When the complete schedule for the online iteration of the 2020 World Series of Poker was announced, the high-stakes tournament pros from around the world cleared their calendar to be available for the $25K NLHE Poker Players Championship.
Sure, this year’s PPC wouldn’t have the traditional variety of mixed games as the live version in Las Vegas has in year’s past, but this tournament had the biggest buy-in of the entire 2020 WSOP and gave players a shot at the largest first-place payday outside of the Main Event.
Now, only nine players from the star-studded field of 407 remains. It’s a mix of some of poker’s brightest superstars, online poker savants, and even a shot-taker or two. They will return on Saturday, August 29 to play down to a winner and award the $1.8 million first-place prize and World Series of Poker gold bracelet.
Country: United States
Chip Count: 7,863,055
Final table chip leader Jason Koon is one of the most well-known high-stakes tournament players in the world. The Las Vegas, by-way-of Weston, West Virginia, poker pro has climbed into ninth place on the Hendon Mob’s All-Time Money List with over $31 million in lifetime live earnings.
Koon boasts eight seven-figure scores including a career-high $3,579,836 cash at the 2018 Triton Super High Roller Series Montenegro series. In addition to his success in Triton events, for which he’s an ambassador, Koon has high roller victories on both the European Poker Tour and the World Poker Tour. Should he take this chip lead all the way to victory, it will be his first WSOP title.
Country: United States
Chip Count: 6,875,234
New York’s Shankar Pillai first garnered the attention of the poker world back in 2007 when he won his first WSOP gold bracelet by winning a $3,000 NLHE event for over $527,000. Twelve years later Pillai earned his second bracelet by battling through the field of the 50th Annual Bracelet Winners event for a $71,580 score.
In addition to his nearly $2 million in live earnings, Pillai recently earned two WSOP Online Circuit rings in 2020 as well as a victory in the 2020 WSOP.com Winter Online Championships for more than $69,000.
Chip Count: 5,544,188
German superstar Christian Rudolph enters the final table third in chips and in a good position to add to his more than $2.2 million in live career earnings. Although Rudolph looks to have opted out of Hendon Mob tracking, some high-profile scores one simply can’t hide including his recent runner-up finish in the partypoker 2020 MILLIONS UK Main Event for $620,00.
Online, Rudolph is well-known for playing under his PokerStars screen name ‘WATnlos’ where he regularly competes in the highest stakes tournaments online and has a victory in the marquee Sunday Million from back in 2018.
Country: United States
Chip Count: 4,405,440
Many will recognize Aram Zobian from his final table finish at the 2018 World Series of Poker Main Event where he finished in sixth place for a $1.8 million score. Zobian’s first live result dates back to 2016 and since that time he’s put together more than $2.1 million in total live earnings. In addition, the Las Vegas-based pro also earned his first WSOP Circuit ring in 2020 after winning the WSOP.com Online $215 Turbo Deepstack for $20,910.
Should Zobian work his way from fourth in chips to taking down the $25,000 NLHE Poker Players Championship he’ll eclipse his career-high score by $290 and have a new top-line result on his poker resume.
Country: United States
Chip Count: 4,175,274
Chris ‘BigHuni’ Hunichen is one of poker’s elite grinders. Hunichen is found in the biggest buy-in tournament field both live and online and boasts a career that has amassed more than $20 million in total earnings. According to Hendon Mob, Hunichen has earned over $8 million which includes a $927,000 victory in the 2019 EPT Barcelona High Roller and a $1.1 million score in a podium finish in the partypoker MILLION World Bahamas Main Event.
While Hunichen’s live resume is impressive, his online career is even more elite. ‘BigHuni’ is a former worldwide #1-ranked online player with more than $12.6 million in total online earnings, which currently places him at #13 on the Online All-Time Money List. He holds titles in both POWERFEST and the PokerStars World Championship of Online Poker as well as a number of six-figure super high roller scores.
Chip Count: 3,883,951
Long-time Latvian online high-stakes grinder Aleksejs Ponakovs has put himself in position for a career-high payday coming into the final table of the $25K sixth in chips. Ponakovs is an online crusher, having reached #4 in the worldwide rankings and topped more than $7 million in online earnings. He won the PokerStars Sunday Million in 2017 for more than $159,000 and holds partypoker POWERFEST and PokerStars Turbo Series titles as well.
With more than $400,000 in live earnings, Ponakov has nearly a decade of experience including a deep run in the 2013 WSOP Main Event where he finished in 33rd place for $229,281.
Chip Count: 3,297,276
For more than 10 years, Belarusian pro Aliaksei ‘ale6ka’ Boika has been grinding both live and online. He’s amassed more than $248,000 in World Series of Poker earnings alone, nearly capturing a bracelet with his fourth place finish in the tough 2018 $5,000 NLHE event for $142,458.
While those in the high-stakes online community will know his screen name thanks to his multiple PokerStars Spring Championship of Online Poker titles, he may be best known for his 2016 EPT Malta Main Event victory for $386,962.
Chip Count: 2,905,555
Lithuania’s Pauliuis Plausinaitis nearly made his mark in another high-profile $25,000 event back in 2018. However, he just missed out on winning a Platinum Pass to the PSPC by falling in fifth place in the PokerStars Festival London High Roller for a career-high score of just over $30,000.
But now, after winning his way into the WSOP $25K NLHE Poker Players Championship in a $1K satellite, Plausinaitis has already locked up a six-figure score with the potential for life-changing money should the cards fall his way.
Chip Count: 1,750,027
The #1-ranked online Brazilian pro (current #4 in the world) has more than $3.2 million in online earnings and has been in the midst of a career-heater in 2020. In January, he took second in the PokerStars Winter Series Medium Main Event for $196,908 while at the same time finishing in third in the Winter Series High Main Event for $265,463.
Picked as one of the Brazilian players poised to dominate the 2020 World Series of Poker, Brunno ‘bbotteon’ Botteon has already racked up eight cashes during the series including a runner-up finish in Event #67 for over $41,000.