Cunningham claims WSOPC main event ring

Allen Cunningham
Best poker brain around? You decide.

There were many pros among the 334 players who took on the World Series of Poker Circuit main event at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas this week, but that doesn't always mean that a pro will come out on top.

Time and time again, tournaments have started off with a high concentration of professional players only to see some lesser-known or online player triumph instead. Just ask Gus Hansen about it as he recently gave up a tremendous chip lead at the final table to lose a World Poker Tour event to David Chiu.

The WSOPC was a different story, however, as Allen Cunningham showed the world his skills and came back from seventh in the chip count at the outset of the main event final table to win the whole thing.

In the words of Nolan Dalla, WSOP media director, "All great athletes possess intangible qualities. There's something extraordinary about stars such as Michael Jordan, Joe Montana and Wayne Gretzky performing in the prime of their careers. It's not just that they were winners. Many athletes win championships. It was the way they won which captivated fans everywhere leaving an indelible mark on the consciousness of a generation."

That is what railing the final table of the Caesars Palace WSOPC was like, according to Dalla, as poker fans watched Cunningham, a five-time WSOP bracelet winner, survive as one of the short stacks at the table and then come back from a 4-1 chip deficit in heads-up play.

Despite the deficit, people seemed to just expect that Cunningham would win, but the journey wasn't an easy one for the pro.

Also at the final table were Justin Bonomo, a prominent online player making his name in the live tournament world now, and Ralph Perry, the first Russian-born player to win a WSOP bracelet.

Neither, however, could stop the force of Cunningham on his way to a win. Instead, the one stumbling block left was Ben Fineman.

Ben Fineman
Fineman's 4-1 chip lead wasn't enough to block Cunningham.

Fineman already had one win under his belt at this Circuit event. He took down the $1,000 No-Limit Hold'em event, plus he won that same event at Caesars Palace last year as well.

Under any other circumstances he would have been the clear favorite to win the main event as he began the final table with a 2-1 chip lead over his nearest competition and had a dominating lead when heads-up play began as well.

After about 20 minutes of back-and-forth play, Cunningham and Fineman finally collided on their first major hand in the 109th hand of final-table play.

Cunningham moved all-in after catching a pair of queens on the flop, and Fineman called holding pocket sevens. When another seven didn't hit the board for Fineman, he'd doubled up the pro and put them almost even in chips.

After a few hands, Cunningham had a slight chip lead and made his move to end the match on Hand 115. Cunningham was dealt 5 4 versus Fineman's A-J. Fineman raised pre-flop and Cunningham called.

Both players checked the flop after it came K-Q-Q with two clubs in the mix. The turn brought the T, giving Fineman the straight, but also filling in Cunningham's flush.

Fineman made it $300,000 more to go, and Cunningham went all-in. Fineman made the call despite not holding a club and the threat of a flush on the board, and Cunningham had the win.

"Allen Cunningham proves that in poker, the rich continue to get richer. And those of us watching and cheering will continue to marvel at the talent and flair demonstrated by Cunningham at poker's highest levels," Dalla said.

"Dreamers hope to win. Champions expect to win. Allen Cunningham just wins - and makes it all look too easy. Jordan, Montana, and Gretzky now have some serious company. "

The WSOPC main event final-table results were:

Place Name Hometown Prize
1st Allen Cunningham Las Vegas $499,069
2nd Ben Fineman Las Vegas $257,585
3rd Kelly Samson Las Vegas $128,792
4th Mabuchi Osaka Japan $112,693
5th Justin Bonomo Los Angeles $96,594
6th Blair Hinkle Kansas City, Mo. $80,495
7th Thomas Hover Las Vegas $64,396
8th Ralph Perry Las Vegas $48,297
9th Doug Lee Canada $32,198

Cunningham also receives entry into the 2008 World Series of Poker $10,000 Main Event for his win. With the WSOP beginning at the end of the month, that's one less buy-in the Full Tilt Poker pro will have to provide himself on his journey to even bigger poker greatness and another WSOP bracelet.

For poker fans wanting more details of how the WSOPC final table played out, visit the Live Tournaments section where our reporting crew continues to bring fans the best live coverage of events around the world.

Starting at the end of the month, they will also be providing live coverage of every 2008 WSOP event from beginning to end. Tune in for live updates, photos, interviews, videos and more, or find out how you can qualify to go to the WSOP and join your favorite pros at the tables.

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