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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

WSOP Update - Day 15


He is arguably one of the best players this century and only the most hardcore poker fans would even recognize him if they were playing at the same table. Allen Cunningham, the newest World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet winner, has now accumulated four WSOP titles since 2001, a mark that puts him in elite company. Even with that success, his quiet and unassuming nature makes him hard to find in poker's superstar ranks. The silent champion is currently tied for sixth on the all-time WSOP gold bracelet leader board and is showing no signs of slowing down. Since 2000, Cunningham has made 13 final tables, proving his abilities both before the 2003 poker boom and after. Monday's Event #14 victory is Cunningham's second bracelet in No Limit Hold'em. The other two came in stud and No Limit Deuce to Seven. His range is quite unique, having made final tables in events ranging from the popular No Limit Hold'em to the true test of poker ability - the HORSE events.

The final table of the re-buy tournament Monday included some of the toughest tournament competitors in poker, most notably "Captain" Tom Franklin (1999 gold bracelet winner), Tim "The Razor" Phan, and Andy Bloch arguably one of the best players to never win a bracelet.

Also challenging Cunningham was John Hoang, who already made a final table in the 2006 WSOP, coming in second to David Williams in last week's 7-Card Stud event.

Cunningham outlasted them all, defeating first-time WSOP final table participant David Rheen in a three-hour heads-up match. The hand that took the tournament was an A-Q offsuit, strong enough to catch an Ace on the river and earn Cunningham $625,830.

The 29-year old Cunningham is one of only five players to win four gold bracelets before reaching the age of 30. The other four were Stu Ungar, Phil Hellmuth Jr., Layne Flack, and Phil Ivey, all some of the best players to ever sit at a poker table.

All-Time WSOP Gold Bracelet Leader Board

1.) 10 Bracelets - Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan -10

2.) 9 Bracelets - Phil Hellmuth - 9

3.) 7 Bracelets: Bill Baxter, Johnny Moss, Erik Seidel

4.) 6 Bracelets - TJ Cloutier, Men "The Master" Nguyen

5.) 5 Bracelets - Bones Berland, Chris Ferguson, Jay Heimowitz, Layne Flack, Phil Ivey, Stu Ungar, Ted Forrest

6.) 4 Bracelets - Mickey Appleman, Bobby Baldwin, David Chui, Artie Cobb, Allen Cunningham , Tom McEvoy, Scotty Nguyen, Puggy Pearson, Amarillo "Slim" Preston, Huck Seed

New Ladies Champion

On Monday, Mary Jones Meyer won the largest and richest women's poker tournament in history, collecting her first gold bracelet and a prize totaling $236,094.

The 1,128 women who entered the $1,000 WSOP Event #15 Ladies World Poker Championship comprised a record field. The previous mark was set in 2005 when 601 entered the women-only event.

Last year, Jennifer "The Unabombshell" Tilly, an Oscar nominated actress turned poker player, won the prestigious title. This victory arguably boosted the popularity of an event once shunned by any serious female players.

Using her win to boost her poker image, Tilly embarked on a year-long tour of the biggest tournaments in poker and played in the Poker Superstars Championship Series, a popular television program made up of the biggest names in the sport.

Meyer's popularity doesn't quite equal Tilly's, especially considering this is her first major tournament win, but the humble champion is quite aware that she accomplished something special thanks to her special someone.

"I definitely owe this tournament to my husband's training," Meyer said after the tournament. "He taught me many things about poker and we play together all the time. It was definitely a team win."

The final table was an eclectic mix of female participants, emphasizing poker's international and generational appeal. The player ages ranged from 24-50 with seven states and two countries represented. There were also two expectant mothers playing in the final nine, a first in WSOP history.

Although the prestige and the money are both pluses for Meyer, the moment was what she relished the most. Even with her bubbling excitement, she was careful enough with her words to put things in perspective.

"This is the second-happiest moment of my life," Meyer said, with her arms tightly wrapped around her husband.

Final Table Set for WSOP Event # 16 - $10,000 Pot Limit Omaha

The final nine are ready to rock and roll today (July 11) in the largest Omaha tournament played so far at the 2006 WSOP. A field of 218 of the best Omaha players on the planet has been whittled down to a group that includes both WSOP and World Poker Tour (WPT) regulars.

Mickey Appleman, who is down on chips but never out of any WSOP tournament, leads in experience at the final table. Appleman owns four WSOP gold bracelets, his last coming in a 2003 Pot Limit Hold'em event.

Near the chip leader is crowd favorite and WSOP gold bracelet owner Hassan Habib. After two-days of solid play, Habib has a hefty stack of chips and is considered the favorite to win. He has made the final table in several enormous tournaments, including two WPT World Championships and 2000 WSOP Main Event.

The event's defending champion is Rafi Amit who happens to have made the final table once again. Amit has the gold bracelet and the experience necessary to win, but if he's to make it two-in-a-row, he'll need to do so from the short stack.

Also competing is WPT regular Lee Watkinson who has come in second twice in $10,000 WPT events. Watkinson will be vying for his first major title after several near victories in both the WSOP and WPT.

Here are the final table participants and their chip counts -

Jani Vilmunen - $485,000

Hasan Habib - $349,000

Mike Guttman - $283,000

Mark Dickstein - $212,000

Lee Watkinson - $207,000

Nick Gibson - $207,000

Thomas Wahlroos - $168,000

Mickey Appleman - $102,000

Rafi Amit - $99,000

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