LAS VEGAS – Call this Cynn City, at least for the weekend, as John Cynn and his family, friends and fans will be out celebrating his $8.8 million victory in the Main Event of the World Series of Poker at the Rio.
But it wasn’t quick and it wasn’t easy. Cynn, 33, of Indianapolis, outlasted runner-up Tony Miles, 32, of Jacksonville, Fla., in an epic heads-up battle that lasted 199 hands of No-Limit Texas Hold’em and more than 10 hours and didn’t conclude until 4:50 a.m. PT Sunday.
The Main Event began July 2 and drew 7,874 entrants, second-most in Main Event history to the 8,773 in 2006, at $10,000 apiece. It ended when Cynn, holding the king and jack of clubs, called Miles’ all-in bet after the turn with two kings on the board along with a 5 and an 8; when Miles showed he had queen-eight for just a pair of 8’s, he was drawing dead and the title and poker immortality belonged to Cynn.
“What the f--- just happened,” said an exhausted Cynn when asked what he was thinking as the cards were exposed. “I don’t know if I can call it [his victory] satisfying as it hasn’t sunk in yet.
“I didn’t think he was bluffing, but when I flipped a set [three of a kind], it was a no-brainer,” Cynn said, though he did tank for a over a minute before making the call.
The Cynn-Miles marathon battle broke the records for a Main Event heads-up finale of 182 hands and 8 hours, 22 minutes when Qui Nguyen defeated Gordon Vayo for the 2016 title. The final table of nine players began Thursday night in the Amazon Ballroom at the Rio and also set a record for a combined 442 hands, topping the 399 to determine the 2012 world championship event.
Cynn was playing in his first Main Event final table after just missing in 2016, finishing 11th and earning $650,000. In wagering available at the Rio (which is part of the Caesars network of sports books), Cynn closed as the 5-2 favorite after opening as the fifth choice at 8-1. He was fourth in chips entering the final table on Thursday. Miles opened 7-1 and closed at 6.5-1.
The second-place finisher often gets forgotten in the annals of history, but it’s going to be hard for anyone who watched this epic marathon to forget Miles.
He lives up to his name as he’s logged a lot of miles. He was born in Ogden, Utah, went to high school in Tacoma, Wash. (where he because a Seattle Seahawks fan and often wears that team’s jerseys at the poker tables, though he also wears jerseys of players he respects off the field and sported a Tim Tebow jersey at the final table), and now lives in Jacksonville, Fla. He’s played tournaments since 2011 but had very modest documented career earnings of just $54,333 (including minor cashes in The Colossus and Millionaire Maker in this year’s WSOP). But his long journey to the final table can’t only be measured in actual miles traveled as he has also had to overcome drug and alcohol addiction; he’s talked openly about how he’s grateful to be in this position to pay back all those who have supported him during that dark time.
“I’m disappointed, but I’ve come a long way and am so happy to share this experience as well as some prize money with those who have been there for me,” Miles said. “I thought I was playing well coming into the Main Event and caught some breaks along the way. I can’t complain about second place.”
Miles was also gracious in defeat, going out of his way to lift Cynn's arm in victory like a boxing referee while Cynn was posing for the obligatory photos for the WSOP publicity staff and assembled photographers with the stacks of $10,000 bricks and the championship bracelet.
Cynn and Miles, in addition to being linked for the epic battle, also will be remembered for both having huge, boisterous rails supporting them. Cynn’s group had T-shirts with “Welcome to Cynn City” on the front and “Cynnaloa Cartel” on the back. Miles’ shirts had “One Day At A Time” on the front and “#Team Miles” on the back. Each side cheered every winning hand for more than 11 hours Saturday night/Sunday morning.
The final table of nine played down to six on Thursday night. Cynn and Miles were sitting in third and fourth place, respectively, and then both made their moves to the top of the leaderboard on Friday.
Saturday night’s finale started with Miles and Cynn joined by Michael Dyer, 32, of Houston. Dyer had been the chip leader heading into Friday’s action but by the end of the night he was the short stack with just 26.2 million in chips compared to 238.9 million for Miles and 128.7 million for Cynn. While Dyer was waiting for a chance to double up and get back in the game, Cynn chipped away at Miles and took the lead after the 17th hand of the night after just a half-hour of play. Dyer went all-in for his last 22.2 million on the 19th hand of the night, but his A-10 lost to Miles’ A-J when Miles hit a pair of jacks on the turn and Dyer needed to hit a straight draw on the river but came up empty.
Dyer collected $3.75 million for third place. As has become customary, all nine players at the final table became millionaires. As always, the Main Event is an international competition and this year had players from 88 countries. Three non-Americans made the final table, but those were also the first three to be eliminated as the top six were from the U.S. of A.
Name Age Hometown Winnings
John Cynn 33 Indianapolis, Ind. $8,800,000
Tony Miles 32 Jacksonville, Fla. $5,000,000
Michael Dyer 32 Houston, Texas $3,750,000
Nicolas Manion 35 Muskegon, Mich. $2,825,000
Joe Cada 30 Shelby Township, Mich. $2,150,000
Aram Zobian 23 Cranston, R.I. $1,800,000
Alex Lynskey 28 Brisbane, Australia $1,500,000
Artem Metalidi 29 Kiev, Ukraine $1,250,000
Antoine Labat 29 Vincenna, France $1,000,000
One of the biggest things that will be remembered from the 2018 WSOP is that Cada, who won the Main Event in 2009 at the age of 21, made the final table before finishing in fifth place and earning $2.15 million. This still-impressive accomplishment started the biggest debate since Yanny vs. Laurel: would it be more impressive to win two Main Events in the modern era (since the poker boom that began with Chris Moneymaker’s title in 2003) or to win 15 lifetime WSOP bracelets?
This became relevant as Phil Hellmuth (who won the 1989 Main Event at the then youngest age of 24) won his 15th bracelet Wednesday night in a $5,000 buy-in, no-limit hold ‘em tourney that was being played while the Main Event was playing down to its final table.
Another memorable moment happened later that night. The Main Event was actually down to its final table of 10 players but waiting for one more elimination to set the traditional “official” final table of nine players (formerly known as the “November Nine” from 2008-2016 before nixing that experiment last year). Manion held pocket aces while two opponents, Labat and Yueqi Zhu had pocket kings. Zhu went all-in first and got calls from Manion and Labat. Manion’s aces held up and he vaulted to the chip lead at $112,775,000 ahead of Dyer’s $109,175,000 while eliminating Zhu in 10th place and crippling Labat, who was the first elimination the next night.