On Sunday, the PokerStars-sponsored “Million Dollar Challenge” returned to Fox for its second season. The poker game show airs before or after NFL coverage on the network and pits one online qualifier against pros and celebrities for a shot at $1 million.
Season 2 of the “Million Dollar Challenge” kicked off with Jessica Cupini, a 21 year-old single mom attending West Virginia University. She wanted to use any money won to pay off her student loans and attend graduate school. “Million Dollar Challenge” host Chris Rose introduced Daniel Negreanu, who serves as the series’ main face and ran down the rules of the program.
“Dancing with the Stars” host Brooke Burke was Cupini’s first celebrity challenger and the two began their match with 20,000 in chips. Negreanu sat by Cupini’s side and could give the amateur advice, but could not see her hole cards. Cupini also received one time out to consult with “Kid Poker” should a major decision come up.
Sure enough, Burke called pre-flop with K-7 and Cupini called for time after peeking down at pocket tens. Negreanu told Cupini to be aggressive with the wired pair and she moved all-in. Burke called off more than half of her stack with king-high and the board ran out 6-Q-8-4-4. Cupini doubled up to take a 4:1 lead and knocked off Burke on the next hand shown after drawing out on A-4 with K-10.
For the win, Cupini received a $5,000 trip to the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in January and went on to play reigning World Poker Tour Championship winner David Williams with $25,000 on the line. This time, Negreanu moved to an isolation booth where he could see Cupini’s hole cards and disseminate advice through an earpiece. In addition, Williams could shut off communication between the pair twice during the match by invoking the “Dome of Silence.”
Holding J-8, Cupini watched as the flop came J-8-K, giving her two pair. Williams checked, Cupini fired out a bet of 2,200, and Williams used his first “Dome of Silence.” Williams called holding Q-J for a pair of jacks and now flying solo, Cupini fired out a bet of 3,000 when a deuce fell on the turn. Williams called behind and the river was a three. Williams check-folded to a bet of 5,000, sending a 17,000-chip pot to the challenger.
In the final hand between Cupini and Williams, the latter was dealt an ace and pushed all-in without checking his kicker. Cupini woke up with pocket threes and, after a little encouragement from Negreanu, made the call. Fortunately for the challenger, Williams turned over a deuce has his other hole card and the board bricked out. Cupini banked $25,000.
At that point, Cupini could either take the money and run or square off against Negreanu for $100,000 and a seat at the Tournament of Champions. The audience, her boyfriend, and uncle were unanimous in urging Cupini to move on and she took her seat across the table from the four-time bracelet winner.
Negreanu and Cupini traded pots until the latter called pre-flop with A-4. Negreanu looked down at Q-6 and checked his option to see a flop of J-9-10. Both players checked and the turn was an eight, giving Negreanu a queen-high straight. Negreanu rapped the table, Cupini took the bait and bet all-in for 12,500, and Negreanu insta-called. Needing a queen for a split pot, Cupini watched in agony as another nine hit.
Although the challenger walked away with no money, Negreanu’s charity, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, received $10,000. You can catch the Poker Stars-sponsored “Million Dollar Challenge” on Sundays on Fox.