If you were somehow able to plug your headphones into the music that plays in Bryn Kenney‘s head every day, you might find yourself suddenly out of step. Kenney does not keep pace with his companions and, quite clearly, the man hears a very different drummer.
When the final table of the Triton Million event wrapped up, it was Aaron Zang posing for winner photos and doing the requisite post-win interviews with the assembled media after having won the biggest buy-in poker tournament in history. But just a few feet away, Kenney was busy arranging for his $20.5 million payout – nearly $4 million more than Zang and the largest single score in poker history – for finishing as the runner-up.
Kenney now sits alone atop the Hendon Mob’s all-time earnings list with $55.5 million in live tournament winnings, a position he long expected to hold. The reality of it though is finally hitting the 32-year-old.
“I guess it’s sinking in a bit. It feels pretty sick, almost surreal. Even though I always said that I would get it,” Kenney said. “It’s cool to set a goal for yourself and to hit it. It’s amazing.”
Now that he’s got the #1 spot, Kenney – who has never displayed a lack of confidence – doesn’t think anybody else is ever going to catch him. Justin Bonomo, who held the #1 spot before Kenney, now sits second, some $7 million behind.
“I just feel like everybody is a nice bit behind me now. I’m at the top of my game, playing so well, feeling so good. There’s just lots of high roller tournaments, lots of Super High Roller Bowls and, maybe, more million dollar buy-ins where I just feel like I’m the most comfortable and most relaxed,” Kenney said. “Whatever the biggest high roller there is at the time, that’s what I’ve always done well in.”
The Triton Million was the fifth tournament with a seven-figure buy-in and each time the results have caused seismic shifts on the all-time money list leading many to question the legitimacy of that list. Kenney hears it, sees it on social media, but isn’t going to let that diminish the pride he feels after hitting such an almost unreachable goal.
“I don’t really care at all. People will try to find the reason to criticize anything that they can. It doesn’t really bother me. They’ll look for any reason to try to shade you or put you down. I mean, I just laugh at any of it,” Kenney said.
When Kenney and Yang got heads-up, with an $8.9 million difference between first- and second-place payouts, Kenney was more than happy to chop and become the first player to win $20 million in a single tournament. Had Kenney not chopped, and the result stayed the same, Kenney would have taken home $14.1 million for finishing second and Yang would have collected $23 million and put his name in the record books.
“As soon as we got heads up, he just asked if I wanted to chop and it was just so much (money). So I was like, ‘Oh wow. Why not?’ No reason to risk it. Play for six, seven mill, lose a few hands unluckily and lose,” Kenney said. ” I still wanted to win… (it was) a little brutal to lose the trophy.”
It’s unlikely any of the professional poker players in the Triton Million had 100% of themselves. Kenney won’t go into exact details on exactly how much of himself he had, but he’ll certainly hint at it. Before the tournament began, Kenney declared that he had more of his personal net worth at stake in this event than any of the other 53 entries.
“It was somewhere in the 30% to 40% range,” Kenney admitted. “Just myself and this tournament, I just said, ‘Fuck it. I don’t care.’ I just felt like I was gonna win it. If I didn’t, I would’ve been fine to accept it. I just wanted to fire big on myself in the biggest tournament of all time.”
With six-figure buy-in tournaments now running throughout the year, Kenney doesn’t think he’s going to play too many events that aren’t $100,000 buy-ins or bigger and he’s unlikely to miss any event that Triton puts on, no matter where they are in the world.
“I really wouldn’t mind if I never played another tournament except for Triton and Aussie Millions,” Kenney said. That’s music to the ears of the Aussie Millions organizers, who will be glad to learn their reigning Main Event champion will be back to try and defend his title.
“I love it there. It’s a good time of the year. I told my family I was going to take them to Australia before this win even, anyway. I was planning on taking my whole family for Christmas and New Year’s to Sydney and then from there I’ll wind up going to Melbourne,” Kenney said.
In the days leading up to the Triton Million, Kenney went looking extra action. He offered to bet on him and his “recreational player” partner, Cary Katz, against any other duo. He found plenty of takers and ended up adding what he claims was more than a Triton Million min-cash was worth to his haul when all was said and done.
“Nobody won any of the bets that they had against me and I didn’t really turn down any bets either. One bet chopped, but other than that, I scooped every bet that everybody wanted against me. It was just such fun times,” Kenney said. “Most of it happened before the final table even started because a lot of the teams that I bet against, all of their players were out when we made the money. So it was already over once the money hit.”
Entering into the biggest buy-in tournament of all-time requires a very high level of self-confidence. Kenney was happy to book extra bets because he looked at the tournament format and felt it played right into his strengths.
“I just thought I was more prepared than everybody else. I thought it was a tournament that was set for me. I kind of just wanted to talk shit to everybody too, and maybe get in everyone’s head a little bit and make them think that I was overconfident and maybe was just going to be overzealous and maybe not as prepared as I was,” Kenney said. “Me against everybody, just the way I like it.”
The Triton Million had a number of rules different from nearly any other poker tournament in the world. The rules were geared towards making the event a first-class affair from start to finish, top to bottom. Players couldn’t cover their face with a scarf, or sunglasses or a cap, with exceptions for players at the TV table bothered by the lights. There was also a dress code for the final table.
“A formal suit will be required to be worn at the final table,” the rules read.
Kenney had no intention of wearing a suit though, at least not a conventional sports coat, dress shirt, tie combination. The proud New Yorker showed up wearing an outfit he had made during a recent trip to Japan that showcased his love for his hometown. While the seven other players at the final table all showed up embracing the sports coat look, Kenney says nobody from Triton said a word to him about his attire before play began and feels he was still better dressed than some of his opponents.
“Everybody knows me. Even the people in charge, they kind of knew that I wasn’t going to come in with a suit because it’s not really my style. But at the same time I was going to come in with something swag. I mean everybody else wore a suit,” Kenney said. “I didn’t do anything disrespectful. I didn’t mean anything disrespectful at all. I mean, if everyone was coming (dressed) in Tom Ford suits and dressing all A-plus, top-top, no problem. You want me to get a Tom Ford suit? That’s fine. But you know if people are bringing their Marshalls suit for the million dollar tournament, I mean, I don’t really see the need for me to wear some whatever suit too.”
Standing by himself on top of the all-time money list, Kenney scrolls through the names below him and sees a number of players who follow and preach the ‘Game Theory Optimal’ gospel and takes an extra bit of pride in knowing he got where is by doing things his own way.
“That’s the thing. Poker is a game of making good decisions and maybe if you’re doing all this and thinking you need to play the same way always, maybe you’re kind of overlooking some things that you should also be looking at,” Kenney said. “I feel like poker is a much more complicated game than people really give it (credit for) and anyone thinking that it’s just a numbers game, that you could crunch numbers and make the same decisions always, I really think that they couldn’t really be more off.”