Ryan Dodd
Ryan Dodd won $250,000 when he pulled the Mystery Bounty's top prize at the Borgata in Atlantic City... as the short stack at the table.

Pulling out the biggest Mystery Bounty is a thrill for any player. But what if the biggest bounty is worth a quarter of a million dollars and its still in play when the last nine players reach the final table? Now that’s exciting. Add in being short stack of those nine and you have one of the most sensational play-outs in poker history. It happened last week at the Borgata as The Return brought back some top poker drama in the first week of the year.



We spoke to the man who pulled that Mystery Bounty at the Borgata in Atlantic City, Ryan Dodd, starting with asking him what his initial approach was to the tournament since the popularity of Mystery Bounty events have spiked.


The Local Hero


The first bounty that was pulled was only $500, and everyone went nuts. I love that.


“I live right close to Borgata, only about 40 minutes away and I was really looking forward to it,” says Ryan, clearly still so happy with his recent victory. “This was the first Day 2 of a Mystery Bounty I ever made. I played around four or five over at The Wynn and never made a Day 2. On Day 1, obviously there are no bounties and you want to bag a bigger stack, but in this one, so many people bagged and there are only 300 bounties, so I treated it like a regular Day 1.”


It became anything other than a regular event on Day 2 of the event. The bounties were in play, and Ryan – who played both a morning and night flight on Day 1 – says the atmosphere completely changed at the start of the second day’s play.


“It was mayhem right away,” he says. “The first bounty that was pulled was only $500, and everyone went nuts. I love that. One of the first hands when the bounties opened up, I played ace-ten suited under the gun. UTG +1 flatted and the big blind jammed eight bigs. I ended up isolating by jamming. UTG+1 ended up tanking for three or four minutes and called it off with ten-nine suited. That puts in perspective how crazy people go for the bounties.”


Excitement Grows at The Borgata


“I’d like to say I was disciplined, but all I was thinking about was the bounty.”


With the $250,000 bounty not having been pulled, the room grew more and more excited. Back in Las Vegas in the summer of 2022, the camaraderie was similar right up until the moment Matt Glantz pulled the million-dollar bounty in the WSOP event. That was some way out from the final table, however. The quarter-million staying in play in Borgata right until the final table was incredible.


“I’d like to say I was disciplined, but all I was thinking about was the bounty,” confesses Ryan. “When it got to the final two or three tables, it was crazy. Every time I knocked someone out, I was just running over [to pull a bounty]. I didn’t care if I missed my small blind or anything. With those odds, you have a 5% shot at a quarter-million. You take that right away.”


The odds were improving with every elimination. The insane dynamic meant that everyone was getting more and more excited. As Ryan admits, ‘It kept everyone awake after such a long day’. With two tables left, he was top three in chips, but everyone was close.


“I three-bet kings from the big blind versus the button and ended up losing the hand, getting into that 20 big blind range, not on life support but in the event it felt like that, because there’d be no more chance of pulling that bounty if I went out.”


Borgata by Night
The world-famous Borgata Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City captured at night, which the Mystery Bounty players were deep into when talk turned to a deal.


Making the Deal


“I just kept my mouth shut and nodded.”


Reaching the final nine, Ryan was the lowest in chips. As short stack, he was therefore delighted that talk of a deal began. He was credited with ‘a lot more credit for negotiation than I deserve’ after the event, but in reality, there was an odd dynamic to discussions.


“Our original thought was to chop the regular prizepool and play for the bounties, which was a fun idea and everyone agreed to it. But the floor said that once we chopped the prizepool there’d be no more cards dealt. So that meant we’d have to figure out what to do with the bounty money. It was still $300,000 at that point, because there were two $25k [bounties] left too.”


One option was to make a ‘handshake’ deal, chopping the money that way, but it was tough to agree. Making such a deal means putting ‘a lot of trust in people you’ve never met before’ as Ryan describes it, and it didn’t happen.


“Then someone came up with the idea of everyone getting a bounty. I just kept my mouth shut and nodded. I didn’t do too much talking with that one.”


Why would any short stack in that situation? The nine players drew cards to find an order in which they’d pull a ticket for the bounty, which would be opened immediately. Ryan drew second, and watched the first player pull a $500 ticket. Nothing fun. Then it was Ryan’s turn.


“I pulled it! Some people were upset with my reaction – I didn’t do too much! At that point it was the 17th or 18th hour of the day, something crazy like that. I’m not one to show too much emotion. For me, that was a big reaction. It crossed my mind to do the ‘fake out’ like I pulled a $500, but I didn’t have the composure to do it.”


The Table Reacts 


“It draws so many people in that it’s great for the game.”


Reactions around the table went both ways. Six players had a swap, so the other five in that deal were happy. Ryan wasn’t sure how the others felt, but he’s a well-liked guy in the game.


“A lot of people were congratulating me. I always have a positive outlook; I’m never one to say ‘I’m gonna win this!’, but someone has to, so why couldn’t I do it? It’s just luck. I didn’t have the feeling I was gonna do it, but I wasn’t going to be surprised if I did.”


After the event, Ryan won’t be changing his buy-ins massively, although he admits that he might sell a bit of action for $25,000 buy-ins. He already plays anything up to $10,000 entry events, and will include plenty of Mystery Bounty events in his schedule this summer when the WSOP returns to the Las Vegas Strip.


“Can’t miss it, right?”, he laughs.  “I’m usually am not a fan of a ‘gimmicky’ tournament, but I enjoy the Mystery Bounty events because some people don’t really have the wherewithal to last two or three days in a tournament and win, but if you survive to Day 2 or 3, you can ‘win the tournament’ [by winning the biggest bounty]. It draws so many people in that it’s great for the game. You’re giving people another chance to win the poker tournament a different way.”


What Dodd Plans to Do Next


Ryan will look to World Poker Tour events after WSOP chasing, and wants to change his record in bigger buy-in events. Having excelled at the $2,000-$3,000 buy-in range, stepping up is his goal, but he admits it has its challenges.


“It’s very hard. You gotta be obsessed. When I first start playing, I was posting 70 hours online a week, figuring out what works. Stuff like that helps – work hard and don’t get sidetracked. It’s very easy to have leaks in this game being in a casino or around alcohol 24/7. You gotta keep a straight head, work hard, study and don’t think that natural talent alone is going to do well. Everyone’s very good. You’ll walk into a $500 tournament table and there are three people with over a million in earnings. It’s a tough game to beat nowadays.”


If anything, Ryan is more surprised than anything at how the tale of him pulling a $250,000 bounty has blown up. Everyone around him was shocked at first. ‘How could the nine players agree this type of deal?’ as he tells us. Now, after hearing how, it’s more understandable.


“Everyone was shocked at first with the type of deal because all poker players care about is equity,” he says. “A lot didn’t understand how we made the deal, thinking we should have played it out. If the big stack pulled the $250k, I don’t think the story would have blown up as it did.”


On that, few could disagree. There can’t be many better ways to start the year than how Ryan Dodd began 2023 in Atlantic City. It feels very much like the beginning of an exciting 12 months for the New Jersey player.