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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)
Two new WSOP bracelet winners were crowned as Lara Eisenberg won the Ladies Championship and Dalibor Dula won a $1,000 Freezeout event, with more gold grabbed by first-timers in both cases. Eisenberg Stages Epic Comeback to Triumph Lara Eisenberg won the Ladies Event final table as she triumphed as an against-the-odds short stack to defeat Debora Brooke heads-up for the title. The final day began with just five players remaining, but JJ Liu left the action early. Liu moved all-in on the turn of a board showing [poker card="8s"][poker card="6d"][poker card="5h"][poker card="Jc"] with [poker card="Qh"][poker card="Js"] but was called by Brooke with [poker card="Kh"][poker card="Jd"] and the [poker card="Th"] river couldn’t save her, leaving Liu to collect her $26,458 prize. Diane Cooley busted in fourth place for $36,269 after her shove on the turn ended in failure to double. The board was [poker card="Ah"][poker card="5s"][poker card="4s"][poker card="6s"] when Cooley pushed all-in with [poker card="Qs"][poker card="Qh"], but Lara Eisenberg had turned the flush with [poker card="9s"][poker card="8s"] and after the [poker card="4c"] river, held the chip lead. In the commentary booth, WSOP legend Lon McEachern shared the mike with Jamie Kerstetter and Hollywood actress Jennifer Tilly, who also knows a thing or two about winning at poker. https://twitter.com/JenniferTilly/status/1448847044651601928 Next to go was the overnight chip leader Mikiyo Aoki, who had doubled up Eisenberg when her ace-queen was shot down by the eventual winner’s ace-king. Aoki was on the rial in third place for $50,525 when her shove with [poker card="Qs"][poker card="8c"] was called by Eisenberg with [poker card="Kd"][poker card="Qd"] and the board played out [poker card="Td"][poker card="6h"][poker card="5c"][poker card="Jh"][poker card="Th"]. Heads-up, Eisenberg had almost double her opponent’s chips, and gradually increased her lead until Brooke had just 1.8 million to the leader’s 11.1 million. At that point, Eisenberg shoved on a board of [poker card="Kc"][poker card="Jd"][poker card="2s"][poker card="7d"][poker card="Tc"] with Brooke calling and showing down [poker card="Ks"][poker card="8d"]. Eisenberg had [poker card="Kh"][poker card="Qd"], however, and that kicker played to leave Brooke with the runner-up prize of $71,507 and Eisenberg holding the bracelet and winning the top prize of $115,694. WSOP 2021 Event #22 Ladies Championship Final Table Results: Lara Eisenberg - $115,694 Debora Brooke - $71,507 Mikiyo Aoki - $50,525 Diana Cooley - $36,269 JJ Liu- $26,458 Qing Lu - $19,619 Marle Cordeiro - $14,791 Cherish Andrews - $11,341 Tiffany Lee - $8,847 Thi Nguyen - $7,023 Dalibor Dula Wins Against All-American Opponents Just one player wasn’t American who reached the final table of Event #26, the $1,000-entry freezeout, but that player - Dalibor Dula from the Czech Republic - won the bracelet and $199,227. With only nine players making the final table, Maurice Hawkins and Levi Klump were both eliminated in the same hand as Hawkins shoved for less than a big blind with [poker card="Jh"][poker card="Jd"], Maxx Coleman re-shoved with [poker card="Kd"][poker card="Js"] and Levi Klump called off his stack with [poker card="As"][poker card="Qh"]. The flop of [poker card="Ks"][poker card="8c"][poker card="5h"] immediately put Coleman into the lead and it stayed that way through the [poker card="7h"] turn and [poker card="5s"] river, seeing Hawkins win $17,270 and Klump claim $22,080 for making it one rung higher up the ladder. Just a couple of minutes later, Nicolo Audannio was on the rail in seventh place for $28,565. Audannio moved all-in pre-flop for eight big blinds with [poker card="Ad"][poker card="8c"] and was called by the initial raiser in the hand, Cole Ferraro with [poker card="Jc"][poker card="Jd"]. The board of [poker card="Kd"][poker card="6c"][poker card="5h"][poker card="4s"][poker card="9d"] provided no salvation for Audannio and he left as play went six-handed. Anthony Askey was busted in sixth place for $37,393 when his [poker card="Qs"][poker card="Qc"] were up against Edward Welch’s [poker card="Kh"][poker card="Jh"] and saw a flop of two kings and a jack decimate his stack. In the next hand, Askey’s few remaining chips went in with [poker card="Kc"][poker card="Tc"] and lost to Cole Ferraro’s [poker card="Qh"][poker card="4h"]. It was high roller Maxx Coleman who busted in fifth place for $49,519 when his [poker card="Kh"][poker card="Th"] was shot down by Ferraro’s [poker card="Qc"][poker card="Jc"] on a board of [poker card="7s"][poker card="7c"][poker card="2c"][poker card="6c"][poker card="5d"] which gave the latter a flush on the turn, while Guowei Zhang busted in fourth for $66,335 when he lost tow coinflips in a row to depart, with Dula winning the first and most valuable one wit [poker card="As"][poker card="Ks"] hitting against Zhang’s [poker card="Qh"][poker card="Qs"]. Three-handed play saw Welch eliminated with his [poker card="Ad"][poker card="2d"] dominated and defeated by Ferraro’s [poker card="Ac"][poker card="Ts"], with the board of [poker card="Ks"][poker card="Jc"][poker card="2c"][poker card="Th"][poker card="Tc"] cruelly offering Welch hope on the flop then denying him on 4th and 5th streets. Both men held the lead during a rollercoaster heads-up battle, but eventually, Dula led and Ferraro and he were both under 20 big blinds. When Dula moved all-in with [poker card="Kd"][poker card="3d"], Ferraro called it off with just [poker card="Jc"][poker card="8c"], but couldn’t get lucky on the [poker card="As"][poker card="6s"][poker card="4d"][poker card="Qc"][poker card="Qc"] board. WSOP 2021 Event #26 $1,000 NLHE Freezeout Final Table Results: Dalibor Dula - $199,227 Cole Ferraro - $123,142 Edward Welch - $89,875 Guowei Zhang - $66,335 Maxx Coleman - $49,519 Anthony Askey - $37,393 Nicolo Audannio - $28,565 Levi Klump - $22,080 Maurice Hawkins - $17,270 Jaffe, Racener, Hall Make $5K Six-Max Final Table The final table of the $5,000-entry Six-Handed Event #25 has been reached and after a day of drama, it was Eric Tsai (8,040,000) who grabbed the chip lead by the close of play. Tsai finished just a short distance ahead of Scott Ball, who bagged up 7,820,000, with Jonathan Jaffe coming into the final third in chips with 6,170,000. Bin Weng (3,980,000), Galen Hall (2,245,000), and John Racener are all a little shorter-stacked, but all have a wealth of experience to draw on as the final six race to a winner on Friday. Elsewhere in the event, players such as Yuri Dzivielevski (30th for $17,995), Frank Kassela (25th for $17,995), Daniel Negreanu (22nd for $21,838) and Nick Petrangelo (13th for $27,150) all made the money but not the business end of the event. WSOP 2021 Event #25 $5,000 Six-Handed NLHE Final Table Chipcounts: Eric Tsai - 8,040,000 Scott Ball - 7,820,000 Jonathan Jaffe - 6,170,000 Bin Weng - 3,980,000 Galen Hall - 2,245,000 John Racener - 1,950,000 Anthony Zinno Leads $1,500 H.O.R.S.E. On Day 2 of the $1,500-entry H.O.R.S.E. Event #27, Anthony Zinno performed at a high level to dominate the day at the felt. Zinno built a massive chip lead with 18 players remaining, with 2,565,000 chips putting him in a commanding lead at the end of the day’s play. At one point, Zinno had twice his nearest challenger’s chips, but Kao Saechao caught up a little to end the day second in chips on 1,495,000, while others to make the top half of the chip counts included Randy Ohel (1,040,000) and Max Pescatori (850,000). With players such as former WSOP Main Event winner Joe McKeehen (835,000) and Ari Engel (300,000) both on Pescatori’s table on Day 3, the action will be intense as players battle towards the top prize of $160,636. With the bubble bursting on Day 2, some players weren’t lucky enough to make any profit or claim vital WSOP Player of the Year points, with Phil Hellmuth, Chino Rheem and Barry Greenstein all finishing outside the money. Others, such as Shaun Deeb, Brian Hastings, Jason Somerville, and Allen Kessler all made the money places but failed to reach the final day. WSOP 2021 Event #27 $1,500 H.O.R.S.E. Top 10 Chipcounts: Anthony Zinno - 2,565,000 Kao Saechao - 1,495,000 Curtis Phelps - 1,355,000 Darren Kennedy - 1,330,000 Paul Holder - 1,160,000 Randy Ohel - 1,040,000 Michael Rosenberg - 930,000 Christopher Adams - 920,000 Max Pescatori - 850,000 Joe McKeehen - 835,000 $1K PLO Gets Underway Two more events took place at the Rio on Day 15, with Event #28, the $1,000 PLO 8-Handed tournament seeing 14 hours of gameplay across a mammoth Day 1. With 1,069 total entries, just 59 players ended the night with chips after over 94% of the field fell by the wayside. Ryan Gibson grabbed the chip lead and will go into the second and final day with high hopes of winning the bracelet, piling up 1,940,000 chips as the leader. Alex Yen is Gibson’s closest challenger on 1,314,000 chips, with Jonathan Therme (1,033,000) third in chips. With such a fast-paced day, a lot of players busted before the 161st place player began to earn money. Luminaries such as Daniel Negreanu, Tom McEvoy, Ryan Laplante, Dylan Linde and Sam Razavi all cashed, but missed out on the second day. WSOP 2021 Event #28 $1,000 PLO 8-Handed Top 10 Chipcounts: Ryan Gibson - 1,940,000 Alexander Yen - 1,314,000 Jonathan Therme - 1,033,000 Dylan Weisman - 937,000 Michael Perrone - 750,000 Casey Carroll - 680,000 Craig Chait - 664,000 Tegnear Butler - 553,000 Gabe Ramos - 550,000 Youness Barakat - 539,000 Kornuth, Koon Make $10K Short Deck Day 2 Ye Shen bagged the chip lead with 361,400 chips after eight levels of play on the first day of Event #29, with players such as Dan Shak (320,500), Chance Kornuth (262,000), and Jason Koon (235,400) all making the top 10 chip counts on a busy Day 1 in Event #29. With 59 entries being reduced to just 19 players, there are five former WSOP bracelet winners in the hunt for another, with Joao Vieira (199,100), Dan Zack (125,800), Stephen Chidwick (119,500) Daniel Negreanu (95,000), and Ben Yu (73,000) all hoping to go for gold again. WSOP 2021 Event #29 $10,000 Short Deck Top 10 Chipcounts: Ye Shen - 361,400 Young Ko - 340,000 Chad Campbell - 326,300 Dan Shak - 320,500 Chance Kornuth - 262,000 Moshe Gabay - 251,100 Jason Koon - 235,400 Thomas Kysar - 231,000 Joao Vieira - 199,100 Daniel Zack - 125,800 Finally, players of all levels meet and greet at the 2021 World Series of Poker and to prove it, Kid Poker himself, Daniel Negreanu, showed what happens when you meet someone with a common interest. https://twitter.com/RealKidPoker/status/1448832619790036992