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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Superstars

Where Are They Now – Allen Cunningham

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Where are They Now is a series of an in depth look at all poker players - not just the pros - as they travel through one long game. Some of the players profiled are deceased but not forgotten.

If you were to jump to the bottom of this story to Allen Cunningham’s tournament results you would think he’s an old grizzled veteran based on the sheer volume of tournaments he has played.  It’s true, he might be a veteran of the tournament circuit, but there is nothing grizzled about him yet.  At just 31 years old he is in the prime of his poker career, being named by his peers in 2006 as the best poker player, with nothing but a spectacular future seemingly ahead.  

Allen Cunningham was born March 28, 1977 in Riverside, California.  Despite being in an area relatively known for its poker scene, Cunningham didn’t have an interest in the game until he was older.  Instead, he had a keen interest on his education, particularly engineering.  After high school he earned a scholarship to the University of California Los Angeles.  

While attending UCLA he learned of local casinos around the area, and after going to a few with his friends he finally sat down at a low buy-in cash game.  Over the next few years Cunningham used the same analytical approach he took with his engineering interests and translated it onto the poker table.  After a few bumps along the road, Cunningham was soon playing at the highest stakes these casinos had to offer.  At the same time he was doing very well in school as well, but as the money piled up at the poker table the thought of leaving school to pursue a professional poker career came more frequently.  Cunningham had tried a handful of menial jobs, but none of them equaled the joy, or money, he got from playing poker.  Heading into his final year of school, Cunningham made the difficult decision of dropping out to pursue poker full-time.

While still in college, Cunningham discovered tournaments and had some success in lower buy-in events around the area.  Because he was under 21 when he first started playing, he only had options like this.  But, as soon as he turned 21, he started taking bigger shots, starting at the first World Series of Poker for which he was eligible.  In his first attempt at the WSOP in 1998 he placed 25th in the $2000 Hold’em Pot Limit event.  

Around this same time, a group of other talented players began to arrive on the poker scene, including Layne Flack, Daniel Negreanu, John Juanda, and Phil IveyThis group has since gone on to be known as the “Young Guns.”  All of these players credit each other in some ways with the successes they have had.  They would routinely play a session of poker then go to a restaurant or bar and stay until sunrise talking about certain hands they had played.  They might not have known it at the time, but it was an invaluable experience they were afforded because they all happened to descend upon Las Vegas at the same time in poker tournaments.   

Despite the talented friends, it would still take a little more work for Cunningham to be noticed by the entire poker world.  The year 2000 would start Cunningham’s progression to doing just that.  That year he placed in five separate events, including second in the $5,000 Limit Omaha Hi/Lo event for $113,850, his first career five figure score.  In 2001 his success continued, as he took down his first WSOP bracelet, winning the $5,000 buy-in Seven Card Stud event for $201,760.  In that year he also placed in three other events, included in those were two final tables.

Starting in 2005, Cunningham won a bracelet in three consecutive years at the WSOP putting him in a very select and prestigious group, including Johnny Moss, Doyle Brunson, Bill Boyd, Gary Berland, and Erik Seidel.  In 2004 he won the $1,500 No Limit Hold’em event, the next year he took down the $1,000 No Limit Hold’em w/rebuys, and in 2007 it was the $5,000 Pot Limit Hold’em event that gave him his fifth, and at the moment, his last bracelet.  Included in this run and his entire history of the WSOP he has placed in 39 events at the WSOP.  Additionally he has made it to the money in 11 World Poker Tour events, including fourth in the $10,000 buy-in No Limit Hold’em Championship event at the 2005 World Poker Championship.  To date, Cunningham is in 5th place in history of the most money made in tournament history, at just over 10 million dollars.  

As mentioned Cunningham is known for taking an analytical approach to poker, but he is also known as being nothing short of a gentleman at the table.  In even some of his more brutal elimination hands he has also taken it in stride, knowing there is always another game around the corner.  It might also help that he has that nice 10 million dollar cushion to fall back on, not including how much he’s won as being a constant winner at cash games.  

Cunningham’s recent successes include winning the inaugural National Poker League Vegas Open Championship Main Event in December of 2007.  In May of 2008, Cunningham continued his winning ways, winning a WSOP circuit event at Caesar’s Palace for just under $500,000.

Cunningham is a member of the Full Tilt Poker, where he can be seen participating in the biggest cash games and tournaments they have to offer.  Speaking of cash games, Cunningham continues to excel in them just like he did when he first started playing poker, only now for much larger amounts of money, including routinely sitting in at the biggest cash game in the world at the Bellagio.

Although he has yet to win the Main Event at the WSOP he did have a huge score in it when he finished fourth in it at the 2006 event for a huge score of over 3.6 million dollars.  While it’s debatable in this age of poker if winning the Main Event really means you are the best player, it isn’t debatable that Cunningham is one of the best players in the world today.

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