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Cannuli suffers tough-luck early departure at WSOP Main Event final table

10 November 2015

LAS VEGAS -- Front row seats were suddenly empty. The beer line vanished. The energy inside the Penn & Teller Theater evaporated. And all it took was 11 minutes.

Two hands into Day 2 of the 2015 November Nine, Tom Cannuli — the popular 23-year-old pro from New Jersey, who brought the most raucous rail to the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino — was unceremoniously ousted from the World Series of Poker Main Event final table when his aces were cracked by Max Steinberg's pocket 10s.

As Cannuli walked off the set and exited the building, so did his large throng of vocal followers. Even though he came into Monday night as the short stack, a daunting 81 million chips behind leader Joe McKeehen, the 100 or so family and friends of Cannuli who flew from the Garden State to Las Vegas were openly optimistic before the cards went into the air.

“Tommy Guns” was unarmed for most of Sunday night when he went card dead. But he survived to Day 2 and that’s all the hope his supporters — many of whom were double-fisting adult beverages — needed.
Tom Cannuli gestures to his supporters on Monday night, moments after he was sent to the rail following a brutal bad beat at the WSOP Main Event final table.

Tom Cannuli gestures to his supporters on Monday night, moments after he was sent to the rail following a brutal bad beat at the WSOP Main Event final table.


“Let’s see him get some cards and double up early. Then the rest of the table is in trouble.” That was the popular sentiment among the folks wearing black T-shirts with “Holy Cannuli” plastered on the back in fluorescent green lettering.

Before the Cannuli crowd could finish their first Silver Bullet, they got their wish. Cannuli flipped over the prettiest opening hand in poker after getting called all-in by Steinberg and had him dominated. It was the moment the Cannuli supporters had been waiting two days for, and they immediately rose to their feet.

The adrenaline rush didn’t last long. Steinberg turned the tables, hitting a set on the flop. Cannuli, who was holding hands with his rail birds as the flop hit the felt, buried his chin in his chest. His fans let out a collective gasp. Just like that, it was over.

After standing under the bright ESPN lights and doing his bustout interview with Kara Scott, Cannuli made the slow walk to the back hallway of the theater to meet with more reporters. But what was supposed to be a press conference turned into something that more resembled a political rally, with Cannuli playing the role of Donald Trump.

As he stepped to the podium, Cannuli’s followers crowded around and started a loud “Tommy! Tommy! Tommy!” chant. Cannuli smiled back, looking nothing like a guy who just got punched in the gut on the biggest stage in poker.

“I love each and every one of you,” he said into the microphone, prompting more wild cheers. “You guys are awesome and will definitely go down as one of the most epic rails that ever existed. You know what means more to me than winning a bracelet? Having all you people here today with me.”

As for the hand that undercut his dream of winning the Main Event, Cannuli, the youngest player at the table, was a pro’s pro as he discussed his bad fortune.

“Yesterday I sat there for five hours and the best hand I saw was ace-jack suited and sixes. Today, the second hand I get aces, so it felt great,” explained Cannuli, who cashed for $1.4 million. “It’s part of the game. You have to respect the game and realize that element out there that you could get unlucky and not be a whiner about it. It’s over and done with. You can’t take it back. And I’ll move forward. It’s back to grind for me.”

As the adoring fans cheered every one of Cannuli’s words, standing in the far background of the room was the “coaching staff” that worked with him over the last three months and throughout this week. The team was made up of renowned poker pros Brian Rast, Jeff Gross and Jake Schindler, a talented brain trust that truly thought it could combine its poker smarts with Cannuli’s instincts, leading to a deep run, despite a bad seat and a large chip deficit going in.

“All in all, going into tonight we were real happy because he was card dead the first night,” said Rast, a two-time WSOP bracelet winner who also took down the inaugural $500,000 Super High Roller Bowl at ARIA Resort & Casino in July for $7.5 million. “He really felt he was going to chip up early and then he'd be able to play some pots, and sure enough we got that chance right away. We got in good with aces against 10s, but got screwed by Lady Luck.”

Rast said most of the preparation time during the last few months was spent working on situations and trying to predict what kind of style the other players would bring to the table.

“Tommy’s a great player; he’s played millions of hands online so we weren’t trying to change how he plays the game,” Rast explained. “We suggested some things, but Tommy was going to do what he was going to do. He’s a very confident player. He did all the right things out there.

“We knew he was really going to have to work at it because he had the worst seat at the table; having the people with short stacks on his right and the chip leader to his left. We got the hand we were looking for tonight and it didn’t work out. That’s poker.”

Rast added that he is fully confident this isn’t the last time Cannuli will play poker on a big stage, and he’s not surprised at how much support he received from the fans.

“Unlike a lot of poker players who tend to be more shy and socially awkward, Tommy wears his heart on his sleeve,” he said. “He’s as genuine as they come and people are naturally drawn to that.”
Cannuli suffers tough-luck early departure at WSOP Main Event final table is republished from CasinoVendors.com.
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Best of Gary Trask
Gary Trask

Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT
Gary Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT