The WSOP Circuit, as it’s currently set up, has produced a lot of players who’ve gone on to major success at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas and elsewhere on major stages.
Bill Byrnes of Wentzville, Missouri is one of those success stories to be sure. He won a pair of WSOP Circuit rings in 2012 and cashed 25 times since April 2012 on that tour, but up until the 2015 WSOP Byrnes had barely even been out to Las Vegas to play bracelet events.
Byrnes came out early this year and went right at in the Colossus event, and it paid off in a big way. He beat out more than 22,360 players and ultimately took 11th in that record-setting event, good for $55,968 – and that was only the beginning of a tremendous summer. After a few more big results, Byrnes decided to play the Main Event – and after nearly four full days of play he’s still in contention with just 270 players left.
He’s come a long way from where he began his journey in tournament poker.
“I’ve been playing cards for a long time, but I just started playing tournaments around 2012 or so,” said Byrnes of his entrance into the poker world. “I had a lot of luck, and I won two Circuit rings right off the bat. After that I won a decent amount of money, but I haven’t won any more rings since then – but that keeps you going back for more.”
Byrnes’ experience in bracelet events before 2015 amounted to a single weekend spent in Las Vegas in 2014. He came out to play the Monster Stack, got into one of the late registration waves and couldn’t get anything going. Byrnes returned in 2015 with a vengeance, and his run in the Colossus event helpedd kick-start something that could be huge for him.
Still, Byrnes wasn’t certain that he’d even play the Main Event after busting from the Colossus – but it didn’t take long for the scales to tip in that direction.
“You know, you only really remember the ones you lose,” said Byrnes. “The ones you win, you don’t remember as easily. It just plays a lot slower, and as long as you’re patient you have a chance to run up some chips and play against the best here at the end with the last 300 players left.”
“I was going to play a satellite or two, see if I could work my way in, but after I made the Colossus deep run then I played a $235 Deep Stack the next day and won another $30K coming in second in that. Then I figured, let’s go ahead and give this thing a shot.”
He’s gone on quite a run since then, with three more cashes including another deep run in the DraftKings 50/50 event. Byrnes had a fairly slow start to the Main Event, bagging 43,800 on Day 1B, but his stack shot up in a big way as he bagged 148,000 at the end of Day 2AB.
It was more of the same on Day 3 as Byrnes more than doubled his stack to 354,000, and just after the dinner break he surged to over 1 million. With less than 300 players left in the field, Byrnes still has a chance to experience the absolute pinnacle of the poker world.
“Obviously, that’s the dream – to win a bracelet in the Main Event,” said Byrnes. “The fact that I’m still here, I’m loving it.”
Byrnes gives a lot of the credit for how things have gone to his experiences on the WSOPC. While some players used the WSOPC to build their bankrolls, Byrnes came from a position where he could afford the buy-ins but lacked the general experience to contend on a grander stage.
“I own my own business, I’m a criminal defense attorney, so I’ve had the bankroll for it,” said Byrnes, “But I think playing on the Circuit, when you’re going out of town and playing five or six events you just get into these good habits, you know ‘this is how I play’. It’s kind of second nature to you, what you’re going to do in a given situation.”
Byrnes founded his law firm in 2001 in St. Charles, Missouri, after graduating from the Thomas Cooley Law School at Western Michigan University. That profession has provided well for himself, his wife and three children, but it’s also allowed him the opportunity to go out and play poker.
Along the way, Byrnes met three players who’ve helped him hone his game and provide a support system during his time out on the road.
“There’s three guys that I hang out with, they’re all pretty good and we kind of bounce hands off of each other,” said Byrnes. “It’s Chris Bibb, he came fourth in the National Championship for the Circuit last year, Pete Sullivan and Bob Ward. Us four run around together a lot.”
While he’s been out at the WSOP, Byrnes’ wife has provided him the support he’s needed. Through all of the WSOP runs and other tournaments he’s played, she’s been out here in Las Vegas to keep him steady and settled.
“My wife’s out here with me,” said Byrnes. “We were out here a couple of weeks, took a week break, and then we came back out. She’s been with me pretty much the whole time.”
As much as Byrnes feels like the Circuit prepared him well for the Main Event run he’s currently on, he’s also had an eye-opening experience through four days of this tournament. It was something he felt prepared for, but only by living it did Byrnes get a true perspective for the differences.
“I think the Circuit players are great, I think most of them are good enough to play in any of these,” said Byrnes, “And I think they could cash and make a deep run just like I am right now. But as far as the tournament, and the amount of the buy-ins and the energy, it’s like going from the minors to the majors.”
At the fourth break of the day he hadn’t yet spent any time on the featured tables on Day 4, but if the opportunity arose Byrnes looked forward to getting a little face time on ESPN.
“You look forward to that, you want all your buddies and everybody else to see you playing,” said Byrnes. “You tell them you’re good, but they don’t really know whether or not to believe you. ‘You’re probably losing money somewhere along the line, you’re giving it back.’ It’d be great to be on the TV tables and have people back home see me.”
As luck would have it, Byrnes’ table got moved to one of the secondary featured tables for Level 20.
Over the course of the Main Event, Byrnes has already come across a number of familiar faces from the WSOPC, and he feels as if there’s certainly a precedent for him or one of his compatriots to join another Circuit veteran at the very top of the poker heap.
“There’s a lot of them that are really good,” continued Byrnes. “Ryan Riess, he was a Circuit player and he won this thing, and I’ve seen a couple other people here that I recognize from the Circuit. I think it’s a great way to get your game to the point you want to get it to.”
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