November Nine Sweat

2015 WSOP Main Event Bracelet. (Image: Pokerfuse.com)

As a professional poker player, there is nothing like making a deep run in a major tournament online or live. The only thing that comes close is having a horse which runs late in a tournament. This is few and far between unless you have a stable of ponies. For the majority of the poker MTT community we are either staked, sell action or just play on our own (maybe some swaps here and there with other players in the same tournament). The thrill of having a piece of a player run deep is something I have had several times for smaller percentages or swaps but never a true “sweat.”

That is exactly what happened this year at the 2015 WSOP Main Event. I had come off a solid summer with 5 WSOP Cashes including a 6th place finish in the $2500 NLH WSOP event. My summer came to a close on the end of Day 3 in the Main Event with a 692nd place finish. This was good enough to be in the money (1,000 players cashed the main event this year) but my summer had come to an end. Myself along with several other professionals had created a pool of various players where we did all types of deals from 80/20 free rolls to buying at different markup prices.

The other two players brought about 15 players total and I brought just two.  I had a smaller piece of the ones they brought and a larger piece of my two thoroughbreds. When I busted we had a few sweats left in the fund but I had my eye on the one who had a large stack and I know personally is a hell of a player, Thomas Cannuli. Tommy, as our friends call him, is a young gun, just turning 23 at the beginning of this series. I was fortunate enough to meet Tommy through a mutual friend, Charles Hook who is also a very strong poker player about five years ago. His age is no indication of his experience. He has put in as much work as anyone, both playing live poker and online.

At the 2014 WSOP Main Event, he was the chip leader ending play on day 2. He ended up sneaking in for a min cash that year and made it very clear to me that he learned a lot from that experience and when he got the chips again he would do things much differently. That is exactly what happened this year. He got the chips and he took it to the very end.

Being on the rail for days six and seven of the WSOP Main and sweating some massive all ins, which included a couple holds with AA and AK, all in pre, as well as an ATss vs QQ get there was as good as it gets! It was incredible to be a part of and the footage that aired later on ESPN, leading up to the final table was just as exciting as I remembered in the moment.

It had all the drama right to the very end. With Daniel Negreanu, who is arguably the biggest name in poker going out in 11th the tables combined. Being on the direct rail sweating with fellow friends, whom also had invested interest was amazing. There was an all in, a chop, an all in with the same hand, and finally the bubble burst! Tommy had done it, he made the elusive November Nine.  It was a moment to be cherished for him and you couldn’t wipe that smile off his face if you had to.  It was really something.

We got some food and then went to a back room in the RIO and divvied up the pieces. It was a pretty incredible $1,000,000 in cold hard cash. The timing was impeccable. I had a flight the next day leaving to Barcelona where I would make it just in time for my fiancés Birthday and also have the opportunity to ask her parent’s permission for her hand in marriage.

They don’t speak much English and her twin sister was there as well. When she was away from the table I had her sister help translate for me what I was asking and to make sure not to ruin the surprise. They said yes and I was over the moon!  It was a long time between July 16th and November 8th, but very exciting.

It is the only time in poker where there is a dramatic pause and an event takes months for a break and then returns. It is the absolute dream for a poker player with only nine, getting to experience it each year, it is unfortunate that all of us will not get this chance in our life time. This makes it all the more special when it is achieved.

Tommy took some time off and was home in Cape May, NJ. He had a few good months of playing both online and live at the Borgota in Atlantic City, NJ.  He was ready to just relax now. He took a vacation to Hawaii a few weeks prior to the event final and then reconvened in Las Vegas early in November.

We ran some simulations, went over some analysis, talked strategy and scenarios along with several others including Brian Rast, Antonio Esfandiari, Sorel Mizzi and Jake Schindler to name a few. Tommy is a great player and needs no coaching, but it definitely helps to get some second opinions and be open to ideas. Tommy is very coachable, so it was not only informative but beneficial. Any time you can get a group of great poker minds together I think it is very valuable. I know I am personally looking to get better and always improve, and this for me is the number one way to do so.

It was a few anxious nights, but finally, the stage was set. Playing down from nine to six players the first day of the November Nine was not easy. Tommy was card dead and when he looked to open it up he got shut down with some unfortunate timing.  He played his stack perfectly with some nice shoves, picking good spots and he had survived to live another day, worth a solid pay jump of $426,000. This was a good jump. The first few spots were not big jumps proportionally, which made it more attractive to take some risks.

Tommy had navigated this portion of the tournament and was ready for a new day. The following day play started and I remember speaking with him right before he went on stage in the back behind the bleachers. We spoke and I said visualize those big tier 1 hands, you are due, it is coming and he looked at me clear as ever and said, “I know they are, let’s go!”  The big pairs didn’t take long to come as it was just the second hand off the deck as Tommy was UTG and opened the action.

It folded around to Max Steinberg who is also an extremely talented player who said those two powerful words, “All in.”  Tommy was bladed, two black Aces, the dream.  Max had a real hand with two tens and they were off to races with Tommy holding a 4 to 1 advantage.  Those who play poker know this is one of the better spots you can ask for to play a big pot but also realize that 20% of the time it will not end well.  This would be one of those times unfortunately, as Max had flopped a ten and it would be Tommy now who was in distant second with two pulls at improving.

The turn brought some hope where Tommy added four outs, any king would make him a straight to the ace.  It was an out of body experience, Tommy walked over right in the center of where the players walk out, his family and close friends on one side, my friends and investors on the other and we joined hands with each side connected with as much positive energy as you could ask for.  It happened so fast and just like that, Tommy was out in 6th.

Being knocked out of the WSOP Main Event at the final table all in with pocket aces is as rough as it gets.  Of course, along the way there are some who get there like the ATss but once you flow through a field of that size (6,420 entrants) it all just doesn’t matter. The moment is the moment and the odds are the odds. That ended up being over a $2,000,000 equity pot when plugged into the ICM calculator and knocked the wind out of all our sails. Tommy handled it like a true professional, shaking hands with every single player and walking off stage to do an interview with Kara Scott right that second. He then did the WSOP podium interview in the back for his entire rail as well as other fans who declared he would be back and it was immensely powerful.

I am very proud of Tommy and will continue to support him any way I can.  He has a big heart, big goals and he is a name in the poker world that won’t be forgotten, you can expect to see him under the bright lights again in the near future.

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