Trying to predict what is going to happen in the poker world might be an exercise in futility but heading into 2017, we couldn’t help ourselves. From Super High Roller Bowl predictions to the return of poker’s favorite son, along with some wishful thinking about the biggest tournament of the year, here’s what to expect over the next year.
Poker Central Ambassador Retains Title
Poker Central ambassador Brian Rast won the inaugural Super High Roller Bowl in 2015 and another came close in 2016. Phil Hellmuth, owner of a record fourteen WSOP bracelets, nearly made the podium this past summer, finishing 4th. One year is long enough for the Poker Central ambassadors to go without keeping the trophy in house and after spending the last 18 months proving he’s one of the most successful High Roller players on the planet, Tom Marchese might be the leading candidate for SHRB success in 2017.
Phil Ivey Wins 11th Bracelet
After Phil Ivey was on the wrong side of two controversial court decisions that will now see him forced to forfeit over $20,000,000 of baccarat winnings, Ivey has been spotted in Las Vegas poker rooms more frequently than he was over the last few years. Whether Ivey decides to stay state side still remains to be seen but don’t be surprised to see him play a more complete WSOP schedule for the first time since 2014. That’s when Ivey won the last of his ten bracelets and if he does play a full schedule, he’ll be a favorite to win an eleventh.
Prop Bets and More Prop Bets
Some of the most interesting stories from last year didn’t play out on the felt. At the start of the year, Antonio Esfandiari took a bet against Bill Perkins that forced Esfandiari to lunge, instead of walk, everywhere for two days. Everyone knows what happened next, Esfandiari was so sore and tired midway through the early stages of the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event that he couldn’t lunge himself to the bathroom on break and after urinating at the table, was disqualified from the tournament. A few months later, Perkins was at it again, betting a large sum against Dan Bilzerian that the Instagram legend couldn’t bike from Las Vegas to Los Angeles in 48 hours. He did and a few weeks before that, Sam Abernathy won a bet against Bilzerian for doing the same trek albeit with a 72-hour window. Throw in the biggest side-bet of 2016, Jason Mercier’s 180 to 1 triple bracelet bet with Vanessa Selbst and everyone in the poker world is looking forward to the action away from the table again in 2017.
Ben Zamani Wins WPT Player of the Year
If last year’s GPI Player of the Year race taught us anything, it’s that nothing is ever guaranteed. Fedor Holz held the POY lead for 27 straight weeks before David Peters took the top spot at the end of December, thanks to a white hot run to end 2016. Peters earned the honor, no doubt, but Holz’s pseudo retirement gave the American the ability to steal the title at the death. Unfortunately for everyone who is contending for World Poker Tour Player of the Year, Ben Zamani, pictured above, isn’t retiring any time soon. Even if he did, he still might be able to claim the Season XV title, as he’s already accumulated 2,500 POY points through the first half of the season. Only one of the last four WPT POY winners have ended the year with more POY points, Mukul Pahuja when he collected an insane Season XIII 3,450-point total. That means a few early 2017 cashes could secure Zamani the title well before the WPT seasons concludes.
WSOP Main Event Eclipses 7,000 Runners
After the biggest World Series of Poker Main Event field since 2011 came together last year, with 6,737 entrants, the next hurdle to climb is the elusive 7,000 player mark. The Main Event hasn’t eclipsed that number since Jonathan Duhamel claimed the title in 2010, outlasting 7,318 competitors in the process, which was also the last WSOP prior to ‘Black Friday’. 7,000 players has only been topped one other time, everyone remembers that massive 2006 Main Event won by Jamie Gold, so this might be more wishful thinking as opposed to prediction.