May 11, 2022

Ocean City poker player wins big in Vegas | Way of life

Ocean City isn’t renowned for high-stakes poker like its neighbor a few hours north, Atlantic City, but resort town resident Mike Holtz brings that recognition from his hometown to Las Vegas as he continues to to impress on the biggest stages in card gaming.

Holtz, 31, who now resides in Las Vegas, was recently named the 2021 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Player of the Year, an honor awarded to the player deemed to have had the best year.

During the year, Holtz made $1.19 million and placed in the top three of two bracelet tournaments – tournaments for what is considered the WSOP’s most coveted non-cash prize – and won WSOP Online Paris Las Vegas Circuit Event #11, taking home $16,621.

“I thank my mom, really,” Holtz said of her success. “Watching home videos of me as a baby, my mom was always trying to get me to name all the dinosaurs, the alphabet and making sure I was as smart as possible.”

And to show his gratitude to his mother, Ann, he will present her with his Player of the Year ring, which is currently in the making.

“Michael has always been really smart since, damn it, a toddler,” Ann Holtz said. “He started to really get into computers (young), he just wanted to play all the time. He was playing World of Warcraft (WoW) and, unbeknownst to me, he was amazing. »

His son was, in fact, a world-class WoW player.

“I was considered one of the best warriors in the world,” Holtz said.

Online gambling was the first medium through which Holtz’s reputation began to grow. Thanks to the World Series of Video Gaming, an international video game tournament, Holtz got to see places beyond Ocean City.

But around the age of 18, the tournament lost substantial funding. Holtz’s peers began to quit and eventually he did as well. Around this time, he “started to become more active in the real world”.

“I was going to hang out at a friend’s house in Newport Bay and play Call of Duty and there were four or five guys playing poker,” Holtz said. “One day they said, ‘Man, come try this. “”

It wasn’t long before Holtz was playing poker at Delaware Charity Poker rooms and beating Ocean City business owners in a regular home game or private poker games.

At the 2017 Delaware State Poker Championship, Holtz won or chopped — meaning splitting the winnings more evenly with opponents, regardless of who won — four out of six events, including the main event.

“I always tried to watch,” Holtz said. “I try to act like the best players I’ve seen on TV or online, I would just emulate their style of play. I think that helped a lot with lots and lots of studying.

Soon after, Holtz asked his mother to pursue poker full-time in Las Vegas, which would involve quitting school.

“I knew he was smart, I just didn’t know how good he was at what he was doing,” Ann Holtz said. “After playing locally for about a year, he asked if he could quit school, go to community college and go to Las Vegas, ‘make my career.’

“I said I think he’d be sorry if he didn’t, so he left,” she added.

Since arriving in Las Vegas, Holtz has met and played with some of his biggest poker idols, including pros Phil Hellmuth and Daniel Negreanu.

“It’s the craziest thing ever,” he said. “It’s interesting because when you grow up watching these guys, they’re your heroes, and then when you meet them, they’re just regular guys who are good at playing cards. That’s maybe the hardest part. cooler, that everyone I respected growing up respects me now too. It’s really cool.”

When it comes to poker, 31 is a young age to rise through the ranks and rub shoulders with the elites, and nothing seems to stand in the way of Holtz ever having his name carry as much weight as these heroes.

His star is also rising. A 30-minute YouTube documentary titled “WSOP Player of the Year – A Short Film” is available for free now. It details Holtz’s background, daily life, and rise to fame.

He also contributes a strategic article for the industry publication Card Player Magazine.

This story appears in the print version of Ocean City Today on February 11, 2022.