Although born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1978, Eric Lynch has spent his entire life since the age of one in Olathe, Kansas, population 125,872. As one might expect, the fifth largest city in the Sunflower State is not a hotbed of card-playing competition but, thanks to the Internet, it didn’t need to be in order for “Rizen” (Lynch’s online nickname) to leave his mark on the world of poker.
Lynch had an altogether typical mid-American childhood. As a boy, he learned to play poker for marbles and pennies with friends, and his family taught him to play spades, pitch and hearts. Board games interested the youngster as much as card games.
Upon graduating from high school, Lynch enrolled at Kansas University, intent upon studying software engineering. That was just about the time the dot-com era erupted, snapping up computer-savvy employees faster than schools could churn them out. One dot-com was offering so much money for students to leave school early that the bright undergrad quit before finishing his degree.
Lynch reckons the move was a smart one. By the time the dot-com bubble burst, he was firmly entrenched in an IT company and safe from pink slips. One evening he joined some coworkers for a home game of poker, which rekindled his interest in cards.
At first poker playing was just a distraction and hobby, but that changed when Lynch discovered Party Poker online. He bankrolled an account with $50 and soon he was playing a little every night and winning pretty regularly under his assumed name “Rizen.”
During his first year of play, Rizen never saw his poker funds rise above $600. He began reading books on poker by David Sklansky and other top players, gradually perfecting his game and nudging up from the 25¢/50¢ games to the $5/$10 tables.
Then, the breakthrough occurred. He joined an $11 re-buy event on PokerStars.com, won the tournament and collected $14,000 in prize money. With that kind of funding, it was easy for Rizen to enter higher-stakes tournaments, and he soon took down the top prize in PartyPoker.com’s Friday Special, worth a cool $45,000. A succession of online tournament wins just kept coming after that.
The biggest win happened when Rizen claimed the Million Dollar Guaranteed Tournament at Poker Stars in 2006. He made it to more than 52 final tournament tables on Poker Stars alone and racked up over $1.3 million in online earnings, easily making him “one of the most feared poker players on the virtual felt.”
Surprising nobody but himself, in 2006-07, Lynch reached the top of the leader board as the Internet Player of the Year. At the same time, he took his reputation as an online phenomenon to the 2006 World Series of Poker (WSOP) in Las Vegas and proved that his winning ways were no fluke, finishing 3rd in the $1,500 Pot Limit Hold’em event and 24th in the World Championship, worth payoffs of $104,544 and $494,797, respectively.
Leaving his work as an IT consultant behind, Lynch turned pro and has since amassed more than $900,000 in live tournament winnings, including $839,410 gathered from 12 WSOP cashes. Although the young Kansan has yet to win a WSOP bracelet, there can be little doubt that one is waiting for him in the not too distant future.
Meanwhile, like so many poker pros with a story to tell, Eric Lynch has written a book. It’s entitled “Winning Poker Tournaments: One Hand at a Time, Volume I,” co-authored with famed Internet player Jon Van Fleet (aka “Apestyles”) and Hold’em specialist Matthew Hilger. Lynch also creates online poker training videos for PokerXFactor. Sharing his learning is just one way of giving back to the poker community a little of the tremendous experience that it has given him.