Dispatches from the Creation Wars

WSOP Final Table Set

Warning: This post contains spoilers

The final table of the WSOP main event is now set. The only American pro left in the field is Allen Cunningham, who is now second in chips with nearly 18 million in chips. Jamie Gold continues to lead, with nearly 26 million, or about 30% of all the chips in the tournament. This should be a really interesting final table. Cunningham is not a household name like a lot of other pros. He doesn’t really promote himself the way most of them do, and his quiet and reserved nature means the cameras don’t exactly follow him around. But make no mistake, this guy can play. Among the top tournament pros, he’s considered one of the best.

He’s only 28 years old, but he’s made the WSOP his personal ATM machine. He won his first bracelet in 2001 while making 3 final tables and finishing 27th in the main event. 3 more final tables in 2002 brought him his second bracelet, this time in deuce-to-seven lowball, an event played almost exclusively by other professionals. In 2003, he made a World Poker Tour final table, then had two more final tables at the WSOP, including a 2nd place finish in 2-7 lowball. In 2004, he made two World Poker Tour final tables and won the Bellagio Five Star World Poker Classic. In 2005, he made 4 final tables in the WSOP and won his third bracelet, winning the player of the year award. And this year, he’s made two more final tables and already won his 4th bracelet. There aren’t very many players of any age that have that kind of consistent track record of success. That’s why his peers voted him the best player in the world under 35 a few years ago (though now they would almost certainly give Phil Ivey that designation). But being second to Phil Ivey puts you in very rare company, to be sure.

This is a great poker player and he’s got a big stack. Up to this point, Jamie Gold has been living on pure aggression and luck. Pauly from the Tao of Poker accused him of having a golden horseshoe in his ass after watching him suck out one more time yesterday. He may well be this year’s Aaron Kanter, a guy who just got on a huge lucky streak for a while and then fizzles out. Or maybe it will last long enough for him to win. All bets are off at a final table with this many chips to be had. Even the guy in last place, Michael Binger (about 3 million in chips) only has to double up twice and he’s got 12 million in chips to play with. Last year, remember, when it got down to five players, Andrew Black had about 40% of the chips in the tournament at the final table, while Joe Hachem was on the short stack. Black lost 3 or 4 hands in a row and was gone in 5th place, while Hachem went on to win the whole thing.

They’re taking today off and will play the final table on Thursday. They should begin in the middle of level 32, with blinds of 80k and 160K and an ante of 20K. That means almost half a million in chips in the pot before the cards are even dealt, and it means a standard pre-flop raise of more than 1.5 million. With that kind of money flying around, you can make up a lot of ground – or be booted out – very quickly. Everyone at the final table is guaranteed at least $1.5 million. By contrast, when Doyle Brunson won back to back main events, he won just over half a million dollars combined.


  1. #1 Jeff Hebert
    August 9, 2006

    Did you see that FlipChip, one of the bigger poker bloggers (not that that says much) and whom Pauly refers to often, picked Cunningham to win it all before the main event started? That’s pretty remarkable. The Kanter-Gold comparison is a good one, we’ll have to see how the cards fall. Should be interesting.

    I actually was in Las Vegas last week and watched from the rail for a bit. Poker’s not nearly as much fun to watch in person as it is on TV. I did get to see Doyle Brunson sign the t-shirt of a very busty, very attractive young lady though. That’s living — 80 something years old and mostly wheelchair bound, but richer than sin and signing some hottie’s chest. God bless America.

  2. #2 FishyFred
    August 9, 2006

    Okay, survey time: Would you rather watch the final table on TV, with the hole cam letting you see every hand? Or would you like an opportunity to see it live and have to guess at the hands, in effect playing along with the game? With the latter, at least you don’t have to listen to Norman Chad for an hour.

  3. #3 Jeff Hebert
    August 9, 2006

    Personally, I’d rather watch it on TV. For one thing you can’t really get close enough to the table to see much of anything live, and keeping track of chips is tough at a distance. Plus they don’t show a lot of hands on TV that are people just stealing blinds — that’s kind of boring to watch, honestly.

    So yes, I’d rather see it on TV. But then, I like Norman Chad, so that probably disqualifies me 🙂

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