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High-Stakes Poker Pro Bryn Kenney: “End Goal Is Number One All Time”

The 32-Year-Old Has Already Cashed For More Than $9.2 Million In 2019

by Erik Fast |  Published: Jul 03, 2019

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Bryn Kenney has cashed for more than $9.2 million dollars in live poker tournaments already in 2019, making six final tables and winning four titles. As a result, the 32-year-old poker pro from Long Beach, New York is dominating the Card Player Player of the Year race. Kenney has already accumulated 5,174 points, with a 1,718 point lead over his nearest competitor in the overall standings, which are sponsored by Global Poker. To put that number into perspective, if you were to award 1,718 points to a random player with no prior cashes this year, that person would be instantly catapulted into 40th place in the overall standings.

Kenney started his 2019 winning spree by taking down the Aussie Millions main event, defeating a record field of 822 entries to win $916,271 USD. Kenney’s next appearance in the winner’s circle came just 17 days later, topping a $25,000 buy-in high roller at the U.S. Poker Open to earn another $450,000.

In the spring, Kenney went on a historic run in Triton Poker Super High Roller Series events. He finished fourth in the $500,000 HKD ($63,695 USD) event in Jeju for $509,730 USD and second in the $2 million HKD ($254,779 USD) main event for $3,125,135 USD later that series. In May, Kenney took down both the $500,000 HKD ($63,733 USD) and $1 million HKD ($127,465 USD) events at Triton Montenegro, earning more than $1.4 million and $2.7 million USD, respectively.

Bryn Kenney after winning his second Triton title in MontenegroWith those huge scores, Kenney has increased his lifetime live tournament earnings to $35,108,444. As a result, he surged into fourth place on poker’s all-time money list, surpassing David Peters and Fedor Holz in the process.

Card Player caught up with Kenney at the 2019 World Series of Poker to discuss his move up the money list, his incredible 2019 start, what sets him apart against the toughest competition, and more.

Card Player: You recently joined the top five on poker’s all-time money list. What are your thoughts on your recent move up the standings?

Bryn Kenney: I mean, the end goal is number one all time, so I got to get into the top five to be number one.

CP: With the rise of the super high roller circuit, and with swapping and staking, some people have mixed opinions about the Money List in terms of how accurately it reflects the top players. At the end of the day, do you think it’s a pretty good way to measure performance for pros?

BK: Absolutely. Because the thing is, the only way you can play the highest stakes out there and have people actually want to invest in you is if, not only you, but also other people think that you’re the best in the world. Super high rollers are still the toughest competition on the highest level. That is competing with the best. So, I mean competing with the best has to be [about] whomever’s the best or who beats the best.

CP: Kind of like, ‘If someone is complaining about high rollers skewing the money list, then why don’t they play in these events themselves?’

BK: Exactly. If you think it’s so easy in these small fields, then hop in with the same people every day and see how you do.

CP: You said your goal would be to be number one overall. Do you have any kind of final goal or prediction for just how much you could cash for over your tournament career?

BK: Nah. Not like a number that I think about, because I guess it all depends. Now there’s a million dollar buy-in in London in August for Triton, so who knows how big the buy-ins get. It could be a $10 million buy-in a few years from now.

CP: Has your success over the past couple of years allowed you to take bigger pieces of yourself or just have more action in general in these high rollers?

BK: Yeah. I mean, I always kind of gambled and took big pieces myself anyway. A lot of my downfalls have been because I was taking too big of pieces of other people and staking and stuff. Probably the thing that I’m worst at is bankroll management. But as I win more I’m always going to have a bigger piece, because I always like to have a big sweat on myself and don’t really care if it goes bad.

CP: So already in 2019 you have more than $7.8 million in cashes on the Triton Poker tournament circuit alone. The tour hasn’t been around that long, but has already hosted some massive events.

BK: Oh yeah. That’s my favorite because it’s small fields, one- to three-day tournaments, not a lot of people there as high stakes as it is… so for me that’s perfect. For me, that is the tour that I wouldn’t really miss any of their events nowadays.

CP: Speaking of that, in smaller field events you are up against a lot of the same players over and over again. It’s probably not that often that you see somebody you don’t recognize. So what sets you apart if you’re playing the same opponents over and over again? You’re clearly having more success than the average entrant in these events. What is it that makes you stand apart?

BK: Well, I guess it depends on your feeling for all your opponents that you’re playing against. When you have hands, how much value you get, and if you lay down hands, how cheap you can get away from it. I mean, it all comes down to if you’re making the right decisions, moreover, so the person who’s doing the best just probably has a better feel for where everybody else’s game really is.

Kenney at the 2018 WSOPCP: Do you think there’s anything about you as a person, any kind of natural skill set you have that helps you achieve that?

BK: I can get myself into a zone where I don’t really care what’s going on around me, where everything can be going pretty bad and then I can forget… just mask it and be like a robot at the table. Where I feel like a lot of other people, when they’re going through bad downswings or just through negative things in life, they can’t really keep it together as much as me. So since it happens all the time, the ups and downs, the person who keeps it together the best when things are going the worst is probably the one who’s going to do the best in the long term. That is probably is what I am best at.

CP: How much solver training, GTO studying do you do? A lot of other high roller regulars have said that it is something that they work on a lot. From an outsider’s perspective, it seems like you go a little more ‘street’ than the other guys, doing more non-standard things. What are your thoughts on this trend of ‘studying’ the numbers all the time?

BK: Yeah, well, it’s just different things, because the people who are just studying all the time, they’re studying for situations that they haven’t seen. For me, I have a very good memory for all the hands that I’ve ever played, and adjusting… I kind of just think about every hand that I play. Instead of studying something, I study the way that I play. I look at the other people who I think are the best, I think about the hands that they play, and I kind of study what they’re studying… but at the table. Because the thing is, if they’re studying all night and then making a certain move at the table, I’m just going to see it anyway. I’m seeing what they’re studying, and then I can go about my own way of figuring out what I like and what I don’t like. So I guess it’s just a different approach that I have. Instead of looking at the numbers, I see what everyone’s doing and pick pieces of what I like and what I don’t like.

CP: So, if players that you respect are doing something different all of a sudden, you’ll know that because you’ve played a bunch of hands with them and you can kind of assimilate it.

BK: Yeah, because a lot of people are in groups and they’re doing the same thing as their friends all the time, and they’re talking about the same things. You can kind of see if someone is doing something, and then determine the way people are thinking and the way that they’re going about things, and then pick what you like about it. And at the same time, you don’t have to play by the book.

I feel like my mind is just broader, where I can think of many different things. To say that something’s right and something isn’t right, that’s not necessarily the case because everything’s really [situation] dependent. It’s a new situation, everyone’s in a different feel and emotion, everyone’s in a different mindset. They might bluff more right now because of X reasons on the side, or they might be tighter because of X reasons on the side. It’s about analyzing the player that you’re playing against all the time, and getting in their mind.

CP: What is success to you, as a poker pro? What are you really trying to achieve?

BK: I mean, my goal really just is to compete at the highest level, make the best decisions every time and be hard on myself whenever I don’t. I mean, winning and losing, you can’t really be so hard on yourself. It’s more about being hard on yourself based on if you’re making good decisions or not.

CP: This year you are lapping the field in the Card Player Player of the Year race. Of course, here’s a big advantage to people who can keep making final tables in the high roller tournaments, just due to the fact that you’re able to make final tables with a higher frequency than someone who never plays small-field events. But in general, the POY race attempts to measure consistency over a year, to figure out who was the best tournament player. What are your thoughts on the possibility of winning that award?

Bryn Kenney after winning the Aussie Millions main eventBK: Yeah, that’d be nice to win, too. I mean, I took down the Aussie Millions main event this year as well, so it’s not only high rollers…

CP: Of course. The past couple years, the players that have won the POY award have been guys who have also had success in both high rollers as well as some larger field main events.

BK: In the last few years, the tournament scene has gone the direction of more high rollers and less main events, so that’s another reason. It’s not like there are 10 or 20 big main events all throughout the year like there was in the past. Now there are only five big main events a year, so unless you play high rollers… That’s where the bulk of the events really are too because you’re never really going to win so many 500- or 1,000-person fields. So to win it, you’re going to have to win a bunch of small fields, which is still the toughest thing to do.

CP: When these high rollers first came out, people were wondering if it was even sustainable. What are your thoughts about the high roller scene in the future? How do you see the scene evolving?

BK: I mean, I think there will probably be a few $100,000 and $250,000 events each year, maybe a $1 million buy-in. I think it’ll probably stay around that general area. I don’t see it really going higher than $100,000 and $250,000 on a regular basis for high roller tournaments, which is a pretty good sweet spot anyway. There have been a lot of nice $50,000, $100,000, and $250,000 buy-in tournaments this year, so I think that’s perfect.

CP: What are your plans for the rest of the year in terms of playing?

BK: I’m not going to play much at the World Series of Poker. I’ll play the $50,000 [Anniversary High Roller] and then maybe take the next three weeks off, play the $50,000 Players Championship, the $100,000, the WSOP main event, and a $50,000 at the Aria. I don’t really feel like playing small buy-in events on a daily basis. Instead, I’d rather get myself focused and ready for the million dollar buy-in in London at the end of the WSOP. I just want to rest and get in the right mindset for that.Spade Suit