Local professional poker player Thomas Cannuli finally earned what he’s been trying to attain for the past five years in Las Vegas last weekend.
The 2010 Lower Cape May Regional High School graduate won the $3,333 WSOP.com Online No-Limit Hold’em High Roller tournament as part of the World Series of Poker on Saturday. In addition to a first-place prize of more than $300,000, he also was presented with a coveted WSOP bracelet.
“It was an incredible feeling,” Cannuli said Monday from Las Vegas. “Getting that bracelet brought me down to my hands and freaking knees.”
Cannuli, 25, became the second local player to earn a bracelet in the past three years.
In 2015, North Wildwood native and Wildwood High School graduate Jeff Tomlinson, won a $5,000 No-Limit Hold’em 8-handed event. Tomlinson, 53, also placed third in a WSOP event three weeks ago in Las Vegas.
Cannuli, from Lower Township, has long been regarded as one of the top poker players in the country. He reached the final table of the WSOP Main Event in 2015 and placed sixth. He is a regular competitor in tournaments both in Las Vegas and at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City.
But until Saturday, he had never won a bracelet.
“The crazy part was that winning one this time wasn’t a surprise,” Cannuli said. “I told people back in January that I was going to win one this year. I’ve been playing the best poker of my life, and I was confident I could do it.”
Even more incredible was the fact that he played the tournament on his phone while also competing in a cash game at the same time.
It was all part of a five-day poker streak.
On Tuesday, he entered a 1,200-player tournament at the Venetian and reached the final 75 before getting eliminated on a bad beat. He immediately headed over to Planet Hollywood and got to the final 35 before getting knocked out again.
Undaunted, he bought into a cash game at the Bellagio for $15,000 at 10 p.m. Friday. Fourteen hours later, he had $70,000 in front him.
“I was close to missing the deadline to enter the online tournament,” Cannuli said. “I thought about skipping it because I was doing pretty well in the cash game, but I decided to try to do both.”
Cannuli grabbed a cab to WSOP headquarters at Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino to register, then went back to the Bellagio.
He would play a hand at the cash game, then pick up his phone and do the same for the online tournament.
“I’m used to playing 12 hands at once online, so it wasn’t that hard for me,” Cannuli said.
Cannuli was among 424 players to register for the WSOP’s first-ever online tournament. It took him six hours to break into the top 10 and he had the third-highest virtual chip stack when the final table began.
Cannuli’s seat at the final table was a chair in the Bellagio sports book.
He played a few more hands at the cash game, then left with $50,000 and focused his attention on the online tournament.
He knocked out two competitors with pocket queens, then eliminated runner-up Tara Cain and third-place finisher Adam Owen on one hand with pocket 10s.
First place paid $322,815.
“It was the best day of my poker career,” Cannuli said. “Everything went just right.”
He’s not finished.
Cannuli said he had “eight or nine” more tournaments on his schedule before the Main Event begins Saturday.
Cannuli won more than $1.4 million in the Main Event in 2015 and was knocked out on the second day last year.
“I can’t wait to get back home to spend some time with my family and friends,” he said. “But I’m not done here, yet. I want to pick up another bracelet before I leave.”