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Over the past 50 years, for many, the World Series of Poker has grown into more than just a poker series. It’s become a pilgrimage of sorts. Players from all over the world head to Las Vegas to take their shot at battling against the best, bringing home a bracelet and possibly be crowned a World Champion. With the WSOP regularly taking place in the U.S., it’s no surprise that American players, far and away, have amassed the most bracelets in WSOP history. It’s nearly 20 times that of the next nearest country. But this year is different and the tables have turned. After the month of July, the focus of the bracelet chase will be handed over to GGPoker where the rest of the world will have the edge on grabbing gold as American players continue to be shut out of the global online poker scene. On GGPoker, players from nations from around the world who wouldn’t otherwise make it to the Rio this summer will be looking to add to their own poker resume while contributing to the WSOP legacy of their country. Brazil It’s no secret Brazilians love their poker. They also love playing online. In the history of PocketFives, four Brazilian players have climbed to the #1 worldwide ranking. But when it comes to the World Series of Poker, Brazil isn’t even in the top 10 countries when it comes to taking down WSOP events. Through the end of 2019, six players have earned a bracelet including one of those former #1-ranked online players, Yuri Martins Dzivielevski. Dzivielevski grabbed his first WSOP win just last year after taking down the $2,500 Mixed Omaha/Seven Card Stud Hi/Li 8 or Better event for over $213K. Dzivielevski, partypoker ambassador Joao Simeo, WSOP bracelet winner Andre Akkari, and GGPoker ambassador Felipe Ramos are just some of Brazil's top-flight talent that make it so it wouldn’t be unthinkable for Brazil’s total bracelet count to double in 2020. Canada The truth is, it’s been hard for Canada to compete for bracelets in the U.S. Not because of a lack of talent, there’s more than enough. But because of tax ramifications. When Canadians win at the WSOP they can lose as much as 30% to the US-Canada Tax Treaty, making it hard to be profitable in tournaments. That hasn’t stopped Canada from claiming the #2 spot with 60 total bracelets. Led by Daniel Negreanu and his six wins, Canada boasts numerous multi-time bracelet winners including Greg Mueller, Mark Radoja, Kristen Bicknell and 2010 World Series of Poker Main Event champion Jonathan Duhamel, the first and only Canadian to hold that title. There’s a good chance for Canada to add to their legacy and strengthen their bracelet count in 2020. It’s well known that Negreanu, also a GGPoker ambassador, is going to charging hard for a bracelet with over $500,000 in bracelet bets on the line. Also online crushers like Bicknell, bracelet winner Mike Leah, former #1-ranked PocketFiver Sebastian ‘p0cket00’ Sikorski, and recent PokerStars Spring Championship of Online Poker winner Mike Watson all have full reign to win without getting punished in the wallet simply for being great. United Kingdom Some of the most colorful characters to grace the World Series of Poker stage have come from the UK. Many of which have contributed to the country’s 51 bracelets. David ‘Devilfish’ Ulliott, Luke Schwartz, Roland de Wolfe, Jake Cody, and Barny Boatman are just some of the legendary names that have posed for a WSOP winner’s photo and elevated the profile of poker in the UK. This year it will be a new crop of players who will lead the charge for England starting with the current #1 ranked online poker player in the world, Conor ‘1_conor_b_1’ Beresford. In fact, four of the top 20 online players in the world play from the UK including Patrick ‘pleno1’ Leonard and Tyler ‘Wonderboy222’ Goatcher. In the history of the UK, only seven players have earned multiple bracelets and if there’s one player who is a favorite to join that club it would be high roller savant Stephen Chidwick. Chidwick, who holds a bracelet of his own, is one of the most talented tournament players in both the live and online arena. Provided he has the time, he could even have a shot at catching Benny Glaser, who holds the UK’s record as a three-time bracelet winner. Russia Russia and France both have 22 bracelets, but when it comes to playing online Russia gets a definitive edge. It’s impossible to forget the impact that Russian players have had on the World Series of Poker from Ivan Demidov’s runner-up finish the original November Nine for over $5.8 million to Vitaly Lunkin taking down the 40th WSOP Anniversary event for his second gold bracelet. But while Russia is another talent-rich country, it takes a lot of effort to make it from Moscow to the middle of the Amazon Room. While Dennis ‘aDrENalin710’ Strebkov made the journey in 2019 and went home with a bracelet, many of the online crushers from Russia opt to grind online through the summer. It’s those players, like former #1-ranked ‘veeea’, who could break the tie with France this year and tack on to Russia’s total. That is unless Bertrand ‘ElkY’ Grospellier has anything to say about it. The truth is that for many countries, the series on GGPoker can really impact their gold bracelet standing. In China, there are four players who have won a bracelet. With GGPoker’s wide exposure to the Asian market, there’s a very good chance that that club will be adding some new members in 2020. There’s only one bracelet winner from Uruguay, Alex Komaromi, who won his at the WSOPE in 2015. Top-ranked players from Hungary, like ‘Wildace_hun’ have the chance to break a long-standing five-country tie of five bracelets. While none of these countries are going to make up much ground on the 1,1132 bracelets earned by Americans, the gold they take home this summer will be an important part of WSOP, and their countries, legacy in poker.
The PokerStars Winter Series came to a conclusion on January 7 with the 152-event extravaganza shattering guarantees and paying out hefty sums to players from all over the world. With events running from December 25 through January 7 the Winter Series provided two straight weeks of value-packed action in the form of 38 different events, each broken into four different buy-in categories: micro, low, medium and high. PokerStars boasted $25,000,000 in guarantees for the tournaments and it was clear early on that this lofty number would clearly be shattered. Players helped generate well over $37,000,000 in prize pools and over 25 players were awarded six-figure sums during the series. Damian Salas Has A Career Series It’s going to be hard for Damian ‘pampa27’ Salas to ever reach his previous high point in poker. The #1-ranked Columbian was, after all, seated at the 2017 World Series of Poker Main Event Final Table. That day in July he finished in seventh place for $1.425 million, far and away a career-high score. During the Winter Series, he put some of that Main Event money to use by playing in the two biggest buy-ins of the series and ending up with a new online poker career-high cash in the process. Early in the series in Event #7-High ($5,200 No Limit Hold’em 8-Max) Salas made his way to an absolutely stacked final table that included the #1-ranked player in the world, ‘C Darwin2’, who finished in sixth, Belgium’s #1 player Gary ‘quiditbear’ Hasson (fifth), the UK’s Phill ‘Grindation’ Mcallister (third), ‘girafganger7’ (runner-up) and top 30-ranked player ‘dattebayo’, who ended up winning the event for $138,000. It was a who’s who of online poker elite players and Salas, who fit right in, finished in fourth for over $63,000. A just a week and a half later, in Event #25-H ($5,200 No Limit Hold’em), Salas didn’t settle for fourth. Instead, he outlasted the talented 127 runner field to collect a no-chop first place prize of $139,182. By defeating ‘DEX888’ heads-up, Salas secured the largest online sum he’d ever won to date and helped propel him into the Worldwide top 100 to his current rank of #52 in the world. As was noted in the most recent Milestones column, Stephen ‘stevie444’ Chidwick took fifth in Event #25 for $48,836, helping him push past the $5 million lifetimes earnings mark. ‘BadWolfOne’ 3713x’s His Money The largest tournament of the series belonged to Event #37-Micro ($2.20 No Limit Hold’em). This was the Main Event for the micro-grinders and it generated an impressive $111,900 prize pool. There were 55,966 entries and in the end it was ‘BadWolfOne’ who carved out the best of it in a four-way deal collecting $8,170.56 for his $2.20 investment. Impressively, he did it on a single bullet. The other three players in the deal ‘MatroSkin280’, ‘545TV’ and ‘Fabio_BH01’ all took home $5,932 for their efforts. Six-Figure Scores, Platinum Passes Highlight The Main Event ‘BadWolfOne’ wasn’t the only player to leverage the final day of the series to find a huge score. As expected, both the High and the Medium buy-in tiers of the Event #37 generated the two highest prize pools of the entire series, both crushing their guarantees. Event#37-M ($215 No Limit Hold’em ) saw 10,644 players pony up for a shot at a piece the over $2.1 million prize pool. At the final table, the final five agreed to a deal that would guarantee each of them a six-figure score. In the end, ‘The Haamer’ took the top spot and $221,965 for the win. PocketFivers ‘mrvogt’ (third for $145,633) and ‘NoTilit’ (fourth for $141,763) from Lithuania also were part of the chop. In the High buy-in of the Main Event, 1,116 entries helped surpass the $1.5 million guarantee by nearly $750,000. Five players in this event also won six-figure sums, but there was no deal made in this one. Canada’s ‘freezeplay’ ended up winning it all for $363,177 - the largest payday of the entire Winter Series. PocketFiver Alexandros ‘mexican222’ Kolonias finished as the runner-up taking home $266,207 for second. ‘ikkedus’, currently the #316-ranked player in the world, finished in third for over $195,000 and PocketFiver ‘B4NKR0LL3R’ took seventh for over $56,000. The four winners of the Main Events, all of those mentioned above as well as ‘smir9david’ who won Event #37 Low, all received a coveted PokerStars Player Championship pass. The pass gives them free entry into the 2019 $25,000 buy-in Hold’em Championship to be held at the 2019 PokerStars PCA. The tournament is being touted as likely to be the largest $25,000 buy-in event in poker history. With the Winter Series in the rearview mirror, online players can begin dreaming about the next big PokerStars series which is likely to be the 2018 Spring Championship of Online Poker, coming in the first half of the year.