Brian Cavaliere, like so many poker players out there today, can trace his interest in the game to a singular event which occurred more than a decade ago. That catalyst was the improbable transformation of Chris Moneymaker from amateur accountant to World Series of Poker Main Event champion in 2003, a victory which launched the fabled "Moneymaker Boom." And just like Moneymaker — who won his way into the big game by first winning a satellite event — Cavaliere parlayed a small sum into the biggest score of his life.
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Cavaliere — who hails from Hazlet, New Jersey and thanked his parents Arthur and Mary for their steady support — plunked down $235 to enter one of the HPO mega satellites earlier in the week, weaving his way through the minefield to secure his seat in the $1,800 buy-in Main Event. With Moneymaker in the house throughout Day 1 (the champ fell short late in the day after building a big stack early on), Cavaliere did his best to emulate the man himself, surging ahead of the field to end play with 181,600 — good for the biggest stack in play by a good 60,000.
Entering Sunday's final day of play with a target on his back, Cavaliere simply played his game and forged ahead, maintaining his composure despite admittedly feeling the pressure. According to Cavaliere — a former online player who prefers cash games — this was only the third live tournament he had ever played, and that's including the mega satellite entered just a few days ago. Despite playing against experienced pros like Lee Childs and Joseph Stiers throughout Day 2, Cavaliere held his own and focused on the task at hand. In doing so, he managed to put on a throwback performance, turning his initial investment into a major payday just like Moneymaker before him.
Along the way, Cavalieri weathered the storm known as swings, coming back from the brink after sliding early on by doubling through Childs. After reaching the final table and watching the money bubble burst, Cavaliere sent David Lackey to the rail in sixth place, before dispatching Jim Boyd (fifth place) soon afterward. From there, he maintained his stack while grinding away, ultimately reaching heads-up play against Stiers with only 200,000 to work with against the young pro's 1.2 million.
Cavaliere displayed tremendous mettle in battling back from such a disadvantage, and while it was a fortuitous flip that helped him begin the comeback, he still managed to peck away and pick Stiers apart. Finally, after a lengthy heads-up duel, Cavaliere finished Stiers off in style, flopping a flush to leave his opponent drawing dead with the title on the line.
For the win, Cavaliere earned $39,756 — with $2,500 of that amount representing the coveted prize package awarded to HPO Regional Champions. That package includes travel accommodations and a seat in the HPO Championship Event at the M Resort Casino Spa in Las Vegas this June. Here's hoping Cavaliere continues his impressive, Moneymaker-like run from satellite entrant to champion with another impressive performance there.