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Bryn Kenney: High Rollers Putting Up “$6-$8 Million If They Play Everything”

32-Year-Old Poker Pro With $30.7 Million In Lifetime Earnings Discusses The High Roller Scene, His Strong Start To 2019

by Erik Fast |  Published: Apr 10, 2019


Bryn Kenney is one of the standout stars of the high-stakes poker world. The 32-year-old from Long Beach, New York has more than $27 million in lifetime live tournament earnings, enough to put him in eighth place on poker’s all-time money list. Since the start of 2016, he has made 55 final tables and won 12 titles, cashing for more than $19.7 million along the way.

Kenney had a career-best year in 2017, nearly winning the Card Player Player of the Year award. He only relinquished the lead he had held for much of the year to Adrian Mateos with two weeks left before New Years Day. That year Kenney set a record for final-table finishes in a calendar year with 23, a record has since been broken by 2018 POY award winner Jake Schindler, who made 31 final tables.

Kenney had a bit of a down year in 2018, saying in an interview that despite cashing for nearly $5 million, it was his first losing year on the tournament circuit. But he is off to a strong start in 2019, having already won two titles in the first seven weeks of the year.

Kenney topped a record field of 822 entries to win the largest Aussie Millions $10,000 AUD no-limit hold’em main event in history, taking home $1,272,598 AUD ($916,271 USD) for the win. Two weeks later, he outlasted a field of 60 entries to take down a $25,000 buy-in high roller event at the U.S. Poker Open for another $450,000.

Card Player caught up with Kenney to discuss his hot start to the year, what it felt like to take down a big-field main event, just how much the high roller regulars have to put up in buy-ins per year, and more.

Bryn Kenney in the 2018 WSOP $100,000 buy-in eventCard Player: Of your top 20 largest tournament scores, your win in the 2019 Aussie Millions $10,000 AUD main event was the only one that came in a buy-in of less than $25,000. So clearly, the high roller circuit has changed the game for you.

Was it a very different feeling, for someone like you who has primarily been crushing high roller events in recent years, to win a main event with a much bigger field that isn’t primarily made up of the top tournament players in the world?

Bryn Kenney: Yeah, it was awesome, especially since I’d never really even made a final table of a main event anywhere, not on the World Poker Tour, the European Poker Tour, or even the World Series of Poker main event. I came close one year, but most of the time in these main events when I run deep, I’ve ended up busting with like three tables left. I’ve been the chip leader before, but always seem to finish between 15th and 25th place.

So to finally make a final table, especially in a cool location like Australia, it was great. I just had a fun time playing throughout the tournament, laughing and having a good time, with tables mostly filled with amateur players. It made it more enjoyable, in that sense, because the atmosphere was just nicer.

CP: You came into the final table as the shortest stack among the remaining seven players, with just 17 big blinds. You won plenty of big pots at the final table, but this wasn’t a typical win where the champion might knock out several of his opponents. In fact, you never actually knocked out anybody at the final table. Can you talk a little bit about how the business end of that tournament played out?

BK: I won one really important race for all my chips with pocket jacks against A-K, but besides that I never really had many big hands. I played well and just got maximum value from the few spots that I could look to get value. I folded some hands to just to stay away. I played a maneuvering type of game, which I think I do well when I have a short stack. I didn’t give up, just stayed focused and tried to stay in the game. That’s how I went from last place to winning it.

CP: Do you think your status as a high roller regular in recent years helped you negotiate the largest payday and the title in the three-handed deal that you made with Mike Del Vecchio and Andrew Hinrichsen, even though Del Vecchio had you out chipped by a few big blinds? What are your thoughts on the deal and how it went down?

BK: I mean, not just being a high roller player… the thing is, for the last 15 years I have been playing high-stakes poker online and live. So, for a lot of people playing now, they came up and even learned from watching my hands, watching me crush online. The thing is, when you’ve been at the top for a long time and playing well, people don’t really want to gamble for half a million dollars against you.

Bryn KenneyCP: With the win Down Under and also winning one of the $25,000 buy-in events at the U.S. Poker Open, you’re off to a pretty good start in 2019. Two years ago you had a monster year, cashing for more than $8.2 million. In 2018 you had just under $5 million worth of scores, but said in an interview that it was actually one of your worst years as a pro. Can you tell me about that?

BK: Yeah, 2018 was the first time I ever had a losing year. Take away two tournaments and I barely would have lost, but I didn’t have many wins and I just lost a lot of big all-ins. Maybe I wasn’t playing as good, but the year before I just crushed everything. It comes in streaks. It happens.

CP: So you cashed for nearly $5 million but had a losing year. Is that just a testament to how many super high rollers there are now? What would you say the average player who enters all these high rollers puts up in buy-ins in per year?

BK: Yeah, I guess if you’re playing everything, you’re putting in like $6 to $7 million in buy-ins, maybe $6-$8 million if you’re going to Asia and playing all the big tournaments, as well as playing all the big tournaments here all the time. So yeah, it has gotten expensive.

CP: High roller tournaments are made up of smaller fields. Do you think that being able to play at a high level in these high rollers is attractive to top pros because it’s less variance? Or does the stiff competition negate any advantage you may have with a small field?

BK: It all depends. You can just get cold decked a lot with big hands and just wind up running bad, and lose a bunch of buy-ins in a short stretch. Or, you could be playing really well. It all depends on the style of play that you have for how high your variance is. If you’re taking a lot of spots and playing super aggressive you’re going to have a much higher variance than if you’re playing a more solid game. So, I don’t know, I don’t really think about variance. If I’m playing well, that’s all I really focus on.

CP: Do you feel good right now, in terms of being on your game? This year has gotten off to a good start, are you ready to have another incredible year?

BK: Yeah, for sure. Even before winning this event here at the U.S. Poker Open, I’ve been feeling really good in life; everything is just going really well. In 2017, I didn’t play all that much, I skipped a lot of events but just crushed wherever I went. I think that is a good balance for me, so that’s what I’m gonna keep doing.Spade Suit