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With a heavy heart, Miles bobs and weaves his way to WSOP Main Event final six

13 July 2018

Wearing a Russell Wilson jersey, Tony Miiles hams it up with his rail following WSOP Main Event action on Thursday night in Las Vegas.

Wearing a Russell Wilson jersey, Tony Miiles hams it up with his rail following WSOP Main Event action on Thursday night in Las Vegas. (photo by Joe Giron)

LAS VEGAS -- The decision to wear a Russell Wilson game jersey as he played in the World Series of Poker Main Event final table on Thursday night had a much, much deeper meaning for Tony Miles than simply his devotion to his favorite NFL player and the Seattle Seahawks.

“I’m a big Russell Wilson fan, primarily because of what he does off the field, but on the field as well,” said the 5-foot-7, 32-year-old who was born in Ogden, Utah, went to high school in Tacoma, Washington, and now calls Florida home after attending the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. “He’s someone who people always doubted. He’s undersized. He puts his heart and soul into playing and he runs pretty well. And he’s good a scrambling and getting out of sticky situations.

“I can relate to that at both the poker table and in life. Sometimes in life you just have to bob and weave.”

Over the last few years, and most notably over the last month, Miles has been doing so much bobbing and weaving he could have been mistaken for Sugar Ray Leonard. Not only has he maneuvered his way into the final six of the WSOP Main Event over the course of the last 10 days here at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, guaranteeing himself a payday of at least $1.8 million, but Miles, who has overcome alcohol and drug addiction, also had to suffer through the loss of two people very close to him.

On 8 June, just two weeks after settling into his routine here at the WSOP, Miles got word that his roommate’s father died unexpectedly. Two days later, his stepmother, Barbara Miles, the wife of his father, Jim, for 26 years, lost her second battle with cancer and passed away at the age of 88.

“It was really rough having to go back home and attend two funerals for people you really love,” a heartfelt Miles told us as he fought back tears. “One of the things I said about my stepmom over and over at the funeral was that she only had friends, she didn’t have any enemies. I was really, really close with her. She was just so kind to everyone. So I’m trying to take that into the world with me.

“I’m just glad to bring some joy to my dad. It’s been a really rough time for him. Having him come out here and see me and be proud of me . . . it means the world to me.”

When asked if going through something like this during one of the biggest moments of his life was making it more difficult for him emotionally, Miles, who served as a pallbearer for his stepmother along with his two brothers, shook his head in disagreement.

“It’s not weighing on me,” he said softly. “If anything it’s had an opposite effect. I feel more like she’s an angel and she’s with me here helping me.”
Tony Miles steps away from the table to meditate before play began at the WSOP Main Event on Thursday.

Tony Miles steps away from the table to meditate before play began at the WSOP Main Event on Thursday. (photo by Joe Giron)



Before the cards went in the air on Thursday night, as he often does, Miles stepped away from the table, closed his eyes and meditated for a few moments. He’s prone to similar sessions during down times throughout the night, and says it’s been a huge help to his game.

“I’ve been doing it a lot over the past six months,” explained Miles, an active snowboarder and wakeboarder. “One of the biggest reasons is that it makes you be in the present, not distracted, or thinking about the future or worrying about the past. Appreciate the now. So, that’s what I’m trying to do. I’m living it up. I’m having a blast.

“I’m so exhausted and mentally fatigued right now, but what else are you going to do? In life, sometime you’ve just got to get up and fight.”

Entering Friday night, Miles is still in contention in the fight at the poker table for the prestigious Main Event bracelet and spot in poker history. After a late surge on Thursday night, he'll head into Day 9 with 57.5 million chips, fourth-best out of the six remaining.

"I feel really good," said Miles, who had $54,000 in live career earnings before making this run in the Main Event. "I'm coming back tomorrow looking to win."

Cada still has the backing of “JohnnyBax”
When Joe Cada sat down at the final table on Thursday night, he could have stood up and thrown a football at the large banner of him commemorating his 2009 WSOP Main Event victory that was hanging in the Amazon Room.

Now 30 years old and a grizzled veteran of the poker world, Cada has become the sentimental choice of his fellow pros to win the Main Event, if the comments on Twitter are any indication.

“It’s nice having that support,” he told us before the start of play on Thursday. “It’s overwhelming. I can’t tell you how much it means. It feels great.”

One of the people on his rail during Wednesday night’s play was Cliff Josephy, who famously backed Cada before his Main Event run in 2009 along with Eric "Sheets" Haber. The two “investors” had 50% of Cada in the Main Event, which turned out to be a nice payday when he took home the $8.5 million first-place prize.

“Me and Cliff are still friends,” said Cada, who is the first Main Event champ since Poker Hall of Famer Daniel Harrington in 2004 to return to the Main Event final table, and is attempting to join elite company in Stu Ungar, Johnny Moss, Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan as the only players to win multiple Main Events. “Everyone knows Cliff. He’s a great guy and it was cool for him to be there to support me.”

Josephy, a two-time WSOP bracelet winner who took third place in the 2016 Main Event, is an online legend in the game. He wasn’t in the house on Thursday night, but when we caught up with him the day before as he was railing Cada, he shared fond memories of 2009.
Cliff Josephy remembers the run by 2009 WSOP Main Event champ, Joe Cada, fondly.

Cliff Josephy remembers the run by 2009 WSOP Main Event champ, Joe Cada, fondly. (photo by Joe Giron)



“That was a fun run,” said the man known as "JohnnyBax.” “It seems like a lifetime ago, but I still remember it like it was yesterday.

"He was good. He was really, really good. He thought things through and he was young and he was hungry.”

Josephy said that he and Cada are “definitely not as tight” as they were back in 2009, but still “friendly.”

“I just wanted to be here to wish him good luck,” he said. “I will take no credit for his success. There are other ones that we backed that I really took the time to teach. But with Joe, I can’t take the credit. I mean, I’d like to, but I can’t.

“I’ve seen some people on Twitter trying to tout themselves by saying this guy was my student, and I taught this guy everything he know, but that’s not the case here. Joe did it on his own. I did not help him.”

Is the curse of the Main Event final table chip leader alive?
Entering Thursday’s Day 8 action, Nic Manion’s chip lead over second-place Michael Dyer was just 3.6 million.

By our count, that’s one of the smallest advantages for the Main Event final table chip leader in some time. By comparison, eventual 2015 winner Joe McKeehen had a 33 million chip advantage over his closest pursuer. The previous biggest chip lead before that came in 2009, when Darvin Moon had a 24 million advantage, only to eventually lose to Cada. This year’s chip lead was more in the neighborhood of Josephy in 2016 (6.675 million) and Jorryt van Hoof in 2014 (5.6 million), both of whom failed to win the bracelet.

Of course, in recent history, the chip leader heading into the Main Event final table has had mixed success. Since 2008, only three chip leaders have prevailed, but two of those three (Scott Blumstein last year and McKeehen in 2015) have come in the last three years. The other was Jonathan Duhamel in 2010 when he rode a 19.1-million chip advantage to become Main Event champ.

Manion has some work to do if he wants to keep the momentum going for the final table chip leader. On Thursday night, his stack took a significant hit, with Michael Dyer soaring to the lead with 156,500,000. Manion still has the second-biggest stack with 72,250,000 chips.

One more note about this final table: The average age was 30.1 with Aram Zobian the youngest at 23 and Manion the “elder statesman” at 35 years old. If the 32-year-old Dyer prevails he’ll be just the second winner in the last 11 years to be over 30. The other exception? Qui Nguyen, who won in 2016 at the age of 39.

Kid Poker breaks down the “Kings Cracked” hand
The Rio was still buzzing on Thursday from the final hand of Wednesday night that ended up deciding the nine Main Event final table participants.

The last hand of Day 7 began with Manion opening with a 1.5 million bet, which was called by Antoine Labat, who at this point had the third-biggest stack at the table. Things got interesting when Yuegi Zhu pushed his entire 24.7 million stack and called “all in.”

The action folded back to Manion, who, with a stack of 43 million in front of him, called. After some deliberation, Labat called and the entire room was in complete disbelief when Manion turned over pocket aces, and both Zhu and Labat flipped over kings. The board cards provided zero help, allowing Manion to win the hand and soar into the chip lead, while Zhu bowed out in 10th place. Labat, meanwhile, advanced to the final table, but took a severe hit. He came into Thursday night as the short stack, more than 104 million behind Manion, and was the first to bust, finishing in ninth place.

“Oh, man, that was insane,” Daniel Negreanu told us when we bumped into him in the hallways of the Rio on Thursday night. “I mean, what a spot! It’s one of the very few situations where you could fold kings. [Labat] could have legitimately laid it down. It’s definitely possible there. But you can’t fault a guy for going all in with kings. I wouldn’t call it a mistake, by any means. Just a sick hand.”
With a heavy heart, Miles bobs and weaves his way to WSOP Main Event final six is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
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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