The World Poker Tour crowned its second champion over the past three weeks, as Shawn Cunix put forth an incredible effort to win the WPT Jacksonville BestBet Open title. Cunix earned $400,600 for the victory, which took five days of endurance as he played with a broken collarbone that he suffered while saving his son's life during an ATV accident.
"It's been one of the most humbling experiences in my life," said Cunix. "I'm just so happy that my son is OK and he got to see me at a time where he's seen his father down, laying in bed for two weeks and still to come back out of that bed and fight and say, 'I'll never quit,' means more to me that I can ever describe."
Cunix entered the final table as the chip leader but had five tough tournament regulars with significant experience under the WPT lights standing between him and the title. According to the World Poker Tour, Cunix's stack swelled early as he separated himself from the pack after taking a big pot off WPT Legends main event champion Will Failla. As was seen on the live stream of the final table on the World Poker Tour website, Cunix extended his lead by opening with a wide range of hands and keeping the pressure on his shorter-stacked opponents preflop.
Failla fell first at the final table, finishing in sixth to earn $54,704. This was Failla's fourth cash and second WPT final table of the season. He'll take the WPT Player of the Year lead into the WPT Championship, which begins May 19. Failla, who was eliminated by Cunix, has $1,108,540 in lifetime WPT earnings.
With five players remaining, Cunix had more than half the chips in play and seemed poised to make this a quick final table. Darren Elias, making his second WPT final table of the season, eliminated WPT co-host Tony Dunst in fifth place. Dunst earned $66,532 in his second cash of the season. Elias dealing the knockout blow allowed Cunix to do more damage to the rest of the table with his dominating stack. As four-handed play began, Cunix's lead over his next closest competitor, James Calderaro, was almost 80 big blinds.
Calderaro eliminated Daniel Buzgon in fourth place as A-J held against Buzgon's K-Q. Buzgon was part of the same final table as Elias earlier this season at the Borgata and earned $94,624 for his efforts. Despite his lack of a victory in this event, Buzgon has found his way into the money a lot in 2012 with 15 cashes to date. This was his third cash during Season X of the WPT.
Cunix lost the lead for the first time at the final table shortly after Buzgon's elimination when Elias seized control after turning an eight-high flush. After dropping nearly 1.75 million in chips in the hand, Cunix had unexpectedly become the short stack. By capturing a few sizeable three-way pots, Calderaro took his turn at the top with Elias in second and Cunix a distant third. Despite the difference between the top and bottom stack of 66 big blinds, Cunix still had plenty of play left, but he committed his chips in a tough spot holding only J-9 against the A-Q of Elias. Cunix, down to his final card, rivered a flush and was a contender once again.
Two hands later, Elias was eliminated in third when he lost a race with A-K to Calderaro's 10-10. Earning $147,850, Elias captured his biggest cash of the year.
For 45 hands, Cunix and Calderaro went to battle, and it seemed that every major pot went Cunix's way. On the final hand, Calderaro, down nearly 8-to-1, called all-in holding J-10. Cunix showed 3-3, flopped a three and earned his place as the newest WPT champion. Calderaro, perhaps known best for his 13th-place finish in the 2009 WSOP main event, won $236,560. This was his second tournament cash of 2012.
"It means a lot," said Cunix. "One of the big things I preach is that if you put passion into anything, you're capable of unbelievable stuff. I tell that to my employees every day. I hope they're watching. It just goes to show that if you put your passion and heart into something, you can achieve anything, and I've always said that."
Here are the final table results from the WPT Jacksonville BestBet Open:
1. Shawn Cunix ($400,600)
2. James Calderaro ($236,560)
3. Darren Elias ($147,850)
4. Daniel Buzgon ($94,624)
5. Tony Dunst ($66,532)
6. Will Failla ($54,704)
EPT Grand Final in Monte Carlo
The EPT Grand Final was the "richest" poker tournament series ever held in Europe, awarding more than 19 million euros over nine days. The biggest winner was Justin Bonomo, who won the 100,000 Super High Roller event for 1.6 million euros and finished fourth in the High Roller for 266,000 euros. Bonomo now sits atop the 2012 money list with $2.5 million in earnings this year.
Mohsin Charania, earning his way into the event on a $33 satellite, won the 1.3 million euro top prize in the main event, defeating a field of 665. Igor Kurganov defeated Daniel Negreanu heads-up to win the 25,000 High Roller event for 1 million euros. Kurganov has cashed in four high-roller events over the past EPT season. Negreanu, who finished sixth in the Super High Roller and second in the High Roller, earned nearly $1.2 million.
While others earned more cash for their wins, Daniel Smith won three 5,000 euro events during the festival for a total of 530,150 euros.
Small blinds: Congrats to my colleague Bernard Lee on five years of the "Bernard Lee Poker Show." PocketFives continues to be innovative and has launched Local Communities as a way for local poker players to interact and find the latest games near them. A 9-year-old poker prodigy? PokerStars Spring Championship of Online Poker gets underway this weekend. The 40-event series will conclude with a $10,300 main event May 20. A.P. Phahurat won the 2012 Chad Brown Challenge to win $116,449. Naz Alkhatib won the latest Heartland Poker Tour stop in Canterbury Park, Minn., to win $118,482. Sam Trickett has left his post as an endorser for Titan Poker. Card Player has announced that the Card Player Poker Tour will debut at the Choctaw Casino in July. There will a $1,080 re-entry four-day main event. Phil Ivey cashed in the EPT High Roller event but missed the final table, finishing in ninth. He earned $96,643 in his first cash since his $2 million score at the Aussie Millions in January.