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Friday Five: Putting a wrap on the 2018 WSOP edition

20 July 2018

Fresh off spending a week in Las Vegas covering the World Series of Poker, we'll stick with poker's most prestigious event one more time here at the Friday Five and recap a whirlwind week from the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino.

The 2018 edition of the WSOP attracted a record 123,865 entrants from 104 nations around the world, exceeding last year's number of 120,995. There was also a record prize pool of $266,889,193 million, marking the first time a single WSOP has eclipsed the quarter-billion-dollar mark.

While there were certainly some big names that had huge summers at this year's WSOP (say hello, Phil Hellmuth, Joe Cada, Shaun Deeb and Michael Mizrachi), we start with the perhaps most impressive run, accomplished by a guy who very well could be holding the unofficial title of "Best Poker Player in the World."

5. Justin Bonomo wins WSOP Big One for One Drop $1 million charity poker tournament
Mind-boggling. There's just no other way to describe what Justin Bonomo has accomplished at the poker table over the last seven months, capped off by winning the $1 million buy-in One Drop on Tuesday night.

The victory gave the 32-year-old his third WSOP bracelet and marked his 10th win of 2018. Of those 10 wins, three of them were high roller victories good for $4.8 million, $5 million and now $10 million. Overall in 2018, he has won just shy of $25 million ($24,940,435), which means he has surpassed $43 million in lifetime poker tournament winnings and has become the highest earner all-time, passing Poker Hall of Famer Daniel Negreanu.

One Drop is an organization dedicated to sustainable access to safe water and a total of $2,160,000 was raised for the cause from this event alone. Since the WSOP and One Drop began their collaboration in 2012, $23,091,974 has been raised through WSOP run poker tournaments.

Bonomo has always been a treat to watch. He's both methodical and classy at the poker table. When you watch him, you rarely know if he's running over the table (which he's often doing), or having bad night.

Also, very cool to see that Bonomo didn’t lose sight of the fact that despite his massive haul, the whole point of the event was to raise money for an important charity, posting this on Twitter before the final table aired on ESPN.


4. Coridal atmosphere at WSOP Main Event final table a welcome change
OK, let's move on to the WSOP Main Event, which, as usual, provided plenty of fireworks and dramatics. What wasn't typical about this year's final table, however, was the downright warm and friendly ambiance at the table. There was no animosity. No tanking. No bitterness. Honestly, these guys were too good to be true, and it wasn't just when the ESPN lights were on.

Away from the table, all nine players who made the final table were pleasant with fans and media, and genuinely happy and appreciative to be in the situation they were in, making the final table more enjoyable to watch and the players easy to root for.


3. A misunderstood Dyer opens up after third-place exit at WSOP Main Event final table

One of my favorite moments from watching a mind-numbing amount of poker last week was a conversation I was fortunate enough to have with Michael Dyer.
The 32-year-old Houston native, who has lived in Las Vegas as an online grinder for the last six years, had just gotten eliminated in third place from the Main Event. As most players do when busting out, Dyer was interviewed on live TV by ESPN and then had to answer similar questions from a gaggle of other thirsty reporters looking for juicy quotes. Problem is, Dyer is no media darling, and it was quite clear all week that he wasn't comfortable with the spotlight.

So, with a chance to speak with him without a dozen microphones and cameras in his face, I politely ask him for a minute as he was trying to finally escape the Amazon Room at the Rio. He obliged, and then proceeded to open up a little bit, while cracking a few funny one-liners and poking fun at himself.

Look, none of us really know how we would react to suddenly being dropped into the spotlight. And for a guy like Dyer, who admittedly spends most of his life behind closed doors in front of computer screens multi-tabling poker tournaments, it was not something that he was at ease with. But that doesn't make him a bad guy. In fact, we were fortunate enough to find out that he was just the opposite, which is always refreshing.

2. An emotional Miles bobs and weaves his way to the final six at WSOP Main Event
Kudos to John Cynn for his performance at the Main Event final table (more on that in the next item). From everything we saw over the last week, he's not only one hell of a poker player, but a good guy and will be a worthy champion while representing the WSOP over the next 12 months.

But I'd be lying if I didn't tell you that a little piece of me was pulling for Tony Miles to prevail. Yeah, I know. There's not supposed to be any cheering from the press box, but after speaking with Miles last week after he clinched a spot in the final six of the Main Event, it was difficult not to root for him.

In a one-on-one interview, Miles, fighting back tears, told us about his battle with alcohol and drugs (he's been clean for two years) as well as how he had been dealing with the loss of his stepmother and the father of his roommate in June. This kid (I realize he's 32, but he looks 22) wears his heart on his sleeve and handled himself with dignity and grace in defeat. Even after sitting across from Cynn for more than 10 hours of heads-up play and coughing up the chip lead numerous times, Miles was classy enough to congratulate Cynn and raise his arm when it was all over, producing an image that will be part of WSOP lore forever.


1. John Cynn wins World Series of Poker Main Event after marathon heads-up battle
Speaking of WSOP lore, Cynn cemented his place in the record books by becoming the 49th Main Event champ, and will have a huge banner hanging on the wall during WSOP play forever.

Cynn finished in 11th place in the Main Event two years ago, winning $650,000, but managed to outlast Miles in a record-breaking heads up match to win it this year and cash in for $8.8 million.

Five years ago, Cynn got laid off from his job as a logistics analyst and started playing poker. He’s played professionally for the past five years, and now he's a Main Event champ.

Year after year, the WSOP generates so many compelling stories. Add this one near the top of the list.
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Best of Gary Trask
Gary Trask

Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor. He also manages new business ventures for Casino City.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee and a current member of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame voting panel, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT
Gary Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor. He also manages new business ventures for Casino City.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee and a current member of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame voting panel, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT