting into pool. It was a seven-card stud game in the back of his local pool hall that initially gave him the poker bug. He started playing pool at 15-years-old, but eventually those that were under 18 were barred from the game.
Pretty soon after returning to the pool arena, poker games started breaking out. Hollis then started putting pool on the back burner.
"So, then, when I was 18, I started playing at this pool hall and like six months in, a very well-known poker player started running a $5/$10 stud game in the back of my pool hall," said Hollis. "I started playing $5/$10 and then eventually it turned into a $20/$40 stud game."
Hollis transitioned from stud to limit hold'em was a regular in the $10/$20 and $20/$40 limit hold'em games in Atlantic City. Unfortunately for Hollis, when he wants to take a shot at a big tournament, he had to play the no-limit variant of the game.
"I just loved playing limit while everyone else was playing no-limit," said Hollis. "I had adapted and learned the game and I love the game. But unfortunately all the tournaments are in no-limit, all the big tournaments at least."
Hollis came out to Vegas alone. He was just looking to play some
tournaments, grind the limit hold'em game and take a trip out to the
Grand Canyon for the first time. But he had plenty of support from his
friends and family back home.
"I put a lot of it up on Facebook," said Hollis. "My brother heard last night that I was in the money with maybe 27 people to go. I got a lot of friends back in Maryland giving me a lot of support and had a lot of great feedback. I can't wait to call my mom and dad."
After the first day of play, the original 651 players were trimmed down to the final 11 and when play resumed on Thursday, Hollis was sitting right in the middle of the pack. They combined to the unofficial final table of 10 players within the first hour of play and Hollis hadn't done much to change his situation.
The early stages of the final table didn't go his way after Josh Clanton doubled through Hollis with pocket queens against Hollis' pocket tens. Hollis didn't make any drastic moves up the chip counts until the blinds got bigger and Hollis' stack was shallower.
"When the blinds were 10,000/20,000, I think I only had like 185,000 left," said Hollis. "I called off my whole stack with king-seven against and ace and hit a seven and won the hand."
Hollis ran better as the blinds got bigger. He eliminated Chris Gallagher in seventh place to move into the top half of the chip counts and held on to his chips until he was three-handed with Clanton and Chris Solomon.
Solomon was the chip leader for almost the entirety of the final table, but Hollis won a lot of pots three-handed and eliminated Clanton in third place to take a chip lead into heads-up play against Solomon. Having played with Solomon a lot on Day 1, Hollis felt he had a good read on Solomon's play and was in a good situation.
"Once we got to heads-up, I was feeling really confident," said Hollis. "I had played with him yesterday and I knew how aggressive he was. I knew if I could flop top pair, I knew if I could get him to jam on me, I'd get all the money in. I had the best hand when we got it in and it held up. Now we are talking about it."
The extra money in his pocket will allow Hollis to play in bigger limit games if he chooses to, but he also might make a major life purchase now that he has an extra $68,817 to his name.
"I've always wanted to buy a house and now I've got a nice little down payment," said Hollis. "So, I might do that. I've always had money saved up and I was in decent shape when I came out here in the first place. It's just awesome. It's such an amazing experience."
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Final Table Results:
1st: Bryan Hollis - $68,817
2nd: Chris Solomon - $42,508
3rd: Josh Clanton - $29,372
4th: Jermel Stephens - $20,629
5th: Alex Cordova - $14,731
6th: Adem Arbuckle - $10,698
7th: Chris Gallagher - $7,903
8th: Vincent Russell - $5,941
9th: Victor Kim - $4,547