LAS VEGAS — The final six players in the 2018 World Series of Poker main event all have a chance to win $8.8 million and poker’s world championship, but if Thursday’s action is any indication of how the next two days will go, this tournament feels like Michael Dyer’s to lose.
Dyer and Nicolas Manion began the day neck-and-neck for the chip lead, but Dyer distanced himself from the pack early and bagged up 156.5 million — more than twice the stack Manion, his closest competition, who has 72.25 million going into the second day of final table play on Friday. John Cynn had a strong day of his own, significantly increasing his chips to 61.6 million, with Tony Miles close behind at 57.5 million.
It appeared during the late stages as though Joe Cada might get pushed past the brink, but a late run-up has him within striking range and a good pot or two from the rest of the pack at 29.275 million. Aram Zobian rounds out the sextet of Americans as the short stack, holding 16.7 million chips heading into Friday.
Dyer embraced a deliberate and relaxed demeanor and playing style throughout the night, accumulating chips at every turn. Though he acknowledged the increased tension of the WSOP main event, he showed no sign of being fazed by the spotlight that comes with being the chip leader this deep in the biggest tournament of the year.
“I just try to make good decision,” Dyer said. “I have a dynamic separation on everybody, so it makes it kind of simpler for me to play — I’m able to play differently than they are.”
Cada, though he did make an early push toward the middle of the chip counts, spent much of the day doing what he has done for the bulk of the tournament — battling on a short stack and grinding out every chip. He’s already accomplished something virtually unprecedented by fighting through a field of 6,494 players to win the WSOP main event the first time around in 2009 and then getting through 7,874 players this year to finish, at worst, in sixth place.
“I think there was a lot of pressure to get to the final table, and then a lot of pressure at the start of the final table not knowing what was going to happen,” Cada said, “But now that the jabs have been thrown and we’re six-handed, it’s all gravy. If I go out next, I go out next. If I make a run, that that’d be sweet.”
Cynn’s not far behind in that regard, though his bankroll doesn’t quite reflect that yet. After an 11th-place finish in the 2016 main event — a once-in-a-lifetime achievement at best for most any poker player — he’s back and well within range of a push toward a title two years later.
In order for the title hopes of the final six players to continue, three players had to see their dream runs come to an end Thursday. Short stack Antoine Labat, whose stack was crippled in spectacular fashion to close out Wednesday’s action, fought through 15 hands and picked up a few chips along the way. But even given the dream scenario of pocket kings against pocket queens, kings were once again the Frenchman’s undoing as a queen on the flop gave Artem Metalidi a winning set and sent Labat out in ninth place.
Aram Zobian was nearly the eighth-place finisher, as his As-8s was in peril against Michael Dyer’s pocket sixes, but an 8h on the river gave him the lone all-in double-up of the first day of final table play. Metalidi had the opposite play out, though, as his pocket fives hit a set on a 6d-5h-2d flop against Zobian’s Kd-Qd, only for the 4d river to make Zobian a flush and send Metalidi out in eighth place.
The river played a key factor in the final all-in of the night as well. The volume and enthusiasm of his boisterous supporters didn’t make it evident, but Alex Lynskey had a miserable time of things throughout the final table. Through 46 hands he hadn’t scooped a single pot, and then on Hand No. 47 Lynskey got all-in with pocket sixes against John Cynn’s Ks-Qs. The Tc-9c-3s flop and Td turn kept him ahead, but Cynn nailed the Jc on the river to make a straight and send the Australian out in seventh.
Despite the tough day, Lynskey was in pretty good spirits following his elimination thanks to his collection of friends cheering him on.
“It’s just great to have the support,” Lynskey said. “It’s always a good thing. It’s good TV, and maybe it brings people into poker when they see things like that.”
The second day of final table action will kick off at 5:30 p.m. local time (8:30 p.m. ET), with the broadcast kicking off 30 minutes later on ESPN. The plan is to play down to the final three players, though the pace of play and eliminations could alter that.
Guoliang Wei won $559,332 and his first WSOP gold bracelet in the $1,111 Little One for One Drop.
Denis Timofeev won the $1,000 double stack semi-turbo no-limit hold’em event for his first career WSOP bracelet and $199,586.
As of 11:20 p.m. local time, Jordan Polk and Fernando Brito were battling heads-up for a bracelet in the $1,500 mixed no-limit hold’em/pot-limit Omaha event.
The two inductees for the World Series of Poker Hall of Fame Class of 2018 were announced Thursday, with current 2018 WSOP Player of the Year leader John Hennigan joined by Mori Eskandani, producer of the WSOP broadcast (and many other poker shows).