WSOP 2022: Las Vegas public defender Tyler Gaston cashes in

Tyler Gaston spends most of his days defending clients in court.

When he isn’t doing that, Gaston is usually defending his big blind.

Gaston, a 31-year-old public defender for Clark County, is an accomplished poker player with a World Poker Tour title to his credit. On Wednesday, he added to his resume with a third-place finish in the World Series of Poker’s $1,500 buy-in “Millionaire Maker” No-Limit Hold’em event.

Bulgaria’s Yuliyan Kolev, who wore a Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket on his head at the final table, won the tournament at Bally’s Event Center for more than $1.125 million and his second career WSOP bracelet.

“It stings. I feel disappointed. But I’m super happy with the finish,” Gaston said after busting out. “The money is going to be pretty nice. It makes it a little easier to play a few more events. I’m happy with everything overall.”

Gaston started playing poker at 17 and moved to Las Vegas in 2014 after graduating from law school at Georgetown.

While he primarily plays cash games locally, Gaston won the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic $1,620 buy-in No-limit Hold’em 6-Max event in 2019 at Bellagio.

He used his vacation time this summer to focus on tournaments, and the decision is paying off.

Last week, Gaston finished second in the MGM Grand Summer Series $1,000 buy-in No-limit Hold’em Heads-Up event for his third career five-figure cash.

He also finished in the top 100 of two other WSOP events, including a deep run in the “Housewarming” tournament that drew more than 20,000 entrants.

“If I had a trial set, then obviously I wouldn’t be able to play a tournament because I’d have to be available for that,” Gaston said. “I’m obviously running super well this summer. I was hoping to have good results, but it still requires so much luck. I’m pretty fortunate.”

Gaston entered Day 4 of the Millionaire Maker in 15th place out of 24 players, but went on a massive heater and scored six eliminations to take the chip lead into the five-handed final table.

But early in Wednesday’s action, Gaston tried to make a hero call against Kolev and was shown a straight to lose a massive pot.

“It’s embarrassing to look like an idiot on television,” Gaston said with a laugh. “But (that is) the same thing that has gotten me good results thus far. I’m willing to make big calls. I’m willing to make big folds. I’m willing to make big bluffs if I think I’m right.

“That works out for me sometimes, and sometimes it doesn’t.”

Gaston laddered up the payouts as two players were eliminated, but he was never able to gain traction after the early misstep.

Oren Rosen took a chunk of Gaston’s chips before the first break and the rest a few hands later.

Gaston flopped top pair and check-raised all-in for his final 22.1 million chips. Rosen called with a flush draw and spiked a queen on the river for a better pair.

Gaston won $552,705, by far the largest cash of his tournament career.

“I felt like I was pretty card dead, generally,” Gaston said. “I obviously could have played tighter and more passively and tried to wait and protect my chips so when I got cards I would have more ammunition. That’s probably the smarter play. But I went for it.”

Gaston said he expects to play four or five more tournaments this summer and now has the bankroll to enter the $10,000 buy-in Main Event No-limit Hold’em World Championship.

But he said he will continue his work in the public defender’s office.

“It is a super fun job. I feel we do good work, and it helps people,” Gaston said. “I wanted to be a public defender before law school. Obviously I’ll play more poker, I’ll play more events. But definitely have no plans of leaving.”

Zack wins second bracelet of summer

Daniel Zack won the WSOP’s $10,000 buy-in Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo 8 or Better Championship early Wednesday, his second bracelet in less than two weeks.

Zack, a professional poker player from Princeton, New Jersey, outlasted David Funkhouser in an eight-hour, heads-up match to claim the $324,174 first prize.

Zack also won the $10,000 buy-in Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better Championship on June 10 and now has three career bracelets.

“I’m really happy, much happier, and I feel more energetic than the last bracelet,” Zack said.

With his latest victory, Zack jumped into the lead of the WSOP Player of the Year standings. He has five cashes for more than $900,000 and three final tables, including a third-place finish in the $10,000 buy-in Limit 2-7 Lowball Triple Draw Championship.

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.