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Thomas Cannuli was not a household name in the poker world before July of 2015, but he was certainly making a name for himself behind the scenes. And when he made the final table of the 2015 WSOP Main Event, he had fans that included Jeff Gross, Sorel Mizzi, and Brian Rast. That is some stellar company to keep in poker.

Now he sits at the poker tables at the Rio this summer, trying to score again. It will be tough to top the sixth place Main Event finish and $1.4 million payday from last year, but he prides himself on working hard and continually improving his game. His name may not be featured in live updates and video interviews as often as others, but rest assured that Cannuli is playing his A-game nonetheless.

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Recalling Cannuli’s Come-Up

From a video game-loving youth, Cannuli discovered online poker in his teenage hears and began playing freerolls online. Over the years, he built a bankroll, one that grew to a six-figure amount before he even graduated from high school. That prompted him to choose poker over college, though Black Friday came soon after and stopped his online roll. That took Cannuli to the live games in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where he refocused his attention and learned to be a solid cash game player.

His third trip to the World Series of Poker was in the summer of 2015, and all of the hard work helped Cannuli earn a seat at the Main Event final table. As a member of the November Nine, he gained more notoriety than ever before in poker, but he took it all in stride, staying humble and focused.

Reflecting now on the experience, Cannuli told Poker Update that his most memorable moment of that 2015 run came before he even made the final table. “I had the opportunity to sit next to Daniel Negreanu at the featured table on Day 6 and experience his enthusiasm and professionalism. He is one of the most authentic people you will ever meet.”

Even so, Cannuli felt that he had a leg up on Negreanu because of his relative obscurity at the tournament tables before that point. “Daniel did not know my game. I felt powerful and was able to throw in bluffs,” he recalled. “I was hurt when he was knocked out, though. He is a legend of the game, and I really wanted to be at the final table with him.”

When he ultimately finished sixth at that November Nine televised event, Cannuli again took it like a pro despite his young age. “I had no regrets!” he told us about that final table experience. “It is a choice in life to regret or not, and I have absolutely no regrets. I did everything I could to win, and I am extremely happy with my play.”

Moving Forward with 888 Style

Cannuli is playing a full schedule of No Limit Hold’em events at this 2016 WSOP that is already underway in Las Vegas. His goal at the start was to play “as many as possible,” though the Crazy Eights tournament is the one to which he most looks forward. Event 54 is an $888 buy-in NLHE eight-handed event at the WSOP, with several flights and reentries allowed, as well as an $888,888 first place prize guarantee. It is also sponsored by his sponsor, 888poker.

He noted that one of the stand-out moments since the November Nine was the 888 deal. “Being respected as a professional in the industry, I was selected to be an ambassador for the 888poker team.” That respect for his game, after putting in so much effort through the years, is a source of pride for Cannuli.

With a few adjustments and the ability to constantly learn with every poker hand he plays, the young pro is ready to move forward and encourage others to join him at the online and live tables. And for those playing the WSOP Main Event this year for the first time, Cannuli offered some sage advice. “Pick your spots! You don’t need to overplay hands. The length of the tournament will give you time to find the best spots. Tight is right!”

With four cashes in the 2016 WSOP as of June 20, Cannuli looks toward the culmination of the series, which is his own Main Event run. He plans to play the same style, for the most part, and looks forward to the same tournament as last year. “Some things in life are great and don’t need to be changed,” he said of those wanting to alter it or remove the November Nine delay. However, he is not opposed to the addition of an action clock, though there would need to be a “decent amount of time on the clock given the amount of money” in play.

The Main Event is on his radar, and it is coming up rather quickly. Cannuli will again be in the spotlight, as the poker media wonders if he can make another deep run. And he seems more than ready for all of it.

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Jennifer Newell

Jennifer has been a freelance writer in the poker industry for a decade. She left a full-time job with the World Poker Tour to tell the stories of poker. She now lives in St. Louis, writes about poker while pursuing other varied interests, and speaks her mind on Twitter… a lot.