A tournament steeped in history and tradition has another outstanding champion to call its own as Gerald Cunniff of St. Paul, Minnesota has won the 2022 South Dakota State Poker Championship on the Mid-States Poker Tour (MSPT).
Cunniff takes home one of the most iconic trophies in poker for his victory, outlasting 506 entries at the Silverado-Franklin Hotel and Gaming Complex in Deadwood, South Dakota.
The tournament was one of the region’s biggest and most successful ever, as the massive field created a prize pool of $489,320 which was spread among the final 54 players.
“It’s going right on the mantle, until my wife takes it away”, joked Cunniff when asked if he was putting the legendary trophy in a special place.
Along with that incredible trophy, Cunniff takes home $94,483, which is his largest-ever tournament score.
“The trophy is really cool, but the money is really the best thing.” said Cunniff when asked to compare the significance of the trophy to a near $100,000 score.
In the end, it was Cunniff taking home the largest piece of the prize pool and that trophy, as a deal was agreed upon before heads-up play began, with Cunniff holding a near five-to-one chip lead over runner-up Mike Estes of Coralville, Iowa. The deal saw Estes take home an even $75,000 for his efforts.
Road to the Final Table
Cunniff came into Sunday as the chip leader and kept building his stack as he battled his way through a day which saw many quick eliminations as the bubble was burst quickly with just 12 of the 66 returning players needing to be eliminated to reach the money.
Patricia Baumann was the unfortunate bubble elimination when Jeff Heiberg sent her home shy of the money with ace-ten against Baumann’s ace-four.
From there, many notables fell shy of the final table, including MSPT stars Matt Kirby (30th - $2,642) and DJ Buckley (23rd - $3,768), along with Jeff Heiberg (12th - $7,340) and Joshua Reichard (11th - $7,340).
Final Table Action
After the final nine returned from dinner, it looked like Estes would run away with the event as he took an early pot off Cunniff before scoring the table’s first elimination by ending the run of 2019 champion Sergio Mireles.
Cunniff then began his final ascension to the title, first knocking out Alex Smith in 7th place, then cutting into Estes’ chip lead in a key pot.
The wild card at the table was Ron Kohner, whose random aggressive style had players shaking their heads throughout the day. But it was Cunniff who finally got to him midway through the final table in a key pot, then put him on fumes with a huge double up that sent Cunniff to a chip lead that he would not relinquish before finishing off Kohner.
From there the deal was agreed upon that declared Cunniff the champion.
This concludes our coverage from Historic Deadwood, South Dakota and the Silverado-Franklin Hotel and Gaming Complex.
Congratulations to Gerald Cunniff, the 2022 South Dakota State Poker Champion!