The World Series of Poker installed a WSOP Player of the Year award starting with the 2004 series. The goal of the WSOP Player of the Year competition aims to crown the player who had the best overall series. Throughout the years, some of poker’s biggest names have won the WSOP Player of the Year title. It’s also an award that has helped launch players into poker stardom. On this page, we’ll take a look at every WSOP Player of the Year winner and how they won.
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The first-ever WSOP Player of the Year award went to none other than Daniel Negreanu. Negreanu cashed in six of the 2004 WSOP’s 32 events. Of his six cashes, Negreanu reached the final table on four occasions and won one bracelet when he topped the 287-player field in the $2,000 Limit Hold’em event. It was the third gold bracelet victory of Negreanu’s career. For winning the 2004 WSOP Player of the Year title, Negreanu was awarded with a 2004 Toyota Tundra pickup truck.
Allen Cunningham remains one of the most popular players to come out of the poker boom era. In 2005, he won his third WSOP gold bracelet before going on to win the WSOP Player of the Year title. That series, Cunningham cashed five times at the WSOP, making the final table in four of those. The event he won was a $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em tournament that had 2,305 players.
Jeff Madsen broke onto the poker scene in a big way in 2006 and became the 2006 WSOP Player of the Year. He won his first two World Series of Poker gold bracelets and reached the final table in all four of his cashes. In fact, in those four cashes, Madsen finished no worse than third place in each. The two events Madsen won were big ones. He topped a field of 1,579 entries in the $2,000 No-Limit Hold’em and then he won the $5,000 No-Limit Hold’em Six-Max atop a field of 507 entries. At the time, Madsen’s first bracelet win allowed him to become the youngest player to ever win a gold bracelet. Phil Hellmuth finished second to Madsen in the 2006 WSOP Player of the Year race.
Tom Schneider hit the WSOP felt in a big way in 2007. Although he only recorded three cashes across the entire series, Schneiderwon two gold bracelets and finished fourth in another tournament. His first bracelet of the summer, which was also the first of his career, came in the $2,500 Omaha/Seven-Card Stud Hi-Lo tournament. After finishing fourth in the $2,500 H.O.R.S.E. event, Schneider won the $1,000 Seven-Card Stud Hi-Lo tournament. Altogether, Schneider won $416,829 at the 2007 WSOP and was crowned 2007 WSOP Player of the Year.
Five cashes, three final tables, and one gold bracelet were the ingredients to a 2008 WSOP Player of the Year title for Erick Lindgren. Lindgren’s first cash of the series was also his gold bracelet victory that year. He won the $5,000 Mixed Hold’em event for $374,505. A fourth-place finish in the $5,000 No-Limit 2-7 Draw would come later, as would a third-place finish in the famed $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. that won him $781,440.
Jeff Lisandro had quite the World Series of Poker in 2009. He won three gold bracelets that year and became the first WSOP Player of the Year to win three gold bracelets in a single WSOP. Lisandro dominated two games in particular that summer, pot-limit Omaha and seven-card stud, with his three gold-bracelet wins coming in stud variants. Lisandro first won the $1,500 Seven-Card Stud for $124,975. He then won the $10,000 Seven-Card Stud Hi-Lo World Championship for $431,656. To close things out, Lindgren won the $2,500 Razz for $188,390.
Frank Kassela is a good example of how the WSOP Player of the Year title can serve as a launching point into poker stardom. Kassela’s winning of the honor in 2010 truly cemented his place in the poker history books, and he did it with six cashes, three final tables, and two WSOP gold bracelet wins. Kassela’s two wins were in the $10,000 Seven-Card Stud Hi-Lo for $447,446 and in the $2,500 Seven-Card Razz for $214,085. The third final table that Kassela made at the 2010 WSOP was in the $25,000 Six-Handed NL Hold’em tournament where he finished third for $556,053.
After a couple of close calls at the World Series of Poker, Ben Lamb finally broke through at the 2011 WSOP which led to him being crowned the 2011 WSOP Player of the Year. Lamb cashed in five WSOP events that summer, and all five resulted in top-12 finishes. He won the $10,000 PLO Championship for $814,436, took second in the $3,000 Pot-Limit Omaha for $259,918, and third in the biggest event of the all, the WSOP Main Event, for $4,021,138. Phil Hellmuth finished second to Lamb in the 2011 WSOP Player of the Year race, his second time finishing runner-up.
Very much known in the world of online poker, Greg Merson had yet to make a big splash on the live tournament scene until the 2012 World Series of Poker. That’s when he won two gold bracelets, both for seven-figure scores, including winning the 2012 WSOP Main Event. Merson cashed four times at the 2012 WSOP. He won the tough $10,000 No-Limit Hold’em Six-Max event for $,136,197 before going on to win the WSOP Main Event for $8,531,853. For the second consecutive year and third time in his career, Phil Hellmuth finished second in the WSOP Player of the Year race.
Daniel Negreanu became the first two-time winner of the WSOP Player of the Year award when he won it again in 2013. Negreanu won two gold bracelets this year, but interestingly neither of them was won in the United States. This year, the WSOP Player of the Year race included WSOP Asia-Pacific and WSOP Europe. Negreanu won the WSOP Asia-Pacific Main Event for A$1,038,825 ($1,087,160). He also won the WSOP Europe €25,600 High Roller for €725,000 ($979,955). Add in eight other cashes, including a second-place finish in the WSOP $2,500 2-7 Triple Draw tournament in Las Vegas, and Negreanu became the 2013 WSOP Player of the Year.
In 2014, George Danzer won three WSOP gold bracelets en route to becoming the 2014 WSOP Player of the Year. He won the WSOP $10,000 Razz event for $294,792 and the WSOP $10,000 Seven-Card Stud Hi-Lo event for $352,696 in Las Vegas. Then in Australia at WSOP Asia-Pacific, Danzer won the A$5,000 8-Game tournament. In total, Danzer had 10 cashes in 2014 World Series of Poker events.
Mike Gorodinsky was crowned 2015 WSOP Player of the Year thanks to eighth cashes, three final tables, and one gold bracelet victory. The tournament he won was none other than the prestigious $50,000 Poker Players Championship, which Gorodinsky won for $1,270,086. His other two final tables resulted in second- and third-place finishes, taking runner-up in the $10,000 Razz Championship for $167,517 and third in the $5,000 No-Limit Hold’em Six-Handed for $246,867. Gorodinsky also cashed in the $25,000 Pot-Limit Omaha High Roller with a 17th-place score of $40,357, showing off quite the versatility to his game en route to winning 2015 WSOP Player of the Year.
Jason Mercier had a tremendous World Series of Poker in the summer of 2016, cashing 11 times and winning two gold bracelets. Among his results, Mercier had three cashes in a row when he won the $10,000 NL 2-7 Draw Lowball Championship for $273,335, placed second in the $10,000 Razz Championship for $168,936, and then won the $10,000 H.O.R.S.E. Championship for $422,874. As if that wasn’t enough for that stretch, Mercier then placed eighth in the $10,000 Omaha Hi-Lo Championship for $39,269.
Chris Ferguson won the 2017 WSOP Player of the Year award and was the king of cashes, finishing in the money on 23 occasions combined across the WSOP in Las Vegas and WSOP Europe in Rozvadov. Of those 23 cashes, only three were final tables with one turning into WSOP gold. In Las Vegas, Ferguson finished fourth in the $10,000 PLO Hi-Lo Championship for $150,929. He later took second in the $10,000 Seven-Card Stud Championship for $151,700. It wasn’t until Ferguson’s final cash of his 2017 WSOP campaign that he finally won a tournament, winning the €1,650 Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Lo at WSOP Europe for €39,289 ($45,677).
Cashing 20 times for more than $2,500,000, Shaun Deeb captured the 2018 WSOP Player of the Year award. He won two gold bracelets that year, with both coming in Las Vegas where he had 16 cashes. Deeb’s other four in-the-money finishes came at WSOP Europe. Deeb scored a huge $1,402,683 victory when he topped the 230-entry field in the $25,000 Pot-Limit Omaha High Roller. A couple of weeks later, Deeb won $814,179 when he was victorious in the $10,000 No-Limit Hold’em Six-Handed. The other two final tables that Deeb earned during his run to becoming 2018 WSOP Player of the Year were a third-place finish in the WSOP $1,500 NL 2-7 Draw Lowball event and a second-place finish in the WSOP Europe €1,650 PLO/NL Hold’em Mixed event.
Robert Campbell had a breakout year in 2019, truly putting himself on the global poker map when he won the 2019 WSOP Player of the Year title. The Australian cashed in 13 WSOP events, reached five final tables, and won the first two gold bracelets of his career. Campbell’s two wins came in the $1,500 Limit 2-7 Triple Draw event for $144,027 and the $10,000 Seven-Card Stud Hi-Lo Championship for $385,763. But, Campbell’s run wasn’t without a little controversy involved. A statistical error in the scoring had originally led WSOP to announce Daniel Negreanu as the 2019 WSOP Player of the Year winner, but Russian poker journalist Alexander Elenskiy uncovered a scoring error and the mistake was corrected, leading to Campbell being crowned the 2019 WSOP Player of the Year.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the World Series of Poker was not held in 2020 in its regular live format, leading to no WSOP Player of the Year title being awarded.
The 2021 WSOP Player of the Year race was a hotly contested one. In the end, it was Josh Arieh walking away with the title thanks to two gold bracelet wins, five final tables, and 12 cashes. Both of Arieh’s victories at the 2021 WSOP came in pot-limit Omaha variants. He won the $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha for $204,766 as his first win of the series. His second was worth $484,791 when he won the $10,000 Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Lo Championship. Those weren’t the only six-figure scores for Arieh at the 2021 WSOP. He also placed sixth in the $50,000 Poker Players Championship for $161,422 and seventh in the $50,000 Pot-Limit Omaha High Roller for $165,452. As if that wasn’t enough, Arieh had a deep run in the WSOP Main Event, finishing in 411th place for $30,000.
Dan Zack finished first in the 2022 WSOP Player of the Year race. Zack banked $1,456,927 in prize winnings at the 2022 WSOP from 16 cashes, four final table, and two gold bracelet wins. Zack won Event #15: $10,000 Omaha Hi-Lo Championship for $440,757 and Event #40: $10,000 Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo Championship for $324,174. He then went on to finish eighth in Event #50: $250,000 No-Limit Hold'em Super High Roller for $488,095 in what became the largest live tournament score of Zack's career to date.
At the 2023 World Series of Poker, a new star was born. That was Ian Matakis. Matakis battled hard all summer long, both live and online, going toe to toe with Shaun Deeb, Josh Arieh, Chris Brewer, and more, and became 2023 WSOP Player of the Year. During this summer, Matakis won his first WSOP gold bracelet in the $500 No-Limit Hold'em Bankroll Builder online for $120,686. Additional six-figure scores came from a seventh-place finish in Event #65: $5,000 6-Handed No-Limit Hold'em for $114,210, a ninth-place finish in Event #71: $50,000 High Roller Pot-Limit Omaha for $199,275, and a third-place finish in Event #82: $3,000 6-Handed Pot-Limit Omaha for $205,696. All told, Matakis made three WSOP final tables, cashed 22 times, and won $881,052.
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