As we look back at the 2011 tournament poker season by looking at the top money winners of the year, one thing that jumps out is that every player – save one – won at least one tournament during the span of 2011. In that manner, they are all champions, but the numbers never lie; these five men all came up just short of the Top Five, but still had outstanding seasons.
#10 – Jason Mercier (United States), $2,416,013
Using a late season push, Jason made his way not only into the Top Ten on the money list but also made a drive towards several of the Player of the Year awards. Overall, his season was replete with big scores and several titles.
Jason did most of his damage in High Roller tournaments, finishing eighth at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure’s $25,000 event and winning the Bounty Shootout on the North American Poker Tour in the first four months of the year. He also took down the European Poker Tour’s “Champion of Champions” event in May during the EPT Grand Final.
At the World Series of Poker, Jason would capture the second leg of poker’s “Triple Crown” in winning the $5000 Six Handed Pot Limit Omaha event and his first WSOP bracelet. He had three other cashes during the WSOP and continued to play well throughout the remainder of the 2011 tournament season.
The Epic Poker League was another arena in which Jason performed well, finishing in third in the first EPL tournament in August and in seventh in December. His biggest score of the year, however, came in another High Roller tournament. At the $100,000 High Roller in December at the World Poker Tour’s Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic, Jason was the class of the 25 player field, defeating David “Doc” Sands to take his biggest payday of the year, $709,767.
For the year, Jason’s statistics are outstanding: seventeen cashes, eleven final tables and the WSOP and High Roller wins. He also earned over $1.3 million more in 2011 than in 2010.
#9 – Eugene Katchalov (Ukraine), $2,572,726
Through the entirety of the year, Eugene was able to make an impact on nearly every major tournament circuit in the world. He also was a force in many High Roller events, impressively taking down one for much of his 2011 total.
At the PCA’s $100,000 Super High Roller tournament, Eugene was able to defeat Canada’s Daniel Negreanu (and 36 other players) to take home an impressive $1.5 million score. He would then finish in the money in the Main Event and finish as the runner up to Alexander Kostritsyn in the $10,000 Six Max High Roller in the Bahamas. Before the first month of 2011 had clicked away, Eugene had amassed over $1.6 million, for many players an entire season’s work!
Eugene would take another runner up finish in the High Roller event won by Mercier at the NAPT in April before earning his signature win for the year. At the WSOP, Eugene would vanquish a 357 player field in the $1500 Seven Card Stud event to pick up his first WSOP bracelet. In the last third of the year, a third place finish at the EPT Barcelona Main Event and a second place finish in a side event at the inaugural EPT Loutraki would put some more money in his pocket.
Eugene’s performance throughout the 2011 tournament poker season earned him the Bluff Magazine Player of the Year award, a ninth place finish on the CardPlayer Magazine POY and a fourth place end of year finish on the Global Poker Index. He is one of two men (Chris Moorman is the other) who showed up in the Top Ten on the three major POY races.
#8 – Elio Fox (United States), $2,669,313
In fact, Elio didn’t make his first cash of 2011 until June. That first cash was a win during the Deep Stack Extravaganza III at the Venetian. Using that victory, Elio would move on to pick up a bigger score, winning the Bellagio Cup VII $10,000 Main Event over Hafiz Khan. These two championships put his game in prime shape for the fall run.
At the biggest ever WSOP Europe Main Event in history (593 players), Elio would lead the way at the final table against an impressive list of opponents. Jake Cody, Shawn Buchanan, Dermot Blain…they would all fall before Fox as he made his way to heads up action against the U. K.’s Chris Moorman. In what proved to be an epic heads up fight, Elio was able to prevail and take down the WSOP bracelet and a payday of €1.4 million.
When you have five cashes for the year, you better get the most out of them. Elio did in 2011, with three tournaments wins, and with some similar good fortune will be in the mix for the 2012 tournament poker season.
#7 – Galen Hall (United States), $3,054,778
The PCA Main Event was the battlefield, with 1560 players and a $15.13 million prize pool (the tenth largest in the history of tournament poker) up for grabs. Galen played excellent poker throughout the run of the tournament – “almost” live in front of the cameras of ESPN – before reaching heads up play against Chris Oliver. He made one of the biggest laydowns of the year during that heads up fight, mucking a straight against Oliver’s rivered fully house, to stay alive when many would have gone broke and eventually win the PCA Main Event and its $2.3 million cash.
This wasn’t Galen’s only highlight of the year, however. He would finish in second to Mercier in the EPT “Champion of Champions” tournament in Barcelona before hopping a plane for the WPT Championship in Las Vegas. Once at the Bellagio, Galen would go on to finish in third place in the $25,000 Main Event behind only Farzad Bonyadi and eventual champion Scott Seiver.
Galen’s 2011 run was outstanding, but let’s see if he can do it again during the 2012 calendar year!
#6 – Matt Giannetti (United States), $3,365,430
He didn’t make any tournament finishes for the 2011 until the WSOP but, once he did, Matt was off and running. A decent cash in the $5000 No Limit Hold’em event set Matt up for a nice run to the final table of the Championship Event. While waiting for that tournament to finish up in November, Matt would continue to work on his game with excellent results.
“Relaxing” in Malta during the run up to the “November Nine,” Matt would hit the tables against a 240 player field in the WPT Malta. Defeating a final table that included France’s Tristan Clemencon and the U. K.’s Simon Trumper, Giannetti would take down the title by defeating Cecilia Pescaglini in heads up play. That – along with the slightly more than $3 million won for his fourth place finish at the WSOP Championship event – proved to be the biggest moments of his 2011 season.
A long time tournament pro – Matt has tournament results that date back to 2006 – it seems that Giannetti made his big “break out” move during 2011. As with Galen, can he do the same in 2012?
There are five men left to the top of the mountain for the 2011 tournament poker season. Although it might be easy to figure out who will be #1, the other positions will bring some surprises and some outstanding performances.