Cherokee, North Carolina (May 15, 2023) - The Cherokee Main Event has come to an end. A field of 1,205 players became one, and a familiar face was seen holding the ring as the smoke on the nearby Smokey Mountains settled.
Ryan Jones won the Cherokee Main Event for the 2nd time for his third career ring and the $302,131 grand prize. His first Cherokee main event title was won in April 2015. He becomes the second player in history to win the Cherokee main event twice, and he is a fitting player to do so as the North Carolina local can be deemed the king of Cherokee.
“I love Cherokee. This is like my second home. I live in North Carolina, so I drive here, and with four stops a year right here in my backyard, you can’t really beat that.” Jones said afterward.
Back in 2015, Jones was a fairly new and young player, and the win in Cherokee was his first big splash on the poker scene. He almost added his second Cherokee Main title in 2019 when he finished 4th place in that main event, and today he was able to add that coveted second Main Event win. He talked about the differences from 2015 to now.
“I am such a different player than when I won before. And you know, tournaments are hard, man; you can be doing everything right and feel like you aren’t. But you gotta just keep trying and keep grinding. Trust your process.”
And keep grinding Jones has, as he is one of the most consistent presences in tournament poker, as you are sure to see him in tournaments all over the country. This is his third overall ring, as he also won the Rio Circuit Main Event in 2017.
Jones was already planning to play a busy summer, and this win will not change those plans as he said he played 40 tournaments last summer at the WSOP, and it will be more of the same this year. The only difference he noted is that he will play all the 5ks this time, thanks to this win today.
Day 3 Action
Day 3 began with twelve hopefuls, with Jones starting the day as the fourth largest stack. As the day went on, players were eliminated by chip count for the most part. The first big sting in the tail that got things going came when play was six-handed when Jones picked up queens and had the chance to eliminate two at-risk players at once, which he did when he flopped them dead with quad queens.
Jones kissed the queens following that hand as he rocketed into the chip lead with four players left as it appeared he was destined to collect that second title.
But things did not go as smoothly as planned after that, as Jones started to lose several hands in a row and eventually slumped down to the short stack. Meanwhile, Jonathan Lewis was able to rise to the prominent chip leader and set himself up for his own story with his first ring.
The four-handed play would last for about two hours as Lewis’s stack grew while Jones scrapped and clawed, while Michael Monaghan and William Kopp tried to position themselves for the most money they could get. Eventually, Monaghan was eliminated in fourth, and Kopp ended up in third place after calling against Jones’ full house, which put Jones back into the chip lead.
Heads-up play began after a dinner break, with Jones having the lead. But Lewis won the first seven hands of heads-up play and grinded Jones down to as low as 9 million in chips (vs. 26 million of Lewis). But Jones was not deterred, as he was able to right the ship and turn the momentum back in his favor to take the lead back, with a key jam over a large bet from Lewis that got a fold.
From there, Jones was able to finish the job and avoid an extended heads-up battle to claim his victory.
That wraps up coverage of the Cherokee Main Event here on WSOP.com. Stay tuned for a brief recap of Maurice Hawkins winning his 15th career ring, which also happened today in Cherokee.