Ott’s run filled with sports drama

Altoona native Dan Ott’s second consecutive long run in the World Series of Poker’s Main Event came to an end late Saturday night.

While Ott didn’t earn any money this time around (in fact, he lost the $10,000 entry fee despite outlasting more than 6,500 competitors), his performance continued to enhance his respect in the poker world.

Ott grinded his way back from a poor start on Day 1 to a chip stack of more than $300,000 before a cold streak sidelined him just short of the guaranteed money mark.

“I got up to 300K in the first 10 minutes Saturday,” Ott said. “Then, after awhile, getting chipped down, I lost a pot with a pair of kings. I folded on the river and still don’t know for sure what he had, but I think it was an easy fold. I lost half my stack there and didn’t make any hands for awhile after that.”

Ott’s tournament ended when he went all-in with a hand of ace, king and he was called by a player with a pair of sixes. It was a classic coin flip that didn’t turn out his way.

He entered, paid the 10K, and presumably was prepared to lose that money last year when he finished as the runner-up and won $4.7 million. So, losing the money this year probably doesn’t hurt as much as missing out on a chance at winning his first bracelet or advancing his poker career.

Ott, and his brother Dillon, do this for a living.

The Mirror has featured stories about the brothers in both the news and sports section, and in the past, poker columns have appeared in the Life section.

There’s certainly debate, even among the sportswriters on the Mirror’s staff, whether poker is a sport, but here’s my argument for it being included.

First and foremost, when interviewed about Ott’s run last year, one of the top track and field athletes in Altoona history, Brady Gehret, said Ott qualifying for the World Series of Poker’s Main Event final table seemed harder to him than anything he worked for in a track career that saw him make the NCAA national finals.

Playing for 12 straight hours with limited breaks for days straight requires incredible endurance and focus, something associated with sports. Studies have also shown increased cardiovascular activity during live poker events.

It’s certainly a competition between opponents that is dictated by rules, skill and luck. If you don’t understand the rules and don’t play with a strategy, success is unlikely.

Sure, luck plays a role, but it does in almost every sport.

Ott might not be able to hit a home run, make an open-field tackle or make a hole-in-one, but just because he sits in a chair playing his sport doesn’t make it easy.

Imagine playing for days, hours after hours at a time, knowing every decision you make could be the end of your run and cost you thousands of your own money.

Think about the heartbreak of outlasting 6,500 other players and coming away with nothing when you were possibly just minutes from winning thousands.

It’s something that will bring Ott back to the felt next year.

“I’m super happy with how I played, and I’ll definitely be back next year and the years after that,” Ott said. “It’s a great tournament.”

That sure sounds like a lot more drama and skill than a game of Candy Land to me.

Michael Boytim can be reached at mboytim@altoonamirror.com or 946-7521