It was another hectic week at the 2021 WSOP with one of the biggest tournaments of the year stepping into the spotlight and top-tier players adding to their WSOP legacies.
The $50,000 Poker Players Championship brought out the stars and has played down to a final table with Eli Elezra holding the overnight chip lead. Plus, a pair of potential future Hall of Famers in Shaun Deeb and Brian Rast have won their way into rarified air by both winning their career fifth bracelet, and four was the magic number this week with four different players earning their fourth career bracelet.
And, of course, Phil Hellmuth took to Twitter to a gripe about the WSOP Player of the Year formula.
So let’s get into it, here are the five biggest storylines that made headlines during Week 5 of the WSOP!
Hellmuth Goes Off On Player of the Year
We’re getting peak Hellmuth here in 2021. He’s winning bracelets, dropping eff-bombs, and burning down the house. After a relatively quiet week from the 16-time champ, it looks like he finally took a look at the 2021 WSOP Player of the Year standings and didn’t like what he saw.
2 another player has one Final Table (3rd in online tourn) and 2,000 pts! Who cares about 10th- and 14th- and 300th place?!? Who wrote @WSOP POY 2021 rules? It’s not right. POY isn’t about cashes! I’m calling on WSOP to make it right in 2022. We need new voices to be heard…
— phil_hellmuth (@phil_hellmuth) November 1, 2021
Hellmuth’s fast start to the WSOP has cooled off (so far) in the back half of the schedule with the lead he enjoyed for a few days having slipped away. From the looks of it, this might be the first time Hellmuth has really understood what it takes to win this award, part of which is an unwavering dedication to the grind by playing and trying to cash in everything in sight.
However, Hellmuth has some support out there for his call to revise the POY formula. Daniel Negreanu, a constant contender over the past few years, has been lobbying for WSOP officials to streamline the number of results that are counted, making it so that a min-cash in a lower buy-in holds far less weight.
This idea isn’t new. I’ve been clamoring for it for years.
Top 12 finishes count. The rest discarded.
— Daniel Negreanu (@RealKidPoker) November 1, 2021
As of the time of publication, Hellmuth has slipped into fourth place behind two of his series nemesis – Jake Schwartz, who took over the lead, Kevin Gerhart is in second after his second series bracelet win, and Anthony Zinno, who set the Brat off in the $10K Stud. It’s tight at the top, with Shaun Deeb and Ari Engel rounding out the top 6.
$50K Poker Players Championship Takes Center Stage
For many popular poker players, the $50K Poker Players Championship is the actual Main Event of the World Series of Poker. It’s a mix of nine different games, played by the elite-of-the-elite in those games for an enormous sum of money.
This year was no different as 63 runners, including some of the biggest names in the game, gathered in the Amazon room to battle for a spot in the final five players. Late on Tuesday night (Day 3) the players battled to burst the money bubble. Eventually, 2019 WSOP Player of the Year Robert Campbell saw his tournament come to an end when he was ousted in 11th place.
The next day the final 10 returned and it didn’t take long for Milke Wattel to be eliminated in 10th for $82,623. Daniel Negreanu surged and then fell, leaving it all on the felt as he exited in ninth place for $91,595. Then, Nick Schulman busted in eighth, swiftly leaving to pick up his $106,120, the first of the six-figure payouts.
— PocketFives (@PocketFives) November 3, 2021
When the table combined to seven, everything slowed down. Way down. The table battled nearly all day with chips and the chip lead being passed back and forth. In the end, Matt Glantz fell in seventh place collecting $128,236, and was followed by Josh Arieh, appearing at his second final table in as many years, busting in sixth place for $161,422.
— PocketFives (@PocketFives) November 3, 2021
Eli Elezra held the overnight chip lead, followed by Paul Volpe, Chris Brewer, Dan Cates, and Ryan Leng.
You know what fuck it let’s hit these guys with a spirit bomb at the final table of the PPC. Where can I dye my hair gold? Can I bring a blue stuffed ball to the final table? @WSOP
— Daniel Cates 🇺🇸 🌎 (@junglemandan) November 4, 2021
The final five will play to a winner on Friday, November 5 where one player will have their name added to the Chip Reese Memorial Trophy and collect the $954,020 first-place prize.
Five Bracelets For Deeb, Rast
There has been an uncanny number of three-time career WSOP bracelet winners at the series this year. However this week, it was the five-timer club that added a couple new, very notable members.
First, Brian Rast took down the $3K Six-Max for his fifth career bracelet for $474,102 and in the process made a case for induction into the Poker Hall of Fame.
“Really, the number one thing at this point is kind of just making the Poker Hall of Fame,” Rast said to PokerGO after his win. “I mean, I feel like, I think I’ve done enough in my career and I turn 40 on November 8, so less than two weeks.”
— Brian Rast (@tsarrast) October 28, 2021
Another likely future Hall of Fame nominee is Shaun Deeb who put on an impressive performance to take down the $25,000 PLO High Roller for $1,251,860, just the third million-dollar score of the series and vaulting him into the 2021 earnings lead.
Like, Rast, when all was said and done, Deeb had an eye on the future. But it’s not the Hall of Fame he was looking forward to, it was tracking down Hellmuth in the bracelet chase.
“Oh, I’m going to pass Phil [Hellmuth] eventually. It’s going to take me a while, but I’m going to pass Phil. He’s a great player when he’s sharp, but he can’t play every day like me,” he said.
Many nice guys winning @WSOP Bracelets: the poker community feels like it is filled w good people, and is tighter than ever…Today @shaundeeb won PLOmaha and does NOT consider himself a nice guy! But, let’s examine: he’s honorable, honest, and well liked by most. Congrats Shaun! pic.twitter.com/jBFv7NIIHS
— phil_hellmuth (@phil_hellmuth) October 31, 2021
As noted above, Deeb’s win thrust him into the top 5 of the 2021 POY race.
Four Is The New Three
Earlier in the series, Anthony Zinno picked up his third and then fourth career bracelet. This week he welcomed Brian Yoon, Ben Yu, Farzad Bonyadi, and Kevin Gerhart into the club of players who picked up their fourth in 2021.
Most recently, Yoon took down the $10,000 2-7 Lowball Triple Draw Championship for a handsome $240,341 score. His list of bracelets is certainly impressive with prior wins the 2013 Little One For One Drop for $663,727, the 2014 $5K 8-Max for $633,341, and then he won the 2017 $1,500 Monster Stack for $1,094,349. His latest victory puts him up over $3.4 million in earnings.
Ben Yu’s WSOP resume is equally impressive having won the $10,000 Six-Handed NLHE Championship for $721,453, his 11th cash of the 2021 series. Looking back on Yu’s success shows him winning four bracelets since 2015 including the $10K Limit in 2015 for $291,456, the $10K Limit 2-7 Championship in 2017 for $232,738, and the $50,000 NLHE High Roller in 2018 for more than $1.6 million.
Yu moved into fourth place on the NLHE POY leaderboard behind Daniel Lazrus, Pete Chen, and Jason Koon and 6th on the overall leaderboard.
Joining them is Farzad Bonyadi, who took down the $10,000 No Limit 2-7 Lowball Championship for $297,051 (on the same day as Rast won his 5th bracelet) for the fourth of his career. His first bracelet win dates back to 1998 when he won a $2,000 Limit Hold’em event for $429,940. Six years later, in 2004, he took down a $1K Limit 2-7 for another $86,980. His third came in 2005 when he won a $2,500 NLHE tournament for $594,960.
Finally, on Wednesday, Kevin Gerhart won his second bracelet of the series, fourth overall, in the $1,500 PLO 8 for a $186,789 score. Gerhart won the $10K H.O.R.S.E. earlier this year for a $361,124 payday and has an online bracelet from 2020 and a $1,500 Razz win in 2019.
A big week for multiple bracelet winners.
Distenfeld Donates to A Good Cause
Last week, the poker community showed up for a fellow player who is faced with an unthinkable future but wanted to make one of his poker dreams come true. This week, another act of incredible generosity took place when Gershon Distenfeld pledged his entire winnings from his victory in the $1,500 NLHE Shootout to charity.
Distenfeld earned $204,063 with the victory and every single dime is going to be put to the benefit of others. Distenfeld has made no secret that he’s been graced with more than enough wealth to take care of his family and so he plays poker for the competition and, in the result he wins, to help others.
“My wife Aviva and I have been blessed with financial means and it’s a core value of ours to give both our money and our time to help make the world a better place,” he told PokerNews after his win.
He followed up with a call to action for all bracelet winners to donate 1% of their winnings to the charity of their choice.