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Ryan Leng didn’t consider himself among the best players in this star-studded field, or even when they got down to the final table of six. But, in the end, it was the Wheeling, Indiana, native who walked away with the bracelet in Event #23: $1,500 Eight-Game Mix.
Leng defeated Connor Drinan after a long heads-up match that featured many reversals of fortune to become a three-time WSOP bracelet winner. Both of his previous wins came in No-Limit Hold’em Events: the $1,500 Bounty No-Limit Hold’em in 2018, and the $1,000 No-Limit Hold’em Freezeout on WSOP.com this summer.
Event #23: $1,500 Eight-Game Mix Final Table Results
|1||Ryan Leng||United States||$137,969|
|2||Connor Drinan||United States||$85,273|
|3||Brett Shaffer||United States||$56,839|
|4||Daniel Zack||United States||$38,752|
|5||Schuyler Thornton||United States||$27,038|
|6||Ryan Hughes||United States||$19,317|
This event, though, was different. It had 484 of the best mixed-game specialists in the poker world, and Leng had to use every bit of the work he’s put in to prevail. “It was a lot tougher,” Leng said, comparing his previous bracelet wins to this one.
“I’ve been studying mixed games lately. I definitely think the final table, the final two tables, I was certainly nowhere near the best player left in the field. I ran really hot.”
During heads-up play, Leng fell down 10-to-1 against Drinan and was all in for his tournament life with against . Leng hit a seven on the flop to double up and didn’t look back from there, grinding down Drinan before taking the chip lead and knocking out the two-time bracelet winner with a 7-6 in 2-7 Triple Draw. But for Leng, just playing against a player he grew up in the game watching was special.
“He’s the best. I used to play low-stakes online and I would pull up his tables on PokerStars and just sweat him,” Leng said. “Playing him heads-up was just a freeroll for me. If I lost, I lost to one of the best. And if I ran well and won, then great.
Taking his place behind the stacks of chips and the gold bracelet, Leng was surrounded by his family and friends who were on the rail cheering him on throughout the final table. His girlfriend, Nicky, and her mother were here, just as they were for his previous two wins. Having that support behind him, with friends who are accomplished players on their own, means everything to Leng.
“It’s amazing. It would mean nothing without them. My rail is amazing,” he said. “They all have success in their own right. I love seeing them have success. We love seeing each other have success. We push each other, we study together.”
Leng isn’t concerned about whether the poker world will start recognizing him more for his all-around abilities and not just as a No-Limit Hold’em player. He’s not playing for the adulation that comes with that recognition. He’s focused more on the people around him and what they think.
“It feels good because of the work that I’ve put in. I appreciate the respect of my peers," he said. "But, aside from that, I’m not doing it for what people think about me or my mixed games. I’m doing it for me, my friends, my family.”
The Eight-Game Mix tested each player’s ability in a variety of games, including No-Limit Hold’em, Limit Hold’em, Pot-Limit Omaha and Omaha Hi-Lo, Seven Card Stud and Hi-Lo, and 2-7 Triple Draw. Leng admits he’s not the best in all those games, but he tried to play to his strengths and avoid big pots in games he wasn’t as comfortable in.
He’s now a two-time bracelet winner this year, adding on to his victory in the WSOP Online in July. There is still one goal he has in mind, though.
“My biggest long-term goal is to win Player of the Year at the World Series,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of work to do the rest of the series to make that happen. But I’m going to try to make that happen.”
He’s already proven he can handle the best players in the world in any game the WSOP has to offer.
2-7 Triple Draw
Ryan Leng raised, and Connor Drinan called.
Drinan took three, Leng drew two, and Drinan check-called.
Drinan took two, Leng took one, and Drinan led out, going all-in. Leng called.
Drinan stood pat, and Leng took one. Leng's was the winner, besting Drinan's .
Drinan exited the tournament in second place, taking home $85,273.
2-7 Triple Draw
Connor Drinan raised, then called when Ryan Leng re-raised. Drinan took three and Leng took one, then bet. Drinan raised and Leng called.
Drinan stood pat and bet while Leng, who took one, called. Drinan patted again on the third draw and Leng took one. Leng then led out and Drinan called.
Leng showed to win the pot and knock Drinan down to less than 1,000,000.
Connor Drinan: //
Ryan Leng: //
Ryan Leng check-called bets on fourth and fifth streets. Both players checked the final two streets, and Leng showed , good for a pair of jacks.
That scooped the pot, and took Leng to more than a four-to-one chip advatage.
Connor Drinan opened the pot for a raise, then called when Ryan Leng re-raised. Leng bet again on the flop and Drinan called.
Drinan led out on the turn and Leng raised. Drinan called to see the on the river. Leng bet and Drinan called.
Leng showed for a flopped pair of kings and Drinan mucked to send yet another pot to his opponent. Leng, who was all in for his tournament life a short time ago, is now a big chip leader.
Connor Drinan limped, and Ryan Leng checked back.
Leng check-called a 500,000 bet on the flop. Both players then checked the turn.
Leng bet 950,000 on the river, and Drinan folded.
Connor Drinan raised pot for 240,000 pre-flop and Ryan Leng called. Drinan continued for 200,000 on the flop, and again Leng called.
When the turn came the , Drinan potted again. Leng studied the board for a moment before gathering the chips to call.
Both players checked the river. "Flush," Leng said, showing for the flush on the river. Drinan lowered his head and stared at the board in disbelief for a few moments before finally releasing his hand.
Seven Card Stud
Ryan Leng: //
Connor Drinan: //
Ryan Leng completed, Connor Drinan raised, then Leng re-raised. Drinan called, then proceeded to call down Leng to seventh street.
"Jacks up," Leng said, turning up for two pair, jacks and eights, to win the pot.
Connor Drinan shoved preflop, and Ryan Leng called off for 1,370,000.
Leng found a pair of sevens on the flop, and that held up through the runout.