LAS VEGAS -- While the first day of final table play in the 2018 World Series of Poker main event was all about Michael Dyer, Friday's action was defined by Tony Miles' incredible surge into a commanding chip lead on the way down to the final three players.
Miles' ascent began at the expense of Joe Cada's effort to repeat his 2009 WSOP main event victory in the same way that many issues in poker play out -- a race between two fairly balanced hands -- only this time, there were millions of dollars hanging in the balance. After winning that pot, Miles picked apart Dyer in a series of big pots and imposed his will.
After living the kind of day every poker player dreams of, Miles was in awe of how things played out for him Friday and the big crowd in attendance to support him.
"Those people are my heart," Miles said. "It means the world to me to be able to come out here and show them what we work so hard for all the time."
John Cynn picked and chose his spots along the way and ended the night by eliminating Nicolas Manion, cementing his, Miles' and Dyer's spots on the final day of the 2018 WSOP main event. Miles is well ahead with 238.9 million -- more than 60 percent of the chips in play -- but with his elimination of Manion, Cynn has 128.7 million to put him within one big pot of closing that gap.
For Manion, who carried the chip lead into the final table, it was a bittersweet end to the run of a lifetime. He walked away with no regrets.
"I look back on this experience as the best one of my life, and nothing else will probably top it," Manion said.
With one more day of play, Cynn had the most active support system -- filled with pros crunching numbers and watching the stream to keep up with the hands being played. Though it can be tough to balance what's being experienced at the table with what outside observers are seeing, Cynn appeared to be locked in throughout Friday.
"I do feel like I have a good sense of what's going on at the table," Cynn said. "At the same time, I welcome any advice -- even if it's drastically different from [my style]. I feel comfortable in myself to be able to weed out what I want to add to my game and what not [to add]."
After coming into the day with everything seemingly rolling his way, Dyer is on thin ice with 26.2 million -- making him far and away the short stack among the final three.
Everything that seemed to go Dyer's way Thursday went in Miles' favor, starting with what could easily be described as the most pivotal hand at the final table. With five players left, Cada put Miles to the test by four-bet raising all-in with pocket tens; with Miles holding only slightly more chips, his tournament life would also hang in the balance, should he call with Ah-Kc.
After several minutes spent thinking it over, Miles shoved his chips into the middle, and the race was on. With a Ks-9h-8d flop, Miles put Cada on the brink immediately, but Cada went from two winning cards to six with the Qd turn. The 9s river kept Miles' kings best, and Cada's historic run came crashing down in fifth for a payday of $2.15 million.
Cada's combination of a victory in 2009 and fifth place this time around stands among the great achievements in the history of tournament poker, but the loss of such a crucial pot was an emotional moment for Cada. Cada left the Rio's Amazon Ballroom after congratulating the four remaining players and walked down the hall without much of a comment.
For Miles, it was the start of something tremendous. He ran his chips up to more than 100 million in the next few hands, making the first real push of Dyer and the lead, and then played a massive pot that changed the lead for the first time since the second overall hand of the final table Thursday.
Miles' pocket 3s flopped a set while Dyer had 4c-3c on a Ks-4h-3s flop, with Dyer check-raising and Miles calling. Dyer bet again on the 5c turn, while Miles bet the Kc river. The pot swelled to more than 120 million, and with Dyer's quick call, the full house drove Miles to more than 180 million and the lead. In a matter of 16 hands, Miles had won the two biggest pots of the WSOP main event to that point -- and from there it was off to the races.
The day began six-handed, but that layout didn't last long. On the fifth hand of the day, Aram Zobian shoved all-in from the small blind with 8d-6d and couldn't beat Dyer's Ah-8c. Zobian didn't connect with the board in any way and went out in sixth place for $1.8 million.
Zobian had no regrets with how everything played out, though. He was willing to take chances to give himself the best chance he could to win the tournament.
"From the beginning of the final table, I was going for the win," Zobian said. "In years past, I watched [the main event] and I've seen people folding hands that shouldn't be folded, trying to ladder up. I respect that, that's their life, but my decision was to go for the win because I feel like I deserve to give myself that opportunity."
• Shaun Deeb has taken the 2018 WSOP Player of the Year lead by being one of the final three players in the $10,000 six-handed no-limit hold 'em championship. Depending on his result, he could make it difficult for John Hennigan to catch back up, though Hennigan is making a run of his own in the $3,000 H.O.R.S.E. bracelet event.
• The $50,000 no-limit hold 'em high roller drew more than 125 entries during its first day of play, with registration open until the start of Day 2 on Saturday.
• Though the main event is set to wrap up Saturday night, it's not the final major event of the summer. The $1 million buy-in Big One for One Drop kicks off Sunday, with three days of coverage split between ESPN and PokerGo.