It’s good to be David Chiu.
But at the 2005 WSOP, it’s even better to be Allen Cunningham.
Both seasoned pros met at the final table of event #32, the $5,000 Omaha Hi-Low 8/OB tournament, each with a set of WSOP bracelets and both skilled players in all disciplines. For cash-game specialist Chiu, he was looking for his first major tournament win in 5 years, when he took the $5,000 7CS title at the 2000 WSOP. While he’s been cashing and making final tables in subsequent WSOPs and has a 3rd place finish in a WPT event, Chiu knows that at the WSOP it‚Äôs all about the title, and indeed the China-born pro now living in Cali was gunning for nothing less than a bracelet at this final table. For Cunningham, the taste of a title was still fresh in his mind, and wallet, with his $725,000 victory in the 2nd largest poker tournament ever held, event #2 of this year‚Äôs WSOP. With a guaranteed cash in event #32, the California native has finished in the money in 5 events this year, and a 7th place finish or better here would make him this year‚Äôs first Million Dollar Man at the WSOP.
But looking at the counts when the action began at the final table, Cunningham had his work cut out for him.
1. Russel Salzer – $223,000 (seat 1)
2. Daniel Horowitz – $196,000 (seat 9)
3. David Chiu – $135,000 (seat 2)
4. Haim Kakoun – $135,000 (seat 3)
5. Hiroshi Shimamura – $113,000 (seat 4)
6. Stephen Ladowsky – $109,000 (seat 5)
7. Daniel Shak – $95,000 (seat 6)
8. Allen Cunningham – $76,000 (seat 8)
9. Bueno Patrick – $42,000 (seat 7)
When the action got started a little after 3:00pm on Saturday, Cunningham at first held tight, watching Daniel Shak and then France‚Äôs Bueno Patrick get eliminated in the first hour and a half. While Cunningham was no doubt playing to win, the boot to Shak and Patrick ensured Cunningham that he‚Äôd reach the million dollar mark at this year‚Äôs WSOP, the first time a player has done so before the main event.
Cunningham would hang on for a 7th place finish and the Million Dollar total after getting quartered in a major pot and then finally going out when he lost to Hiroshi Shimamura when Cunningham reraised Hiroshi all in with Qh-5c-3d-2d. Shimamura showed As-Kd-10h-2s and the board was Ks-6s-3h-10d-8h. With Cunningham missing the low as well as a set of threes or a 6 high straight, Shimamura scooped the pot and Cunningham’s chances at a 4th bracelet.
With Cunningham out, Chiu had to feel better about his chances but standing in his way of a 4th bracelet was 5 other players including chip leader Russel Salzer who held on to a 2-to-1 advantage over Chiu. Over the next three hours, Chiu would watch Hiroshi, Ladowsky and Horowitz (doesn’t that sound like a law firm with offices in Tokyo, Milwaukee and New York?) go out, leaving it to a 3-way battle for the $347,410 first place prize between Kakoun, Salzer and Chiu, with Kakoun holding a modest chip lead over the two. Kakoun, however, managed to quickly lose his advantage, and soon after, all his chips to finish 3rd, earning $105,280.
Down to heads-up play, Salzer held around a $200k advantage with a little over a million in play but Chiu went on a charge, scooping pot after pot as Salzer went dry. Chiu finally knocked out the stockbroker-turned-pro Salzer when he flopped a nut flush. Salzer took home a nice $191,610 prize for second place. David Chiu earned $347,410 and most importantly his fourth bracelet.