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.