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Saturday, May 10, 2008 | Francis Lee


The last World Series of Poker Circuit event before the big one at the Rio, was held at Caesars Palace Las Vegas. The $5,000 buy in main event attracted 334 players which created a total prize pool of $1,670,000. This was shared between the final 36 finishers with the 1st place prize set at $499,162.

The event was scheduled to be played over three days with the final nine players left battling it out on the final table on the third day. When we reached this stage Ben Fineman was holding a healthy chip lead, having over double the stack of his nearest rival Thomas Hover who had $407,000 in second place. The most notable name to make the final stages was Allen Cunningham who started out in 7th place in the chip rankings on $296,000.

Final Table Chip Rankings:

  • 1st Ben Fineman $828,000
  • 2nd Thomas Hover $407,000
  • 3rd Kelly Samson $385,000
  • 4th Blair J Hinkle $382,000
  • 5th Doug Lee $324,000
  • 6th Ralph Perry $319,000
  • 7th Allen Cunningham $296,000
  • 8th Justin Bonomo $272,000
  • 9th Motoyuki Mabuchi $142,000

Motoyuki Mabuchi on the short stack at the start of play on this final table was very active early on, stealing two sets of blinds and then doubling up against Doug Lee. He beat :kc :qs with :ac :jh when the final board came down :9d :10c :qh :as :2d This lead to Lee’s exit when he moved all in on the next hand with :ah :jc His caller Ben Fineman won with :qs :9s hitting a straight on the River with the final board showing :kd :jh :9d :9c :10s Doug Lee picked up $32,204 finishing in 9th place.

Ralph Perry was the next player to head for the rail in the early exchanges. Justin Bonomo started off the pre flop betting which was immediately followed by an All In move from Allen Cunningham. Ralph Perry shoved all of his remaining chips in announcing he was All In as well, Bonomo mucked his cards to leave the two players to the showdown. Cunningham was in the lead when the cards were revealed, dominating pocket Jacks with his pocket Queens. The low board of :5c :8c :3d :2d :2c ensured no surprises came about leaving Perry to collect $48,306 in 8th place.

Thomas Hover was the next player out collecting $64,408 in 7th place. He lost the majority of his chips to Blair Hinkle in the previous hand, when his pocket Queens were beaten by Hinkle’s pocket Fives when he hit a set on the Flop. Hover shoved All In on the next hand with :qh :2h and was up against Kelly Samson with pocket Sevens. Samson was in the lead after the first four cards came down :10h :2d :8d :8h but Hover had a chance with a possible flush draw. The :7h on the River brought confusion to the table as the announcer gave Hover the hand believing the flush had won the hand, but it was brought to his attention that Samson had made a full house to take down the pot.

A short break followed this hand and when the players returned to the table the action started at a furious pace, this saw the elimination of the next two players. On the first hand Moto Mabuchi doubled up against Blair Hinkle beating pocket Eights with :ah :10d This lead to Hinkle’s his exit in 6th place when he was dominated with :qs :9d against Fineman with :as :qc

Just a few hands after Hinkle’s exit Kelly Samson doubled up against Justin Bonomo. Samson was dominating with pocket Queens against pocket Tens and eventually made Quad Queens with the final board coming down :4h :5c :4d :qd :qs This left Bomono short stacked with just $175,000 in chips. He shoved this All In the middle with just :kc :3c Cunningham moved All In forcing the rest of the players to fold and revealed :ah :qd Neither player hit any piece of the board giving Cunningham the pot having Ace high.

Play slowed down a little after Bonomo had left the table and we had to wait for a few rounds before the next player was eliminated. This came as Moto and chip leader Fineman saw a cheap Flop of :jd :5h :kc Fineman immediately moved All In leaving Moto with a big decision to make. It didn’t take too long for Moto making the call revealing :kh :2h having top pair. Fineman tabled :ks :qc having top pair as well but had a huge advantage with a much higher kicker. The final two cards came down :8s :4c leaving Moto to collect $112,714 finishing in 4th place.

Fineman continued his good run taking out the next player to set up the heads up showdown. Kelly Samson was the next unfortunate casualty of this run going out in 3rd place. This came about when both players saw a Flop of :4h :9d :7h Samson bet $75,000 and Fineman re raised this up to $200,000, Samson called and the Turn brought the :9h Samson led out again and Fineman announced All In for his $1million plus chip stack. Samson wasted no time in calling revealing :8s :9c having trip Nines. Fineman was in the lead though having :jh :10h making a flush. Samson needed an Eight or for the board to pair up to survive. These hopes were short lived as the :2h brought him no help on the River.

Ben Fineman held a big chip lead over Cunningham at the start of heads up play with $2.6 million in chips to Cunningham’s $710,000. The first few hands were uncontested with the usual standard pre flop raises but Cunningham evened up the chip Rankings doubling up. Cunningham moved All In with the flop showing :qs :3d :5s having :qd :9h Fineman who had lead out made the call revealing pocket Sevens needing help on either Turn or River. This never came as the :kd and :3h completed the board.

Cunningham took a narrow chip lead after this which lead to the final hand of the event. Fineman led out with a pre flop raise to $80,000, Cunningham called and the flop came down :qc :kc :qd Both players checked and the :10c fell on the Turn. Cunningham made it $100,000 to call which was immediately re raised to $400,000. Cunningham went into the tank for a while before announcing that he was All In. It was Fineman’s turn to make a big decision and after a while he decided to make the call revealing :as :jd having made a straight. His heart sank as Cunningham tabled :4c :5c having made a flush and could not be beat with one card to come. After a recount of the chips the tournament director announced Cunningham had Fineman covered and the tournament was all over. Cunningham collected $499,162 and the WSOP Circuit ring for finishing first. A good come back considering he started off on one of the short stacks at the start of play.

Final Standings:

  • 1st Allen Cunningham $499,162
  • 2nd Ben Fineman $257,637
  • 3rd Kelly Samson $128,816
  • 4th Motoyuki Mabuchi $112,714
  • 5th Justin Bonomo $96,612
  • 6th Blair Hinkle $80,510
  • 7th Thomas Hover $64,408
  • 8th Ralph Perry $48,306
  • 9th Doug Lee $32,204



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