It’s the day after 30-year-old poker pro Michael ‘miguelfiesta’ Lech won his first World Series of Poker gold bracelet and he’s spending some time doing what many might do after taking down one of the biggest online tournaments of the 2020 WSOP – he’s drinking some beer, relaxing by the pool.
But truth be told, that the same thing he was doing while playing the tournament the night before.
“I was at least ten Stellas in by the time the final table hit yesterday,” Lech admits. “I was a little trashed.”
To be fair, Lech’s intoxicated state wasn’t entirely his own fault. Lech and his girlfriend, poker pro Vanessa Kade, made their way to Nevada specifically to play in the 2020 WSOP Online events. They’ve since ended up shutting themselves in with a nice German family that Kade had stayed with during previous trips to the WSOP.
Over the past nearly two weeks of staying with his hosts, this family has become a support system of sorts, following the action, checking in on updates, and cheering them on.
And on the morning of the WSOP $1,500 High Roller Freezeout Lech’s host family burst into the house with a Kegerator of beer. “He’s like ‘Let’s have some beers for breakfast and for good luck’ and was like, alright that sounds great.”
Some who would be on the verge of achieving a poker player’s dream may have been overly nervous, perhaps too nervous to partake. But Lech, the first-time bracelet winner, recounts the victory with an even-keel tone of a grinder who has been there before. That’s because, in a sense, he has. Many times.
At the 2016 WSOP, Lech had a break-through performance at the final table of the 888 Crazy Eights event. In the end, he finished as the runner-up for a career-high score of just over $400,000. While he was thrilled about the cash, coming so close to the victory and missing out had him wanting another shot.
“After that, I was kind of distraught. I was really happy, but I didn’t win. I realized how close I was. I didn’t ever want to lose again,” he said. “Then after that, I won seven [WSOP Circuit] rings in a row without ever losing a heads up match.”
In addition to his new gold bracelet, Lech is actually an eight-time WSOP Circuit ring winner. That in its own right is impressive, but what distinguishes him from others in the same elite category is that five of those rings come from five different countries. It’s something he holds in high regard as he’s the only player with that fact on his poker resume.
He’s been able to do this by spending the better part of the past five years traveling outside of the U.S., including the past three in South America.
“I was backpacking around for a lot and it just happened to be that every time there was a different WSOP Circuit I just went there and ended up winning one,” he said. “I was fortunate to have some families that I knew down there and I lived with them and they got connections and moved between different countries and cities, living relatively cheap,”
So when it came to his 2020 WSOP final table, even while perhaps a little inebriated, his extensive experience at final tables kicked in. He was facing some tough competition, including 2020 Spring Championship of Online Poker standout Connor Drinan, but he picked up some hands in key spots.
“The thing is, since the final table is so short, it didn’t really take a super amount of concentration. It was like do I min-open here, do I limp, or do I shove,” he explained. “If you stress too much about it then you’re not going to be focused on the actual game. It’s still just poker. It’s the final table just like any other final table be it a daily or a sit-and-go with friends. You’re in the final nine and you gotta beat those guys.”
Lech hails from Arkansas and lived in a dry county where, according to him, “poker is even more devilish” than alcohol. But that never stopped his family from encouraging and supporting him. His grandmother, who still plays cards to this day, first taught him poker at age 15. By 18, he was traveling 30 minutes across the border to Oklahoma to cut his teeth playing cash games.
“‘If you’re going to do it, put your heart into it and do it the best you can,” Lech said, reciting the words of support said to him by his family.
“It’s important to have people that care about you no matter if you win or lose,” Lech said. “They may not even really understand poker that much but they’ll watch every stream just knowing that I’m there, just to support me. That’s an important thing that I know a lot of people have not has as fortunate a situation to have.”
In the end, with his family and friends watching, he took down the tournament and locked up the $168,248 first-place prize and also that gold bracelet that he missed out on in 2016.
“It’s nice to win one as it’s the pinnacle of most poker player’s career,” he said. “It’s nice to have something that people care about and have outstanding respect for. And now nobody can ever take away the fact that I have a bracelet…even if they say it’s ‘online and anyone can beat online.’ Well, Daniel Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth were there and in the money too and I hung with them so….”
He has plans to play out the majority of the WSOP.com series but will cut his trip to Las Vegas short by returning to the East Coast to attend a yearly family reunion. A chance to celebrate and reconnect with those who have supported him and helped him achieve a major goal.
“It’s nice to have people that have your back for anything and what to support you no matter what you do.”