The eleven-month heartache from his Main Event exit eased slightly as Allen Cunningham finished off Jeffrey Lisandro to take the $5k NLH Event #13.
The $5k events are bringing select fields to the twenty to fifty tables used to start their events. The $5k NLH event gathered a very tough field together for this three-day event.
Day 2 ended on a sour note for poker. Joe Sebok fought a short-stack masterfully almost the entire second half of Day 2. After the final dinner break with eleven players remaining, Keigh Lehr had not returned from his meal. He was in the small blind, and Humberto Brenes raised to 56k from the big blind. Joe Sebok looked down at and moved all-in for all of his 80k in chips. Brenes showed and called, priced in for the 24k call. He began his orchestration for the cameras, and the flop of shot Brenes into the lead. ended the hand for Sebok, then came on the river. Brenes screamed, "Full house!" over and over.
For the casual spectator, it was an entertaining sight as Brenes grabbed two toy sharks and continued his theater. For poker players interested in any decorum at the felt, it was an utter disgrace. Sebok handled the exit with class as he went out in 11th ($21,512). When Joe Patrick beat Chris Sandrock (10th $21,512), the final table was set.
The final table was loaded, and with the danger lurking around the felt, chip stacks hardly dictated the outcome. Chip counts starting the Final Table:
Jeff Lisandro (982k)
Joe Patrick (631k)
Travis Rice (544k)
Gavin Griffin (524k)
Allen Cunningham (346k)
Jason Lester (295k)
Alan Jaffray (254k)
Humberto Brenes (225k)
Keith Lehr (182k)
Alan Jaffray sat a large stack for much of Day 2, but he was first to go in 9th ($31,800). Jason Lester fought an extremely short stack as he slipped under 100k, but Lisandro used pocket queens on a 8-7-6 board to knock out Keith Lehr (8th $43,959).
Lester doubled through Lisandro to get back to 230k, but when Humberto Brenes the same, it brought a more even playing field. Brenes raised to 60k, and Lisandro made it 200k from the small blind. Brenes then moved all-in for 340k, and Lisandro called with . Brenes was strong with , and the blank board brought Brenes to 820k and Lisandro to around 1m.
The two antagonists of Lisandro then went at it. Brenes raised to 60k from the button, and Lester called. The flop came , and Lester checked. Brenes bet 135k and left to perform for the crowd. Lester thought deliberately then moved all-in. Brenes quickly called with , and Lester needed help with . The on the turn brought different hope for Lester as now he needed one of three aces for a straight rather than one of three queens for two pair. Neither player had a club, and when hit the felt, the crowd erupted with approval.
Jeff Lisandro (1.2m)
Joe Patrick (690k)
Travis Rice (530k)
Jason Lester (455k)
Humberto Brenes (435k)
Allen Cunningham (360k)
Gavin Griffin (305k)
It was a long final table, and chips ebbed and flowed like a bay tide. Lisandro further padded his lead as he knocked out Gavin Griffin (7th $58,924). Allen Cunningham then finished off Travis Rice (6th $78,565). Incredibly, it was the first hand he'd seen a flop with as he moved from 360k to 1.26m and the chip lead.
The French Open was just won this weekend by three-time champions Justin Henin and Rafael Nadal. The similarities between Nadal at Roland Garros and Cunningham at the World Series are easy to see: both men show an intense patience in their game, ready to attack when the opportunity presents itself but also fine with letting their opponents make mistakes. Both are feared by the best of their competitors.
A big hand brought the five to three. With the blinds at 20k/40k, Joe Patrick rasied to 140k. Lisandro potted from the small blind to 300k, then Jason Lester deliberated before moving all-in from the big blind for 580k. Patrick was covered and called his last 285k, and Lisandro beat him into the pot with his . Patrick was way behind with , and Lester needed help to stay alive with . meant the smaller stacked Joe Patrick was out in 5th ($99,142). Jason Lester had played a terrific final table and might well have taken his second bracelet with some help (4th $132,813).
Half a dozen hands later, Cunningham knocked out the pesky Humberto Brenes (3rd $197,348). Allen Cunningham (2.15m) and Jeff Lisandro (1.82m) headed to their dinner break, and both knew this would not be a donkfest.
Each player had the button forty times in their heads-up battle, a subtle war of attrition that shows the separation between the top pros and the lucky amateur who goes deep. Both players have immense respect for one another, and these two knew it would be a long grind.
Lisandro reversed the chip counts after twenty hands, but thirty hands later Cunningham held the lead again. After seventy hands heads-up, they were still separated by 100k in chips. Then it happened. Cunningham won four out of five hands, then he won a 1m pot on a board. Like a rattler, Cunningham had struck, and his chip lead sat at 3.075m to Lisandro's 905k.
That was it. Lisandro raised to 165k, then Cunningham potted to 495k. Lisandro put in all of his 905k, and Cunningham called with . He was well behind Lisandro's , and the flop of sent a murmur through the crowd. The room grew to a hush when the dealer showed on the turn. The Amazon Room reverberated with the eruption from the bleachers, and Lisandro was down to one of two queens. gave Jeff Lisandro 2nd ($294,260).
With the victory, Allen Cunningham took his 5th WSOP bracelet ($487,287). With another bracelet in the next two years, he would be the youngest player to six bracelet.
Some World Series bracelets are crapshoots through the masses, as the $1.5k NLH events have become. Others are contests amid peers, where the very best players in the world play three days to take home a title. Allen Cunningham has won both, and he solidified his place as one of the very best players in poker.