John Cynn defeated the second-largest World Series of Poker Main Event field of all-time to win $8.8 million early Sunday morning in Las Vegas. The 33-year-old from Indianapolis beat Tony Miles heads up in a record-breaking final table to redeem his 11th-place finish in 2016.
Cynn started the tournament as one of 7,874 hopefuls looking to make their stamp on poker history. By the time the 442-hand final table ended, Cynn was running on pure adrenaline after 10 days of play.
“It feels very different,” Cynn said in comparing his two Main Event results. “Really, neither is supposed to happen. To make 11th is insane on its own and to win, that’s literally something you dream of but never expect to happen. The last time, I was really happy. Right now, I feel pretty overwhelmed. All the emotions and time spent.”
Long journey to the finish line
The Main Event started for Cynn on July 4, when he bagged a healthy 133,000 from a 50,000 starting stack. Cynn anted 10 starting stacks on the final hand of the early morning in Las Vegas, NV to defeat Miles.
Cynn and Miles played 199 hands of heads up play over 11 hours to reach their climax. The two traded the chip lead numerous times before Cynn clinched the match at 5 a.m. PT.
A button raise from Cynn to 9 million led Miles to three-bet to 34 million. Cynn called and the king-king-five flop with two hearts brought a 32 million-chip bet from Miles. Cynn matched and the eight of diamonds on the turn brought two flush draws into play.
Miles moved all-in for 114 million and Cynn used a minute to think it over. His time was worth the effort as his call with king-jack had the queen-eight of Miles drawing dead.
The heads up match and overall final table set respective records for most hands played at either juncture.
Cynn complimented Miles on his play and reflected on the marathon in his post-win interview.
“It was kind of weird,” Cynn surmised. “You’re playing heads up for the main but at some point, it just feels like poker. Obviously, when you’re put in pressure spots and all the money goes in, you realize what it’s for. You can’t compare that to anything else in poker. There’s no equivalent to this in poker.”
Preparation leads to results
A lively group of rails supported Cynn and Miles to the finish line. Cynn’s rail was populated by professional poker players including Bryce Yockey and Ben Lamb. Yockey was in charge of most of the feedback that went to Cynn from the live stream and discussed their strategy after heads up play wrapped up.
“The biggest thing we tried to do was to adjust his preflop sizing for different stack sizing,” Yockey said. “Given that we thought we had an edge, we didn’t want to play a lot of bloated pots. Once we got to heads up, it was more ‘this is the hand he raised with, this is the hand he three-bet with’ just so he could develop reads over time. After a while, we kind started shutting down giving him info because we could tell he was so tired that it was better for him to play his game and conserve his mental energy.”
Miles proved to be the fan-favorite of the final tablists due to his positive spirit during recovery from addiction. The third opponent on Day 3 of the final table was mystery man Michael Dyer. The 31-year-old Dyer came from a place of nothing in the poker world to win $3.5 million for third place.
Cynn’s background derives from cash games in Los Angeles. Lamb stated that he met Cynn playing high stakes cash there. Outside of his Main Event win, Cynn’s career earnings total a notch under $1 million with $650,000 of that figure coming from his 2016 run. Cynn says he doesn’t play too many tournaments but the Main Event is a can’t miss on an annual basis.
The days wore on Cynn, who claimed fatigue after the final card hit.
“I’m pretty beat. Every day, somehow you get more exhausted but also a little bit sharper because adrenaline keeps you going. It’s indescribable.”
The $8.8 million waiting for Cynn and the Rio cage isn’t going to a special place yet. Cynn hopes to not need to do anything with the prize yet and instead focus on the non-material items in his life.
“I’m not doing bad, but I’m not rich yet. The money is significant but I do like to think I don’t need the money to be happy. But at the same time, it’s going to make things a lot easier. Things I want to do in life, things with my family and parents. This is to my parents, money that they could never imagine. It’s definitely life-changing.”
Cynn’s parents cheered him on the rail and he gave an emotional hug to both after locking up the title.
More down the payouts line
The Main Event field whittled down to newcomers to big stages but quite a few season pros left their mark on the tournament. Eric Froehlich (23rd place), Barry Hutter (26th), Shannon Shorr (39th), Brian Yoon (41st), and James Obst (46th) all came within relative inches of making the final table.
All who made the final table were awarded at least $1 million and a special place in poker history.
Final table results
1st place: John Cynn – $8,000,000
2nd place: Tony Miles – $5,000,000
3rd place: Michael Dyer – $3,500,000
4th place: Nic Manion – $2,825,000
5th place: Joe Cada – $2,150,000
6th place: Aram Zobian – $1,800,000
7th place: Alex Lynskey – $1,500,000
8th place: Artem Metalidi – $1,250,000
9th place: Antoine Labat – $1,000,000