LAS VEGAS — While the first day of final table play in the 2018 World Series of Poker main event was all about Michael Dyer, Friday’s action was defined by Tony Miles’ incredible surge into a commanding chip lead on the way down to the final three players.
Miles’ ascent began at the expense of Joe Cada’s effort to repeat his 2009 WSOP main event victory performance, in the same way that many issues in poker play out — a race between two fairly balanced hands — only this time, there were millions of dollars hanging in the balance. After winning that pot, Miles picked apart Dyer in a series of big pots and imposed his will.
After living the kind of day every poker player dreams of, Miles was in awe of how things played out for him Friday and the big crowd in attendance to support him.
“Those people are my heart. It means the world to me to be able to come out here and show them what we work so hard for all the time,” said Miles.
John Cynn picked and chose his spots along the way, and ended the night by eliminating Nicolas Manion — cementing his, Miles’ and Dyer’s spots on the final day of the 2018 WSOP main event. Miles is well out ahead with 238.9 million — over 60 percent of the chips in play — but with his elimination of Manion, Cynn has 128.7 million to put him within one big pot of closing that gap in a hurry.
For Manion, who carried the chip lead into this final table, it was a bittersweet end to the run of a lifetime — but he walked away with no regrets.
“I look back on this experience as the best one of my life, and nothing else will probably top it,” said Manion.
With one more day of play to go, Cynn had the most active support system — filled with pros crunching numbers and watching the stream to keep up with the hands being played. Though it can be tough to balance what’s being experienced at the table with what outside observers are seeing, Cynn appeared to be locked in throughout the day on Friday.
“I do feel like I have a good sense of what’s going on at the table,” said Cynn. “At the same time, I welcome any advice — even if it’s drastically different from [my style]. I feel comfortable in myself to be able to be able to weed out what I want to add to my game, and what not [to add].”
After coming into the day with everything seemingly rolling his way, Dyer is on thin ice with 26.2 million — making him far and away the short stack among the final three.
Everything that seemed to go Dyer’s way on Thursday went in Miles’ favor, starting during what could easily be described as the most pivotal hand at the final table. With five players left, Cada put Miles to the test by four-bet raising all in with pocket tens; with Miles holding only slightly more chips going into the hand, his tournament life would also hang in the balance, should he call with Ah-Kc.
After several minutes spent thinking it over, Miles shoved his chips into the middle and the race was on. With a Ks-9h-8d flop, Miles put Cada on the brink immediately, but Cada went from two winning cards to six with the Qd turn. The 9s river kept Miles’ kings best, and Cada’s historic run came crashing down in fifth for a payday of $2.15 million.
Cada’s combination of a victory in 2009 and fifth place this time around stands among the great achievements in the history of tournament poker, but the loss in such a crucial pot was an emotional moment for Cada. With the possibility of a repeat within his grasp should he win that pot, the loss sent Cada out of the Rio’s Amazon Ballroom after congratulating the four remaining players and down the hall without much of a comment to speak of.
For Miles, it was the start of something tremendous. He ran his chips up to over 100 million in the next few hands, making the first real push of Dyer and the lead, and then played a massive pot that changed the lead for the first time since the second overall hand of the final table on Thursday.
Miles’ pocket threes flopped a set while Dyer had 4c-3c on a Ks-4h-3s flop, with Dyer check-raising and Miles calling. Dyer bet again on the 5c turn, but Miles bet the Kc river. The pot swelled to over 120 million, and with Dyer’s quick call the full house drove Miles to over 180 million and the lead. In a matter of 16 hands, Miles had won the two biggest pots of the WSOP main event to that point — and from there it was off to the races.
The day began six-handed, but that layout didn’t last very long. On the fifth hand of the day, Aram Zobian shoved all in from the small blind with 8d-6d and couldn’t beat Dyer’s Ah-8c. He didn’t connect with the board in any way, and went out in sixth place for $1.8 million. Zobian had no regrets with how everything played out though — he was willing to take his chances in order to give himself the best chance he could to win the tournament.
“From the beginning of the final table, I was going for the win,” said Zobian. “In years past I watched [the main event] and I’ve seen people folding hands that shouldn’t be folded, trying to ladder up. I respect that, that’s their life, but my decision was to go for the win because I feel like I deserve to give myself that opportunity.”
– Shaun Deeb has taken the 2018 WSOP Player of the Year lead by being one of the final three players in the $10,000 Six-handed no-limit hold’em championship. Depending on his result, he could make it very difficult for John Hennigan to catch back up, though Hennigan is making a run of his own deep in the $3,000 H.O.R.S.E. bracelet event.
– The $50,000 no-limit hold’em high roller drew more than 125 entries during its first day of play, with registration still open until the start of Day 2 Saturday.
– Though the main event is set to wrap up Saturday night, it’s not the final major event of the summer. The $1 million buy-in Big One for One Drop kicks off Sunday, with three days of coverage split between ESPN and PokerGo.