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Gary Trask

Gary  Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's Editor in Chief and has worked as a writer and editor more than 25 years. The Boston native was a member of the Poker Hall of Fame's inaugural Media Committee.

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Cantu survives exhausting final table

29 Jun 2009

By Gary Trask

LAS VEGAS – Less than 15 hours after capturing his second-career World Series of Poker bracelet in one of the most riveting final tables of the year, Brandon Cantu looked like one drained and exhausted poker player on Sunday afternoon.

Nonetheless, the 28-year-old pro from Washington was back inside the Rio's Amazon Room at 2:15 p.m. sharp to accept his bracelet for a hard-earned victory in the $1,500 Pot Limit Omaha Hi/Lo (Event #48).

He was also there, however, to play some more poker.


Brandon Cantu shows off his second-career WSOP bracelet.

"This took a lot out of me, but I still plan on playing every event on the schedule right through the Main Event," said a dreary-eyed, but energetic, Cantu, who jumped right back into the fray on Sunday by entering the $3,000 Triple Chance No Limit Hold'em event. "I feel like right now I'm playing the best I have played in a couple of years so I'm going to just keep going for it. I'm not burned out. Success has a way of rejuvenating me."

If that's the case, then it's easy to see why Cantu has an extra hop in his step, despite the long hours he has put in at the poker table over the last few weeks. Not only did Cantu win a second bracelet, but he has also cashed in three events overall this year. He was the runner-up in the $1,500 buy-in No-Limit Hold'em event and he was 98th in a $1,500 No Limit Hold'em event.

For his career, Cantu – who picked up $228,867 for his latest win – now has four final table appearances, 10 WSOP cashes and more than $1.4 million in WSOP earnings.

But, as usual, his victory Saturday night was a roller coaster ride. Cantu – who signed a deal with UltimateBet just before the start of the WSOP – came to the final table on Day Three with a sizable chip lead, but saw that lead quickly disappear. In fact, when it went to four-handed play, he was the shortest stack at the table. But he managed to battle his way back and when the heads-up competition began Lee Watkinson enjoyed nearly a 3 to 1 chip advantage over Cantu.

During the epic heads-up battle, Cantu was all-in at least six times, but managed to either scoop or split the pot, which prolonged his survival. After about an hour of heads-up play, the duel came to an abrupt end when Cantu won a series of late, critical hands and busted Watkinson with trip-fours on the final hand.

"If you look at all of the final tables I've played in, that's how they always seem to go," he said. "I'm used to the ups and downs. I guess that's how I play. But it's all good if I can come out on top."

Making the victory even more exciting was the huge crowd that gathered around the final table. Cantu, who has relocated to Las Vegas, had the home-table advantage for sure and his supporters were boisterous.

"It's nice living in Las Vegas because you have a lot more of your friends come out and support you," he said. "I had a lot of friends here and some family flew in to see it. That makes it that much more fun to be able to share it with them.

"The first bracelet win will always be special. I don't think anything will ever top that one. But this one feels pretty good too. I can get used to winning these things. It's a great feeling."

Cantu finished 20th in last year's WSOP Main Event. He was one of the chip leaders late in the tournament, but suffered a brutal final few hours and busted out in what for him was disappointing fashion, despite collecting a $257,000 paycheck.

"Like I said, I'm going to play in a few more events before the Main Event, so right now I'm not even thinking about it," he said. "When it's time to wake up and start playing in the Main Event, that's when I'll start thinking about it. Until then I just want to see if I can keep playing as well as I have been. That's my main focus right now."

2009 WSOP proving to be the year of the repeat
Greg "FBT" Mueller took home his second bracelet at this year's WSOP after winning the $1,500 buy-in Limit Shootout championship on Sunday, marking the first time in the 40-year history of the WSOP that four players have won multiple bracelets in a single year.

In addition to Mueller, Jeffery Lisandro, Phil Ivey and Brock Parker have won more than one bracelet in 2009.

Mueller's first bracelet was also in Limit Hold'em in the $10,000 World Championship event earlier this month.

"They say good things come in threes," he said. "There are still two more events, so who knows? It feels unbelievable, especially because the player I beat (Marc Naalden) is such a great Limit Hold'em player. He was the player coming into today who I thought would be the toughest to beat. I'm really, really happy with this one."

Mueller, a former hockey player who has done modeling and been featured in television commercials, collected $194,854 for first place.

Casino City's Dan Igo contributed to this report

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