GRABBING THE GOLD
2018 World Series of Poker Sets New Records
By Sean Chaffin
More buy-ins, more gold bracelets, more poker — the 2018 World Series of Poker had it all this summer with every type of tournament imaginable at the Rio in Las Vegas. In the “bringing the fun back to poker” era, the WSOP featured tag team events, dealer’s choice, more online events, and plenty more.
The events brought some highlights for some big name players, peaking with John Cynn winning the $10,000 Main Event. It was an amazing run for Cynn, who hails from Northbrook, IL. After finishing 11th in the Main Event in 2016 for $650,000, Cynn improbably finished atop the field of 7,874 this year for $8.8 million. That total number of entries was the second-most in the 49-year history of the WSOP and created a prize pool of more than $74 million.
Becoming the Main Event champion isn’t easy. It takes stamina and perseverance after playing so many long hours at the table. In an event that began on July 2 and ended on July 15 (11 play ing days spread over 14 calendar days), champions need focus and mental toughness. Theymust also play above the rim with big folds and critical raises – and a bit of luck helps too.
The 33-year-old Cynn becomes the new world champion of poker and an ambassador of sorts for the game. A former logistics analyst, Cynn lost his job a few years ago and jumped into playing poker professionally. The move has definitely paid off and he now has more than $9.7 million in live tournament winnings.
“To make 11th is insane on its own,” Cynn said. “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.”
Along with a massive payday, Cynn also takes home his first gold bracelet. The WSOP bracelet is the biggest trophy in poker, and the diamond-encrusted Main Event bling is valued at more than $500,000.
“It’s super exciting to have this because this is the dream when every-body starts playing poker,” Cynn said holding the bracelet during an inter-view with CNBC. “They all dream about winning the Main Event. This is the one tournament of the year that people really look forward to. The moment was definitely incredible. I had no idea what to expect.”
Finishing runner-up was 32-year-old Tony Miles from Jacksonville, FL, who still took home $5 million for his efforts after a heads-up battle with Cynn that lasted 199 hands, a Main Event record. Miles had only two previous WSOP cashes for $6,396, but was chip leader several times at the final table. In third was 32-year-old Houston, Texas, native Michael Dyer who earned a payday of $3.75 million.
Beyond the Main Event, the WSOP featured 78 total events spread out over 50 days and continued to break records. This year’s series attracted 123,865 entries, an increase of 2.4 percent from last year and the second consecutive year with more than 120,000 entries. Numbers like that continue to keep the event the largest annual live poker series.
With attendance up for the sixth straight year, this year broke the record for number of total entries. For the sixth time in its history, the WSOP generated a prize pool that topped $200 million.
“The 2018 World Series of Poker was another big success and it’s thanks to the loyal players that make it out to Las Vegas every summer,” said WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart. “We love seeing the Main Event grow to numbers no one ever thought was possible in 2018 as well as positive reaction to our new events. The team will be hard at work to make sure this remains the premier poker festival in the world.”
In its 49-year history, the WSOP has awarded more than $2.99 billion in prize money. Poker has truly become an international game,
Main Event Payouts: The Main Event paid out a record 1,182 places this year, the most ever paid out in the event’s history.
Along with big number there were some major personal highlights throughout the summer. Here’s a look at some of the newsmakers from the Rio.
The Justin Bonomo Show — Riding the biggest heater in poker, Bonomo became poker’s all-time money leader this summer after surpassing Daniel Negreanu. How’d he do it? By crushing tournament after tournament all year. At the WSOP alone, he captured the $10,000 Heads-Up No-Limit Hold’em Championship on June 8 for his second bracelet and $185,965. To close out this year’s WSOP, he also won the $1 million buy-in Big One for One Drop for $10 million.
It was a tremendous summer for Bonomo, but that is only half the story. He also won $300,000 Super High Roller Bowl on May 30 for $5 million. In late-May, he won two $26,000 high roller events at the Aria for a total of $660,500. His year also includes several other high roller wins for a total of $20.1 million as of late july. This comes after winning $4 million in 2017 and $4.2 million in 2016. He now has three WSOP bracelets, and five more months to add to his huge total.
Not an Average Joe — Joe Cada has proven he’s much more than a one-hit wonder after winning the 2009 Main Event at just 21 years old. Nine years later, he now has four bracelets and came close to the unthinkable: winning a second Main Event. Cada ultimately took fifth for $2.15 million. That finish came after he won the $3,000 No-Limit Hold’em Shootout event for $226,218.
As if that weren’t enough, the WSOP added events to run concurrently with the Main Event as well. After busting the final table, Cada jumped right into The Closer – a $1,500 buy-in event to close out the WSOP The card shark won that event too for $612,886,which brings his WSOP total winnings to more than $13 million. Cada may be one of the best Main Event winners in recent years and looks like he’ll be a force on the poker scene for years to come.
Double for Deeb – Like Cada, Shaun Deeb completed a double this summer. His first win came in June in the $25,000 Pot Limit Omaha – High Roller for $1.4 million, and then in July he added another bracelet in the $10,000 No Limit Hold’em – 6 Handed Big Blind Ante event for $814,179. One of the best players in poker, Deeb now has four WSOP bracelets and more than $5.4 million in live tournament winnings. He also has the Player of the Year lead when the WSOP Europe plays out at King’s Casino in Rozvadov, Czech Republic, Oct. 11 – Nov. 2.
A Bracelet for JRB – Always a fan favorite, Jean-Robert Bellande has appeared in some of the biggest events in the world and is a regular in high-stakes televised cash games. He even appeared on CBS’s Survivor TV show. With two runner-up finishes and a third-place, Bellande finally broke through this summer after winning the $5,000 No Limit Hold’em – 6 Handed event for $616,302 and his first bracelet.
Poker Brat Earns No. 15 – It had not been a great WSOP for Phil Hellmuth by the time of the Main Event. He had several cashes, but no final table appearances. His cursing out of turn during the Main Event also may have affected the action of 35-year-old James Campbell, a firefighter from Hudson, MA. This and his general “brattish” antics, which seemed more frequent than normal to many, brought the ire of many through social media. Hellmuth eventually apologized and even bought Campbell into next year’s Main Event.
With such a poor run this summer and courting considerable controversy, what did Hellmuth do? He won one of the closing events of course, taking down the $5,000 No-Limit Hold’em turbo for $485,082. The win brought his record 15th WSOP bracelet, trailed by poker legends Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, and Phil Ivey, who all have 10. Hellmuth also has the record for career WSOP cashes with 138.
After a fun summer with pros and recreational rounders alike turning out in droves, players will have another chance to do some bracelet hunting when the WSOP Europe kicks off in October. No doubt some of these names will be looking for more hardware and cash.
Sean Chaffin is a freelance writer in Crandall Texas His work appears in numerous websites and publications. Follow him on Twitter @PokerTraditions. He is also the host of the True Gambling Stories podcast, available on iTunes, Google Play, Tuneln Radio, Spotify, Stitcher, PokerNews.com, HoldemRadio.com, and other platforms.