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2020 was a long year for many professional poker players. Back in March, live tournaments and cash games virtually disappeared overnight in Las Vegas, and around the world, and over the summer, the halls of the Rio, normally packed to the brim with Davipoker pros and amateurs alike, were empty. As two-time WSOP bracelet winner David 'ODB' Baker put it, "2020 was a terrible year for me and most poker players. The bills don’t stop, but the games did." Well, Baker and good friend and fellow poker pro Mark Gregorich ended the year on quite a high note, after a strong showing in two high-profile NFL betting contests in Las Vegas. The contests run the length of the NFL season and handicappers are betting five games each week against the spread. They finished first place in the $1,500 buy-in Westgate SuperContest, earning $435,623. In addition, they tied for second place in the $1,000 buy-in Circa Sports Millions contest, earning another $200,000. Tack on bonuses for their first quarter finishes in both contests, and the two ended up hauling in $785,623. Baker and Gregorich shot out to an early lead, and they never looked back from there. "We got off to a really hot start. After the first quarter, heading to Week 5, we knew we had a shot. We had an 18-2 start. It really started to feel real about the halfway point, and about Week 12, we really started adjusting strategies." The lead-up to the 2020 season was unlike any other. No preseason games for anyone, and limited training camps meant that teams came out of the gates rusty. For Baker and Gregorich, their strategy coming in was to bank on good quarterbacks who would be less affected by the upheaval of the usual preseason routine. "We went into the year thinking home field advantage was basically nullified. We also were quick to hypothesize and it became just a basic fact later that QBs had a huge advantage with empty stadiums. Early on we feasted with good QBs on the road laying small numbers. As the year went on, these spots became harder to exploit. Lines that early were 2-5 became 6-10," Baker told us. This was just the second year in the SuperContest for the duo, and their first time in the Circa Sports contest. However, their years of poker knowledge and game theory surely assisted them in their abilities to navigate the potential pitfalls of leading from the front in the beginning. "In the SuperContest, we had a decent lead, 2-4 points, and the field started to thin. At that point we went for more chalky plays and tried to block. Get good lines. At the same time in Circa we were falling back a bit," Baker said. "A few of the picks we made on both cards lost. We knew we needed to take some leverage spots and go against the grain. We successfully took the worst lines a few times and in turn gained leverage," Baker continued. Tournament poker players will often tell you that all they ultimately want at the end is a sweat. A shot at the crown. Well, Gregorich and Baker found themselves in about as good a spot as any heading into the final week of the season. They held a half-point lead in the Circa Sports contest, while their lead in the SuperContest was a more comfortable three-point advantage. Of course, the two sports bettors spent hours of time picking out what would likely be the five biggest sports bets of their lives. Baker gave us a peek behind the curtain of what these two discussed the most leading up to the final Sunday. "We went into Week 17 with many thoughts obviously. First thought was, try to play the Washington-Philly game if at all possible, and try to land on the team that was going to have the best line value at kickoff. Meaning Washington was -2 in the contest so if we thought the line would move up, play them, if down, play Philly." They ultimately settled on taking Washington (-2) and of course, the thought of hedging crossed the player’s minds, but in this specific scenario, that wasn’t going to be very easy. As it turns out, the two players had already made a decision that they would have put a hefty wager on the Eagles in order to ensure a bigger payday. "This was the only hedging spot we planned to take. If we needed the game we would be able to bet a nice chunk on philly with a middle. As it worked out if we needed Washington we would have made a lot by betting philly at 6.5-7 The rest of the cards we approached similarly to past weeks." Baker and Gregorich submitted three picks across both cards: Washington Football Team. Baltimore Ravens, and Carolina Panthers. They went 2-1 on those picks, and went different on their other two. On Circa Sports, they took the Packers and Seahawks, while the SuperContest card had the Cowboys and Steelers. Both ended up 1-1. "We had a pool of teams we liked. Carolina, Buffalo, Green Bay, Seattle, Dallas, Detroit became a late possibility. We pretty much were down to those six teams for three slots. Green Bay was our favorite but the line was -5/-5.5 in the contests and -4 in real life. We were committed, but the line movement caused us to only take them in Circa." Gregorich lobbied for his hometown Seahawks for one of the final picks, as he had done a few times already in the season. As is often the case in Seahawks games, the final quarter was wild, giving the poker pros a roller coaster of a ride that would put a major final table to shame. The Seahawks were -6 favorites, meaning that Baker and Gregorich needed Seattle to win by a full touchdown. However, the Seahawks offense struggled throughout the game, and all looked lost when the Niners took a 16-6 lead early in the fourth quarter. But then, back-to-back Seattle touchdowns put them up 20-16, and made it possible for a miracle cover. Then, a sack fumble gave the Hawks the ball back, and after another touchdown, Baker and Gregorich looked like they would still have a shot at the $1 million first place prize in the Circa contest. However, the 49ers put together a garbage time drive, and punched it in with 23 seconds left. The score was meaningless to the overall outcome of the game, but it changed everything in Las Vegas. Baker compared the emotions of the final two minutes of that game to a spot he's been in many times over the course of his poker career. "Imagine being at the final hand of a major tournament with $800,000 difference between first and second. You get it all in with AK vs KK. No biggie, you lose, it’s a cooler. That’s how it felt the whole game. We were on the wrong side. Clean flop, no sweat. We are going to lose," Baker said. "Then from out of nowhere the ace hits the turn. Now we are going to win! Then before you know it, the king on the river comes to beat you. That’s how it felt. Yes, we still needed Washington, but that line moved to -6.5, so we knew we had a nice middle to hedge and win a lot of money." The sweat was so large because of the very top heavy payouts in the Circa Sports contest. First place was $1,000,000, while second dropped all the way to $200,000. Normally, a poker player would like to have a top-heavy payout structure, but Baker didn’t pull any punches when criticizing the payouts. "I think the pay scale was pretty gross honestly. First was three times the amount of second place. But whatever, sometimes you’re on the good end of steep payouts, and sometimes not." Baker and his wife already had plans to move to Las Vegas before what they hope will be the 2021 WSOP, so Baker said that most of this prize money will go towards buying a new home there. For Baker, it is a bittersweet ending to a year that he and everyone else will never forget.
Winning a World Series of Poker gold bracelet is widely considered by many to be poker’s ultimate achievement. For some players, it defines his or her career. For others, it’s the one prize eluding some of the game’s best. For years, Stephen Chidwick was considered the best poker player without a WSOP gold bracelet. At the 2019 WSOP, Chidwick bucked that monkey off his back like the most turbulent bull does to a rider at a rodeo when he won the $25,000 Pot Limit Omaha High Roller for $1.618 million. Shawn Buchanan was another player in the "best without a bracelet conversation," but, like Chidwick, he broke through at the 2019 WSOP, winning the $800 buy-in WSOP.com Online NL Six-Handed. Now that Chidwick and Buchanan have each won an elusive gold bracelet, let's take a look at who are the best players remaining without a bracelet entering the 2020 WSOP. Patrick Antonius CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 15 2 0 $929,518 Widely considered one of the best all-around players in poker for quite some time, Patrik Antonius is still missing a WSOP gold bracelet from his résumé. He's come close a couple of times, finishing in the top 10 on four occasions and placing at the final table twice, but he's never scored better than third place. Antonius has been known to pass on tournaments for cash games these days, but he's still a threat to win a bracelet in the bigger buy-in WSOP events when he does compete. Niklas Astedt CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 6 0 0 $110,645 Sweden's Niklas Astedt is one of the top-ranked online poker players in the world, but his live success hasn’t been too plentiful, especially at the WSOP. Astedt’s skills should not be overlooked, though. His first WSOP cash came in 2014 and his highest WSOP finish was a 26th-place result in the 2019 WSOP $25,000 Pot Limit Omaha High Roller. He's also cashed in the WSOP Main Event on two occasions, with a 182nd-place finish in 2016 and a 899th-place finish in 2019. Mikita Badziakouski CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 4 4 1 $3,161,362 Mikita Badziakouski plays some of the biggest buy-in events around the world, and his career to date includes more than $26.1 million in live tournament earnings. At the WSOP, Badziakouski has four cashes. Each cash has been a final table appearance and each has come at WSOP Europe. If there's a high roller event on the WSOP schedule, Badziakouski will likely be in the field and a threat to win the gold bracelet. Darren Elias CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 28 3 0 $645,659 With four World Poker Tour titles and more than $7.5 million in live tournament earnings, it’s a matter of when, not if, Darren Elias will finally win WSOP gold. His first WSOP cash came in 2009. He has three WSOP final table appearances and two finishes in third place, although he’s never made it to heads-up play. The two times Elias finished in third came from the same event, the $10,000 No Limit Deuce to Seven Championship in 2017 and 2019. Alex Foxen CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 39 4 0 $808,918 Alex Foxen has been around the WSOP for a much shorter time than some of the players on this list, with his first WSOP cash coming in 2015. He has, however, built up quite the reputation as one of the best tournament poker players in the game today and it seems very much just a matter of time before he finds himself in the WSOP winner’s circle with his first gold bracelet. Already, Foxen has racked up 39 WSOP cashes and four final tables ahead of 2020. His highest finish to date was a third-place finish at the 2017 WSOP in a $1,000 No Limit Hold’em event. Matt Glantz CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 61 13 1 $3,232.669 Pennsylvania's Matt Glantz has been around the WSOP block a few times, but he’s still looking for that first gold bracelet. Glantz first cashed in a WSOP in 2000 and he’s been producing everything but wins since, including 13 final table appearances. Glantz has reached heads-up play once and finished third on three occasions. At the 2019 WSOP, Glantz picked up his third WSOP Main Event cash. Mark Gregorich CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 69 11 1 $1,168,497 Mark Gregorich is another player on this list who has been around for quite some time, earning his first WSOP cash back in 1999. He has 69 cashes and 11 final table appearances at the WSOP, with one runner-up finish that came in the 2003 WSOP $5,000 Limit Hold’em event. Gregorich also has a trio of third-place finishes at the WSOP to date. Nick Guagenti CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 37 3 0 $583,181 Ohio's Nick Guagenti has 37 WSOP cashes with the first coming in 2006. He has three final table appearances. Guagenti's highest WSOP result came in 2019 when he took third in the $3,000 H.O.R.S.E. event for $85,265. His best finish in terms of money won came from his 46th-place finish in the 2017 WSOP Main Event, for which Guagenti won $145,733. Guagenti is a regular in mid- and high-stakes cash games in his region, and he also has 15 cashes on the WSOP Circuit. Christian Harder CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 53 2 0 $1,050,784 Christian Harder’s first WSOP cash came in 2009. He’s won titles elsewhere in the poker world, just not at the WSOP just yet. He’s been close before with a pair of fourth-place finishes and is known to put in a high amount of volume in the big bet games of No Limit Hold’em and Pot Limit Omaha. Maurice Hawkins CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 29 3 0 $623,240 Maurice Hawkins has been a longtime grinder of the WSOP and WSOP Circuit, racking up 29 WSOP cashes and 110 WSOP Circuit cashes. He has a whopping 14 WSOP Circuit gold rings, but Hawkins has yet to win a WSOP gold bracelet. Hawkins has three WSOP final tables and they've come in big-field NL tournaments. With as many big-field NL events that are on the WSOP schedule these days, one has to figure that Hawkins is going to break through and win one at some point. Isaac Haxton CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 27 7 1 $2,923,424 Isaac Haxton is widely considered as one of the best minds in poker, and he’s certainly lived up to that with more than $27.6 million in live tournament earnings, millions more won in cash games, and who knows how much won online. The one thing he doesn’t have is a WSOP gold bracelet. Haxton has seven WSOP final table appearances and one runner-up result. The second-place finish came to Vitaly Lunkin in the 2009 WSOP $40,000 No Limit Hold’em. Maria Ho CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 55 5 1 $1,644,554 Maria Ho is another long-time regular at the WSOP, with cashes dating back to 2005. She has five final table appearances and one runner-up finish in WSOP events, and she’s known to mix it up in most of the games. Ho’s runner-up finish came to Allen Bari in the 2011 WSOP $5,000 No Limit Hold’em. Ho has been the last woman standing in the WSOP Main Event on two occasions, 2007 and 2014, and she finished sixth in the 2017 WSOP Europe Main Event. Ali Imsirovic CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 10 3 1 $583,986 Ali Imsirovic is one of the newest kids on the block in all of poker, not just the WSOP, and he’s quickly acquired a reputation of one of the game’s best when it comes to No Limit Hold’em tournaments. Imsirovic’s first WSOP cash came in 2017, so there isn’t a ton of sample to draw from, but he’s already made three WSOP final tables in top-level events and has one runner-up finish. Given his success in his young poker career, Imsirovic is considered one of the favorites any time he enters a high buy-in, No Limit Hold’em event. Rainer Kempe CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 31 3 0 $1,142,997 Rainer Kempe has won more than $21.3 million in his poker career and he’s been in the winner’s circle many times, but he’s yet to win a WSOP gold bracelet. His WSOP career is still pretty young, though. His first WSOP cash came in 2015, but over a short period of time he’s already earned 31 in-the-money finishes and more than $1.1 million in earnings. Kempe has been to a WSOP final table three times to date. Jason Koon CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 42 7 1 $1,789,462 For all of the poker success that Jason Koon has enjoyed over the course of his career, he’s still searching for his first WSOP gold bracelet. Koon has more than $31.1 million in live tournament earnings to date and his first WSOP cash came back in 2009. He has seven WSOP final table appearances and one runner-up result. Koon is similar to Haxton and Imsirovic in the sense that he’ll almost always be one of the favorites any time he enters a high buy-in, No Limit hold’em tournament. Timofey Kuznetsov CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 0 0 0 $0 Timofey Kuznetsov, also known as ‘Trueteller,’ is highly regarded in the poker community as one of the best, especially within the high-stakes community. He has zero WSOP cashes to date, but he simply doesn’t play a lot of tournaments. That said, Kuznetsov is still one of the best players in poker without a WSOP gold bracelet. Maria Lampropulos CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 27 0 0 $136,731 Maria Lampropulos first cashed a WSOP event in 2016 and that first year she walked away with five WSOP cashes in total. She followed that up with six cashes in 2017 and seven cashes in 2018. At the 2019 WSOP and WSOP Europe festivals, she cashed nine time. With partypoker MILLIONS and PCA Main Event wins on her résumé, both for seven-figure paydays, Lampropulos has shown she has the chops to compete in some of the biggest events in the world. Toby Lewis CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 24 0 0 $409,171 Toby Lewis’ first WSOP cash came in 2011 when he took 11th in the $10,000 Pot Limit Hold’em Championship. He’s racked up 24 WSOP cashes to date, but he’s never reached a WSOP final table. Tom Marchese CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 26 4 1 $1,295,638 A player with more than $19.1 million in live tournament earnings, Tom Marchese is often considered one of the better tournament players poker has to offer. He's yet to score a WSOP gold bracelet, though, but he has come close a few times, with four WSOP final tables and one runner-up finish. The time Marchese finished second was at the 2015 WSOP in the $1,500 Pot Limit Hold'em tournament. Steve O‘Dwyer CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 18 2 0 $675,717 Like Haxton and like Koon, Steve O’Dwyer has a ton of live tournament winnings. O’Dwyer has scored more than $30.4 million from the live felt, plus plenty more online, and his first WSOP cash came in 2007. O’Dwyer is a player who put in more WSOP volume at the beginning of his career compared to what he does now, which could be holding him back in terms of winning his first gold bracelet. At this point in his career, it seems that if O'Dwyer does win a gold bracelet, it will come at WSOP Europe or a similar international WSOP stop. Adam Owen CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 34 5 0 $570,961 Adam Owen is another one of the younger guns on this list, but he’s widely regarded as one of the best all-around players in the game these days. Having earned his first WSOP cash in 2014, Owen has racked up 34 WSOP cashes to date, including five final tables and three third-place finishes. Owen has shown a propensity to perform well in the $10,000 buy-in championship events at the WSOP and many think that’s where he’ll earn his first gold bracelet from. Felipe Ramos CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 31 4 0 $526,047 One of best poker players to come out of Brazil is Felipe Ramos, with 31 WSOP cashes dating back to his first in 2009. Ramos is known as a solid player who can compete across all variants, and the more tools you have in your shed, the better when it comes to chasing gold bracelets. Ramos has four WSOP final tables and they've all come in Omaha. Three of those four final tables were in Pot Limit Omaha. Dario Sammartino CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 41 10 0 $9,927,947 Italy’s Dario Sammartino first cashed in a WSOP event in 2011 and he’s been performing very well ever since, except winning a WSOP gold bracelet is something he’s yet to achieve. Sammartino has found the money in WSOP events 41 times to date. Of those, he’s reached the final table on 10 occasions. Sammartino's biggest claim to World Series of Poker fame was a runner-up finish in the 2019 WSOP Main Event for $6 million. He's also one of the few players to have made the final table of both the WSOP Main Event and WSOP Europe Main Event in his career. Sammartino has learned how to play all the games and play them well, so don’t be surprised to see him finally win WSOP gold much sooner than later. Ole Schemion CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 6 1 0 $469,735 Although his WSOP results don’t pop off the page, Ole Schemion is one of the best players out there and an absolute force when it comes to poker tournaments. He’s amassed more than $16.3 million in live tournament earnings, numerous high roller victories, and one World Poker Tour title. He’s still in search of his first WSOP gold bracelet, though. In terms of winning WSOP gold, it’s very likely just a volume game for Schemion. If he puts in the volume, he’ll get it eventually and probably in the near future. It also works to his benefit that WSOP Europe looks as though it will remain at King’s Casino in Rozvadov where Schemion has shown success before, including a sixth-place finish in the 2019 WSOP Europe €100,000 Diamond High Roller for €341,510. Jake Schindler CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 33 4 0 $1,050,644 The first of two players named Jake on this list, Jake Schindler has 33 entries and four final tables at the WSOP entering 2020. His best finish was a third-place result in the 2014 WSOP $3,000 No Limit Hold'em for $212,373. Over his entire poker career, Schindler has more than $25 million in live tournament earnings. Jake Schwartz CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 60 3 1 $658,477 Jake Schwartz earned his first WSOP cash in 2012 and has built up 60 in-the-money finishes since. He was first widely known as a No Limit hold'em player but he's since branched out and has been playing more of the games. In 2013, Schwartz earned the top WSOP finish of his career when he took second in the $1,500 NL Shootout, earning $202,035. To date, he has two other WSOP final table appearances in addition to that one. Shannon Shorr CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 79 9 2 $2,217,846 When is Shannon Shorr going to finally win a WSOP gold bracelet? Shorr first cashed in a WSOP event back in 2006, which seems like ages ago when you consider he’s still very much on the younger side of poker players. Ever since that first WSOP cash, not a year has gone by that Shorr hasn’t racked up multiple WSOP cashes. Plus, he’s been very close on several occasions with nine final table appearances and two runner-up finishes. He also has a pair of third-place finishes. Shorr can play all of the games very well. Before Chidwick winning his bracelet, Shorr was right there at the top of this list with Chidwick. Dan Smith CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 36 10 1 $9,884,615 Another high roller with a knack for all the games, Dan Smith has been close to winning WSOP gold before but it just hasn’t happened for him yet. His first WSOP cash came in 2010. Since then, he’s earned 36 total WSOP cashes and won more than $9.8 million at the WSOP. He has 10 final table appearances, six third-place finishes, and one second-place finish in WSOP events. Like some of the other high rollers on this list, with Smith it feels like more of a volume game than anything. Christoph Vogelsang CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 13 6 0 $8,668,735 Christoph Vogelsang has come close at the WSOP on a handful of occasions, including two third-place finishes in a pair of the biggest events the WSOP has ever offered. In 2014, Vogelsang placed third in the $1 million buy-in Big One for One Drop for $4.48 million. In 2019, he took third in the WSOP Europe €250,000 Super High Roller for more than $1.3 million. If there's a big buy-in event at the WSOP, Vogelsang is considered a threat to win it. Mike Watson CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 63 11 4 $2,917,143 Mike Watson has been knocking at the WSOP gold bracelet door for several years now. His first WSOP cash came in 2007 and he’s put up more than 60 cashes to date since. Of the 11 WSOP final table appearances Watson has on record, four of the times he’s finished runner-up. Interestingly, Watson did win the €50,000 Majestic High Roller at the 2012 WSOP Europe, but it was an added non-bracelet event for the high rollers. Had that event been in a later year, it very likely would have been for a gold bracelet. Watson usually plays a high volume of events and can play all the games, much like Shorr, and it’s only a matter of time before he finally scores a WSOP gold bracelet. Jerry Wong CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 38 7 0 $1,899,225 Jerry Wong may be most well known for reaching the now-defunct WSOP November Nine in 2016, when he finished eighth for more than $1.1 million, but he has plenty of other success at the WSOP. With 38 total WSOP cashes and seven final table appearances, the only thing left for Wong to do is win a gold bracelet. One would think that has to be on the horizon soon for Wong, who has the ability to compete highly in all of the games. His WSOP final table appearances have come in No Limit Deuce to Seven, Pot Limit Omaha, Big Bet Mix, Razz, Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo, H.O.R.S.E., and No Limit Hold'em.