Former New Richmond exchange student wins big at poker
When German student Marvin Rettenmaier sat down to play his first poker game with friends in New Richmond, he had no idea it would shape his future.
The 25-year-old from Stuttgart, Germany recently won the World Poker Tour Championship in Las Vegas, netting $1,196,858.
The 2003-04 foreign exchange student said he had never played poker before his year at New Richmond High School.
"It was like 10 guys from high school," he said. "I remember we were two left and I should have won it, but my buddy wanted to go so we were basically flipping a coin for the win and I lost... After my exchange year I went back to Germany and played in pubs with friends and started playing online poker as well. I deposited little money, got a little lucky in the beginning and never looked back."
Rettenmaier said it didn't take long to learn the game of poker; however, it took him quite a while to perfect his game.
"They say poker takes an hour to learn but a lifetime to master," he said. "I just talked to a lot of other players about the game -- we learn from each other, sharing our views of certain plays, strategies and so on."
It takes $25,000 to enter the World Poker Tour Championship, Rettenmaier said. That's a lot of money to pay with no guaranteed you'll win it back.
"It's not like a tennis tournament, where the favorite is 80 percent likely to win the whole tournament," he said. "It's more like if there are 150 players, the best player might have a 3 percent chance of winning. It was a very tough tournament with most of the world's top players."
One-hundred-fifty-two competed in the World Poker Tour Championship, including several former champions.
"I know most of them quite well," Rettenmaier said. "The poker community is a pretty close one -- I have lots of friends that I am competing against."
According to a release from the World Poker Tour, despite starting the final day of play with a commanding chip lead, Rettenmaier, who became a PartyPoker-sponsored professional just before the start of the tournament, didn't face an easy road to the title, as it took more than 12 hours to navigate his way through the stacked final table.
After ending up in the final two, Rettenmaier and Philippe Ktorza began a 77-hand heads-up battle that brought both players to the brink of elimination on numerous occasions.
"I've won tournaments before, but never a big title, so that was really the important thing to me in the first place," Rettenmaier said. "I think I haven't really realized the money at all, since I haven't bought anything and I don't even have anything expensive that I really want at this point. It will get reinvested and maybe I'll buy some real estate."
The World Poker Tour Championship will be televised on Fox Sports Net as a three-part series Oct. 7, 14 and 21.