From Fish to WSOP Champion: John Cynn Reflects on Humble Beginnings, Rise to Top of Poker World

4 min read

The 2018 World Series of Poker Main Event champion is still technically homeless, still single, and still not sure what he’s going to do with is $8.8 million in prize money.

John Cynn
John Cynn is taking things slow after scoring $8.8 million for his WSOP Main Event win. (Source: Play USA)

Little has changed for John Cynn in the days since he topped a field of 7,874 to win the most coveted prize in poker. Before the big score, his post-WSOP plan was to take up residence in his friend’s guest house. So far, that’s still his intention.

“I’m still just trying to grasp that I won,” Cynn told his hometown newspaper, The Indy Star.

The Indiana University graduate says he’s not about to start splashing his cash around like some high roller.

“I’m going to be careful not to touch a significant amount of the winnings until I’ve talked to a lot of people about what I should be doing with the money,” Cynn explained to Star. “and weighing my options carefully.”

There is no shortage of possibilities for poker’s new champion after an epic ride at the final table.

Second Time’s a Charm

Most people only get one shot at a deep run in the WSOP Main Event, but Cynn somehow managed to buck those odds.

  • Facts about the WSOP Main Event Champ:
  • His first Hendon Mob score was in 2010 for $1,096.
  • His first WSOP cash came in 2012 for $1,830.
  • His biggest non-Main Event win was $80,280 for finishing 10th in the WPT La Poker Classic in 2017.
  • He was a music minor in university and learned violin in grade three.
  • His last “real job” was as an IT consultant.
  • Cynn is a big believer in cryptocurrency, and during the WSOP was often sporting a sponsorship patch for Blockfolio, a crypto app.
  • After paying the tax man, Cynn will actually take home $4.9 million of his $8.8 million win.

The 33 year-old was a couple spots away from his first final table in 2016, finishing 11th for $650,000. He insists he was happy with that “insane” finish, and why not? After all, few ever get that far even once in such a huge, prestigious tournament.

Cynn, however, was just getting started. After a gruelling seven days grinding his way to the final table, Cynn found himself locked in an epic heads-up battle for the ages. The match with Tony Miles lasted a record 10 hours and culminated with an emotional final hand which had his opponent crying “slow roll.”

Miles has since apologized for the accusation that Cynn slow rolled him, and the champ holds no hard feelings.

Considering his start, it’s something of a miracle he made it here at all.

From Fishy Beginnings

Cynn’s rise is somewhat atypical of other Main Event champions. We’re used to hearing about poker prodigies who were always the best player at their hometown table, busting all their friends before going on to beat the best.

Not Cynn; he has no issue admitting he used to be a fish at the poker table.

“I was actually really bad when I started playing,” he revealed.

Though no one would accuse him of being a card shark in his younger days, he had a hunger for the game. He kept playing, despite losing more than he could afford to lose as an undergrad student.

Then, after meeting a friend named Lance Keating, who would become his first poker coach, Cynn says he quickly realized how much skill there is to the game. Hand by hand, session by session, he slowly improved.

“Playing with him and talking poker with him was the beginning of being a really good poker player,” Cynn told the Star.

With and 11th place finish, and now a Main Event bracelet to his name, it’s safe to say the student has now surpassed the mentor.

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