John Cernuto is one of the most successful tournament poker players in the history of the game. The man known to many as “Miami John” holds the record for live tournament cashes, with over 500 to his name. The 76-year-old has recorded 65 live tournament titles, including winning three World Series of Poker gold bracelets.
Cernuto was born in Jersey City, New Jersey in 1944. He graduated from Florida State University with a degree in Finance. He worked as an air traffic controller before the 1981 strike resulted in Cernuto deciding to try his hand at becoming a professional poker player dewapoker.
This move paid off, as Cernuto has raised over $ 5.8 million in live tournament revenue during the nearly four decades he has been on the circuit. Throughout that time span, Cernuto has maintained an impressive level of consistency. In fact, he has successfully cashed in WSOP bracelet events at least once every year for 28 years, with an unbroken streak reaching back to 1992.
Card Player recently talked to Cernuto about how he found his way into playing poker, the 80s tournament scene, how he got his nickname, his longevity in the game, and more.
Card Players: Do you remember the first time you played poker?
John Cernuto: My first poker experience was at an Italian family game. We play seven card studs. Deuces are wild if mom deals, and dozens wild if grandma deals. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and parents were all players, and that was fun.
I continued playing in college and when I was in the US Army. I am a person with a salary of $ 100 a month, but I am raising $ 400 a month on the play payday market for the quarter. As air traffic controllers, we played $ 1 poker at home games, but it wasn’t until I moved to Las Vegas in 1982 that I learned that all my previous skills wouldn’t be enough in my new world. My aggressiveness is very good but my reach is too loose.
Without much of the poker material I had during those years, I learned from my new-acquired friends and hard beat school. I played with the Vegas pros for four years, but I was an amateur during those two years. I did well, but realized changes had to be made in my game. The first two years I did as much as I did as an air controller, but when I only made half of that in my third year playing at Stardust Casino, I knew I had to approach the game in a more professional way.