This year’s World Series of Poker festivities has gotten everyone wrapped up with excitement moreso than ever, particularly with last year’s events sorely missed by the entire poker community. While there are a number of series happening all year round, it remains undeniable that the annual Main Event festival attracts the toughest and most iconic contenders in the industry.
With a full schedule and a total of 88 bracelets to be awarded this coming fall, here’s a short rundown of players to keep an eye on at the 2021 events in Las Vegas.
1) Daniel Negreanu
Six-time bracelet winner Daniel Negreanu remains to be a significant player in this year’s events whilst having repeatedly expressed his anticipation for the upcoming WSOP festivities. On the search for his seventh bracelet, Negreanu has since come very close to clinching this feat, more or less a total of eight times dating back to his latest 2013 bracelet win. While the Canadian pro has been denied the overall victory multiple times, it appears this year could possibly break his 8-year wait especially given that his gameplay strategy has greatly improved following his heads up challenge win against Doug Polk.
2) Doyle Brunson
While it has been relatively eight years since Doyle Brunson first announced his retirement from the WSOP grind, it appears no poker player even at the tender age of 87 can resist the thrill of the most prestigious festival of all-time. Poker fans were thrilled to hear that the Godfather of Poker will once again make an appearance in this year’s events, perhaps in an effort to break the three-way tie between fellow ten-time bracelet winners Phil Ivey and Johnny Chan. While Brunson has been in the scene for over 50 years, his results prove time and time again that he still has the chops to compete with today’s generation of players. In the 2018 WSOP, the renowned pro recorded a sixth place finish for roughly $44k and carried on to crush Bobby’s Room for a whole summer.
3) Michael Addamo
Australia’s Michael Addamo has been a dominant force in the online field for the past two years, having regularly collected six-figure scores across the main poker networks. Considering his prowess in the scene, Addamo has been frequently spotted in the highest games and was also reportedly involved in the biggest NLH online pots in poker history last summer. Apart from his online achievements, Addamo is also a beast in the live circuit, garnering two WSOP bracelets and $8.3 million in live tournament winnings throughout his career. While the onset of the global pandemic limited his participation in live tournaments most recently, he did pocket two scores of over AUD 1 million in his home country in early 2020. With that said, the young Melbourne pro is definitely a guy you wouldn’t want sitting at your table.
4) Alex Foxen
Thirty-year old American pro Alex Foxen is the first player in poker history to win the Global Poker Index’ (GPI) Player of the Year race back-to-back in both 2018 and 2019. These breakout years earned him two his career best scores – the $300,000 Super High Roller Bowl in 2018 where he bagged $2,160,000 for a second place finish and his victory in the 2019 WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic for close to $1.7 million. While Foxen is no stranger to seven-figure scores, it seems the dedicated pro has caught up with his momentum once again and is gearing up for the return of live events this year. Just this week, Foxen cashed in on a notable score, having won the first event in the live PokerGO Cup series for $178,200 and has recordedly pushed his total live earnings to now a whopping $18 million.
5) David Peters
One of the most consistent and respected tournament pros in today’s scene, David Peters is another player to watch in this year’s WSOP events. His recent impressive results from winning back-to-back in the recently concluded US Poker Open Championships just confirmed his current form and motivation. Having won the event back in 2019, Peters came back this year as strong as ever, solidifying his standing by taking down three events and denying big names the USPO champion title yet again. Peters ranks among the top all-time earners with over $34 million in earnings and two WSOP bracelets, one of which he won in last year’s online games.
6) Phil Hellmuth
As per usual, #1 on the WSOP rankings Phil Hellmuth is on everyone’s player-to-watch list being the 15-time bracelet winner he is and the entertaining character he brings to the table which earned him the nickname “Poker Brat”. While Hellmuth is always criticized for his gameplay strategy, no one can really deny the fact that his results speak for itself. In 2018, the 56-year old pro secured his 15th bracelet and his motivation since then has not seemed to slow down. He also defeated Poker Hall of Famer Negreanu in several heads-up matches a couple months ago, all the while the poker community was betting against him. Expectedly, the spotlight will remain to be on the iconic pro as he battles it out for the chance of a 16th bracelet win.
7) Stephen Chidwick
British pro Stephen Chidwick is a widely known player mainly due to his stunning results in both the live and online fields. For the longest time, Chidwick was renowned as one of the best players without a WSOP bracelet in tow. However, in 2019, the 32-year old crusher broke the spell and cashed in on his career-first WSOP title along with a hefty $1.6 million payday. While news has slowed down since then, Chidwick has had a pretty good run last month to jumpstart the return of live poker. In the latest USPO, Chidwick bagged over $850K in winnings with two second place finishes and a fourth place rank in the 2021 leaderboard. Keeping the momentum going, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Chidwick earning a second WSOP bracelet in this year’s events.
8) Kristen Bicknell
In a male-dominated arena, Canadian pro Kristen Bicknell serves to be one of the few female players to watch out for in this fall’s lineup of events. Excelling in both the live and online fields for several years, two-time GPI Female PoY is on her way to win her share of the 88 bracelets to be awarded this 2021. With 2020’s WSOP events adapting to the online scene, Bicknell successfully scooped up her third bracelet in the $2,500 NLHE 6-Handed event after outlasting 892 entrants and well-received $356,412 for her triumph.
9) Ali Imsirovic
Bosnian pro Ali Imsirovic stands to be a consistent force in the high roller circuit, having collected already more than 10 six-figure cashes for this year alone, seven of which are solid first place wins. While we’re only halfway through 2021, results suggest Imsirovic to be in Olympic form this year. So far, Imsirovic is also one of the few remaining top regular players who have yet to win a gold bracelet. Hungry for the coveted victory, this just might be the year the young pro joins the industry’s list of bracelet winners.
10) Phil Ivey
With his legal issues behind him, poker fans are excited to see the legendary Phil Ivey back in action once again as this year’s WSOP unfolds. The Tiger Woods of Poker, who has journeyed through a long way to get where he is now, has reportedly adopted a more balanced approach to the game as told in a very personal interview with Joe Ingram. Balanced or not, his natural talent and unleveled skill has been a sight to behold for the past two decades. Most recently, Ivey signified his return by taking down World Poker Tour’s $25k Heads Up Poker Championship, having defeated Finnish pro Patrik Antonius for the title and the $400,000 grand prize. With his fame stemming from his three-bracelet win in the 2002 events, who knows this might just be an even bigger year for the long-time pro.