Jonathan Dimmig made a splash in Las Vegas this week – and he was careful not to splash the pot.
The Amherst, N.Y. native and Kenmore East graduate bested 7,976 other hopefuls in the Millionaire Maker No-Limit Hold’em event this week at the World Series of Poker.
A life-long hockey fan, Dimmig, 32, celebrated his victory while wearing a Buffalo Sabres T-shirt. He not only became a WSOP champion, but as the name of the tournament suggests, a millionaire as well.
Dimmig’s winnings totaled $1,319,587.
“It’s definitely my lucky T-shirt now, that’s for sure and it’s one of my favorite T-shirts. I wore it on purpose because I wanted to show some Buffalo pride,” he told Kevin Sylvester and Andrew Peters on Sabres Hockey Hotline on Thursday.
“It’s exciting to be able to bring back some piece of championship-ness to a city that could definitely use some.”
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He said he had almost two dozen people cheering him on in the audience. At times, they would break out into “Let’s Go Buffalo” chants.
This year’s Millionaire Maker was the second-largest tournament in poker history with 7,977 entries, trailing only the 2006 WSOP Main Event, which drew 8,773 players over four starting days, according to the WSOP’s website. This year’s Millionaire Maker managed to get almost 8,000 entries in over the course of two starting flights on a single day.
Dimmig’s buy-in was $1,500.
“That’s the unique thing about this event. It was called the Millionaire Maker event so the idea behind it was you could take an average person and for a reasonable buy-in, they could change their lives and become a millionaire,” he said.
He won the tournament with a seemingly non-threatening 6-2 of hearts. The flop showed a pair of 3s and another deuce. Dimmig went all-in and his two-pair held up against his opponent’s King-Queen.
Jeffrey Coburn, who finished second, won $815,963. Dimmig knew going into the final table that he’d be satisfied with any payout, so being an aggressive player, he went for it all.
“The emotion is interesting. I thought I’d be a lot more nervous than I was, but when I got to the final table, I realized that any prize money at that point was really going to be beneficial to my life so I was just going to go for first place,” he said. “Any of that prize money was going to be awesome.”
This tournament marked the first time he’d finished in the money in a WSOP event.
He said he plans to play in the 10-day Main Event this year, which begins on July 5. He’s entered that tournament thrice before and has made it as far as the third day of competition.
First though, he said he’s going to pay off his student loans. And once fall rolls around, he’ll find time to watch his beloved Sabres.
“I’ve played hockey my whole life – since I was 3 years old,” he said. “The first thing I did when I moved out here was get the NHL package so I could watch them while I’m playing poker.”
And as nice as the cash prize is, it’s the bracelet that means the most to him. Many professional players can go their whole careers without winning one. Only 65 players will be awarded bracelets this year. To poker players, World Series of Poker bracelets are like championship rings.
After playing as an amateur for about a decade, Dimmig made the move to Las Vegas a year-and-a-half ago to become a professional poker player. Now he’s a World Series champion.
“What I really wanted was the bracelet. That $1.3 million is awesome, don’t get me wrong. But that bracelet means a heck of a lot to a poker player,” he said. “So my strategy was really to just go for it. And that were a bunch of spots where I had to take a risk in order to do that.
“But that’s the story of my life. You take a risk and hopefully it’s worth it.”