Growing up, Tyler Lambert and his father would spend time together watching the World Series of Poker on TV. 

Lambert, 27, of Manheim Township, remembers seeing Chris Moneymaker win $2.5 million at the 2003 tournament, becoming the first person to earn the world champion title after qualifying from an online tournament. Lambert was 8 years old.

Now 19 years later, he has a chance to accomplish that same feat.

Meet Tyler Lambert, a standout poker player who recently qualified for the World Series of Poker Main Event. The Main Event starts this Sunday, November 7th...

Lambert won an online Texas Hold’em poker tournament at 3 a.m. on Aug. 30 when, on the final hand, he hit a straight.

Not only did that winning hand net him $16,000, but with it came a free seat to compete at the World Series of Poker main event in Las Vegas, which begins this weekend. The big win happened during a Keystone Classic poker tournament near the end of August, hosted on wsop.com.

Lambert paid $100 to buy-in to the tournament. 

“It was a life-changing moment for me,” Lambert said, recalling beating his opponent, who was dealt two kings. 

Tyler Lambert WSOP

Tyler Lambert, of Manheim Township, will compete in the World Series of Poker’s main event beginning on Nov. 7 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Lambert gained entry to the tournament (which usually costs $10,000 to play in) after winning an online poker tournament in late August.

Lambert was dealt a king-queen and hit a straight to win the tournament, which started with around 1,000 players from around the state. A straight is a hand that contains five cards of sequential rank, and is the 6th best hand players can get.

Lambert’s hand marked the end of an approximately seven-hour tournament, which he started on his computer but eventually transferred over to his phone when his laptop died. 

Now Lambert has a one-way ticket to Las Vegas and will start playing in the World Series of Poker main event on Sunday. He hopes he’ll be playing poker at the final table on Nov. 17.

When he won, he immediately woke up his wife, Caitlin, and was so excited that he called his father four hours after winning, first thing in the morning. 

Both were skeptical at first. 

“She didn’t believe it, my dad didn’t believe it,” Lambert said. “ A lot of people I tell the first time do not believe it and they think there’s some kind of catch, because this is a dream event — especially for somebody who’s a hobbyist and casual player like me.” 

Tyler Lambert WSOP

Tyler Lambert, of Manheim Township, demonstrates his poker strategy during a game of online poker, Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021. He will compete in the World Series of Poker’s main event beginning on Nov. 7 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Lambert gained entry to the tournament (which usually costs $10,000 to play in) after winning an online poker tournament in late August.

After learning it was for real, Caitlin said she was “super excited and very proud” of her husband.

Lambert will go up against 7,000 to 8,000 other players also hoping for the title of world champion. 

While winning that online tournament made Lambert $16,000 richer, the winner of the World Series of Poker main event will leave with $8 million.

A dream come true

Playing in the World Series of Poker has always been a dream for Lambert, but as a 27-year-old, he figured it would be further in the future. 

Buy-in for the tournament’s main event alone is $10,000. 

The game’s strategy and the luck of the draw have always appealed to Lambert’s analytic mind. He was a certified public accountant for a short time after graduating from college, and has been working as a software consultant for Cargas in Lancaster city for the last two years.

He first became interested in Texas Hold’em poker when Moneymaker won the big prize in 2003.

Moneymaker became somewhat of a celebrity from his victory and he also was the first person to earn the world champion title after qualifying from an online tournament. 

This weekend, Lambert and Moneymaker could be sitting at the same table.

Lambert estimates he plays online poker tournaments about three Sundays a month, and while he likes playing in person, he only plays in a casino setting a few times a year. 

It’ll be Lambert’s third time in Las Vegas, but his first time inside the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino. 

Over the past few years, he’s been diving into poker theory and reading a variety of books on that aspect of the game, something he hopes will help him when he’s sitting at the felt with some of the world’s best poker players. 

“Playing in the Rio, at the World Series of Poker, is a sensation shock in itself,” Lambert said. “I don’t think that there’s really a way I can prepare for that.” 

There are other things, too, that Lambert will be experiencing for the first time. 

“The whole thing is a spectacle,” he said. “Now I could be sitting next to a famous poker player like Phil Ivey and I could be beating him — or I could be losing to him — but I could be sitting next to him.” 

Lambert won’t be wearing anything fancy to the tournament -- he plans to wear his usual comfortable sweatshirt. He’ll also be sporting headphones to listen to his standard playlist of EDM (electronic dance music) music. And he’ll cover his head with a hat or his hoodie. 

What will be different, however, will be a pair of sunglasses and a mask. The latter is required by the casino, but Lambert sees it as another way to camouflage his “tells” — body language that could give other players an idea of his cards. 

There are no lucky charms he’ll be carrying with him, just the knowledge of probability and reading others' games. 

“I don’t believe in luck,” he said. “I believe in chance.” 

‘I’ve got as good a chance as anybody else’

As a longtime fan of the game, Lambert called it a dream to finally make it to a table at the World Series of Poker.

That being said, he also wants to win.

“It’s always been a dream to play in the event, but an even bigger dream is to win the event,” he said. “So that’s going to be my goal.” 

Leading up to the tournament, he said he hasn't been playing much poker, as he doesn’t want to take any bad energy or attitude into the biggest tournament of his life.

Tyler Lambert WSOP

Tyler Lambert, of Manheim Township, shows off one of his favorite poker theory books on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021. He will compete in the World Series of Poker’s main event beginning on Nov. 7 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Lambert gained entry to the tournament (which usually costs $10,000 to play in) after winning an online poker tournament in late August.

Updates on the tournament and players’ chip counts can be found on wsop.com and the “PokerGo” app. Streams from different tables can be watched on CBS Sports, which is where the final table will be broadcast on Nov. 16 and 17. 

While Lambert isn’t balking at the big prize money at stake, he’s especially after the coveted gold bracelet the winner will also take home.

“I know it’s highly unrealistic, but I’ve got as good a chance as anybody else,” Lambert said.

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