The World Series of Poker is the largest gaming event in the world and is in its 50th year. Last week a player from the 50th State won his first gold bracelet at event #50.
Kainalu McCue-Unciano has a million dollars in his pocket. That’s pretty good, seeing as before June 26th, the Kapolei product’s biggest pro poker purse was $78,000.
McCue-Unciano is just 25 years old. He quit his lifeguarding job and moved to Las Vegas when he was 21 to pursue his dream. Last week, that dream came true. He won the World Series of Poker’s Monster Stack, No Limit Hold ‘Em game, beating out 6,035 people to earn his first ever gold bracelet.
“It didn’t hit me all at once,” McCue-Unciano said. “It was just kind of like a slow reaction. I’m still kind of settling into it. It’s kind of hard to believe for myself. Feels great. It’s a surreal feeling having your dreams come true.”
McCue-Unciano is now second on the all-time money list of poker players from Hawaii.
“That’s huge,” McCue-Unciano said. “I used to look at that list all the time. I’m like wow… only if, right? But now I’m behind one of my good friends, Brandon Eisen. And he’s always been one of my role models for poker so that’s a pretty cool feeling. Now I feel like I could pretty much accomplish anything.”
It takes guts to stick with a struggling career as a poker player.
“There’s a lot of times I get like giving up,” McCue-Unciano said. “When you see the poker tournaments a lot of times you see the glory when you get first place but a lot of times you’re just throwing away your buy in. And it just adds up after a while and you’re like ‘uh oh maybe I should stop playing.’ It happens to everybody. And I definitely had my fair share of that. So it just really feels like huge relief. Like everything just pays off in the end. For my situation at least. Feel very blessed.”
Kainalu gets going in the first round of the WSOP Main Event on Friday, July fifth. The payout for winning that is projected to be even higher than last year, when it was 8.8 million.