Poker competition runner-up eager for another hand
ALTOONA, Pa. (AP) — Nearly a year ago, it appeared as though Altoona resident Dan Ott had changed his life forever.
At just 25 years old, he made it through thousands of competitors to make the World Series of Poker’s final table and outlasted seven more players there to finish as the runner-up.
Ott’s prize was $4.7 million, but when he bought his plane ticket back in early May to Las Vegas for this year’s World Series that kicked off Tuesday, May 29, it was one of the bigger purchases he’s made with his winnings.
“Life has definitely changed but nothing dramatic,” Ott said. “I’m more comfortable with money. I bought some new clothes and got a new haircut, that’s about it.”
Ott also took a pair of trips to Mexico, but as far as new millionaires, he’s played it pretty conservative.
Now 26, Ott is still living in Altoona and has played sparingly in live tournaments over the past year while still grinding at least 20 hours a week in online play.
He’s planning on playing in several of the 78 events at this year’s World Series, including most of the no-limit Texas Hold ’Em tournaments. Despite his success last year, he’s still opting to avoid big-money buy-ins such as the events that require $100,000 just to enter.
Though he’s already achieved more than most do in the sport, he is motivated to win his first tournament on poker’s biggest stage.
“To win a bracelet (the prize, along with cash, for each event) would be pretty cool,” Ott said. “I want to play as much as I can. It’s important, but if I don’t, it is not going to ruin me. A couple thousand people enter each of those tournaments, so they aren’t exactly easy to win. I’m assuming if I play for another 10 years, I’ll win one.”
Ott said his poker career will depend on a few different factors, but he plans on doing it for the foreseeable future.
“How long I play depends on how my investments go,” Ott said. “It also depends on how the landscape of poker goes. I’ll probably keep playing unless I make more money than I would ever need. I’m assuming I’ll always play poker at some level.”
When the Main Event begins on July 2, there’s a good chance Ott will find himself back on the national television stage. ESPN tends to showcase past Main Event Final Table players during its broadcasts, and there’s always a chance Ott and last year’s champion Scott Blumstein could be paired up at a table.
“I’ve seen (Blumstein) a few times,” Ott said. “A few months after the Main Event, we were both at Borgata in New Jersey. I saw him in Vegas a few months later at a charity event, but I haven’t played with him at the same table again. Maybe we’ll get that chance in this year’s World Series.”
Making it back into the money would be a big accomplishment and returning to the final nine would be a colossal achievement, he said.
Despite the odds being stacked overwhelmingly against him, there is recent precedent. Two players at last year’s WSOP Main Event Final Table, Ben Lamb and Antoine Saout, had made previous final tables in the event.
“It definitely gives me some hope, because people have done it before,” Ott said. “I have as good of a chance as anybody. It’s not likely, but it’s still a shot.”
One of the things working against Ott will be that he’s no longer a stranger in the crowd of thousands that will take their seat in front of the felt this year.
“I’m recognized by more people,” Ott said. “They know who I am now and how I play. I’m not just an anonymous person like last year. Now, if I go somewhere, they know more about me.”
Ott’s notoriety could mean he is targeted by players hoping to get some national exposure by knocking him out of the tournament. Even Ott’s twin brother, Dillon, expressed interest in the feat.
“I feel like I know him, and I’d play him tough,” Dillon Ott said. “I feel like I’d come out on top if I was at a final table with him. I’d go after him maybe even a little more than I would another player.”
Dillon is one of four or five people planning to stay with Dan Ott in Las Vegas as the World Series takes place.
“I’m going to be playing a lot of tournaments,” Dillon Ott said. “I’m still trying to grind for a big score. Dan is more comfortable now. I’m more in work-mode.”
While Dillon has been looking for that big payday, plenty of people have mistaken him for his twin brother.
“When we go to these tournaments, I’ve dealt with that,” Dillon Ott said. “Since he got his haircut, we look more similar now than ever. So, I get that a lot. People always ask me, even outside the casino, if I’m the one who made the Main Event run. I just got stopped in the airport in Charlotte and asked if I was Dan recently.”
Dillon made the point last year that Dan left the door open to one-up him by coming in as runner-up in the WSOP Main Event, and he still thinks about being the first of the brothers to win a bracelet.
“It’s a pretty big motivation to try and out-do him,” Dillon Ott said. “I want to try to do anything I can to relive that and get back there, but whether it’s me or him, it’s something we both want for each other.”
If you see the Ott brothers on television this poker season, it’s likely you’ll see Dan in his signature hoodie he used to cover his mouth and hide any tells he may have revealed in last year’s tournament.
“It’s always really cold in the casino,” Dan Ott said. “I’ll probably be wearing it every day I’m there.”
Same old hoodie for a man who is still just playing the game he’s studied and loved since junior high, even if he now has a few extra million in the bank.
“It’s been pretty crazy, but it almost still hasn’t hit me,” Ott said. “I’m still kind of in shock because I still haven’t done anything crazy with the money. Maybe if I buy something else, something crazy, it will hit me.”
Information from: Altoona Mirror, http://www.altoonamirror.com