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  1. The Online Player of the Year race went right down to the wire, proving to be one of the closest contests in recent years. In the end, Brazilian online crusher, and current #2-ranked player in the world, Pedro ‘pvigar’ Garagnani did what was necessary to edge out high-stakes legend Sami ‘LarzLuzak’ Kelopuro and took down the PocketFives 2021 Online Player of the Year honors. 2021 proved to be the best of Garagnani’s decade-long career and the story of his year is one of a player who climbed the rungs of the Online Poker Rankings and didn’t stop until he reached the top. Last year saw him dive headfirst into the online high roller waters and emerge with a reputation as one of the game's elite talents plus seven six-figure scores. He found success at almost every stage of the year and in nearly every major online series. Garagnani finished 2021 with a PokerStars WCOOP title, two WPTDeepstacks High Roller titles, a Turbo Series win, a GGPoker WSOP High Roller victory, and a runner-up finish in the GGPoker Super MILLION$. In fact, of his top 20 career scores, 15 took place in 2021. Although he had some fairly notable scores in the first two months, Garagnani’s big year didn’t truly kick off in earnest until March. That’s when he bested the 202 runners in the PokerStars $5,200 High Roller Club Titan Event for $197,646, a career-high score for him at the time. It was a bit of a proving ground for Garagnani as he battled against a stacked final table of online poker talent including Mike Watson, Parker Talbot, and former #1-ranked Simon ‘C Darwin2’ Mattsson. His victory in this tournament can be looked back on as the launching point for things to come in 2021. Two weeks later, on April 6, Garagnani, who at the time was ranked #6 in Brazil and approaching the worldwide top 20, would blow his previous high score out of the water. He went on a deep run in the GGPoker’s weekly $10,300 Super MILLION$. His runner-up finish earned him $454,196, a score that stands as his current career-high. It also brought him a massive haul of 1,165.36 Player of the Year leaderboard points, a score that stood as his highest of the year and was instrumental to him clinching Player of the Year honors. By the time summer came around, ‘pvigar’ had climbed to #12 in the world. That’s when he earned his second career PokerStars WCOOP title, outlasting yet another heavyweight final table that included Samuel Vousden, Christian Rudolph, and 2021 U.S. Poker Open champion David Peters in the $5,200 8-Max High Roller. He added $195,689 to his bankroll and another 1,000 leaderboard points in what was a top-3 result for him in the year. Then, just four days after his WCOOP win, he finished as the runner-up in another $5,200 WCOOP event for another $71,712. All of these major scores were adding up for Garagnani. He inserted himself into the Online Poker Rankings Top 10 and became a real threat to those at the top. Then, a late-year heater kicked in for him which propelled him to the top of the rankings. In September, he won a GGPoker WSOP High Rollers event for $31,280, and then in October, he was in the winner’s circle again with a victory in the WPTDeepStacks High Roller on partypoker for $112,079. Finally, at the end of November, Garagnani took down the Winamax Mini WSOP SUPER HIGHROLLER for $47,197 and that’s when he earned enough points to put him over the top. In the first week of December it became official, Garaganai overtook fellow Brazilian Bruno Volkmann and became the #1-ranked player in the world for the first time in his career. He joined the ranks of Volkmann, Yuri Dzivielevski, Brunno Botteon, Joao Mathias, and Joao Simao in the elite club of Brazilians who have reached the top of the rankings. In his first week at #1, Garagnani was back on his WPTDeepStacks grind only this time it was on 888poker. He won event #9 of that series, a $200,000 GTD PKO, for $40,500 and 447.21 leaderboard points, a score that made all the difference in the Player of the Year race. Garagani finished the year with 24,867 leaderboard points, just 343 more than Kelopuro. In contrast, when the UK's Conor Beresford took the Online Player of the Year title in 2020, he finished more than 4000 points above runner-up Brunno Botteon. Garagnani held on to the #1 spot for six weeks before relinquishing it in early January and ended the year with more than $8.4 million in total career earnings. 2021 Online Poker Player of the Year Standings [table id=285 /]
  2. This year we’re doing something a little different and breaking down our annual Poker Year In Review into three different parts - the Flop (January-April), Turn (May-August), and River (September-December). We’ll be wrapping up 2021 by taking a look back at some of our biggest stories, winners, and surprises that unfolded in one of the most unique years in the history of the game. May One of the craziest stories of the year broke in May when it was revealed that high-stakes poker pro Chad Power had been victim to a home invasion robbery of nearly $1,000,000 in cash and casino chips. However, the Henderson Police Department arrested a suspect who was charged with multiple felonies including Burglary with a Deadly Weapon, Conspiracy Home Invasion, and Theft after the suspect went out and purchased a Dodge Hellcat Charger with a $30,000 cash down payment and also purchased a 2018 Maserati Levante SUV under his mother’s name with another $60K in cash. On the felt, Phil Hellmuth and Daniel Negreanu returned for Round 2 of High Stakes Duel II with Negreanu looking to get even, however, once again, Hellmuth pulled off the win. Negreanu promised that there would be a third match sooner than later leaving Hellmuth still feeling slighted despite his back-to-back wins. “I’ve given Daniel credit the whole way from start to finish and I haven’t said one negative word about him. He was pretty condescending in the first match. I felt it was super condescending, and this match he handled himself much better,” Hellmuth said. “But even still, he’s preaching down to me about ranges, and I’m thinking to myself, I’ve just won 24 out of 26 heads-up matches against pros and they have me rated as a fucking underdog every match. It just blows my mind, but I just never quite get that respect, and that’s ok with me. I just want to keep winning.” There were plenty of other winnings taking place in May with a trio of World Poker Tour events coming to a conclusion. The pandemic had forced the WPT to delay a number of its high-profile final tables for more than a year and in the middle of the month, they gathered in Las Vegas to crown three consecutive champions. First up was Veerab Zakarian who took down the WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open for $674,840. “Waiting this long, you didn’t know what to expect. You don’t know, you keep waiting for it,” Zakarian said after the tournament ended. “Most people, after the pandemic, they didn’t have anything to look forward to so I was glad to have something to look forward to.” [caption id="attachment_637581" align="alignright" width="250"] Brekstyn Schutten[/caption] The next day it was Balakrishna Patur’s turn in the spotlight as he won the delayed 2020 WPT L.A. Poker Classic for $1,015,000, defeating Matas Cimbolas in heads-up play. It was the second year in a row that Cimbolas finished as the LAPC runner-up. Finally, Brekstyn Schutten took down the largest event in the 19-year history of the WPT when he won the WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown for $1,261,095. While all of that is nice, the most prestigious contest of the year came to a conclusion in May when Niklas Astedt was named, by the poker community and his peers, as the All-Time #1 Number One. For the better part of a month, PocketFives ran a social contest asking the poker community to vote, March Madness-style, to see which of the (then) 60 former worldwide #1-ranked online pros stood above the rest. The finals came down to Astedt and online great Chris Moorman with Astedt edging out Moorman with 54% of the vote. “The PocketFives rankings really motivated me over the years,” Astedt said after being crowned the winner. “I’m super happy and proud that so many people voted for me.” Speaking of Chris Moorman, he was one of three popular player profiles to be featured this month. Moorman reflected on his career and his recent winning of his first SCOOP title. READ: “Old Guy” Chris Moorman Happily Proves He’s Still Got It Sami Kelopuro had been on an amazing heater and talked with PocketFives in a rare interview on the secret to his recent success and how he planed on taking it easy after his intense grind. READ: After Winning $4.4M, Sami Kelopuro is Taking It Easy - For Now Finally, after winning the first-ever GGPoker Spring Festival Main Event, Mathias ‘KingKongJoel’ Joelsson talked about what it was like to win a seven-figure score. READ: Mathias Joelsson Has ‘King Kong’ Plans After $1.25M GGSF Score By the end of the month, another Brazilian earned themselves an Online Player of the Month title, as Dalton Hobold took the title in May. June It had already been announced that the World Series of Poker was going to be moved to the fall, but in the middle of June, the complete schedule (before the addition of online events) of the last WSOP at the Rio was announced. It was an 88 gold bracelet schedule that hoped to bring back a sense of normalcy after a year away. READ: 5 Things: The WSOP Schedule Gives Players a Comfortable Return Home While players had the WSOP to look forward to, the 2021 U.S. Poker Open was taking place in the PokerGO Studio with familiar faces winning large sums of money. Stephen Chidwick, Jake Schindler, Ali Imsirovic were all at the top of the earners list for the series but David Peters dominated them all, winning more than $2.6 million and taking home the Golden Eagle trophy. READ: David Peters, Old Guard, New Faces Shine Bright as U.S. Poker Open Hellmuth’s three-peat over Negreanu was completed earning him the $400,000 prize and bringing his series record to 6-0 and bringing High Stakes Duel II to an end with Hellmuth opting to cash out and start over in the coming months. Brian Altman also notched his third win, but for him, it was taking home his third World Poker Tour Main Tour title at WPT Tampa at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa, Florida. The reigning WPT Player of the Year put himself in the race for WPT all-time title, just one behind Darren Elias’ four, and picked up $613,225 in the process. READ: WPT POY Brian Altman Writes His Own Script For Success In other WPT news, the 2021 WPT Online Series Main Event reached a conclusion as well with Christian Rudolph earning his first WPT title and $487,442. Plus, the WPT held its WPT Heads Up Poker Championship in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. An online tournament, it featured some of the biggest names in the game including Doug Polk, Tow Dwan, Sam Greenwood, Anthony Zinno, Brad Own, and eventual winner Phil Ivey who took down the invite-only event for $400,000. Another popular profile published in 2021 was on poker vlogger Jaman Burton and his recent move to Las Vegas. In it, he discusses how the social climate in St. Louis pushed him to make a move, the future of his vlog, and finding new inspiration in Sin City. READ: Jaman Burton and The Drawing Dead Find New Life In Las Vegas The string of Brazilian crushers taking down the Online Player of the Month continued in June as Geraldo Cesar Neto earned the honor for the first time in his career. July The poker world was shocked and saddened in July when six-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner, Layne ‘Back-to-Back’ Flack unexpectedly passed away at age 52. An outpouring of condolences for Flack’s family poured out from the poker community as a mainstay personality from the early days of the poker boom will be certainly be missed. Before that, Daniel Negreanu was back making headlines. After his loss to Doug Polk earlier in the year and then falling three times to Hellmuth on High Stakes Duel, Kid Poker’s ability to close in a big spot was being questioned by some in the poker world. He quickly responded with a victory during the PokerGO Cup series, not only winning the $50,000 NLHE event for $700,000 but, with a little thanks to Cary Katz in the final event of the series, taking the PokerGO leaderboard title and trophy for an additional $50,000 score. READ: The Anatomy- and End - of Daniel Negreanu’s Tournament Futility All month long, the World Series of Poker was running online bracelet events with some notable names adding to their poker resume including David Peters, Manig Loeser, and Chris Moorman who grabbed the victory in one of the final events of the series for his second career bracelet. But the big WSOP news was the rumor (which turned out to be true) that the World Series of Poker would be on the move in 2022, leaving its long-standing home of the Rio to set up shop on the Strip at Bally's and Paris. [caption id="attachment_637583" align="alignright" width="250"] Andrew Moreno[/caption] July also saw a pair of celebrated live wins as Andrew Moreno battled through the 1,325-entry field of the first-ever $10K Wynn Millions to walk away with a life-changing $1.460 million score. The final three agreed to chop the majority of the prize pool, creating two more millionaires as Clayton Maguire finished as the runner-up for $1.443 million and Toby Lewis grabbed the bronze for $1.235 million. Dapo Ajayi also earned a career-defining win after taking down WPT Choctaw for $558,610, making it the second time that Viet Vo would come up just one spot short in the same tournament, finishing in second place for $372,415. Brazil’s Dalton Hobold earned Online Player of the Month honors in May, in July he opened up about how he was almost scammed out his entire career by someone he trusted. READ: Rising Star Dalton Hobold Almost Had Poker Career Derailed by Scam Another month, another Brazilian at the top of the Online Player of the Month leaderboard, as Renan Carlos Bruschi took home the honors in July. August August was another massive month when it came to online poker as PokerStars announced the start of their biggest World Championship of Online Poker with $100 million guaranteed and the World Series of Poker Online kicked off on GGPoker. Both series featured poker superstars taking home titles including Christian Rudolph and Ivan Zufic taking down early WCOOP titles and Joao Simao and Samuel Vousden earning gold bracelets. It was also the month where Erik Seidel made history, taking down 2021 WSOP Online Event #11 ($10,000 Super MILLION$ High Roller) for $977,842 and his ninth career gold bracelet, tying Johnny Moss. Soon after, he talked with us about winning his ninth bracelet online made it special for him. “Winning any WSOP event is special,” Seidel said when asked where his online bracelet ranks. “This one was extra great for me because it was so unexpected. Getting through 600+ players and then the prize was close to one million, which I think is my biggest WSOP cash, felt really amazing. Might be my favorite.” READ: Erik Seidel’s Online WSOP Bracelet Victory Might Just Be His Favorite In addition to Seidel winning the WSOP edition of the Super MILLION$, a pair of perennial champions added to their MILLION$ resume. Niklas Astedt scored his third title and Michael Addamo kept the all-time wins record with his fourth. For Addamo, it was just a sign of things yet to come. READ: 50 Things To Look Forward To At The 2021 WSOP After Phil Hellmuth vanquished Fox Sports commentator Nick Smith in a bottle episode of High Stakes Duel, the re-match everyone was waiting for was booked. The Hellmuth vs. Tom Dwan hype train was rolling and the show did not disappoint. However, after seven wins in a row, Hellmuth was defeated as Dwan dethroned Hellmuth to become the new High Stakes Duel champion. READ: Three Takeaways From Tom Dwan's Victory Over Phil Hellmuth on High Stakes Duel III [caption id="attachment_637584" align="alignleft" width="250"] Brock Wilson[/caption] A pair of profiles proved to be popular this month as 26-year-old high-stakes tournament pro Brock Wilson talked about his major move from New York to Las Vegas to pursue the poker dream. Plus, Ryan Hagerty scored an online bracelet in July and sat down to talk with us about his roller coaster of a year grinding the tournament scene. A victory for Alex Theologis in the WSOP $25,000 Super High Roller Championship locked up the August Online Player of Month. Finally, after six years as the President and Editor-in-Chief of PocketFives Lance Bradley stepped away to pursue new opportunities and left by spotlighting some of his favorite stories he published over the years.
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