Today, Central Lake’s Bill Wiltse is bound for Las Vegas’ most elite event, the World Series of Poker, which begins tomorrow at the Rio Hotel & Casino.
Not only did the 36-year-old Wiltse win a free trip to the $10,000 buy-in event, it’s the second time in eight years he’s managed to do so.
How? Wiltse finished first at a WSOP satellite tournament recently hosted by the Turtle Creek Casino in June. He topped a field of 149 players and won free entry into the prestigious WSOP Main Event along with $3,000 cash.
“I won the same tournament in 2005 when it was held at the Leelanau Sands,” says Wiltse, who drives a truck and does some roofing when he’s not playing Texas Hold 'Em. “I’ve played it twice – and won it twice.”
Back in 2005, Wiltse was knocked out of the WSOP late in the first day when his pocket aces lost to another player who hit a straight on the river card. He was impressed with the whole scope of the tourney and says he enjoyed playing with noted pros.
“I played with quite a few famous players,” he says. “I sat next to (WSOP bracelet winner) David Williams for hours and hours.”
Wiltse’s plan: to play his own style. “I’ll play tight, but that all depends on the cards you get. Hopefully, I’ll get enough good cards to make it to day two and beyond.”
Gary Viaches of Shepherd took second place at Turtle Creek’s satellite tournament. He also won free entry into WSOP. A retired General Motors worker and a regular at the Soaring Eagle Casino poker room in Mt. Pleasant, Viaches tells The Ticker he has been playing seriously for about seven years, though a slow start got him very nervous at the outset of the Turtle Creek tournament.
“I was sort of low on chips when I got dealt a queen-eight suite and shoved all-in,” says Viaches. “One other guy called with ace-king. I caught an eight on the flop, and it held up. That let me double up, and I felt a lot more relaxed after that.”
Viaches says he’s looking forward to meeting and playing against some of the pros he’s only seen on TV. “I like Daniel Negreanu, and to play against Doyle Brunson would be a dream come true,” he says. “The first poker book I ever read was Doyle’s Super System.”
The WSOP started with six players in 1970 and has turned into poker’s grandest spectacle with more than 75,000 players competing for $192 million in 61 different events. Wiltse and Viaches will play in the Main Event. (Wish them luck; German student Pius Heinz won $8.7 million in the 2011 Main Event.) To follow the action, go to www.wsop.com.