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November 24, 2014

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WSOP’s newest millionaire went from Buffalo financier to Las Vegas gambler

Jonathan Dimmig wins the second biggest poker tournament in history for $1.3 million

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Caesars Entertainment

Jonathan Dimmig holds his World Series of Poker bracelet and winning hand at the Rio after emerging victorious in the 2014 Millionaire Maker tournament for $1.3 million.

Millionaire Maker final table results

  • 1st: Jonathan Dimmig ($1,319,587)
  • 2nd: Jeffrey Coburn ($815,963)
  • 3rd: James Duke ($614,368)
  • 4th: Andrew Teng ($465,972)
  • 5th: Bradley Anderson ($355,913)
  • 6th: Stephen Graner ($273,854)
  • 7th: Jason Johnson ($211,394)
  • 8th: Andrew Dick ($164,118)
  • 9th: Maurice Hawkins ($128,150)

The biggest gamble Jonathan Dimmig ever made came away from the poker table.

Less than two years ago, the 31-year-old MBA-degree holder from Buffalo had grown tired of his near-decade-long tenure in the financial industry. He had started to make just as much money on the side indulging in his hobby of playing poker and mulled over the thought of pursuing cards full-time in Las Vegas.

“One of the toughest decisions I ever made in my life,” Dimmig said early this morning at the Rio. “I said, ‘You’ve got to chase your dreams.’ I figured I could always go back, with my education, to that area if I needed to.”

He won’t need to. Dimmig prevailed in the second largest live poker tournament of all time over the last four days, outlasting 7,976 other players in the $1,500 buy-in World Series of Poker “Millionaire Maker” event.

Dimmig earned $1,319,587 for the victory, more than 38 times the amount he had previously grossed throughout his entire career. Before the Millionaire Maker, Dimmig had less than $35,000 in career tournament earnings and a biggest single cash of $11,106.

“I’ve been out here for a year and a half and have had some really minor success I guess you could call it,” Dimmig said. “I was really just hoping for a decent tourney cash.”

Dimmig had played in eight or nine WSOP bracelet events prior to the Millionaire Maker, including the $10,000 buy-in Main Event in each of the last three years.

He never sniffed making the money in the game’s grandest event.

“Very frustrating,” Dimmig said with a laugh. “Very worth it.”

Everything started to go right in the Millionaire Maker. Dimmig finished Saturday’s first day of play with a healthy chip stack before vaulting to the lead on Sunday.

He maneuvered himself into the final table during Monday’s 12-hour session and returned Tuesday, in an unscheduled fourth day of the tournament because of the massive turnout, with 2.68 million chips. It was a decent amount but not enough to feel comfortable with as five of the final nine players sat with more chips as play began.

Dimmig’s strategy was to attack and use aggressiveness to improve his standing.

“I never sit back and wait,” Dimmig said. “I noticed a couple other guys at the final table, and even before that, who were just trying to get up the money ladder. I just don’t think like that. This is a life-changing event. I don’t want to look back in 30 years and say, ‘What if?’”

The fearlessness had its drawbacks, as Dimmig’s stack fluctuated as harshly as his heart rate through 12 hours of play Tuesday. He built a commanding chip lead when five players remained by knocking out Henderson native Stephen Graner, who entered with the most chips, with a larger straight.

Before the tournament got down to three players, however, Dimmig hit the bottom with a desperately low count.

“It’s always stressful with me,” Dimmig said.

Dimmig got a rush at the right time. After coming back from the dinner break, he worked his way out of last place and made a gutsy call with pocket 2s when Andrew Teng shoved all-in.

Teng had Queen-9 and paired his Queen on the flop to go ahead of Dimmig. But a 2 hit on the turn to save Dimmig and send Teng, a London pro, away with a $465,972 consolation prize. A couple hours later, after enduring more swings, Dimmig found salvation with the turn card again.

He paired his Ace-10 with a 10 on the turn to eliminate James Duke, who had flopped a pair of 8s with Queen-8, in third place. The 62-year-old Duke cashed for $614,368.

“Crash and burn,” Duke said as he shook his head and left the stage. “I can settle for more than a half-million dollars.”

Before Duke could exit the Rio’s Amazon Room, Dimmig risked all of his chips for the fifth time at the final table. He went all in during the first hand of heads-up play after flopping two pair against a pair and flush draw for Jeffrey Coburn, who ultimately won $815,963 for second place, that held up for a 29 million chip pot.

Five hands later, Dimmig finished Coburn. He rushed toward an assembling of his poker buddies from western New York to celebrate the moment the win was official.

“I’ve played hockey my whole life, huge Buffalo Sabres fan and the Sabres have never had a championship,” said Dimmig, who wore a T-shirt with the NHL team’s logo throughout the tournament. “The Bills have never had a championship. We’ve always finished in second place it seems like, so I’m proud to bring a little piece of championship-ness to the city.”

Only Dimmig won’t be going back to Buffalo. Not to live at least.

He’s no longer second-guessing his decision to leave.

“I think I can now say that maybe that was right decision,” Dimmig said.

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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