From Banned To WSOP Bracelet: The Return Of “World Famous” Pat Lyons

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After being banned from the WSOP for three year, Pat Lyons has finally reached his goal of winning a gold bracelet.

Pat Lyons doesn’t suffer from a lack of confidence and he’ll be the first to tell you that. Lyons’ poker prowess plus his larger-than-life personality have turned him into one of the game’s most colorful characters to emerge in the last five years.

Whether the cameras are on or off, Lyons is never at a loss for a full-throated opinion on just about anything. He’s happy to talk, often at great length, about his passion for the game of poker and where he fits into it.

Some say he has an ego. Some might call it hubris. But when Pat Lyons talks about his abilities (on or off the felt), he believes it is more about fulfilling destiny.

“I expect I will win the Main Event,” Lyons said.

“I will win the Main Event final table one hundred percent. There’s zero doubt in my mind. I don’t care who the other eight opponents are. And when I win the Main Event, and I’ll win it live, it will be the biggest thing. You think of Chris Moneymaker and everything else that they did…Pat Lyons winning the Main Event, nothing will be more exciting than that. Not a Super Bowl. Not a World Series. Not an NBA Playoffs Championship Finals victory. I’m more exciting as one person, I have so much passion and so much energy and I’m happy as hell.”

Bravado is a trademark for the often ostentatious Lyons. In fact, he routinely calls himself “World Famous Pat Lyons”, a self-given nickname that pre-dates his early days of grinding daily tournaments in the Bay Area.

But another trademark for Lyons, especially recently, has been how, when it comes to poker, he’s backed up his claims of greatness. With over $1.5 million in career live earnings, as well as a World Poker Tour title on his resume, Lyons has become a dangerous player in any field he enters.

And after years of saying that it was just a matter of time, Lyons won Event #17 ($777 No Limit Hold’em) of the 2020 World Series of Poker to add a WSOP gold bracelet to his ever-growing resume. But it wasn’t that long ago that it looked like Lyon’s polarizing personality, which has led to so many victories, is also what stood in his way of winning at the WSOP.

For Lyons, everything seemed to spin out of control with the World Series of Poker, and more specifically with the Rio, back in 2016. According to Lyons, a disagreement with a Rio staff member over how much bottled water a Total Rewards Seven Star status should be allowed to have boiled over into a full-blown argument. Overmedicated and suffering from “excruciating” sciatica pain, Lyons lost control of the situation and the result was him losing his WSOP privileges.

“I got banned. I was banned for three years. I got banned literally at the start of the Main Event 2016 and my dreams were dashed.”

What followed was Lyons lashing out at WSOP officials on his social media accounts and a deep feeling of entitlement that he wasn’t afforded the kind of respect that a gambler of his status should have been given.

At the same time that Lyons was dealing with the idea that he might not ever be able to vie for a bracelet again, he also entered one of the most successful periods of his poker career. The August of 2016 saw Lyons dominate the Arizona State Poker Championship for $241,700. Then only weeks later he flew to Los Angeles and stole the show on his first televised World Poker Tour final table by winning the WPT Legends of Poker title and another $615,346.

While the trophies, and attention that came with them, were validating for him, Lyons still had to find a way back to the World Series of Poker. He took a hard look at his actions, he started physical therapy for his back, and began writing letters to officials at the WSOP and the Rio trying to apologize and explain. However, he had been rejected for reinstatement multiple times. But Lyons isn’t one to take losing well.

“Finally, with the help of some friends, and myself, of course, I was able to get back,” he said. “My only vehicle is myself, how I proved myself. I didn’t really feel I needed to prove myself but I wanted to go in there and just be gracious and grateful to be able to play again.”

When speaking about the three years he was banned, Lyons’ attitude shift about the banning feels sincere. At the time of the incident, Lyons was indignant, arguing his side to whoever would listen. But now, perhaps after some healing, he’s come to look at it as a period of growth.

“Last year [2019] was my first opportunity to play again for bracelets. I think I cashed nine times or so but I played way too crazy, way too overconfident but I knew for sure I would win a bracelet,” Lyons said.

This year though, with the postponement of the live WSOP, it looked liked Lyons bracelet win would have to wait once again.

“I’m not an online guy. So I started playing in [online poker groups] on PokerBros. It’s basically you play for free, you play for fun or whatever. And I started getting crazily…I don’t want to say addicted…but I was learning. Like going to school,” he recalled. “This started approximately at the end of March and into June. So, essentially for two and a half months, I was playing every single day in the groups. Not a day off.”

He was playing online for small and sometimes no-stakes. But treating them the same as he would a bracelet event, like every event he would play.

“It wasn’t the money, it was the challenge,” he said. “What it did was it gave me a feeling…I’m a very fast person. In live poker, nobody is faster than me. We could be getting into a car accident…and you have a seatbelt on and I’m the driver, I put my arm in front of you faster than the airbag could deploy in the car. That’s how quick I am, insanely quick, unfairly quick.

“Except I found playing online poker, I found myself kind of slowed down a little bit, and getting a little confused, because I’m a perfectionist,” he continued. “So it was hard for me. But all of that experience, all of that stuff transitioned into my World Series of Poker victory.”

Lyons used his non-stop online poker playing to help him navigate the 1,382-entry field of Event #17.

“I’m super, super happy I won this thing. Super, super glad,” he said. “And it’s badass because a guy that did not play online came in and basically kicked ass.”

“This victory, this hard-earned, online…never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would play for a World Series of Poker bracelet and win it online. Never, ever would have thought of that,” he continued. “If it was only online, and that was the only way to win it, then yes, I would have expected to win it, but the way it happened, completely unexpected.”

“And we’re looking for more. I’m going to win, something else is going to happen. Something big is going to happen.”

For Lyons that something big could be a myriad of things as he has no shortage of ideas. He’s planning to write a book “which will be amazing” about his gambling career from the banning to the bracelet. He’s guessing it will also be turned into a movie.

“It’s going to be an insane movie. I have a feeling it will be like Rocky. Mine will be better. The Pat Lyons story. Because mine is true.”

He has his eyes on the Poker Hall of Fame, maybe even a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. But in the meantime, he’s planning on playing out the rest of the World Series of Poker to add to more bracelets to his story. He’s also hoping that you’ll come along for the ride.

“So here’s the thing, it’s not the money. All I ever wanted, and all a home team ever wants, and I consider myself the home team…All I ever want is somebody to root for me. Because I feel if you’re rooting for me, and other people are rooting for me really, I’m unbeatable.”

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