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  1. This year we’re doing something a little different and breaking down our annual Poker Year In Review into three different parts - the Flop (January-April), Turn (May-August), and River (September-December). We’re wrapping up 2021 by taking a look back at some of our biggest stories, winners, and surprises that unfolded in one of the most unique years in the history of the game. January Although we were officially in 2021, some of the most important business of 2020 had yet to be decided at the beginning of January as Damian Salas and Joseph Herbert met at a mostly empty Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas to play heads-up for a million dollars and determine who will earn the official title of 2020 World Series of Poker Main Event Champion. The finale was not without its detractors as an online version of the WSOP Main Event had been played out on GGPoker earlier in 2020, but Salas - who had made a previous live WSOP Main Event final table in 2017 - proved to be a worthy winner, taking home an extra $1 million and the WSOP Main Event bracelet. “I don’t play for the money, that’s not my goal,” Salas said after his win. “My basic motivation is to become better and better every day and remain a member of the world-class poker elite.” READ: Desire To Remain Elite Drives New World Champ Damian Salas While January continued to be full of interesting player news, including Chance Kornuth surrendering to Phil Galfond in the Galfond Challenge, Ilyas Muradi taking down the wildly successful WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open, and Jack Hardcastle winning the WPT Montreal Online Main Event for $447K, it was poker industry news that dominated the first month of the year. READ: Chris Moneymaker Reflects on 17 Years as Poker’s Everyman Ambassador For the fourth time in 12 years, the World Poker Tour had been sold in a deal with Element Partners, LLC for more than $78 million. “This deal will allow the World Poker Tour to do a number of things that its always wanted to do,” World Poker Tour CEO Adam Pliska said at the time the deal was announced, unable to completely expand on the nature of the takeover. “What I can say, however, is that for myself and my management team, we’re still here and it’s business as usual and we look forward to this exciting next chapter of the World Poker Tour.” That same week, perhaps one of the biggest stories of the year broke when The First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the New Hampshire Lottery Commission in their case against the U.S. Department of Justice, reversing a revised opinion of the Wire Act. In short, it was a big win for online poker players in the U.S., setting the stage for a potential boom of online poker in the United States in years to come taking away legal barriers for would-be states to get in on the action and even join multi-state compacts to expand the total liquidity for Americans. Almost as if on cue, PokerStars officially launched PokerStarsMI.com, becoming the first operator to offer Michiganders (and visitors to the state) the option to play online poker, legally and regulated, from inside the state. To close out the month, Brazil’s Brunno Botteon kept his 2020 hot streak in tact and ended up as the Online Player of the Month for January. February February started off with a bang. The months-long heads-up grudge match between Daniel Negreanu and Doug Polk came to an end after 91 days and 25,000 hands. Polk wrote his name in the history books, soundly defeating Negreanu and walking away a winner of roughly $1.2 million. “I’m very happy that I spent so much time preparing and I felt it really ended up helping me tremendously and that I got to execute at such a high level over such a long period of time,” Polk said just moments after the last hand of the challenge. Over the course of the match, the feud between the two seemed to morph into a respectful rivalry and Negreanu gave credit where it was due when it was over. “He deserved it. He played well. I thought he made really good adjustments. I thought he improved as the match went on. I thought he got better and better and sharper, in a lot of different lines,” Negreanu said. But that wasn’t the only high-profile high-stakes poker taking place in February as Tom Dwan emerged to take a seat in the newest iteration of High Stakes Poker on PokerGO and picked up a $300,000 win. Dwan’s appearance was a thrill for fans who were equally excited to have the popular programming back “on the air”. [caption id="attachment_637576" align="alignright" width="250"] Phil Hellmuth[/caption] READ: Hellmuth Rants, Palihapitiya Wins Big On Latest High Stakes Poker High Stakes Poker wasn’t the only poker mainstay to make a return in February as, after more than a year away from Las Vegas, the World Poker Tour was back in Sin City for the first time with WPT Venetian. The final table featured the aforementioned Jack Hardcastle, as well as the 2015 WSOP Main Event champion Joe McKeehen, but it was Qing Liu who took home the trophy and the $752,880 first-place prize. Brazil’s Yuri Dzivielevski was climbing into contention for the worldwide #1 spot in the Online Poker Rankings (something he ended up holding for the better part of 2021) and he also walked away with Online Player of the Month honors for February. March Polk and Dwan weren’t done keeping the poker world entertained as the season of High Stakes Poker stretched into March and both high-profile players continued to impress. Polk made what some have called “one of the best laydowns ever” in a massive hand against Phil Hellmuth that had the poker world buzzing for days while Dwan’s domination earned him another half-million win, showing that despite not being in the public eye he wasn’t showing any sign of rust. READ: Tom Dwan, Bryn Kenney Star in Biggest Pots of High Stakes Poker S8 Another massive winner in March was Vanessa Kade. Coming off her high-profile social media clash with Dan Bilzerian, Kade took that energy into the PokerStars Sunday Million 15th Anniversary online event and walked away with the win for a life-changing $1.5 million payday. Looking to replicate the same fervor of Polk and Negreanu’s heads-up battle, former #1-ranked online pro Fedor Holz sparked a beef with high-stakes cash game crusher Wiktor Malinowski and the pair agreed to take their feud to the felt. The feud was likely manufactured, and the heat wasn’t very hot, but fans were treated to a pair of high-stakes pros dedicating some time to entertaining viewers with the four-session challenge. Brunno Botteon lost his grip at the top of the Online Poker Rankings as Bert ‘Girafganger7’ Stevens took his third turn at the top but by the end of the month he made way for the surging Yuri Dzivielevski who took control and held on it in for the next six months. In case you missed these popular profiles of some of poker’s best we talked with Alex Butcher about becoming the #1-ranked player in the United States and the work he needed to do on himself in order to get out of his own way and be open to success. Speaking of success, Kevin Rabichow opened up about what led him to switch gears from being one of the world’s top online cash game grinders to taking up tournaments and dedicating himself to success. By the end of the month, Joao ‘Naza114’ Vieira took home the title of March Online Player of the Month. April One of our most popular articles of the year was published in April when PokerStars found Isai Scheinberg agreed to be interviewed for the first time after settling all of his legal troubles stemming from Black Friday. Scheinberg stepped into the spotlight and talked about the early days of PokerStars, the beginning of the poker boom, the fallout from Black Friday, and what he’s doing with his life after selling the company for nearly $5 billion. “I valued privacy, but I was not secretive. That’s not the same thing,” Scheinberg said talking to the media for one of the very first times. “I was working hard. I was very busy and I’m not the type of guy to go out and do PR.” READ: Isai Scheinberg: His Company, His Legacy, and How Black Friday Impacted Both The heads-up craze continued in April as Phil Hellmuth and Daniel Negreanu played in the first of three High Stakes Duel matches on PokerGO. The first was, for many, the most memorable as Negreanu had Hellmuth down to a 19-1 chip disadvantage. But Hellmuth used his #WhiteMagic to spin it back up and defeat Negreanu in what was about to become a reoccurring theme for High Stakes Duel. Both PokerStars Spring Championship of Online Poker and GGPoker’s Spring Festival took over the online poker scene, both offering massive guarantees and non-stop action in the middle of the pandemic. One person who couldn’t get enough was former #1-ranked Niklas Astedt who couldn’t keep himself out of the headlines, taking down multiple GGSF titles and adding to his SCOOP Legacy. Speaking of former #1’s performing in the spring, Simon ‘C Darwin2’ Mattsson picked up two SCOOP titles on the same day. Plus, Chris Moorman finally added a SCOOP title to his resume, after taking home the first SCOOP in his career. READ: Joakim Andersson Ships GGSF MILLION$ Main Event for $1.5M READ: SCOOP: Series Concludes As ‘kZhh’ Wins $10L Main Event TItle, $878K With an accumulation of a massive amount of leaderboard points, high-stakes legend Sami ‘LarsLuzak’ Kelopuro took down the Online Player of the Month title in April. The 2021 Poker Year In Review continues in Part 2.
  2. Niklas Astedt has done it yet again. Sweden’s former worldwide #1-ranked online poker legend, won his record-tying fourth GGPoker Super MILLION$ title on Tuesday, this time for $315,882. Astedt has no shortage of ways he can win a tournament, but when he’s on a heater it’s almost unfair. Astedt knocked out six of his final eight opponents, the majority of which he had dominated by picking up premium hands in key spots. That said, it wasn’t all just rungood for Astedt who, after starting the day eighth in chips, made all the right moves to put himself in a position to win against a tough final table that included Damian Salas, Chris Puetz, Christian Rudolph, Rui Ferreira, and Artur Martirosian. Nearly thirty minutes into the final hand, one of Russia’s premier players, Artur Martirosian, hit the rail. After his [poker card="as"][poker card="ac"] was cracked by China’s ‘d7777’s [poker card="9c"][poker card="8h"], Martirosian was sitting on the short stack. With the blinds at 25,000/50,000 (6,000 ante), chip leader ‘0asis’ made it 100,000 to go holding [poker card="7d"][poker card="7s"] and when it folded to Martirosian in the big blind, the Russian defended holding the [poker card="9d"][poker card="4d"]. The flop came [poker card="8d"][poker card="7c"][poker card="2h"] giving ‘0asis’ a set. Martirosian checked it over to ‘0asis’ who checked it back. The river was the [poker card="9c"], giving Martirosian top pair. Martirosian led for just over 117,000 and ‘0asis’ shoved. Martirosian called and found himself drawing dead to the [poker card="as"] river. Martirosian exited in ninth place for $49,109. Two hands later, Astedt opened from early position to 275,000 with his [poker card="ad"][poker card="ac"]. It folded around to Chris Puetz in the big blind with [poker card="ah"][poker card="kd"] and the Austrian shoved for nearly 1.4 million. Astedt called instantly and the board ran out [poker card="4s"][poker card="qs"][poker card="3h"][poker card="2h"][poker card="kh"] keeping Astedt’s pocket aces ahead the entire time and ending Puetz’s run in eighth place for $61,974. Astedt did double duty just minutes later when ‘RRomashka’ opened to 100,000 from middle position with [poker card="9c"][poker card="9h"]. When the action reached Astedt in the small blind, he just called with the [poker card="kc"][poker card="kh"]. Then from the big blind, Rui Ferreira three-bet shoved more than 1.2 million holding [poker card="tc"][poker card="ts"]. ‘RRomashka’, with fewer chips called for his tournament and when it was back to Astedt, who had both covered, he stuck it all-in as well. A three-way all-in with three pocket pairs. The flop came [poker card="ad"][poker card="qd"][poker card="jc"] leaving ‘RRomashka’ looking for a nine or running cards. Ferreira picked up a gutshot straight draw if he could find one of the final two kings and Astedt held a healthy lead. The turn was the [poker card="5s"], leaving both Ferreira and ‘RRomashka’ with a less than 5% shot at hitting their hand. Both missed when the [poker card="qc"] completed the board. ‘RRomashka’, with fewer chips, is the seventh-place finisher for $78,209 and Ferreira settled for sixth and its $98,696 payday. Five-handed play lasted for over an hour, and the blinds had climbed to 70,000/140,000 (17,500 ante) when Astedt used another big hand to take out another dangerous opponent. This time it was 2020 World Series of Poker Main Event champion Damian Salas. From under the gun, Astedt opened to 280,00 holding [poker card="qc"][poker card="qd"] and when it reached Salas on the button, he shipped his final 15 big blinds. Astedt, again, snap-called with a dominating hand and the pair watched as the board ran out [poker card="kh"][poker card="9h"][poker card="6s"][poker card="7s"][poker card="jh"]. Astedt dragged another big pot and Salas was out in fifth place for $124,550. Christian Rudolph, who started the day fourth in chips, was slowly slipping in the chip counts with just four left. Eventually, after Rudolph lost an important pot to Astedt, he was left with just fewer than five big blinds. It all came to a head when Astedt put in a raise to 400,000 on the button with [poker card="8d"][poker card="8c"] and Rudolph, in the big blind defend with [poker card="kd"][poker card="2c"], leaving himself just over one big blind behind. The flop came [poker card="6h"][poker card="5c"][poker card="4h"] and Rudolph committed the last of his stack. Astedt called, leaving Rudolph looking to hit his gutshot straight draw or his overcard. The turn was the [poker card="7d"], bringing in a straight for Astedt and the best Rudolph could hope for was to hit one of the two remaining eights for a chop. The river was the [poker card="2s"] and Rudolph was out in fourth place for $157,177. Astedt built a substantial chip lead over his final two opponents. But after ‘0asis’ bested ‘d7777’ in a big hand where ‘0asis’s [poker card="ac"][poker card="qh"] dominated ‘d7777’s [poker card="ad"][poker card="jc"], ‘0asis’ got healthy and ‘d7777’ was left with just four big blinds. ‘0asis’ completed the elimination just a couple of hands later when they got it all-in preflop holding [poker card="as"][poker card="8s"] against ‘d7777’s [poker card="qh"][poker card="ts"]. The [poker card="8c"][poker card="5s"]3c] flop kept ‘0asis’ in the lead with ace high. The turn came the [poker card="2h"], leaving ‘d7777’ looking for a queen or a ten to stay alive. However, the river was the [poker card="ah"], giving ‘0asis’ top pair and sending ‘d7777’ out in third with a career-high $198,351 score. After the elimination, ‘0asis’ held a slim chip lead over Astedt when heads-up began. It was a short back-and-forth affair with the chip counts of both remaining tight. However, after the next break, with the blinds up to 125,000/250,000 (30,000 ante) ‘0asis’ pulled way ahead, grabbing a three-to-one chip lead. But Astedt isn’t considered one of the best of all time for nothing. The Swede battled back and brought the stacks back to even. Then the deciding hand of heads-up took place. The blinds had climbed to 175,000/350,000 (45,000 ante) when Astedt called on the button holding [poker card="td"][poker card="tc"]. ‘0asis’ raised to just over 1 million in the big blind with the [poker card="ac"][poker card="qs"]. Astedt shoved for 7.8 million and ‘0asis’ called leaving themselves with less than a small blind behind. The flop came [poker card="8c"][poker card="5d"][poker card="4s"], leaving ‘0asis’ needing some help. The [poker card="9h"] turn changed nothing and when the [poker card="4h"] hit the river, the massive pot was shipped to Astedt. ‘0asis’ was all-in the very next hand with [poker card="8h"][poker card="5h"] and Astedt held [poker card="qh"][poker card="jc"]. The board ran out [poker card="kc"][poker card="qc"][poker card="3c"][poker card="4d"][poker card="3d"] and ‘0asis’, the start of day chip leader, ended up as the runner-up which was good for $250,311. Once again, Niklas Astedt took down the GGPoker Super MILLION$, this time for $315,882, and became one of just three players to have won an event in both Season One and Season Two. Super MILLION$ Final Table Results (9/28) Niklas Astedt - $315,882 ‘0asis’ - $250,311 ‘d7777’ - $198,351 Chris Rudolph - $157,177 Damian Salas - $124,550 Rui Ferreira - $98,696 ‘RRomashka’ - $78,209 Chris Puetz - $61,974 Artur Martirosian - $49,109
  3. This week the World Series of Poker Main Event, in all its glory, returns to the Rio for what is strongly rumored to be the very last time. Thousands of players - both pros and recs - will pony up the $10,000 buy-in in hopes that after more than two weeks, it will be they who will stand alone, earning life-changing prize money and be crowned the new World Champion. The Main Event is one of the most unique tournaments in all of poker. The payday alone is enough to bring out the masses. But when you add the prestige and tradition of the Main Event bracelet, just playing in the event has become part of the poker dream. And if we’ve learned anything over the 16 years that the Main Event has taken place at the Rio it’s that the spotlight of the Main Event is likely to feature players the greater poker world does not yet know. Perhaps it will be a young up-and-coming grinder who will take center stage or perhaps a recreational enthusiast who was bought in by their family looking to take their once-in-a-lifetime shot. This tournament has proved it’s impossible to predict what will happen and who will emerge, that’s what makes it special. That’s also why picking players who will go on deep run in the Main Event is equally impossible to predict. But that’s exactly what we’re going to do. Whether you are drafting a team with some friends, playing a little fantasy poker, or getting a little side hustle down on PokerShares you’re going to want to check out this list and consider adding them to your squad. We’re taking into account recent momentum, proven ability to navigate large-field tournaments, and the last half-decade of Main Event results. We’re also looking to see who’s already turned up at the WSOP this year and who may just sit out until 2022. So, enjoy. Here’s a special super-sized, special edition of First-Round Picks for the 2021 World Series of Poker Main Event. #1. Niklas Astedt Main Event Cashes: 2 Main Event Earnings: $59,420 The former longtime #1-ranked Niklas ‘Lena900’ Astedt is in Las Vegas and ready to make a run at the Main Event. Generally considered one of, if not the, greatest online poker player of all time, when this large-field tournament destroyer is in the field it makes him simply unable to pass up. The truth about Astedt is that he doesn’t have a lot of history with the WSOP, just seven total live cashes at the Las Vegas series. However, two of those came in the Main Event (2016, 2019) and he just made the money in the $10K Six-Max this year. Don’t be surprised if when the field narrows, Astedt is in the mix. #2. Paul Volpe Main Event Cashes: 5 Main Event Earnings: $635,129 Three-time WSOP bracelet winner Paul Volpe is no stranger to making deep runs in the Main Event. He has five Main Event cashes in the past 10 years including finishing in 192nd in 2011 ($47,107), 142nd in 2018 ($57,010), and 29th in 2016 for $216,211. His deepest Main Event run was back in 2012 when he finished in 20th place for $294,601. The fact is that in the Main Event (or any tournament, really) Volpe is as good a bet as there is. #3 Yuri Dzivielevski Main Event Cashes: 2 Main Event Earnings: $317,079 The current #1-ranked online player in the world, Yuri Dzivielevski, has been grinding the entire 2021 WSOP and has racked up six cashes to date. However, that’s just momentum headed into the Main Event where Dzivielevski is a proven large-field master. In 2019, he was one of the standout stars of the Main Event and, after being featured on the ESPN broadcast at the same table as Daniel Negreanu, he went on to finish in 28th place for $261,430. Read: Yuri Dzivielevski Enjoying Success, Freedom With Nothing Left To Prove #4. Alexandre Reard Main Event Cashes: 3 Main Event Earnings: $428,978 France’s Alexandre Reard is already having an outstanding 2021 WSOP, having won his first gold bracelet in Event #47 ($5,000 Freezeout) for $428,694. But the reason he’s such a high pick is his long history of crushing in the Main Event. In 2017, he finished in 16th for $340,000, and in 2018 he had another top 100 finish, ending in 92nd for $66,330. Having cashed in the Main in three of the last four years, Reard already knew what it took to make it deep and now he knows how to close out a bracelet event. #5. Andrew Moreno Main Event Cashes: 2 Main Event Earnings: $256,476 Andrew Moreno, the younger brother of "high-quality" poker vlogger Johnny ‘Vibes’ Moreno, is coming off an epic career score. He took down the $10,000 buy-in Wynn Millions in June for $1.46 million dollars and that was just two weeks after he closed out the $1,100 Ultimate Stack at the Venetian for $127K. Moreno has been seen in the WSOP payout lines, making the money in a number of 2021 events, and has a history of going deep in the Main Event, finishing in 28th in 2015 for more than $211,000. It seems the one-time cash game pro thrives when the stakes are at their biggest, making the Main Event a perfect situation for him. Also, Johnny’s not a bad choice either. #6. Daniel Lazrus Main Event Cashes: - Main Event Earnings: - Long Beach, New Jersey’s 31-year old Daniel Lazrus is entering the Main Event with a wave of momentum at his back. In July, he won the first bracelet of his career in the WSOP.com NLHE High Roller Championship for $205,347. Then he made his way to Las Vegas where he earned his second by taking down the massive 2021 Millionaire Maker for an even $1 million score. This would be the perfect time for Lazrus, who was leading the NLHE Player of the Year standings for a good portion of the first half of the series, to break out for his first (and possibly deep) Main Event cash. #7. Joao Vieira Main Event Cashes: 2 Main Event Earnings: $34,347 Current Online All-Time Money List leader Joao Vieira is looking to put his stamp on the Main Event. In 2019, he earned his first bracelet in the incredibly tough $5K Six-Max where he won $758,011. A great win to be sure, but Vieira is a world-class player and is looking for that televised result that will take his name to the next level. He has two previous Main Event results in Las Vegas, and a pair of cashes from WSOP Europe Main Event in both 2018 and 2019. He’s has all the skill one needs to survive to the endgame, the only question is - is it his time? #8. Kelly Minkin Main Event Cashes: 3 Main Event Earnings: $392,646 Kelly Minkin grabbed the title of Last Woman Standing in the Main Event in both 2015 and 2018, when in both years she finished inside the top 50. But one can’t help but feel like that title means little to Minkin who is pushing to always be the last person standing - full stop. In addition to her two deep runs, Minkin last made the money in the Main in 2019 and, with her doing what needed to be done in order to play this year, she’s in the perfect position to make a run at a final table...and more. #9. Adam Friedman Main Event Cashes: 4 Main Event Earnings: $373,989 Talk about a complete player, Adam Friedman proved that he's one of the best in today's game when he put on a historic performance in the 2021 $10K Dealers Choice, defeating Phil Hellmuth and winning the event for the third time...in a row. His $10K three-peat should be credentials enough to want to grab him in the Main Event, but a deeper looks shows that Friedman also crushes in the Main. He's cashing in the Main Event four times in his career with three top 200 finishes. If you add on the confidence he's going to feel heading into the Main, that makes him a top-tier choice to lead a squad. #10. Maurice Hawkins Main Event Cashes: 1 Main Event Earnings: $38,453 When it comes to the Main Event, Maurice Hawkins has the resume of the ideal player to succeed. He should be making deep run year in and year out. He’s the all-time leader in WSOP Circuit rings with 14 and knows how to battle against the type of player who comes to Las Vegas to take a shot in the Main Event. He’s a proven stack builder with more than $2.6 million in WSOP earnings. The interesting part about Hawkins is, when it comes to the WSOP Main Event, he’s had little success. He has a top 300 finish back in 2012 and nothing since. It’s surprising but perhaps he skipped a few, took some bad beats. Whatever has kept Hawkins from making his presence felt in this event we expect to end this year. #11. Tyler Cornell Main Event Cashes: 4 Main Event Earnings: $189,499 Early in the series Tyler Cornell captured his first WSOP bracelet when he took down the $25,000 High Roller for $833,00 - a career-high score. But prior to his early WSOP win, Cornell already had a stellar WSOP resume having cashed in the live Main Event four different times (2013, 2015, 2018, and 2019). Last year, he cashed in multiple online Main Events. First, he made the final table of the August GGPoker $5K Main Event in which he finished in 8th place for more than $328,000. Then in December, he tacked on another $35K with a deep run in the WSOP.com Main Event. #12. Faraz Jaka Main Event Cashes: 4 Main Event Earnings: $95,874 It’s hard to believe that Faraz Jaka has yet to win a WSOP bracelet, especially because of his reputation of being able to build mountains of chips in just about any tournament he plays. He has four career WSOP Main Event cashes (2014, 2015, 2017, 2019) and more than $1.5 million in WSOP earnings. If you take a close look at Jaka’s resume you can see just how many times he was on the verge of earning that career-defining score. This may be the year that this cashing machine makes headlines in the Main. Second Time Around It's one thing to make it to the final table of the Main Event once, it's remarkable to even consider doing it again (see: Mark Newhouse). While we didn't rank the following five players in our original twelve, it would be silly to sleep on any of these players in the Main Event. Phil Hellmuth Main Event Cashes: 8 Main Event Earnings: $1,333,618 Sixteen-time WSOP bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth has a knack for knowing how to play against recreational players. He’s the 1989 Main Event champ and has eight Main Event cashes in his career. Now, he’s only made the money once since 2015, but Hellmuth is on a heater in 2021 and this could be the year he returns with a deep run in the Main. Joe McKeehen Main Event Cashes: 2 Main Event Earnings: $7,707,826 Joe McKeehen has a reputation for being two things - one of which is being a master of navigating large field MTTs. Of course, everyone knows he won the Main Event in 2015 for $7.6 million. Since then he’s earned another two gold bracelets and made five World Poker Tour final tables. His latest WPT score took place earlier this year when he finished as the WPT Venetian runner-up for just over $490K. Of all the Main Event winners in the past 10 years, McKeehen might just be the favorite to make it back to the final table. Damian Salas Main Event Cashes: 5 Main Event Earnings: $2,493,281 Of course, Damian Salas might have something to say about which Main Event Champion is best suited to repeat. Salas, the winner of the 2020 online-live hybrid Main Event for a combined score of over $2.5 million ($1.5 million international, $1 million in the heads-up portion in Las Vegas) already had Main Event final table experience before his win last year. In 2017, Salas finished in seventh place for a $1.4 million score and he’s actually made the money in five of the last 10 Main Events which is more than enough proof that he’s always going to be a threat to make it back to a final table. READ: Desire To Remain Elite Drives New World Champ Damian Salas Cliff Josephy Main Event Cashes: 6 Main Event Earnings: $3,604,078 PocketFives Legacy Award winner Cliff Josephy is sometimes more well-known for his history of backing players during the online boom than his poker playing prowess. But make no mistake, Josephy has proven time and time again that he’s just as good at the game as those players he backed. Plus, he has a Main Event resume most would envy. He’s cashed six times since 2008 and made the final table in 2016 where he fell just two spots shy of being called a World Champion, earning $3.4 million for third place. He showed up for the Seniors Event this year, so we expect him to show out in the Main Event. Kenny Hallaert Main Event Cashes: 4 Main Event Earnings: $1,645,463 The ESPN story on Kenny Hallaert has been that he’s the tournament director who finally is getting the chance to show off what he can do on the felt. But those in the know understand that Hallaert has been beating online tournaments for years and cracked the worldwide top 20 back in 2017. He has nearly $6.8 million in online earnings and has earned partypoker POWERFEST and multiple PokerStars SCOOP titles. In the Main Event, he always brings his A-game. He’s cashed in the Main Event four times, three of which were top 125 spots and a peak performance of sixth-place in 2016 where he collected $1.4 million. - As we mentioned, there are going to be thousands of players in the Main Event, making it tough to narrow down our picks. Players like Antonio Esfandiari, Allen Cunningham, Davidi Kittai, Eoghan O'Dea, and Jake Schindler all have stellar records in the Main Event and would have likely been in contention to make the list, but it's hard to know if they'll show. So choose wisely and enjoy the next couple weeks of non-stop coverage of the return of the Main Event. The action kicks off with Day 1A on Thursday, November 4, and doesn't end until a winner emerges on Wednesday, November 17. (images courtesy: PokerGo)
  4. Drama, excitement and Doyle Brunson. Poker fans had all their Christmases come at once on Thursday night as the ‘Godfather of Poker’ himself, ‘Texas Dolly’, made an appearance at the 2021 WSOP and sat down in the Main Event. On what was a dramatic opening day in many different ways, Brunson survived to battle again on Day 2. Doyle Brunson Takes The Main Event Stage It’s been many years since the 1976 and 1977 WSOP Main Event world champion sat down in the world’s biggest poker tournament. In fact, his appearance in the Super Seniors event earlier this series looked very much like a one-off. It transpired not to be, however, as Brunson sat down on Day 1a of the Main, with 522 other players putting down $10,000 to play in the one that every poker player on the planet wants to win. Fellow poker professional Felipe Ramos was beyond excited that a hero to him and millions of other poker players was in the building. https://twitter.com/FelipeMojave/status/1456420740027215872 A 10-time WSOP bracelet winner, Brunson escaped Day 1 with more than double the chips he started with, coming through the day in 41st place on 151,000 chips. That was less than half of the total amassed by the Day 1a chip leader Mustapha Kanit (363,500), who ended the day top of the leaderboard on which 348 survivors sat. Elsewhere in the top 10, Alex Livingston (319,200), Fabian Quoss (273,800) and Billy Baxter (248,600) totalled big numbers of over four times their initial stack, with other big names such as Adrian Mateos (212,500), Yuri Dzivielevski (197,200), Perry Friedman (195,500), JJ Liu (180,200), and the 1983 WSOP Main Event winner Tom McEvoy (96,900) all bagging up decent stacks. There was a moment of controversy during the opening day of the Main Event as police locked down the Rio amid a ‘situation’ during the evening, with an unrelated crime leading some of those who were on hand to serve and protect to step in and do just that. https://twitter.com/JohnnieVibes/status/1456478253711982592 It would appear that the man was in possession of a suspicious package, with British actor, poker pro and WSOP event runner-up Sam Razavi turning detective to solve the crime. https://twitter.com/Sam_Razavi/status/1456540017384329223 Among those to fall on Day 1a was the reigning world champion Damian Salas. The Argentinian busted in the first level after his [poker card="As"][poker card="Qc"] was all-in and at risk against Peter Gould’s [poker card="5s"][poker card="5s"], with the latter making a straight on the board of [poker card="9d"][poker card="8c"][poker card="3d"][poker card="7c"][poker card="6s"]. Others to fall at the first fence included Calvin Anderson, Upeshka De Silva, Dylan Weisman and Jake Schwartz, whose lead in the race to become 2021 WSOP Player of the Year took a big hit. WSOP 2021 Event #67 $10,000 Main Event Top 10 Chipcounts: Mustapha Kanit - 363,500 Rittie Chuaprasert - 345,700 Alex Livingston - 319,200 David Fong - 298,500 Fabian Quoss - 273,800 Billy Baxter - 248,600 Dragana Lim - 237,700 Vladimir Vasilyev - 232,000 Vidur Sethi - 226,200 Ayaz Mahmood - 221,200 Eric Zhang Wins Salute To Warriors Event #63, the Salute to Warriors, cost $500 to enter and concluded on Day 36 of the 2021 WSOP with Eric Zhang the champion for $102,465. With the USO receiving a charitable donation of over $64,000 from players’ buy-ins before the final table, Anthony Mccurdy was the first to bust the nine-handed final table, earning $9,857 when his [poker card="8c"][poker card="8d"] ran into Chulhan Choi’s [poker card="Ks"][poker card="Kd"] and was unable to overtake the cowboys on the gallop to the river with all the chips in pre-flop. Next to bust was Chris Corbo, who went in eighth for $12,471 when his [poker card="Kd"][poker card="Qc"] couldn’t catch Mitch Garshofsky’s [poker card="Ac"][poker card="Ts"]. The ten-high board condemned Corbo to the rail and he was joined by Hlib Kovtunov, whose [Ah[poker card="5h"] couldn’t catch a card against Zhang’s [poker card="2c"][poker card="2s"], which made quads by the river to send the Ukrainian home in seventh for $15,943. When short-stacked Marty Zabib busted in sixth for $20,592 and was then followed by another shortie, Mitch Garshofsky, going in fifth for $26,866, just four remained, with Zhang making waves. So too was Bradley Rogoff, who busted Choi in fourth place for $35,406 when pocket tens survived against Choi’s pre-flop short-stack shove with [poker card="Qd"][poker card="9d"]. Rogoff couldn’t hang on, however, busting next himself for $47,125 when he shoved from the small blind with [poker card="Ad"][poker card="7d"] and was looked up by Guy Hadas in the big blind with [poker card="Ah"][poker card="Qs"], a seven on the flop providing cruel hope for Rogoff, who saw a queen on the river dash his chances onto the rocks. Heads-up, Hadas still had work to do to overtake the dominant Zhang, who had 25.2 million to his opponent’s 15.6 million. Zhang, however, was not to be caught, and extended his lead before the final hand where his [poker card="Kd"][poker card="Jc"] was all he needed to call when Hadas shoved on the turn of a board showing [poker card="Qs"]Ts][poker card="2h"][poker card="Kh"]. Hadas had pushed with [poker card="Ah"][poker card="5h"], but could find neither straight nor flush on the [poker card="Ad"] river, which confirmed Zhang’s victory for $102,465 and his first WSOP bracelet in his first WSOP event of the series. WSOP 2021 Event #63 $500 Salute to Warriors Final Table Results: Eric Zhang - $102,465 Guy Hadas - $63,344 Bradley Rogoff - $47,125 Chulhan Choi - $35,406 Mitch Garshofsky - $26,866 Marty Zabib - $20,592 Hlib Kovtunov - $15,943 Christopher Corbo - $12,471 Anthony Mccurdy - $9,857 Mini Main Down To Five The Mini Main Event, which costs $1,000 to enter, saw its penultimate day take place on Thursday, as Greek player Georgios Sotiropoulos reached the final table with a huge chip lead. Piling up a whopping 105,550,000 chips, Sotiropoulos has more than double his nearest challenger Jordan Meltzer (39,000,075) and three times as many as Wataru Miyashita from Japan, who is third in chips with 35,900,000. Elsewhere in the final five, James Patterson (26,600,000) and James Rubinski (22,325,000) know that they have a lot of work to do to catch the runaway chip leader, who is the only man of the five to have won a WSOP bracelet before. In fact, Sotiropoulos has two in his past, and must now be a huge favorite to win a third tomorrow when the lights hit the Thunderdome felt. WSOP 2021 Event #65 $1,000 Mini Main Event Final Table Chipcounts: Georgios Sotiropoulos - 105,550,000 Jordan Meltzer - 39,000,075 Wataru Miyashita - 35,900,000 James Patterson - 26,600,000 James Rubinski - 22,325,000 Josh Arieh Cracks $10K PLO Top 10 Danny Chang is the chip leader with just 12 players remaining in the $10,000-entry PLO Hi-Lo 8 or Better, otherwise known as Event #66. Chang has a big lead, too, with 3,620,000 chips to his name, almost double those of Dan Colpoys, his fellow American and closest challenger. Elsewhere in the chipcounts, there is a strong spot for Josh Arieh, who bagged up 1,015,000 on the night, a shade under another 2021 WSOP bracelet winner in Russian player Anatolii Zyrin (1,155,000). With British mixed game player Adam Owen (955,000) and John Esposito (480,000) both in the field, it’s sure to be a dramatic and decisive final day in equal measure. WSOP 2021 Event #66 $10,000 PLO8 Championship Top 10 Chipcounts: Danny Chang - 3,620,000 Dan Colpoys - 2,040,000 Matt Woodward - 1,600,000 Anatolii Zyrin - 1,155,000 Josh Arieh - 1,015,000 Adam Owen - 955,000 Aaron Kupin - 500,000 John Esposito - 480,000 Alan Sternberg - 410,000 Jason Riesenberg - 360,000 Finally, we couldn’t let you go into the night without a look at what every poker player desires more than anything this Winter - the 2021 WSOP Main Event bracelet. https://twitter.com/WSOP/status/1456339540931592195
  5. It was a come-from-behind victory for former worldwide #1-ranked online pro Bert Stevens who started the final table of the GGPoker Super MILLION$ Main Event as the short stack, but found a way to battle back and take the whole tournament down for a $1,125,181 score. This week was a special edition of the Super MILLION$, a multi-flight affair that drew 693 runners and built a prize pool of more than $6.9 million. With just nine left, there were plenty of Super MILLION$ mainstays left in the field including former Super MILLION$ champions Daniel Dvoress, Anatoly Filatov, Joakim Andersson, and Artur Martirosian. Adding in Stevens, more than half of the final table had won it before proving, once again, that taking down the Super MILLION$ is one of the toughest tasks in online poker. Players hoping that Stevens as the short stack would bust out early were disappointed after he scored an early double up against Daniel Dvoress and better inserting himself into the mix. Instead, nearly an hour into the final table there were still nine players left and it took a clash of huge hands held by top-tier pros for the ice to break. With the blinds 125,000/250,000 (30,000 ante) 2020 WSOP Main Event champ Damian Salas opened from the cutoff to 500,000 holding [poker card="jh"][poker card="jd"] and when it folded to Anatoly Filatov in the big blind, he defended with his [poker card="ac"][poker card="6c"]. The flop came [poker card="qs"][poker card="jc"][poker card="4c"] giving Salas middle set but also providing Filatov with the nut flush draw. Filatov checked to Salas who put out a small bet of 250,000. Filatov check shoved his 4.3 million chip stack and Salas, who had just 3.7 million behind made the quick call. The turn came the [poker card="kh"], adding a straight draw to Filatov’s outs but it was the [poker card="7c"] river that shipped the pot to Filatov and shipped Salas out in ninth place for $148,900. Stevens continued to climb and shortly after the first break, ‘Giraf’ had moved into the chip lead before the next elimination. After coming from behind to knock out Salas, the deck turned on Filatov. First, he got it all in preflop holding [poker card="kd"][poker card="kc"] against fellow Russian countryman Artur Martirosian’s [poker card="qd"][poker card="qh"]. Filatov covered Martirosian by less than a million and would have surged to the chip lead. However, the board ran out [poker card="ah"][poker card="th"][poker card="ts"][poker card="3h"][poker card="qs"], allowing Martirosian to spike the set on the river and crippling Filatov. The very next hand the pair got it in preflop again, this time Filatov had [poker card="3d"][poker card="3s"] against Martirosian’s [poker card="ad"][poker card="9c"] and the board [poker card="ah"][poker card="qd"][poker card="6c"][poker card="5c"][poker card="7d"], giving Martirosian top pair and, in two hands, ending Filatov’s tournament in eighth place for $181,739. Thirty minutes later, Martirosian took out another. With the blinds at 175,000/350,000 (45,000 ante), Martirosian raised from under the gun to 770,000, and then ‘progery81’ three-bet shipped all in for 1.2 million with their [poker card="ac"][poker card="kh"]. In the big blind, China’s ‘Jerome001’ made the call. But when the action got back to Martirosian, he four-bet shipped more than enough to cover ‘Jerome001’, who quickly folded leaving it heads up. The [poker card="qs"][poker card="js"][poker card="6d"] flop was safe for ‘progery81’, but the turn came the [poker card="4c"], flipping the script. The river came the [poker card="jc"] and Martirosian dragged another pot while ‘progery81’ was eliminated in seventh for $246,886. Three hands later it was Canada’s ‘DollarVig’s turn to fight for their tournament life. After ‘Jerome001’ opened to 700,000 from early position with the [poker card="kc"][poker card="jh"], it folded to Canada’s ‘DollarVig’ in the big blind with less than 10 big blinds. They three-bet shipped their 2.3 million stack with the [poker card="as"][poker card="qs"] and ‘Jerome001’ made the call. The board ran out [poker card="ks"][poker card="th"][poker card="3s"][poker card="8c"][poker card="3d"], flopping a flush and straight draw for ‘DollarVig’ but bricking out on the turn and river. ‘Jerome001’ scored the knockout and ‘DollarVig’ collected $317,896 for sixth place. Five-handed play lasted through the second break and when the blinds climbed to 250,000/500,000 (60,000 ante) and Joakim Andersson found himself on the short stack with roughly 10 big blinds. Folded to him in the small blind, Andersson open-jammed his [poker card="jd"][poker card="4d"] and was snapped off by Dvoress in the big blind with the [poker card="qh"][poker card="jh"]. The [poker card="ac"][poker card="as"][poker card="5h"][poker card="2c"][poker card="7s"] was no help to Andersson who fell in fifth place for $409,329. With four left, everyone had over 20 big blinds, giving them some room to play. During that play, Martirosian’s chip lead began to slip away. After Dvoress doubled through the Russian, Martirosian went from first to worst on the leaderboard. When the blinds were up to 300,000/600,000 (75,000 ante) it folded to Martirosian in the small blind and he moved all-in for 8.1 million with his [poker card="qs"][poker card="td"] and again, it was Dvoress calling in the big blind, this time with his [poker card="4s"][poker card="4h"]. The flop came [poker card="qd"][poker card="ts"][poker card="2h"], giving Martirosian top two pair and a virtual lock on the hand with Dvoress left with just two outs. The turn was the [poker card="6d"], and Martirosian was 95% to double up. However, when the [poker card="4c"] hit the river, Dvoress’ chip lead soared to over 40 million and Martirosian settled for a fourth-place finish for $527,060. Dvoress held a commanding lead, but before long Stevens doubled through him, twice in fact and the stacks evened out. The blinds were at 500,000/1,000,000 (125,000 ante) when Stevens put in a raise to 2.1 million from the button holding the [poker card="ah"][poker card="qs"] and Dvoress, now the short stack, three-bet shoved his 14 million chip stack with the [poker card="ac"][poker card="6c"]. Stevens quickly called and the pair watched as the flop came [poker card="8c"][poker card="7h"][poker card="3c"], giving Dvoress a flush draw and a backdoor straight draw. The turn was the [poker card="ks"], eliminating any possible straight draws for Dvoress and leaving him needing a club or a six to stay alive. However, the river was the [poker card="kh"] ending his run in third place for $678,652. Heads-up play only took roughly 15 minutes for Stevens to grab a significant chip lead over ‘Jerome001’ and close it out. On the last hand, with a 2.5-1 chip lead, Stevens opened the button to 2.5 million with the [poker card="ad"][poker card="ac"] and ‘Jerome001’ three-bet shipped his final 18 million holding the [poker card="kh"][poker card="4h"]. Stevens snapped and his aces held through the [poker card="8d"][poker card="6h"][poker card="2c"][poker card="9d"][poker card="6c"] board. ‘Jerome001’ scored an impressive $873,846 as the runner-up while Bert Stevens, who started the day as the short stack, claimed his second career Super MILLION$ title and the $1,125,181 first-place prize. Super MILLION$ Final Table Payouts (12/14) Bert Stevens - $1,125,181 ‘Jerome001’ - $873,846 Daniel Dvoress - $678,652 Artur Martirosian - $527,060 Joakim Andersson - $409,329 ‘DollarVig’ - $317,896 ‘progery81’ - $246,886 Anatoly Filatov - $191,739 Damian Salas - $148,909
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