Ryan Messick just experienced quite the heater to end his 2022 World Series of Poker. On the final weekend of the summer online bracelet series, Messick took second place in the WSOP PA Lucky 7s bracelet event on Saturday and followed it up by winning Sunday’s Summer Saver.
In winning, he also punched one of the final tickets to the WSOP’s $1 million freeroll Tournament of Champions, set to begin the following day.
And three days later, Messick took third in that event for $100,000, earning over $136,000 from his three deep runs.
PlayPennsylvania connected with Messick to talk some poker. Let’s dive in.
Messick jokingly calls his shot
The 36-year-old Philadelphia resident played five of the eight online bracelet events at WSOP PA and cashed four. His first two produced 30th- and 18th-place finishes.
Messick said in jest after his runner-up finish in the second-to-last event of the series that he must win the final event, as it was the only way to keep improving on his finishing positions.
“And of course, I’m joking around, not thinking that it’s actually going to happen,” recounted Messick. “I knew I was playing well and running well, but everything still had to fall into place, and luckily, it did.
A lifelong poker dream comes true
When Messick was heads-up in the final PA online event, he knew a bracelet was on the line but had completely forgotten that he was also playing for a TOC seat.
Winning a WSOP bracelet had been a dream of his since getting into poker during the Chris Moneymaker boom in 2003. So of course he was disappointed to come up just short in the previous event.
However, he never lost confidence in his game, thinking that sooner or later, the day would come. Little did he know he would be celebrating less than 24 hours later.
The road to WSOP bracelet victory
Much to Messick’s favor, he doubled his stack in the first level of the online event after flopping a set and getting his stack in versus an overpair. From there, he continued to build, maintaining an above-average stack through most of the tournament before ultimately finding himself in the middle of the pack with seven players remaining.
Then, he realized he was also playing for a TOC seat that would begin at 11 a.m. PT the following day.
“I am obviously not booking anything yet,” said Messick. “But I should see if there’s at least a flight. Like, I need to know if I win this, am I immediately packing a bag?”
Messick described the final table as swingy before he played a huge hand with a player on his left. The two were among the chip leaders, and Messick’s pocket queens knocked out the player’s ace-queen offsuit to give him most of the chips in play.
From there, he could apply pressure through to heads-up play, where he entered with around 80% of the chips in play. On the final hand, Messick’s nine-six offsuit beat his opponent’s ace-ten after hitting a gutshot straight on the river to earn him the top prize of $24,300 a few minutes after 2:30 a.m.
And then to Vegas
Messick had a quick celebration with his girlfriend after winning the tournament. She’s a poker enthusiast and was following along the whole night. The two had a glass of champagne – not finishing the bottle – and then Messick went to repack his suitcase. He had just returned from Vegas a few days earlier.
By 4 a.m., Messick had purchased a flight and was on his way to the airport for a 6 a.m. flight, booking his hotel room at Bally’s while en route.
Once he arrived, Messick found himself in a series of sweaty circumstances. He had never seen such a long security line at PHL in his life, but he made it onto his flight, which had been delayed 20 minutes. Messick had a short layover in Detroit, where he was the last to board his connecting flight.
Finally, he arrived in Sin City and tried to get in a quick nap, but ultimately had to jump into the tournament on zero sleep.
The six-figure score was a journey of its own
After 10 hours of play, Messick ended Day 1 with a top-20 stack among the 149 remaining players. He almost didn’t make it back from dinner either due to a nap.
Toward the end of the 75-minute dinner break, Messick slept through eight alarms and nine missed wake-up calls from his girlfriend before she called the hotel and reached his room directly.
He only missed about 10 minutes of play and later got to add another six hours of sleep to his tally before Day 2, where he enjoyed some run-good after the bubble burst. Play reached the final two tables before bagging for Day 3.
After another decent night’s sleep, Messick began Day 3 in 10th place of 16 remaining players and a comfortable stack of 33 big blinds. Before play began, he booked a last-minute flight for his girlfriend, who flew out just as he had two days earlier on almost no sleep of her own.
Messick felt good about the remaining field, having already played with most of them at that point. The most pressure he felt was not to bust before his girlfriend arrived. Luckily, Messick won a coin flip with pocket sevens to double up against ace-king before she made it to the rail.
Playing under the bright lights
Day 3 play got down to 10 quickly for the unofficial final table, and the field quickly dropped to seven thereafter. “And before you know it, we were getting mic’d up and getting set up for the PokerGO table.”
A former sports broadcaster and reporter, Messick felt extremely calm and focused once he began playing under the bright lights in the Thunderdome.
Many hands at the final table played themselves, Messick recalled. The field continued to shrink, and Messick knocked out Robert Cowen in fourth place to make the final three and guarantee himself $100,000.
All players were within striking distance, and Messick felt he had a good shot at the title. Unfortunately, the cards didn’t fall in Messick’s favor over the course of an hour-long battle to bring about his third-place finish.
The other side of heaters
Messick is primarily a cash game player who has lived in the greater Philadelphia area since 2019. However, even cash players take their shots in the tournament arena when the World Series of Poker comes around.
Messick was no different, heading out to Las Vegas for the $10,000 Main Event during the first half of July. Amidst a downswing, he fired a couple of satellites and was unable to play in this year’s record-setting field, but never lost focus of the bigger picture in poker as he went home to get back on the grind.
“There’s all kinds of stuff [that you can do during a downswing],” said Messick. “Depending on the circumstances, try to take a break to clear your mind and get away from poker. I always try to study harder in those situations… I think it’s acknowledging that I have no control over the turn of a card or whatever’s going to present itself at the table, but what can I control?
“Study habits and mindset are part of it, minimizing expenses is something else that you can control. Also, talk to friends and run hands by them because downswings can warp your mindset a bit…really being mindful, staying centered and focused on making a series of good decisions, one at a time.”
On shared liquidity and interstate poker in Pennsylvania
Outside of the WSOP, interstate online poker is one of the biggest stories in the game these days. While Pennsylvania remains ring-fenced from the rest of the country, Michigan will soon be joining New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada to engage in shared player pools and liquidity.
Like some others, Messick has mixed feelings about Pennsylvania joining the party or remaining on its own. Increasing the player pool will bring about larger prize pools in tournaments, but it will also introduce competition against many professionals from places such as Las Vegas and Atlantic City.
Ultimately, Messick hopes to see more states legalize online poker and pool together on a much larger scale. If a few of the bigger dominos such as California, New York or Illinois fall, others could become more (financially) incentivized to do the same and work towards creating a nationwide player pool.
He’s also hopeful that nationwide online poker would create interest in other mixed games such as No-Limit 2-7 Single Draw, which are hard to come by stateside. Currently, many mixed games are only played in high stakes cash games and at the WSOP each year.
Closing thoughts about the Tournament of Champions, live vs. online poker
Messick is a big fan of the new WSOP Tournament of Champions format, where all bracelet and circuit winners, both live and online, are eligible for a $1 million freeroll.
“We’ve seen different iterations of [the TOC] over the years, and I thought this was a really cool way to do it…You had a few different types of players, guys who were just online players and people who had won live circuit rings. You had people who had won bracelets, both in Hold’em and other forms. So, it was kind of this showcase.”
As someone who enjoys the social aspects of live poker, Messick cherished the opportunity to go head-to-head with players he doesn’t battle with on a regular basis, and watching those dynamics play out across different tables throughout the tournament.
“To me, looking at a screen all day is kind of boring,” said Messick. “Playing online feels like more work and playing in person is fun. I’m about having fun.”
Even so, the many ways to qualify for the TOC will incentivize Messick to play more WSOP online circuit events, which run monthly on WSOP.com PA. He is sure other PA players are in that same boat, and he hopes the WSOP sees the event as a success so it becomes a mainstay on the WSOP schedule.
For Messick, it was the cherry on top of a whirlwind WSOP ending.