The Top Ten Money Winners Of 2011, Part One: Close But No Cigar (But Plenty Of Cash!)

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With Christmas just a few days away (and Hanukkah starting today), the tournament poker world has gone into a mini-slumber before kicking things back into action almost as soon as the ball drops on New Year’s Eve. Players are tabulating their results and grading whether 2011 was a success or not. For the players in this three part series, their tournament poker seasons can be graded with an “A,” although these first five were just short of the Top Ten.

#15 – Sam Stein (United States), $2,151,461

Sam Stein

Sam was a constant on many of the Player of the Year races throughout the 2011 tournament poker season, and for good reason. His success spanned the entirety of the tournament poker year, including taking down one of the most cherished prizes in the game.

He would start the year by making the final table at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, dropping out in fourth place for a one million dollar score (all money amounts are in U. S. dollars). After a couple of small cashes in April and May, Sam would set himself up for what would turn out to be a huge summer in Las Vegas.

At the World Series of Poker, Sam would finish third in the $10,000 Pot Limit Hold’em World Championship before realizing a goal that all players strive for. In the $3000 Pot Limit Omaha event, Sam would vanquish a difficult final table that included Adam Junglen, Christian Harder and Ben Lamb on his way to capturing his first WSOP bracelet. That $420,802 score wouldn’t be the last time Sam would take a six figure cash in 2011.

At the European Poker Tour event in San Remo, Sam would once again enter the winner’s circle, taking down the €10,000 No Limit Eight Max tournament for a $307,455 payday. Over the entirety of the year, Sam’s record is outstanding: two wins, seven final tables and eleven cashes overall. His take in 2011 is more than $1.2 million than he won in 2010.

#14 – Ivan Freitez (Venezuela), $2,262,716

Ivan Freitez

Ivan did much of his damage in the early part of 2011 and exclusively in Europe, including winning one of the crown jewels of the tournament poker world.

The EPT was Ivan’s battlefield of choice and prove to be a fruitful endeavor. At the EPT Copenhagen, the EPT Snowfest and the EPT San Remo, Ivan was able to make deep pushes in events and made slightly more than $35,000. It was at the EPT Grand Final, however, where Ivan would make his biggest impact.

In that 686 player field in Madrid in May, Ivan would prove to be the class of the field, working his way to the season ending championship on the EPT and its €1.5 million payday. Since that time, however, he has only been able to earn one minor cash at a preliminary event at the EPT London; 2012 should prove whether Ivan will be a long term player to watch on the international circuit or a “one hit wonder” that isn’t heard from again.

#13 – Phil Collins (United States), $2,273,379

Phil Collins

Long considered one of the top online players in the game, Phil has had a difficult time making the transition to the live tournament arena. While he may have had only had two cashes in 2011, Phil made the most of them and put a check by his name potentially as a player to watch in the future.

The WSOP was Phil’s playground of choice and, after a mediocre finish in one of the $1500 NLHE tournaments, not much was expected out of Phil. At the Championship Event, however, Phil demonstrated the skills that have earned him the admiration of online players around the world. He would make the “November Nine” and play excellent poker before dropping out of the tournament in fifth place.

2012 may be the “make or break” year for Phil. Previous to this poker season, he had never cracked the six figure mark in live tournaments; now that he has a nice bankroll, will Phil step up and make a bigger impact on the tournament world in the coming year?

#12 – Bertrand Grospellier (France), $2,296,620

Bertrand Grospellier

It seems that “ElkY” was one of the most ubiquitous players on the tournament poker circuit in 2011. While it seems that he was in the mix at virtually every event, there’s a reason for that…he was!

Bertrand’s year started off quietly enough, with min-cashes at the PCA and the EPT Deauville in January to get the year started. After that, Grospellier was everywhere: a third place finish at the L. A. Poker Classic’s “High Roller” tournament and two “High Roller” wins at the EPT Grand Final (in a €25,000 event and a €10,000 Turbo) only seemed to set “ElkY” up for an outstanding WSOP.

After two cashes in previous events on the 2011 schedule, Bertrand would take down the $10,000 Seven Card Stud World Championship and, in winning the tournament, would complete the mythical poker “Triple Crown” (EPT, WPT and WSOP championships in a career). If that wasn’t good enough for the WSOP, he would come back a couple weeks later to finish third in the $10,000 Six Handed NLHE World Championship.

Over the span of 2011, Grospellier cashed in sixteen events that spanned the globe, making the final table in ten of those tournaments. His winnings in 2011 eclipsed his 2010 take by over $1.8 million.

#11 – Chris Moorman (United Kingdom), $2,389,246

Chris Moorman

Chris had a year that was comparable to Canada’s Shawn Buchanan; for the turn of a friendly card, he might have had an outstanding year with several championships.

Early in 2011, Chris made the final table at the Aussie Millions and then went quiet for much of the remainder of the first half of the year. When Chris came back around, he went on a historic tear in both versions of the WSOP. He would earn a total of six cashes in Las Vegas and Cannes, highlighted by second place finishes in the $10,000 Six Handed NLHE World Championship and the WSOP Europe Main Event. In those two tournaments alone, Chris earned almost $1.8 million.

Even though he didn’t win a championship, one cannot be far around the corner for Chris. His 2011 haul marked a breakout year for the Englishman as it was his first seven figure season. In 2012, Chris should maintain his status as one of the top players in the international tournament arena.

Although all of these gentlemen had great years, it is “close but no cigar” for making it into the Top Ten. Up next, we’ll take a look at the men in the six through ten positions, all of whom made their mark on the tournament poker world in 2011.

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Earl Burton is a veteran journalist in the poker industry, having covered the game since 2004. He has played the game much longer, however, starting out playing in family games at a very early age. He has covered tournaments across the United States, including the World Poker Tour, the World Series of Poker and various charitable events. Earl’s background includes writing for some of the top poker news sites in the industry as well as other poker media outlets that include Poker Player Newspaper and Canadian Poker Player Magazine. Earl keeps an unblinking eye on the poker world, offering coverage of news from the industry, tournament action, player interviews, strategy and his opinions on the game. Whenever possible, Earl will also step to the tables to demonstrate that there’s more than just writing talent behind his poker game!

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