The BetOnDrew Spotlight looks to draw focus to poker players’ feats, attitudes, opinions, and more.  Read, enjoy, and find inspiration.  Feel free to email us if you or a friend deserves to have some spotlight. 



Can’t legally drink, rent a car, or go to most casinos in the United States, but he can play poker.  He is, 20 yr old, Ryan Van Sanford (@RyanTYFL) and recent winner of a WSOP circuit gold ring. BODspotlightFinal

Ryan seems like a real down to earth type of person with a healthy mindset for playing poker.  We will continue to follow his young career and are happy we can share some of his thoughts with you now.

1 – Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you got started in poker?
I’m Ryan Van Sanford. I’m 20 years old from Colorado Springs, CO. I always like games growing up. My dad and I played a lot together and I think that was a big part of what molded me into a poker player. Once I saw it on tv and was basically captivated, I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I got interested pretty early. When I was 18 I deposited on merge and started to learn the ropes of MTTs. I did kind of well with a few nice scores early but I think I ran pretty well. Just last month I started playing live and its gone pretty well so far.

2 – Do you have a preference between online poker or live poker?
I’m very new to live poker but I think I prefer it. I’m extremely extroverted so I think having more people around is enjoyable for me. Its also fun to travel. I think its important to start out online though, fundamentals come easier that way.

3 – Are you a full-time player or part time player?  If part time, what else do you do?

I am a full time player. In the summers I spend my time working at a boy scout summer camp.

4 – Congratulations on winning a WSOP circuit ring at the ripe old age of 20.  How did it feel to not only have a great following there to support you, but to achieve this accomplishment so early in life? 
You nailed it. It was always a goal of mine to win a ring before I turned 21, and I ran well enough to bink my first live stop. Its extremely humbling and satisfying to have so many people that were happy to see me win and support me. Without them there to coach and support me I would not have had 1/10th of the early success I have. I feel grateful more than anything.

5 – How do you think you were able to accomplish something like winning a ring so early in your poker career?

I think I’ve gotten lucky in a lot of ways to be in the spot I am. More than anything I ran well enough to meet some very good poker players early in my career that were willing to help me learn a lot of things. I owe them a lot and I feel incredibly grateful. I also have very good parents, they’re extremely supportive of whatever I wanna do and if it weren’t for them I wouldn’t be who I am.
6 – Any big hands you think are worth being mentioned, or were there any big turning points during the tournament?
Yes. At the final table I ran pretty well, I managed to 2 out the same kid twice 77 > 88 and TT > JJ 10 handed. That shifted the tournament my way and he most likely would’ve won the tournament if he held. Sorry Ben!

7 – Was there any point in this tournament that you thought  “I might win this thing.”?
This was probably my 4th or 5th live tournament ever, I had never made a day 2 before so that night I was already thinking about winning with 30 people left. I didn’t really realize how far it was til the ring. I managed to run well and play well enough the next day to win.

8 – Any major influences that have helped you, or motivated you thus far in your poker career?
Yes! So many. Rivermen, Duggs, Hoff, Nate Kogel, Gunde, mjcace, Dylan, Shane, Randal, Jcinblue,  Daryl Jace, Killingbird, Marc Alioto, Joe Brandon, Shawn D and most of all J Lude and Ben Reason.
Thats just a few but they have all helped me or motivated me in some way and I couldn’t be more grateful.

9 – Being so young, do you think winning this ring may change the direction of your life?  Or will life continue as normal?  
I’m still deciding that! I haven’t been to college yet and I would really like to do that at some point. I think it would be cool to be a high school teacher some day.
I will most likely play poker more for at least 1 or 2 more years and then re evaluate my life.
10 – Congratulations and we hope everyone reading can find inspiration in this piece.  Any shout outs or other thoughts you’d like to share?  
I wanna give a really big shout out to my 12th grade government teacher Mr. Bowers. He told me I would never make money playing poker and told all my friends I was wasting my life. He equated poker to betting on horses. His words always stuck with me and the extra motivation probably helped me stick with it.
We hope you all enjoyed and also feel free to check out a podcast Ryan did recently with –