On Sunday, the Season 2 finale of the PokerStars sponsored “Million Dollar Challenge” aired on Fox. Jessica Cupini, a 21 year old mother of one, faced off against four-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner and show front man Daniel Negreanu for $1 million.
The one-hour episode began with four Season 2 contestants battling against each other for the right to play Negreanu for the seven-figure jackpot. Carmenlita Cothron, the only $100,000 winner of Season 2, called the all-in of Cupini with 8-5 of hearts on a board reading 9-6-8-3 with two of the suit for a pair and a flush draw. Cupini tabled 6-3 for two pair and the river blanked out for Cothron, who was left with just one small blind.
On the next hand shown, Ray Reid, the son of a preacher man, raised to 600 before the flop with A-8 and Cothron called all-in with 8-5. The board ran out K-2-2-K-J and Cothron was the first casualty of the Challenge of Champions.
On a flop of 5-8-J, Johnny Whitt, a fun-loving Texan, bet 1,500 with A-2 and Reid made the call with 8-7 for middle pair. Cupini had both dominated with a set of jacks and called to see an ace on the turn. Whitt checked top pair, Reid bet 4,000, and Cupini raised to 12,000 with the best hand. Whitt called after pairing his ace and Reid got out of the way. The river was a queen. When the lady hit, Whitt shoved all-in for his last 4,600 and Cupini obliged, sending Whitt away in third place.
Reid doubled up with A-J against Cupini’s A-10 to close the gap heads-up, but, on the final hand, Cupini raised to 4,000 pre-flop with pocket jacks and Reid called with A-8. The flop came A-J-3, once again giving Cupini a set of jacks, and she led out for 5,000. Reid called with top pair and the turn was another ace, improving him to trips. He checked, Cupini moved all-in, and Reid called all-in only to see he was dominated. The river was a seven and Cupini earned the right to play Negreanu heads-up for $1 million. She also banked $100,000 for winning the Challenge of Champions.
Negreanu and Cupini each received 40,000 in chips and Negreanu played on behalf of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The blinds began at 500/1,000, ensuring a high degree of action, and Negreanu claimed the first major pot.
Cupini called pre-flop with 10-7 and Negreanu raised to 3,500 with A-7 of diamonds. Cupini came along to a flop of 10-J-2 with two diamonds. Negreanu bet 4,000 with the nut flush draw and Cupini raised it up to 11,000 with a pair of tens. Negreanu came over-the-top all-in and Cupini folded, giving “Kid Poker” a 2:1 lead in chips.
Then, Negreanu called pre-flop with 10-2 and Cupini checked her option with K-4 of hearts. The flop came J-Q-K and Cupini led out for 4,000 with top pair. Negreanu called with an open-ended straight draw and the turn was an ace, filling his straight. Cupini open-shoved all-in and Negreanu called. Needing a ten on the river for a chop, Cupini watched as a three hit, giving Negreanu the win in the “Million Dollar Challenge” Season 2 finale.
9/11 first responder Mike Kosowski earned $1 million in the finals of Season 1. However, Negreanu exacted revenge this time around and earned $100,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
There has been no announcement as to whether Season 3 of the poker game show will air on Fox. The series flanked the network’s NFL coverage, but with labor negotiations for the league at a standstill, it remains to be seen whether we’ll have an NFL season in 2011.
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