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Welcome To Cynn City! John Cynn Wins 2018 World Series of Poker Main Event

33-Year-Old Indianapolis Poker Pro Banks $8.8 Million And First Bracelet

by Julio Rodriguez |  Published: Aug 15, 2018


In 2016, John Cynn watched as nine players celebrated making the World Series of Poker main event final table. The Northbrook, Illinois poker pro had just finished 11th, earning a huge payday of $650,000, but it was just a consolation prize for coming so close to poker immortality.

While it could have easily taken a lifetime to get back, if ever, Cynn took just two years to not only improve upon his finish, but ultimately take down poker’s most prestigious event. The 33-year-old earned a whopping $8.8 million for the victory, and along the way helped set a couple of records during an entertaining final table and epic heads-up match.

“To make 11th is insane on its own,” Cynn told reporters after coming out on top. “Then to win, that’s literally something that you dream of, but just never expect to happen. Right now, I do feel pretty overwhelmed. All the emotions times ten.”

Cynn battled for ten days over a two-week period to secure the title, including a final day that lasted nearly 12 hours with 199 hands of heads-up action, the most in WSOP main event history. After the final river card was dealt, shortly before 5 a.m on July 15, Cynn fought back tears as he pulled out his phone to tell his sister the good news.

“I do like to think that I don’t need the money to be happy, but at the same time it’s practically going to make things a lot easier,” Cynn said. “Things I want to do in life, things for my family, and my parents. To my parents this is money that they could have never imagined. It’ll definitely be life-changing.”

“I’m pretty exhausted,” he continued. “I think every day somehow you get more exhausted, but also a little bit sharper just because your adrenaline keeps you going, and I think at this point my adrenaline is definitely going. I think I’m going to try and let my emotions die down before I decide to do anything crazy [with the money]. Probably just get away and disappear somewhere for a while. I think that sounds nice.”

The Main Event By The Numbers

The 2018 WSOP main event was unique because of its placement on the overall schedule. In years past, the main event has usually closed out the series as the last tournament to wrap up. This year, the $10,000 buy-in contest was pushed forward, and there were 12 events that began after.

The move proved to be successful, with 7,874 players putting up the buy-in to compete, which made it the second largest main event in WSOP history (2006 – 8,773). The field represented a nine percent increase from last year (7,221) and created a total prize pool of $74,015,600. The final 1,181 players finished in the money, earning at least $15,000. Everyone who made the final table of nine was awarded at least seven figures.

The average field participant was 41 years old, although most of the field was made up of players between the ages of 26 and 35. The oldest player, John Olsen from Moss Point, Mississippi, was 88 years old while the youngest, Nicholas Dashineau from Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, had just turned 21 three days prior to the tournament. Women accounted for just 301 players in the field, although that was up nearly 7 percent from 2017.

In total, an estimated 1,694 decks of cards were used by 760 dealers to play out an event featuring representatives from 88 different nations, including places such as Bosnia, Albania, Uruguay, Thailand, Honduras, Egypt, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Americans made up 5,758 players in the field, while Canada, the U.K., France, and Brazil rounded out the rest of the top five.

A Look At The Players

2017 champion Scott Blumstein returned to the Rio this summer to try and defend his crown, and even got to kick off his flight with a “shuffle up and deal” announcement to the rest of the field before joining the ESPN feature table. However, his tournament didn’t last long, falling in just level 3 to three-time bracelet winner Brian Yoon.

A couple of celebrity players fared better, when actor Kevin Pollack and comedian Ray Romano were able to survive their starting flights. Neither player, however, was able to make the money. 1989 champion Phil Hellmuth arrived dressed as Thor, surrounded by 14 models in Wonder Woman costumes, one for each of his record-setting bracelets. The 54-year-old failed to cash in the main event, but he did follow that up by winning the $5,000 no-limit hold’em event just days later for his 15th bracelet.

Of course, a lot of focus is put each year on the final woman standing in the tournament. Much like 2015, when she finished 29th en route to becoming the last woman in the main event, Kelly Minkin once again claimed the distinction, finishing in 50th place overall, and taking home $156,265.

Other notables with deep runs included two-time 2018 bracelet winner Shaun Deeb (105th), Jack Duong (86th), Stefan Huber (76th), Jordan Cristos (69th), Ofir Mor (54th), Chanracy Khun (49th), Artur Koren (48th), James Obst (46th), 2017 third-place finisher Ben Pollack (42nd), Brian Yoon (41st), Shannon Shorr (39th), Sam Bernabeu (30th), Barry Hutter (25th), Bart Lybaert (24th), Eric Froehlich (23rd), Ivan Luca (20th), 2013 fourth-place finisher Sylvain Loosli (18th), Ryan Phan (11th), and Yueqi Zhu (10th).

Zhu’s elimination in tenth place to set the final table was one of the more talked about hands of the summer. Sean Manion opened with a raise from under-the-gun, Antoine Labat called, and a shorter stacked Zhu moved all-in for 24,700,000 from the hijack. Manion moved all-in for 43,100,000, and Labat, who had him barely covered, made the call. Both Zhu and Labat held pocket kings, and Manion’s pocket aces held to more than double him up, knockout Zhu, and take the chip lead into the final table. Zhu, who earlier in the series won the $1,500 mixed Omaha event for $211,781, banked an additional $850,025 for his tenth-place finish.

“When I got both calls I didn’t even… I flipped over my hand and I didn’t even stay to see what they had,” Manion said after making the final table. “I went straight to my rail and looked up at the TV and they had set up pocket kings and my aces. And, somehow, this is real life.”

Final Table Chip Counts

Seat Player Chip Count Big Blinds
1 Metalidi 15,475,000 26
2 Cynn 37,075,000 62
3 Lynskey 25,925,000 43
4 Miles 42,750,000 71
5 Manion 112,775,000 188
6 Zobian 18,875,000 31
7 Dyer 109,175,000 182
8 Cada 23,675,000 39
9 Labat 8,050,000 13

Here Is A Look At The Final Nine Players

Antoine Labat

Ninth Place: $1,000,000
Age: 29
From: Vincenna, France
Previous Best Score: $33,013 (7th Place – 2012 Euro Finals Of Poker)
Lifetime Tournament Earnings: $1,099,023

Pocket kings cost Labat most of his chips during the final table bubble, and they would continue to be cruel to him at the final table. Labat came into the day with just 13 big blinds and managed to last 16 hands before moving all in with two red kings. Artem Metalidi made the call with pocket queens and managed to come from behind, flopping a set and rivering a full house to send Labat to the rail in ninth place.

Artem Metalidi

Eighth Place: $1,250,000
Age: 29
From: Kiev, Ukraine
Previous Best Score: $350,860 (2nd Place – 2012 $3K WSOP NLHE)
Lifetime Tournament Earnings: $3,364,191

Despite taking out Labat, Metalidi was still one of the short stacks at the table when he made his final move with pocket fives. Aram Zobian had him covered and was flipping with his KDiamond Suit QDiamond Suit. The flop of 6Diamond Suit 5Heart Suit 2Diamond Suit was exciting for the players and their rails, giving Metalidi a set and Zobian a flush draw. The turn was the KClub Suit keeping Metalidi in the lead, but the river was the 4Diamond Suit, sending the pot to Zobian. Metalidi was one of the more accomplished players at the table, but he was forced to settle for eighth place.

Alex Lynskey

Seventh Place: $1,500,000
Age: 28
From: Brisbane, Australia
Previous Best Score: $426,663 (2nd Place – 2017 WSOP Marathon)
Lifetime Tournament Earnings: $2,999,241

Australia’s Lynskey had entered the final table right in the middle of the pack, but his time at the final table was a disaster, short of the extra $500,000 he earned by waiting out Labat and Metalidi. Lynskey didn’t win a single hand at the final table, and his final one played out with a tough river card. Down to his last 15 big blinds, Lynskey shoved over a raise from Michael Dyer with pocket sixes, only to get called by John Cynn in the blinds with KSpade Suit QSpade Suit. The board ran out 10Club Suit 9Club Suit 3Spade Suit 10Diamond Suit JClub Suit, and Cynn made a straight to claim the pot. Lynskey, whose previous best finish was a runner-up score in the 2017 WSOP Marathon event, exited in seventh place.

Aram Zobian

Sixth Place: $1,800,000
Age: 23
From: Cranston, Rhode Island
Previous Best Score: $47,000 (2nd Place – 2018 Megastack Challenge NLHE)
Lifetime Tournament Earnings: $1,912,011

Zobian, from Cranston, Rhode Island, didn’t fare too well during six-handed play and found himself short stacked on the second night of the final table. Zobian eventually made his final move with 8Diamond Suit 6Diamond Suit, only to run into the AHeart Suit 8Club Suit of then-chip leader Dyer. The board failed to produce any help for Zobian, and he hit the rail in sixth place.
Joe Cada

Fifth Place: $2,150,000
Age: 30
From: Shelby Township, Michigan
Previous Best Score: $8,546,435 (1st Place – 2009 WSOP Main Event)
Lifetime Tournament Earnings: $13,542,975

The only person who could top Cynn’s story in terms of drama was Joe Cada. The proud Michigander is the youngest person to ever win the WSOP main event, having earned more than $8.5 million when he was 21 years old in 2009. Although some thought Cada was just lucky, he proved he wasn’t a one-tournament wonder in 2014 when he won his second bracelet in the $10,000 six-max no-limit hold’em event along with $670,041. Now 30, he won his third bracelet earlier this summer by taking down the $3,000 no-limit hold’em shootout event for $226,218.

Then Cada went deep in the main event… again. Nine years after winning it all, Cada found himself once again at the final table, attempting to become the first player in the modern era to claim two main event titles. Although he never had a big stack, Cada did have a chance at one in a crucial coinflip with Tony Miles. Cada raised with pocket tens from under the gun and Miles three-bet him to 6,900,000 with AHeart Suit KClub Suit. Cada then shoved all-in and Miles went into the tank for several minutes before calling. The board ran out KSpade Suit 9Heart Suit 8Diamond Suit QDiamond Suit 9Spade Suit, and Cada was eliminated in fifth place.

Incredibly, Cada’s summer wasn’t yet over. Just after busting from the main event, he hopped into the $1,500 no-limit hold’em Closer tournament and managed to navigate his way through a field of 3,120 to earn his fourth career bracelet, and the $612,886 first-place prize. Just minutes after winning Cada joked, “It’s like I took fourth in the main event now.”

Nicolas Manion

Fourth Place: $2,825,000
Age: 35
From: Muskegon, Michigan
Previous Best Score: $9,850 (21st Place – 2018 MSPT Battle Creek)
Lifetime Tournament Earnings: $2,841,739

Manion’s pocket aces during the final table bubble essentially let him coast all the way to four-handed play without too many major confrontations. Although he was able to double through Dyer during four-handed play, he was still left as the shortest stack. In the end, Manion shoved for just shy of 24,000,000 over a raise from Cynn on the button. Cynn made the easy call with pocket kings, and they held on a queen high board against Manion’s ASpade Suit 10Diamond Suit. Manion from Muskegon, Michigan won two $2,175 satellites into the main event and made the most it, bowing out in fourth place.

Michael Dyer

Third Place: $3,750,000
Age: 32
From: Houston, Texas
Previous Best Score: $65,905 (8th Place – 2009 $2K WSOP NLHE)
Lifetime Tournament Earnings: $3,886,418

Dyer came into the final table essentially tied for the chip lead and used it well to maintain his stack. But going into the final day of play, he was left with just 16 big blinds, a far cry from the 182 big blinds he had to start. The 32-year-old wasted no time getting involved, shoving three out of the first four hands he was dealt.
Dyer got away with two more shoves before his final hand of the tournament.  Miles raised to 4,000,000 on the button and Dyer responded with a three-bet shove for his last 22,200,000 from the small blind. Miles made the call with ASpade Suit JHeart Suit, which had Dyer’s AHeart Suit 10Diamond Suit dominated. The board offered Dyer a little sweat as it ran out QClub Suit 5Spade Suit 3Diamond Suit JClub Suit QHeart Suit, but ultimately it wasn’t enough to keep him in the tournament. The Houston, Texas native settled for a third-place finish.

Tony Miles

Second Place: $5,000,000
Age: 32
From: Jacksonville, Florida
Previous Best Score: $18,000 (3rd Place – 2011 WPT Regional Jacksonville)
Lifetime Tournament Earnings: $5,053,288

Meanwhile, Cynn had taken over the chip lead, only to give it back when Miles busted Dyer. Miles entered heads-up play with 203,500,000 to Cynn’s 190,300,000, each holding at least 119 big blinds. With both players so deep, the action slowed to a crawl, but Cynn jumped out to a decent lead within a dozen hands. It wasn’t until a big bluff from Miles that the stacks evened up again.

Cynn raised the button and Miles called from the big blind with 7Heart Suit 5Diamond Suit. The flop came down JDiamond Suit 4Diamond Suit 3Heart Suit and Miles check-called a bet of 4,500,000. The turn was the 3Club Suit and Miles checked again. Cynn bet 6,500,000, and Miles check-raised to 20,000,000. Cynn called, and the river was the KDiamond Suit. Miles shoved for 95,300,000 with just seven high, and Cynn went into the tank. Incredibly, Cynn held just 6Spade Suit 4Club Suit for a pair of fours, but he still went into the tank, suspicious of Miles’ bet. After about three minutes, Cynn eventually folded and Miles was given new life.

The two players then traded jabs for quite a while, letting the blinds catch up before Cynn won a massive pot making a set of fives and ultimately a full house on a board of 9Diamond Suit 5Club Suit 3Diamond Suit JHeart Suit 3Spade Suit against a pair of nines for Miles. Miles was able to grind back to nearly even, and in fact, take back the lead. The two players would go on to battle heads-up for more than 11 hours. After 198 hands and several lead changes, Cynn was finally able to pull away.

Finally, just before 5 a.m. local time on Sunday morning, Cynn raised to 9,000,000 on the button, and Miles responded with a three-bet to 34,000,000. Cynn called and the flop fell KHeart Suit KDiamond Suit 5Heart Suit. Miles continued with 32,000,000, and Cynn called. The turn was the 8Diamond Suit and Miles moved all in for his last 114,000,000. Cynn went into the tank before calling with KClub Suit JClub Suit for trips, while Miles was drawing dead with QClub Suit 8Heart Suit. The inconsequential river card was the 4Spade Suit, and the 32-year-old who resides in Jacksonville, Florida was eliminated in second place.

“Tony’s an amazing guy,” Cynn said. “We’ve been playing next to each other for quite a while now. He put me in a lot of tough spots. Not just hand wise, with his strategy. I probably had to adjust three, four, five, I don’t know how many times. And it seemed like whenever I would adjust he would adjust right back. It was cool because we had moments where we were really going after each other.”

“It was kind of weird because you’re playing heads up for the main, but since we were playing for so long, at some point it just feels like poker,” Cynn continued. “But then obviously when you’re put in a pressure spot or when all the money goes in, you realize you know what it’s for. You can’t compare that to anything else in poker.”

Final Table Results

Place Player Payout POY Points
1 John Cynn $8,800,000 3,300
2 Tony Miles $5,000,000 2,750
3 Michael Dyer $3,750,000 2,200
4 Nicolas Manion $2,825,000 1,650
5 Joe Cada $2,150,000 1,375
6 Aram Zobian $1,800,000 1,100
7 Alex Lynskey $1,500,000 825
8 Artem Metalidi $1,250,000 550
9 Antoine Labat $1,000,000 275

A Look At Players With Multiple Deep Main Event Runs In The Modern Era

The prevailing thought when it comes to the main event is that when you get deep, you’d better make the most of it. After all, you never know when, or if, you’ll get another chance at making the final table. Of course, that’s what makes John Cynn’s and Joe Cada’s runs so incredible. Both players had been there before, and yet both players managed to do it again.

Cynn picked up $650,000 for finishing 11th in 2016, and $8.8 million for his win this year. Cada earned $8.5 million for winning it all in 2009, and $2.15 million for taking fifth this summer.

Perhaps even more surprising, is that there are dozens of players who have recorded two deep finishes in the main event since the poker boom, and even a few who have done it three times! While we’d give a slight nod to Cada’s runs over Cynn’s, here are more players who have excelled in the $10,000 tournament in the modern era.

Ben Lamb – Although he lacks a win like Cynn and Cada, Ben Lamb’s runs are arguably more impressive, having finished in the top 15 three times. Lamb finished 14th in 2009, pocketing $633,022. Two years later, he took third for another $4,021,138 en route to winning the Card Player Player of the Year award. Then in 2017, the Oklahoma native made the final table yet again, finishing ninth for $1 million. Lamb also finished 156th in 2007.

Antoine Saout – Like Lamb, Antoine Saout has also recorded three deep finishes with two final tables in the main event. The Frenchman had a good shot at winning in 2009 before a bad beat to Cada sent him to the rail in third place, for $3,479,670. Saout also finished 25th in 2016 for $269,430, before returning to the final table in 2017, taking fifth for $2 million. Saout also made the WSOP Europe main event final table in 2009, finishing seventh for $188,318, and is now third on France’s all-time earnings list behind Benjamin Pollak and Bertrand Grospellier.

Michael Ruane – Michael Ruane flew under the radar as a complete unknown in 2016 when he took fourth in the main event for $2,567,003. The next year, all eyes were on him as he attempted to make back-to-back final tables. The New Jersey poker pro fell just short of his goal, banking $825,001 for a tenth-place finish.

Mark Newhouse – Speaking of back-to-back runs, perhaps nobody suffered more from their final-table appearances than Mark Newhouse. The North Carolina native was a member of the November Nine in 2013, and waited months before busting in ninth place to earn $733,224. The next summer, he infamously tweeted, “Just bought into the main event day 1c. Not f*cking finishing 9th again.” Of course, he did go on to make the final table, and once again, he finished ninth, this time for $730,725.

Honorable Mentions – Although he did it in 2004 and 2005 when the field sizes were not quite as big, Greg Raymer did finish first and 25th in consecutive years. In 2008, Dennis Phillips took third, and followed that up the next year by busting in 45th. Steve Gee made the final table in 2012, taking ninth, and 24th in 2013. The aforementioned Benjamin Pollak has made three deep runs in recent years, finishing 27th in 2013, third in 2017, and 42nd in 2018. For the women, Kelly Minkin has the two best runs, with a 29th-place showing in 2015 and a 50th-place finish this summer. ♠