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Anthony Zinno Wins 2015 Card Player Player of the Year Award

With Five Titles, Eleven Final Tables and $3.4 Million In Earnings Zinno Dominated The Tournament Circuit

by Erik Fast |  Published: Feb 17, 2016


In July, 2015 this year’s Card Player Player of the Year (POY) race looked to be all but over.

By that point, Anthony Zinno had already accumulated 6,488 POY points, a massive amount that easily dwarfed the year-long point totals of the past three Player of the Year award winners, with 5,498 for 2014 champ Dan Colman, 5,140 for two-time award winner Daniel Negreanu (2004, 2013), and 5,100 for 2012 POY winner Greg Merson.

It wasn’t quite the runaway victory that it looked to be, with several competitors closing the gap in the waning months of the year, but Zinno was able to hold on to become the 2015 Card Player Player of the Year. Zinno won the most POY-qualified titles of any player on the tournament circuit, making 11 final tables and emerging victorious five times.

The 34-year-old poker pro, originally from Cranston, Rhode Island, now resides in Boston, Massachusetts. Zinno studied chemical engineering and patent law in the past, but turned his focus towards poker after law school. It appears to have been a good decision, as he cashed for $3,442,769 this year alone, with big scores coming in a variety of games, formats, field sizes, and buy-in price points.

He started off his incredible 2015 run by winning back-to-back World Poker Tour main events, in the process becoming only the third player to ever win three WPT titles, joining Gus Hansen and Carlos Mortensen. His first win this year came in the $5,000 CAD WPT Fallsview Poker Classic main event.

Just three weeks later, Zinno tore through a 538-player field to win the $10,000 WPT L.A. Poker Classic main event for $1,015,860 and 2,100 points.

“It was so amazing because it was entirely unexpected,” said Zinno about winning his third WPT title. “I was still riding the highs of being a two-time champion and somehow found myself at a stacked final table with Chris Klodnicki and Mike Leah. I ran quite well, then was holding a third WPT trophy in disbelief. That was an indescribable two weeks that I’ll never, ever forget.”

The LAPC title catapulted Zinno into the top POY spot for the first time. He never relinquished that lead through the remainder of the year.

Just a week after that, Zinno won his third title of the year, outlasting a field of 20 players to win a $25,000 high roller event at the WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star series. For that win he secured $197,758 more in earnings and another 420 POY points.

If it was the WPT that jump-started Zinno’s year, it was the World Series of Poker that solidified his claim to the title. Over the course of six weeks at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Zinno made a total of five final tables. All of his tournament success so far in the year had come in no-limit hold’em, but at the WSOP he demonstrated some of his versatility by making the final tables of the $10,000 Omaha eight-or-better championship and the $10,000 limit hold’em championship.

Zinno finished off the series with two of the four biggest scores of his career. First he finished seventh out of 135 players in the WSOP $111,111 One Drop high roller event for $565,864 and 330 points.

Almost immediately after busting that tournament, he hopped into the WSOP $25,000 pot-limit Omaha high roller event. After three days of play, he came out on top of the 175-player field in that event to earn his first World Series of Poker gold bracelet, the $1,122,196 top prize (his largest score ever) and 1,092 POY points.

“This is certainly my best day as a poker pro,” said Zinno after the win. “Every poker player dreams of winning a WSOP bracelet, and I was definitely no different. This win was particularly amazing because I remember struggling to adapt to pot-limit Omaha way back in 2008. Over the years, I kept improving upon my game. This big buy-in field was stacked with specialists and navigating to a win was probably the most challenging accomplishment of my life.”

Just a few days into the seventh month of the year Zinno had already acquired nearly 1,000 more POY points than any of the last three champions using the same scoring criteria. In the months that followed, he cashed 12 more times, including a win in the $1,090 heads-up no-limit hold’em event at the Borgata Poker Open for $24,442 and 144 points.

Zinno did win a sixth title of the year at the European Poker Tour Malta festival, but the €5,300 buy-in pot-limit Omaha event failed to qualify for the POY race, not meeting the minimum requirement of entries or generating at least a $250,000 prize pool. He did earn $74,371 for topping the 41-player field, however.

In the end, Zinno put together one of the most impressive years on the tournament circuit the game has ever seen, with five huge POY-qualified titles, 11 final-table finishes, and $3,442,769 in cashes throughout the year.

“It means quite a bit to be recognized by Card Player as the number one player of 2015,” Zinno said after securing the POY title. “I worked extra hard all year to play as many events as I could, especially upon holding the top spot in the race. I probably played twice as many tournaments as I otherwise would have!”

Throughout 2015, Zinno demonstrated his skill, consistency, and variety over the course of 12 months to dominate in a year that saw several players put together incredible runs. POY runner-up Joe Kuether and third-place finisher Nick Petrangelo earned more points than any of the last three champions as well, putting together years that very well could have earned them the Player of the Year award if it weren’t for the incredible showing by Zinno.

“Kuether and Petrangelo are great players and capable of anything, so the race was never a lock at any point until, perhaps, Bellagio,” Zinno remarked after all was said and done. “This provided a fun sweat for months, but also encouragement to keep grinding and playing my best. I won an EPT side event as a result, because I normally wouldn’t have played it! It’s pretty sick that the three of us all had such consistently good, record-breaking years in poker. I’m very curious to see what happens in 2016.”

“I’m obviously doing something right,” Zinno told Card Player after winning his first gold bracelet this summer. “I practiced and worked really hard, but my best advice to everyone out there is just to work hard and set goals. Have a dream and chase it. Life is short, so just keep going for it.”

Zinno traveled much of the year, around the country and around the world chasing this dream. As of Jan. 1st, 2016 it has officially come true. Anthony Zinno is the 2015 Card Player Player of the Year.

Here is a look at Zinno’s POY-qualified scores in 2015:

Date Tournament Buy-In (USD) Place Payout POY Points
Feb 15, ‘15 WPT Fallsview Poker Classic $5,000 No-Limit Hold’em Main Event $4,025 1 $252,420 1440
Mar 05, ‘15 WPT L.A. Poker Classic $10,000 No-Limit Hold’em Main Event $10,000 1 $1,015,860 2100
Mar 12, ‘15 Bay 101 Shooting Star $25,000 No-Limit Hold’em $24,500 1 $197,758 420
Apr 15, ‘15 WPT SHR Poker Showdown $2,200 No-Limit Hold’em Six Max $2,200 2 $41,284 220
May 05, ‘15 EPT Grand Final €2,200 No-Limit Hold’em $2,452 9 $11,822 36
Jun 10, ‘15 WSOP $10,000 Omaha Eight-or-Better $10,000 6 $74,262 240
Jun 13, ‘15 WSOP $5,000 No-Limit Hold’em Eight Max $5,000 7 $64,484 360
Jun 26, ‘15 WSOP $10,000 Limit Hold’em $10,000 5 $72,377 250
Jun 29, ‘15 WSOP $111,111 No-Limit Hold’em for One Drop $111,111 7 $565,864 330
Jul 02, ‘15 WSOP $25,000 Pot-Limit Omaha Eight Max $25,000 1 $1,122,196 1092
Sep 18, ‘15 Borgata Poker Open $1,090 No-Limit Hold’em Heads-Up $1,000 1 $24,442 144

Here is a look at the final standings in the 2015 POY Race:

Rank Player POY Points Earnings
1 Anthony Zinno 6,632 $3,442,769
2 Joe Kuether 6,070 $2,084,691
3 Nick Petrangelo 6,026 $3,362,396
4 Byron Kaverman 5,342 $3,008,957
5 Jason Mercier 4,694 $2,006,623
6 Benjamin Zamani 4,561 $1,095,924
7 Steve O’Dwyer 4,400 $4,550,025
8 Rainer Kempe 4,392 $1,508,065
9 Taylor Paur 3,984 $1,971,944
10 Dzmitry Urbanovich 3,978 $3,958,885
11 Joseph McKeehen 3,923 $7,810,170
12 Mario Javier Lopez 3,898 $1,204,412
13 Mustapha Kanit 3,860 $2,259,859
14 Kevin MacPhee 3,710 $1,795,306
15 Ivan Luca 3,625 $1,533,916
16 Igor Yaroshevskyy 3,396 $1,045,372
17 Erik Seidel 3,340 $4,983,119
18 Jack Salter 3,331 $784,954
19 Paul Volpe 3,275 $1,003,036
20 Nipun Java 3,240 $603,262

A Look At the Rest Of The Top Ten In The Final 2015 Player of the Year Standings

Anthony Zinno dominated the tournament circuit this year to secure the Player of the Year award, but he was far from the only player to have an incredible run in 2015. The final top ten of this year’s POY standings features several of the game’s top young stars making the transition from rising stars to dominant players. Here is a look at the other highest finishers in the 2015 POY race and how they made their way to the top.

2. Joe Kuether

Total Points: 6,070
POY Earnings: $2,084,691
Titles: 3
Final Tables: 13

American poker pro Joe Kuether has finished inside the top 40 in the Player of the Year race for four years in a row now, with an average finish of right around 21st place. The Elk Grove, Wisconsin native has proven himself to be one of the games most consistent forces on the felt, but in 2015 he took the next step and began to have bigger scores on the game’s premier stages. He notched three of his top five career scores this year, including earning his first seven-figure score by finishing second in the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure $25,000 high roller. His three titles in 2015 came in smaller events, but several big top-three finishes helped him to have his best year ever.

3. Nick Petrangelo

Total Points: 6,026
POY Earnings: $3,362,396
Titles: 2
Final Tables: 11

The 6,026 Player of the Year points Nick Petrangelo earned this year at 11 final tables would have been enough to earn him the POY title each of the previous three years, using the same scoring criteria that saw Daniel Colman, Daniel Negreanu, and Greg Merson capture the prestigious award. With two title runs, including winning his first World Series of Poker bracelet in the $3,000 no-limit hold’em shootout event, the Massachusetts-born former college hockey player faced off against poker’s best and consistently came out ahead. The 28-year-old earned roughly $3.3 of his $4 million in lifetime live tournament earnings this year alone.

4. Byron Kaverman

Total Points: 5,342
POY Earnings: $3,008,957
Titles: 4
Final Tables: 15

Nobody made more POY-qualified final tables in 2015 than Byron Kaverman. But he wasn’t just eking his way there. Of the 15 times he made the final table, he emerged with titles four times, including winning his first WSOP gold bracelet in the $10,000 six-max no-limit hold’em championship. The 29-year-old Ohio native won three high roller titles facing some of the game’s toughest competition, including back-to-back Aria $25,000 high roller wins and a victory in the €10,300 high roller at the EPT Malta.

5. Jason Mercier

Total Points: 4,694
POY Earnings: $2,006,623
Titles: 2
Final Tables: 9

Jason Mercier is one of the game’s biggest stars and it’s not for his wild and wacky table presence. It is because of his results. Mercier has finished in the top 200 in the POY five years in a row now. He also has three career top-ten finishes, including his latest strong showing in 2015. The 29-year-old added more than $2 million in cashes to his resume this year, bringing his career total to $15.8 million. This year, he won his third WSOP bracelet, taking down the $5,000 no-limit hold’em six-max event. He came just short of his fourth bracelet when he finished runner-up in the $10,000 pot-limit Omaha championship. He also won the $25,000 Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open high roller in his home state of Florida. These results and six other final table scores saw him achieve his highest-ever finish in the Player of the Year standings.

6. Benjamin Zamani

Total Points: 4,561
POY Earnings: $1,095,924
Titles: 1
Final Tables: 7

Zamani navigated back-to-back huge fields at the WSOP, finishing second in the $1,500 no-limit hold’em shootout and then turning around and winning a $1,500 no-limit hold’em event just four days later for his first bracelet. He finished off the year with a third place showing in a WSOP Europe event and a runner-up finish in the World Poker Tour bestbet Jacksonville main event.

7. Steve O’Dwyer

Total Points: 4,561
POY Earnings: $4,550,025
Titles: 4
Final Tables: 10

O’Dwyer was the high roller king in 2015. He won four tournaments, two of which were super high roller events. The average buy-in for the 10 final tables he made this year was $34,177. He had eight six-figure cashes throughout the year, and in the end, cashed for more than $4.5 million in live events in just a 12-month span. It was enough to see him finish the year inside the top ten, and with two big high roller scores already in 2016, it looks like he is primed to do it all over again.

8. Rainer Kempe

Total Points: 4,392
POY Earnings: $1,508,065
Titles: 1
Final Tables: 8

Rainer Kempe notched all ten of his biggest live tournament scores in 2015. Four of those were six-figure paydays, including his win in the European Poker Tour Prague $25,500 high roller and two fifth-place finishes in the EPT Malta and the EPT Barcelona main events. Finishing in the top 10 in the POY race after having less than $100,000 in prior live earnings is certainly a promising sign for the young German.

9. Taylor Paur

Total Points: 3,984
POY Earnings: $1,971,944
Titles: 3
Final Tables: 6

2010 Card Player Online Player of the Year Taylor Paur also had a breakout year on the live circuit. Known as one of the game’s top players on the Internet for years, he finally strung together a few high-profile wins in the live game. His biggest score of the year was his title run in the World Poker Tour Bay 101 Shooting Star $7,500 main event. He topped a record field to win $1,214,200 in that event. He also took down a pair of Aria high roller events as the year wound down to secure his year-end ninth-place spot.

10. Dzmitry Urbanovich

Total Points: 3,978
POY Earnings: $3,958,885
Titles: 4
Final Tables: 13

Rounding out the top ten was Polish rising star Dzmitry Urbanovich. The 20 year old first made a splash when he won three POY-qualified tournaments in the span of three days at the EPT Malta festival. He followed that up with a second-place finish in the €100,000 super high roller at the EPT Grand Final and another runner-up score in the €50,000 EPT Barcelona high roller. With 13 final table finishes in 2015, he tied with Joe Kuether for the third most of any player, an impressive showing for someone who is not yet able to legally order an alcoholic beverage in the United States. ♠