The first re-buy tournament brought some loose initial play as some players viewed the reload option as an opportunity to accumulate chips while others saw it as a stopgap for chasing gut shots and backdoor flushes.
Daniel Negreanu spent $9k on this $1k tournament, while Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi invested a whopping $22k. The ability or will to go bust then reload was a freedom not shared by everyone starting this event. Re-buys ended after the first two hours, and 752 players chased a top prize of $625,830 created by the incredible 1,670 re-buys.
A powerhouse table emerged very early with Daniel Negreanu, Humberto Brenes, Ted Forrest, Victor Ramdin, and Allen Cunningham. Ramdin and Cunningham made a solid run into the money from the table, while Negreanu busted out late. Kathy Liebert knocked out Howard Lederer, who continued to struggle to find a result at this year’s World Series.
Day 1 moved quickly, as the players worked down to 69 players in the money when Scott Lazar, 2005 Main Event final table participant, busted as the bubble boy. Brenes and Ramdin left almost immediately in Day 2. Tony G made a strong run, getting tight on chips then knocking out Liebert to find ammunition to attack pots, out in 22nd ($11,589).
The quality of the field showed in those other players that were out with three tables remaining: Chip Jett, Amir Vahedi, Nam Le, Michael Gracz, and John Juanda left with three tables (24th & 25th, $11,589). Captain Tom Franklin doubled up late, eliminating Illya Trincher (10th, $25,497) to end play for the day. Franklin took the chip lead, with Tim Phan a close second with $551k in chips.
Alex Jacob entered the final table short stacked and needed chips to make a run. Unfortunately, he ran into the shortest stack in Everett Carlton who doubled through Jacob after his baby ace held up against Jacob’s steal attempt with . Andy Bloch knocked Jacob out a couple of hands later (9th, $46,358). Soon after, Allen Cunningham doubled through Franklin with pocket kings to Franklin’s , and Phan took over as chip leader. Cunningham took out Andy Bloch (8th, $69,537) and Carlton (7th, $92,715) on successive hands, and a dominant chip stack emerged in Cunningham. Just as quickly, David “Chino” Rheem doubled through Cunningham, picking off Cunningham’s K-10o steal attempt with big slick. After Rheem eliminated Tim Phan (6th, $115,894), he sat on a million in chips which was more than Cunningham and Franklin held combined. Franklin moved closer after picking off John Hoang’s steal attempt (5th, $139,073). After 30 small pots and all-in shoves, Rheem added Steve Wong (4th, $162,252) to his list of victims. He sat on $1.5M in chips to Franklin’s $720k and Cunningham’s $200k.
Cunningham’s aces held up vs. Rheem, and he doubled through quickly. Franklin and Rheem tangled next in a big pot, with Franklin moving all-in holding for top pair on a flop of . Rheem quickly called with , and Captain Tom Franklin sailed away when the came on the turn (3rd, $185,431). Rheem held almost a 3:1 chip advantage as they headed into heads-up play, but he would have to be the better player this night to take the bracelet from Cunningham.
Cunningham doubled up after 10 hands, his pocket queens holding up against Rheem’s A-Qo, and it was Rheem on the defensive. Each man took turns dragging small pots, both looking for the right spot to make a move. Rheem picked the wrong hand to make his move. Rheem limped to see a pot only to have Cunningham raise to $65k. Rheem then moved in, hoping his opponent would muck and look for a better spot, but the compelled Cunningham to call. Rheem needed to hit with his , but the board fired blanks for both players. David "Chino" Rheem finished in second ($327,981).
For Allen Cunningham ($625,830), it was his fourth bracelet and solidified his place as one of the great players in the World Series. Others may be more flamboyant or followed, but few players have the finishing touch of Cunningham.