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  1. “I also wanted to say that there are so many deserving nominees who have worked hard to earn a place in the Hall of Fame. More and more great players and builders are starting to turn 40 years old. I really hope that the World Series of Poker begins to induct a couple more nominees each year.” - Eli Elezra, 2021 Poker Hall of Fame inductee. For the second year in a row, just a single person was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame. This year, it was Eli Elezra, noted high-stakes cash game pro and four-time WSOP bracelet winner. By all accounts, for his contribution and achievements in the game, Elezra’s inclusion in the Hall is well deserved. But in his brief speech in the Brazilia Room, after thanking his mentors and recounting his journey, Elezra took a moment to acknowledge the other deserving nominees with a hope that they, like him, may also have the opportunity to be so honored. It’s a hope that’s shared by many who follow the Poker Hall of Fame. In 2020, it came a bit of a surprise that the PHOF opted to reduce the already low number of two inductees to a single person, citing a return to the Poker Hall of Fame’s roots and the benefit of time as reasons to keep the election process as elite as it is. “We like tradition,” WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart said in 2020. “One per year is the way it was for the majority of the Poker Hall of Fame’s history. A single inductee seems to promote the prestige of the honor. Most of the finalists these past few years are very young men. I would hope and assume they will all get inducted eventually.” What a difference a year makes. Even when the voting process allowed for two persons per year, the thought that the bottleneck of bringing valued figures of poker into the Hall of Fame was not ready for the flood of future poker greats, inspired by the poker boom. Looking ahead, without change, the Poker Hall of Fame may keep its elitist status but will forgo its credibility. A Hall of Fame isn’t about the number of people in it, it’s about accomplishments. And nearly two decades after a poker explosion extended the love for the game around the world, continuing to cut off more-than-deserving players and builders, makes the Hall look and feel like an old-school popularity contest rather than a celebration of those who have made the game great. That point has never been better illustrated than this year at the 2021 World Series of Poker when players, far younger than the 40 year age requirement, have added bracelets to their resume that reflect the numbers that, as of right now, are part of a legitimate Hall of Fame career. Take a look at the accomplishments of Shaun Deeb, Brian Hastings, and Brian Rast, all three of which earned their fifth career bracelet this fall. Rast, who will turn 40 before the next Hall of Fame nomination process, has made it well-known that the Hall of Fame is on his radar as what he expects to be his next accomplishment and will most certainly be considered next year. “Really, the number one thing at this point is kind of just making the Poker Hall of Fame. I mean, I feel like, I think I’ve done enough in my career…” Rast said immediately after his fifth win. And he’s not out of line in that thinking. In addition to collecting bracelets, Rast also has more than $22 million in live career tournament earnings, good for 24th on the All-Time Money List, and has been known to play cash games at some of the highest stakes available. Those three five-time bracelet winners are followed closely by a swarm of top-tier names, all of whom earned their fourth this series. Adrian Mateos, Ben Yu, Anthony Zinno, Brian Yoon, John Monnette, Benny Glaser, Farzad Bonyadi, Adam Friedman, Kevin Gerhart, and 2021 WSOP Player of the Year Josh Arieh all have great cases for future consideration. The four-time bracelet winner club increased by 33% in just one series and, coincidentally, it’s the same number of bracelets that Eli Elezra has to his credit upon induction. Of course, bracelets alone are by no means the only criteria for being inducted, but they do play a big role. Currently, respect at the highest stakes and, honestly, popularity among the 32 living members of the Hall of Fame (or those who have the most influence within that group) is perhaps even more important under the current system. But with that said, it’s clear that not only is there incredible talent on the rise, but the bar for what it’s going to take in the future to not only get nominated but get elected is also climbing higher. With so much talent rising and becoming eligible over the next five years two things are clear: the first is that the time for the Poker Hall of Fame to adapt to how much bigger the game of poker is today is here. In fact, it’s been here. Also, secondly, should the Hall not adapt, people who were once thought to be a lock for the Hall of Fame one day will be frozen out far longer than they deserve to be due to the pressure of escalating poker resume requirements to be considered by the public for the nomination process as well as for the voters themselves. For example, take a look at the case for Mike ‘The Mouth’ Matusow. Matusow’s resume looks incredibly close to that of Elezra’s in terms of his bracelet count and his time spent on poker television. It wouldn’t be tough to argue that, in terms of notoriety, Matusow’s influence on the game of poker far outshines many of the more recent inductees. His brash, polarizing personality has been ever-present on the poker landscape since the early 2000s, and, like him or not, he’s been an ambassador for the everyman and a persistent presence on poker television. But at 53 years old, Matusow doesn’t appear to be any closer to an induction into the Hall today from the day he became eligible. In 2020, when the votes cast were made public, Matusow received the third-lowest total votes. Perhaps it’s because the mouth he’s so famous for is a turn-off for those casting the votes. But as Hall of Famer Daniel Negreanu has said many times - the Poker Hall of Fame isn’t designated for just the nice guys. If it were, well Matt Savage wouldn’t still be waiting. But even after his sixth nomination, Savage - one of the most influential tournament directors in the game - is still on the sidelines and, like Matusow, will soon be facing the robust resumes of elite players. But he’s also contending with the perceived notion that, if there’s only one spot open, it’s best not to use it for a “builder” or someone who has simply advanced the game as opposed to someone who crushes in it. To further that point, it seemed like when PokerStars founder Isai Scheinberg was first nominated in 2020 he would be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He, along with his son Mark, took online poker to the masses, helped amplify the Moneymaker effect, and - not for nothing - was the architect to bail out thousands of players from the implosion of Full Tilt Poker (something that likely keeps surefire Hall of Fame member Chris Ferguson on the outside, perhaps never to get in). But Scheinberg, even after clearing up all legal ramifications in regards to Black Friday, is not only not a "first ballot" member, he’s now been passed over twice. It’s easy to see a few of these names and, perhaps, argue that they actually don’t belong. That what they have contributed or achieved doesn’t warrant inclusion. But it’s hard to ignore that the impact of poker on the worldwide community is also not well-reflected in the Hall of Fame. Recent nominees including Chris Bjorn, Thor Hansen, and Bruno Fitoussi all deserve another look for their contributions to poker. The end result is a Poker Hall of Fame that looks trapped in time and out of touch with modern poker. But here’s the hope moving forward: as the World Series of Poker leaves the Rio and begins a new era on the strip, perhaps there is a new era of change for the Poker Hall of Fame on the horizon. Not one that loosens the requirements by any means, but, as Elezra said in his speech, acknowledges that there are many deserving people from both the player and builder category who deserve to have the doors of the Hall open while they still around to enjoy being a part of it.
  2. 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. https://twitter.com/phil_hellmuth/status/1455092561769472002?s=20 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. READ: Five Former WSOP Players of the Year On How To Win It In 2021 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. https://twitter.com/RealKidPoker/status/1455114358757871616?s=20 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. https://twitter.com/PocketFives/status/1456012324372815874?s=20 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. https://twitter.com/PocketFives/status/1456026758638145540?s=20 Eli Elezra held the overnight chip lead, followed by Paul Volpe, Chris Brewer, Dan Cates, and Ryan Leng. https://twitter.com/junglemandan/status/1456295274075148291?s=20 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.” https://twitter.com/tsarrast/status/1453640943832166404?s=20 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. https://twitter.com/phil_hellmuth/status/1454743417095790600?s=20 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.
  3. It was another busy day at the 2021 World Series of Poker as three events moved closer to completion, with some of the biggest names in poker competing in the $25,000-entry Pot Limit Omaha Event #53, the Seniors Event closing out a huge Day 1b and the first day of action in the 9-Game Mix taking place at the Rio. Ben Lamb Holds $25K PLO Lead In the $25,000-entry PLO Event #53, it was Ben Lamb, the former WSOP Main Event third-place finisher from 2011, who made it to Day 3 with a chip lead. Just 25 players made the end of Day 2 with a stack, but no one bagged bigger than Lamb, who had piled up 3,885,000 by the close of play, with his nearest challengers Nathan Zimnik (2,535,000) and David Benyamine (2,340,000) some way behind his total. Others who made the Day 3 cut included Joao Vieira (1,805,000), Bryce Yockey (1,420,000) and Jeremy Ausmus (1,280,000) just three examples of big names with big chances of success at the tail-end of the event. Another player who will hope to keep a great run going at this year’s World Series of Poker is Tommy Le (1,035,000), who won a second bracelet just the other day in PLO. Plenty of big names were unable to make it through the day, with Chance Kornuth, Joseph Cheong, Ben Yu, Ian O’Hara, Scott Seiver, Eric Kurtzman all cashing but failing to make Day 3, with Niklas Astedt, Josh Arieh, and Stephen Chidwick busting outside the money places. WSOP 2021 Event #53 $25,000 Pot Limit Omaha High Roller Top 10 Chipcounts: Ben Lamb - 3,885,000 Nathan Zimnik - 2,535,000 David Benyamine - 2,340,000 LaDarren Banks - 2,000,000 Shaun Deeb - 1,975,000 Joao Vieira - 1,805,000 Farhad Jamasi - 1,480,000 Veselin Karakitukov - 1,445,000 Bryce Yockey - 1,420,000 Charles Sinn - 1,335,000 Seniors Come Out To Play On a mammoth Day 1b of the $1,000-entry Event #52 the Seniors Event, Dany Georges bagged the biggest stack as he totaled 464,000 by the close of the day’s action. Georges had a good lead from players such as Scott Sisler (372,000) who finished second in chips and Mike Ruter (345,000) who also grabbed a podium place with over a thousand players still involved. The total field of both days stood at 5,404 by the end of registration, with 622 players from the Day 1b field making it through. Big names to make the cut included the ‘Robin Hood of Poker’, Barry Greenstein (156,500), James Moore (104,000), who has already won the Super Seniors Event twice in his poker career, and Allen ‘Chainsaw’ Kessler (80,500), who highlighted the positivity of the day as the WSOP dealers at the Rio got a well-earned round of applause. https://twitter.com/AllenKessler/status/1453862989891735554 WSOP 2021 Event #52 $1,000 Seniors Championship Top 10 Chipcounts: Dany Georges - 464,000 Scott Sisler - 372,000 Mike Ruter - 345,000 Ali Pabarja - 336,500 Randy Marker - 311,500 Steven Sheldon - 309,500 Billy Sewell - 297,000 Azim Popatia - 289,000 Jarufe Farah - 286,000 Matthew Shihadeh - 284,500 Rast, Elezra In $2,500 Nine Game Mix Top 10 Finally, Event #54 concluded with 136 players still in seats from 319 entries in the Nine-Game Mix which takes place six-handed throughout. After the first day’s play, Kao Saechao (240,000) had the chip lead, with Brian Rast - who won a WSOP bracelet as recently as on Day 28 - on 212,100 chips close behind him. Paul Holder came into the overnight counts third on 201,500. Other notables to grab a bag at the close of play and plan for a Day 2 strategy included Kevin Gerhart (158,300), Adam Owen (154,300), WSOP Main Event runner-up David Williams (153,100), Maria Ho (135,900), three-time WSOP bracelet winner Josh Arieh (129,700) and ‘Kid Poker’ himself, Daniel Negreanu (62,000). Other superstars weren’t so fortunate, with 16-time champion Phil Hellmuth, Frank Kassela, Chris Vitch, and Mike Watson all being eliminated before the end of Day 1. There will only be 48 paid places, so all of the remaining players have a lot to do yet before they can pat themselves on the back for making a profit in another WSOP event. WSOP 2021 Event #54 $2,500 Nine-Game Mix Six-Handed Top 10 Chipcounts: Kao Saechao - 240,000 Brian Rast - 212,100 Paul Holder - 201,500 Peiwen Wang - 201,400 Eli Elezra - 196,100 Ryan Himes - 190,900 Ray Henson - 190,600 Kentaro Hori - 175,800 Christopher Putz - 169,000 Matt Szymaszek - 168,900 Finally, Chris Moneymaker was quick to pour scorn on PokerGO presenter Jeff Platt’s run in Event #43 as proof that ‘anyone’ can win big at a poker tournament. Quick as a whip, Platt shot one right back at the 2003 WSOP Main Event world champion. https://twitter.com/CMONEYMAKER/status/1453859024965885955
  4. Brian Rast claimed a fifth WSOP bracelet as the modern poker legend bagged the win in the $3,000-entry Six-Max No Limit Hold’em Event #51. Rast won a top prize of $474,102 after ousting John Gallaher heads-up in a thrilling conclusion to a great final table in the Thunderdome at the Rio in Las Vegas. Brian Rast Makes It Five The final six players were reached when Matas Cimbolas bubbled the final table, winning $53,946 in the process. At that stage, Rast sat at the top of the leaderboard with 13.7 million chips, easily clear of his nearest challenger in Nick Yunis. It would be Uruguay’s Francisco Benitez who would bust the final table first, exiting in sixth for $73,107 when his [poker card="As"][poker card="Qs"] was unable to hold against Rast’s [7d[poker card="6d"]. After Benitez shoved when short, the board of [poker card="Jh"][poker card="7c"][poker card="5h"][poker card="3h"][poker card="Ks"] paid off Rast and made him even more powerful with four opponents between him and victory. Next to go was Japanese Day 1 chip leader Jun Obara, who entered the play with the most chips but left in fifth place for $100,827. Yunis’ call for his chips with [poker card="Jc"][poker card="9h"] on a flop of [poker card="Js"][poker card="Td"][poker card="6s"] was correct as Obara showed only [poker card="7s"][poker card="5s"] and after missing flush and running straight outs on the [poker card="Qh"] turn and [poker card="Kd"] river, Obara was on the rail. It was Yunis himself who busted in fourth place when his shove from under the gun with [poker card="Ah"][poker card="5h"] met with defeat to Rast’s [poker card="Ad"][poker card="4d"], the board of [poker card="Ts"][poker card="7c"][poker card="4h"][poker card="3h"][poker card="8c"] ending the chances of Yunis, sending him home with $141,478 and further boosting Rast’s stack. Three became two when Rast, who now had seven times the chips of each of his opponents, busted Tuan Phan in third for $210,913. Rast raised all-in from the small blind with just [poker card="5c"][poker card="4d"], Phan calling off just four big blinds from the big blind with [poker card="Qh"][poker card="Jd"] and failing to hold across the board of [poker card="Jh"][poker card="8d"][poker card="6c"][poker card="5h"][poker card="7c"]. Heads-up was a one-way encounter, with the dominant Rast immediately ending the event, all-in with the dominating [poker card="Ks"][poker card="Td"] against John Gallaher’s [poker card="Qd"][poker card="Th"], with a board of [poker card="Js"][poker card="Jc"][poker card="6h"][poker card="Ts"][poker card="3d"] giving Gallaher the runner-up prize of $293,009 and Rast the victory and his fifth WSOP bracelet. WSOP 2021 Event #51 $3,000 Six-Max Final Table Results: Brian Rast - $474,102 John Gallaher - $293,009 Tuan Phan - $210,913 Nick Yunis - $141,478 Jun Obara - $100,827 Francisco Benitez - $73,107 Distenfeld Wins Shootout For First Gold Bracelet Event #48 saw the gregarious and generous to a fault Gershon Distenfeld win his first-ever WSOP bracelet and pledge to give his entire $204,063 winnings to charity after an epic comeback heads-up win against Johan Schumacher saw a popular winner take gold. Ten players took to the table who had each won two single-table ‘Shootout’ tables to reach that point, and the action was quality from the off. It was Craig Trost who busted first for $16,197 when just a short while after play began, his day slid away. With all ten players starting virtually level in chips, it took a massive cooler for such an early exit and Trost’s [poker card="Kh"][poker card="Kd"] were shot down by Distenfeld’s [poker card="Ah"][poker card="Ac"] as the eventual winner immediately put himself in a great position to take the title when the ten-high board played out. Ap Garza busted in ninth place for $20,208 when his all-in with [poker card="Ad"][poker card="2d"] was mis-timed, David Tran’s [poker card="Ah"][poker card="Kd"] cruising to victory after all the chips went in pre-flop with two kings on the flop. Garza was followed from the felt by Thomas Boivin in eighth place for $25,473 when the Belgian was eliminated by countryman Schumacher. Boivin’s [poker card="8c"][poker card="8d"] was no good against Schumacher’s [poker card="Ad"][poker card="Qh"] when the board saw a queen hit the turn on [poker card="6s"][poker card="6h"][poker card="2s"][poker card="Qd"][poker card="7s"]. In seventh place, it was the turn of two-time 2021 WSOP event winner Ari Engel to depart, with the Canadian cashing for $32,439 when his [poker card="Th"][poker card="Td"] couldn’t overtake Distenfeld’s [poker card="Jd"][poker card="Jc"], a jack coming on the flop for good measure. When Sohale Khalili was gone in sixth for $41,728, pocket fours losing to Jonathan Betancur’s [poker card="Js"][poker card="9s"] with two nines coming on the flop, there were just five in the hunt for gold. Tran was busted in fifth place for $54,217 when his shove with [poker card="Ac"][poker card="5d"] was looked up by Orson Young with [poker card="Kc"][poker card="Qh"]. The board of [poker card="Ks"][poker card="Qc"][poker card="Ts"][poker card="Td"][poker card="4c"] sent Tran home after a sweat, but four became three when Young himself busted for $71,142 with [poker card="As"][poker card="8s"] overtaken by Schumacher’s call pre-flop with [poker card="QS"][poker card="Jh"], a queen on the flop doing the fatal damage. Three-handed, an all-America heads-up was prevented by Schumacher’s [poker card="Kd"][poker card="Kh"] which held through a nine-high board against Betancur’s shove with [poker card="5d"][poker card="5c"]. That gave Schumacher a 2:1 chip lead but that was all to change after an epic heads-up battle. In a duel that had everything, it took a bad beat to end what was a mammoth three-hour encounter. Betancur called off his stack with the best hand by far, holding [poker card="Qd"][poker card="Tc"] against Distenfeld’s [poker card="Qc"][poker card="4s"]. But a board of [poker card="Qh"][poker card="Qs"][poker card="7s"][poker card="4h"][poker card="Ks"] saw drama on the turn lead to wild cheers after 4th and 5th street from Disteneld’s rail as the first bracelet in his career landed at the expense of another debut hopeful in the gallant Schumacher. WSOP 2021 Event #48 $1,500 Shootout Final Table Results: Gershon Distenfeld - $204,063 Johan Schumacher - $126,133 Jonathan Betancur - $94,270 Orson Young - $71,142 David Tran - $54,217 Sohale Khalili - $41,728 Ari Engel - $32,439 Thomas Boivin - $25,473 Ap Garza - $20,208 Craig Trost - $16,197 Bonyadi Scores Fourth Career WSOP Title Event #49 concluded with another multiple bracelet winner left celebrating, as Farzad Bonyadi won $297,051 and the title of No-Limit 2-7 Lowball Championship winner, as he beat Johannes Becker, who earned $183,591 for finishing second, heads-up. With Britain’s Benny Glaser coming into play as the chip leader and favorite, there was no fairytale ending to the tournament for him as he was eliminated in third place for $132,685. And there was another poker legend who ended up disappointed as Daniel ‘Kid Poker’ Negreanu busted the event in eighth place for $32,162 as his WSOP bracelet drought goes on. WSOP 2021 Event #49 $10,000 No-Limit 2-7 Lowball Championship Farzad Bonyadi - $297,051 Johannes Becker - $183,591 Benny Glaser - $132,685 Dustin Dirksen - $97,199 Jake Schwartz - $72,185 Julien Martini - $54,359 Ben Diebold - $41,515 Daniel Negreanu - $32,162 First WSOP Cash, First WSOP Bracelet For Wright Event #50 provided the fourth WSOP bracelet winner of the day as Darrin Wright won the $600-entry NLHE/PLO mixed event in some style. It was a fairytale story worthy of the World Series, as Wright won the event in what was his first WSOP cash of any kind, proving that anyone can go from hopeful to hero by sitting down at the felt in Las Vegas. At the final table, Wright led from there being six players left in the hunt for the bracelet, with Victor Paredes second in chips. That was how the tournament played out, with the two men clashing in a famous heads-up fight for the gold with big names such as Dan Zack (57th for $1,974), Mark Seif (31st for $3,717), and Justin Lapka (27th for $3,717) all busting earlier on the final day to whiff the business end of proceedings. WSOP 2021 Event #50 $600 Mixed PLO / NLHE Final Table Results: Darrin Wright - $127,219 Victor Paredes - $78,604 Joshua Ray - $57,276 Colten Yamagishi - $42,192 Hanan Braun - $31,425 Ryan Colton - $23,668 John Gilchrist - $18,028 Kyle Mclean - $13,889 Day 1a of the Seniors Championship took place on Day 28 of the 2021 World Series of Poker as one of the most fondly thought of events on the calendar returned after two years away. With 2,432 entries on the day, just 486 players survived to Day 2, with George Bronstein (585,000) the chip leader as chip bags were zipped shut for the night. Behind Bronstein, a number of well-known faces flourished, with Tim Killday (433,000), three-time WSOP bracelet winner ‘Miami’ John Cernuto (355,500), David Slaughter (351,500) and Edward Zidd all making the top 10 and legends of the felt such as Jack McClelland (175,000), JJ Liu (170,000) and Eli Elezra (112,500 ) all still in their seats as the final river fell. Big names who missed out on the next day’s play included two former WSOP Main Event winners in Robert Varkonyi and Tom MvEvoy, as well as Barry Greenstein, Rep Porter, Kathy Liebert, Ken Aldridge, Linda Johnson and Greg Raymer, as well as Barry and Allyn Shulman. WSOP 2021 Event #52 $1,000 Seniors Championship Top 10 Chipcounts: George Bronstein - 585,000 Tim Killday - 433,000 John Thornton - 373,000 John Cernuto - 355,500 David Slaughter - 351,500 Edward Zidd - 346,000 Angela Jordison - 341,000 Joseph Beasy - 334,000 Antonin Teisseire - 331,000 Giuseppe Iadisernia - 330,500 Finally, Event #53, the $25,000-entry Pot Limit Omaha High Roller tournament had, as you might expect, a stellar field in attendance, as 170 of the world’s best PLO players took to the felt on Day 1a. Las Vegas resident Eric Kurtzman bagged the chip lead with 773,500 chips as just 107 players survived the day, with other star names such as Joseph Cheong (592,000), Yuval Bronshtein (580,000) and Shaun Deeb (566,500) all hot of Kurtzman’s heels. Other big PLO players such as Chance Kornuth(547,000), Dylan Weisman (506,500), Sam Soverel (491,000), Simon Lofberg (487,500) Scott Seiver (225,000) and Daniel Negreanu (213,000) were all well placed, while others didn’t have the same fortune. Day 1 ended with some big names already on the rail, with Chris Brewer, Ryan Laplante, Felipe Ramos, Niklas Astedt, Sorel Mizzi, Joao Vieira, Ali Imsirovic, Jeff Gross and Randy Ohel all considering registration on Day 2, which will remain available until the opening deal. WSOP 2021 Event #53 $25,000 Pot Limit Omaha High Roller Top 10 Chipcounts: Eric Kurtzman - 773,500 Joseph Cheong - 592,000 Yuval Bronshtein - 580,000 Shaun Deeb - 566,500 Chance Kornuth - 547,000 Martin Dam - 530,500 Dylan Weisman - 506,500 Michael Batell - 500,000 Sam Soverel - 491,000 With so many funny stories, amusing anecdotes and outrageous memes making their way around the World Series of Poker like a poker pandemic of their own, it would be easy to think it’s all about the jokes, but when poker player and brain cancer sufferer Michael Graydon tweeted that he was hoping to sell 70% of his WSOP Main Event package to play this year, ‘Poker Twitter’ was far from laughing at his plight. In fact, it’s one of the most touching displays of poker player generosity that we’ve ever seen and if the replies to Graydon’s post don’t bring you to tears, we’ll be surprised. In one of the nicest collective gestures the game has ever seen, Graydon will be freerolling not just the Main Event this year, but his trip too, with some poker legends coming forward to help him out in his hour of need. We’ll all be rooting for you, Michael. https://twitter.com/michael_graydon/status/1453238351671304199 Finally, far be it from us to presume that you wouldn’t want to shed some happy tears too. You’re used to a giggle at this point of our review and if Phil Hellmuth’s potential outfit for his legendary Main Event entrance doesn’t raise a smile, we’ll be surprised. Well, he does believe he’s the ‘Greatest’... https://twitter.com/phil_hellmuth/status/1453497747173085188  
  5. The World Series of Poker’s $50,000 Poker Players Championship is heralded by many top-flight players in the poker world as the real championship event of the series. In order to lay claim to the Chip Reese Memorial Trophy, a player not only needs to have an expert-level mastery of the entire mix of games, but also needs to face down the "best of the best" in terms of competition. In short, it takes a well-rounded, complete player in order to win. The truth is, making picks for the $50K is a tough task - especially this year. Everything needs to be considered from a player’s history in the event to the momentum they have when it gets started. Plus, it's hard to know if some of the top talents that normally would never miss the PPC will even show up (ex. Phil Ivey). So, taking all of that into consideration, we’re shooting our shot and dropping the latest edition of First-Round Picks with the names and ranks of the players we think are most likely to not only run deep in 2021 but hoist the trophy when the last chip has been collected. These players are first-rounders for the $50,000 Poker Players Championship. #1. Shaun Deeb Unlike the Super High Roller Bowl, where Michael Addamo was sun running headed into the event, there’s no clear top pick when it comes to the Poker Players Championship. The field attracts an absolutely elite field of players who are proficient in all the games. Honestly, an argument can be made for a multitude of grinders to be ranked #1. Here’s why it’s Shaun Deeb. In the past five years of the $50K Poker Players Championship, only one player has made the money three times - Shaun Deeb. In 2017 he finished in seventh place for $164,286, in 2018 a 10th place finish brought him $111,447, and then in 2019, he made the final table falling in fifth for $232,058. History shows Deeb loves to compete in the PPC and the PPC has loved him back. An undeniable master of mixed games, Deeb has proven time and time again that he knows how to close. He’s a four-time WSOP bracelet winner with more than $5 million in earnings at the series alone and each of his bracelets has come in different disciplines. Impressive, but that's not all he brings to the table. To back that up take a look at what he’s done online. He holds five PokerStars SCOOP titles, all in mixed games and, even more impressively eight World Championship of Online Poker titles, only two of which are in NLHE. In summary, Deeb is dangerous in any tournament against any opponent. The 2018 WSOP Player of the Year is off to a fast start in terms of cashes in 2021, with nine at the time of this writing (tied for third overall), including a final table in the $1,500 Seven Card Stud. If there’s one thing going against him it's that while he’s racking up scores, he’s not really breaking through into the deepest parts of the tournaments yet. It’s unlikely he’s even close to satisfied right now. His goal of earning the 2021 Player of the Year title is going to require some stronger second-half results and the PPC could do just the trick to get him back in the thick of things. #2. Michael Mizrachi It feels silly to not have Mizrachi, the only player to win this event three times, as the top pick…after all, like we just said, he’s won it THREE TIMES. But one has to wonder just how lucky can one guy be. He first took the PPC down in 2010, earning a massive $1,559,046 payday. He did it again just two years later for another $1.4 million. Finally, in 2018, Mizrachi completed the hat trick and earned his third spot on the Chip Reese Memorial Trophy for more than $1.2 million. In addition, he also scored fourth place in the event in 2016 for another $380,942. He has a knack for owning this event and just last week he made an appearance at the 2021 series, finishing in 11th place in the Eight Game Mix. One should expect Mizrachi to find his way into this $50K and shouldn’t be surprised if he makes a deep run. But Mizrachi is also a high-risk, high-reward play because in addition to being one of the toughest players he’s also a blowtorch, and had been known to burn bright but flame out early. All eyes will be on the 3x champ to see what happens this year. #3. Brian Rast No matter how long Brian Rast is away from the poker tables, when he returns to them he’s as dangerous an opponent as you will find. A two-time winner of the PPC, Rast took it down in 2011 for $1,720,328 and then again in 2016 for $1,296,097. Rast also went deep in 2018 where he finished in 8th place for over $144,000. Additionally, he’s already found himself deep in a pair of Championship Events already. First, he finished in 15th place in the $10K Omaha 8 Championship for $18,750, and then just three days later, Rast nearly made the final table in the $10K Limit Hold’em Championship where he fell in 11th place for another $18,506. Add to that a cash in the NL 2-7 Lowball event and it feels like Rast is simply getting warm before making a big splash in the PPC. For Rast, the real question is - will he be in the field? The fact that he’s been playing in the series already is a good indication that he will, but with career earnings of more than $21 million (and we gotta assume a ton of BTC for as often as he tweets about it), perhaps he just wakes up and says “not today.” #4. Benny Glaser The UK’s young mixed game phenom Benny Glaser has all the makings of a PPC champion. The three-time WSOP bracelet winner almost exclusively plays non-NLHE variants with his WSOP wins coming in Omaha 8 and Limit 2-7 Lowball Triple Draw. In addition, Glaser has come very close in a number of other WSOP mixed game events including a runner-up finish this year in the $25K H.O.R.S.E. bringing him a $341,274 payday. His WSOP resume reads of a player who excels at any game that involves any number of cards. The warning signs in picking a crusher like Glaser are that his last bracelet win was back in 2016, however his 2018 fifth-place finish in the PPC shows he’s more than capable of getting to the end. #5. Phil Hellmuth After capturing his record-extending 16th WSOP gold bracelet in Deuce to Seven Hellmuth declared that the $50K PPC title is what he wanted next. The truth is, in previous years Hellmuth wouldn’t be in the top 10 first-round picks, much less the top 5. But this is 2021 and The Poker Brat is on a mixed game sun run that no one could have predicted. You’ve already heard the stats: five final tables, all in mixed games, with a bracelet in hand. He’s off to the best start to a WSOP in his lengthy career and is currently sitting atop the Player of the Year race at the halfway point in the series. Sure, he has his doubters and they would be quick to point out that Hellmuth’s only cash in this event came back in 2011 (when he finished in 2nd place for more than $1 million) and that this field will be the elite of the elite. But isn’t that who he’s been playing in the series so far? So, it may be risky picking Hellmuth this high, but in 2021 it’s an even riskier proposition not to. #6. Dan Zack Dan Zack may be the savvy pick at number six. He’s another one of the crop of young crushers who consistently proves he has a mastery of all the games. He also hasn’t kept it a secret how much he’d love to win Player of the Year, for which he currently is sitting in 12th place. He's just one big score away from being in the thick of it. At the time of this writing, Zack leads all cashes in 2021 with 11 total, including a final table in the $1,500 Eight Game Mix and a (soft) final table bubble in the $10K Stud where he finished in 10th place. He won his first gold bracelet in 2019 in the $2,500 Limit Mixed Triple Draw, but doesn’t have a history in the PPC. Expect that to change. #7. Daniel Negreanu There’s nothing Daniel Negreanu would love more than to win a bracelet and the trophy in this particular event. He’s stated it so many times that, along with the Player of the Year title, this is the tournament he consistently looks forward to the most. There’s no need to expand on the six-time WSOP bracelet winner’s resume except to note that in the past five years, Negreanu has made the money twice (including a final table in 2017) for a total of just under $400,000. The real reason “Kid Poker” is so high on this list is, in addition to his skill of course, is his momentum. He has plenty of it headed into this event. Negreanu has cashed ten times in the series (thus far) including a final table in the $3K H.O.R.S.E. and a final table bubble in the $25K H.O.R.S.E. The question will be if with everything he has going on being one of the game’s biggest ambassadors, can he let everything else fall to the wayside and zero in on what he really wants. If he’s feeling it, and he wants it - he’s a legit threat to win it all. #8. Anthony Zinno What a year it’s been already for Anthony Zinno who is currently the only two-time bracelet winner of the series. In back-to-back fashion, Zinno famously earned gold in the $10K Stud for $182,872 after being the subject of a classic Hellmuth rant. Then he came right back and took down $1,500 H.O.R.S.E. for another $160,636. In non-mixed game news, Zinno reminded people that’s he’s also a No Limit Hold’em crusher with a 12th place finish in the $50,000 High Roller for another $80,000, making it six cashes for the series. And if you hadn’t heard, Zinno created a club of which he’s the only member. With four WSOP bracelets and three World Poker Tour titles, he proved he’s one of the best in the game today and he heads into the PPC with a massive wave of momentum. Looking for action in the $50K PPC? Check out PocketFives Stakingwhere we will be selling pieces for Daniel Negreanu, Josh Arieh, Felipe Ramos, Matt Glantz, Daniel Weinman, and more. Sign up today and get in the action (many at no markup!) Sleeper Picks Julien Martini France’s mixed game master may be well-known for his runner-up finish at the PokerStars PSPC, but he’s also one of the more coveted players for WSOP $25K fantasy due to his ability to grind the entire schedule. While he’s off to a slow start at this year’s WSOP (3 cashes so far), don’t be surprised to see him turn it around in the PPC. David ‘ODB’ Baker Baker just got off a deep run in the $1,500 Razz where he finished in fifth place for $20,732. A two-time bracelet winner, one for a $2,500 8-Game Mix, Baker’s big question mark is if he’ll come out to play or prefer to sweat college or pro football with the tournament starting on the weekend. Ben Yu Three-time bracelet winner Ben Yu has been racking up cashes this year, with a total of 9 as of this writing. He finished in 7th place in the $25K H.O.R.S.E. for more than $75,000 and busted in 20th in the $5K Six-Max for another $21,838. He’s been making the money consistently, now it’s just time for him to break through and capture bracelet number four. The $50K Poker Players Championship gets underway on Sunday, October 31 and the final table will be played out live PokerGO on Friday, November 5.
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