With the 2011 tournament poker scene coming to a close (the latest Epic Poker League tournament and the World Series of Poker Circuit event in Atlantic City are the final major tournaments of this year), it’s time to take a look back over the year to see who was successful…at least when it comes to the bottom line, money won!
The Top Ten has some very interesting developments but, before we get to that, kudos have to be handed out to those players who came up just a bit short of the Top Ten (all figures are in U. S. dollars). With that in mind, let’s start the countdown at #15, which may come as a surprise to many people.
#15 – Mike “SirWatts” Watson, $501,079
Over the span of 2011, Mike was in the mix of many tournaments that spanned the globe. He got the year off to a nice start in January during the Aussie Millions, where he earned four cashes and made one final table on the way to taking down a decent $29,289. Indicative of the tournament poker world, however, Mike had a dry period that lasted until late in the year.
It wasn’t until October that Mike began to kick his game into gear. A fourteenth place finish at the European Poker Tour London £2000 No Limit event perhaps improved his disposition on his game as, less than two weeks later, Mike finished as the runner-up to Tristan Wade in the €3000 No Limit Shootout at the World Series of Poker Europe. He would go on to win a Turbo side event at the WSOP Europe (not an official bracelet event) and took a min-cash at the EPT San Remo; for October, Mike earned $309,203.
Although he didn’t make it into the Canadian Top Ten, it’s tough to feel bad for “SirWatts”; his total take for 2011 represents more than a $272,000 increase over his earnings in 2010.
#14 – Mark Radoja, $512,138
It has truly been a breakout year for Mark on the tournament poker stage in 2011. As one of the Canadian players who captured a WSOP bracelet during the festivities in Las Vegas this summer, Mark has not only etched his name into Canadian poker history but also signals a new arrival on the scene that should have an impact on the game for some time.
It all began innocently enough; a third place finish in a $1000 Heads Up No Limit tournament during the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure didn’t truly indicate the significant impact Mark was to make in 2011. In June, Mark defeated Jeff Gross in the $5000 No Limit Shootout event at the WSOP to capture a treasured bracelet, one of four cashes during the WSOP. He would then follow that up with two more cashes during the WSOP Europe, including a final table finish in the same side event Watson won.
Mark has also seen an increase in his year to year performance. He made more than $223,000 more in 2011 than he did in 2010.
#13 – Alexander Wice, $514,942
Although he didn’t capture a championship in 2011, Alexander Wice is inching ever closer to that point. While traversing the world, Alex has displayed excellent skills on the green baize that indicate 2012 may be his year.
Two tournaments in January got Alex off to an excellent start. At the PokerStars Caribbean Shootout, Alex was in the mix at the $5000 Bounty Shootout, but fell in fourth place. He would improve on that finish at the EPT Deauville, where Alex made it to third place (for a €330K payday) in the Main Event.
Add in four more cashes following his Deauville performance (including two at the WSOP) and Alex has to be viewed as a potential breakthrough champion in 2012. He also improved his statistics compared to last year, earning slightly more than $374,000 in 2011 than he did in 2010.
#12 – Jonathan Duhamel, 558,073
Jonathan lived up to the expectations of the defending WSOP Main Event champion in 2011, travelling the world to promote the game of poker. He also picked up some money along the way, albeit not enough to break into the Top Ten.
At the EPT Deauville, Jonathan showed he was more than a one-hit wonder in taking down the €10,000 “High Roller” event for a nice €200,000 payday. Over the next three months, he would earn three more cashes in Connecticut, Los Angeles and the NBC Heads Up Championship in Las Vegas. Jonathan would pick up two more cashes at the WSOP during the summer before heading back to Europe. In November, Jonathan was the “bubble boy” of the final table of the World Poker Tour Marrakech.
His year to year comparison isn’t very good. He has made nearly $8.5 million less in 2011 than 2010 but, when you’re win the previous year was the World Championship, you’d have to say it was a good year for Jonathan!
#11 – Xuan Liu, $567,271
The only Canadian woman to crack the Top Fifteen, Xuan did most of her damage in 2011 on the European circuit. In February, the Italian Poker Tour was her first score of the year, finishing in 28th place of the €2000 Main Event. This set the stage for one of the outstanding performances of the year by a female player.
At the massive EPT San Remo tournament, Xuan battled to the final table of the €5000 Main Event through a 987 player field. After outlasting such names in the poker world as former World Champion Joe Cada and Russian pro and 2011 WSOP bracelet winner Max Lykov, Xuan would eventually fall in third place for a €360,000 payday. Barely ten days later, Xuan backed up that performance with another deep run at the EPT Grand Final. Xuan would also add to her 2011 two cashes at the WSOP.
Xuan’s play for 2011 has been outstanding; she increased her bankroll by over $483,000 over 2010 and, with her skills, could very well become the next great Canadian poker star.
For these five players, making over a half million dollars each wasn’t enough to make it into the Canadian Top Ten for 2011. In the next part of this look back at 2011, we’ll see who finished in the tenth through sixth spots on the Canadian Top Ten, with some surprising results