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Adrian Mateos Wins 2017 Card Player Player of the Year Honors

23-Year-Old Spanish Poker Pro Is The First European To Ever Finish Atop The POY Race

by Erik Fast |  Published: Feb 28, 2018

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Adrian Mateos only sat atop this year’s Card Player Player of the Year leaderboard for a mere 14 days. Luckily for the 23-year-old poker pro from Madrid, Spain, those two weeks were the final weeks of the year. That means that Mateos has won the 2017 Card Player Player of the Year award, overtaking America’s Bryn Kenney down the stretch to become the first European player to ever win the prestigious honor.

Kenney had occupied the first-place spot in the POY rankings, which were presented this year by The Commerce Hotel & Casino, since April, but Mateos put together an incredible come-from-behind effort that saw him make 10 final tables in the last three months of the year, with five final-table scores notched in the first two weeks of December alone.

“I know that in October my chances of winning the Player of the Year award were small, but as I always do, I just tried my best,” said Mateos after securing the honors. “Then I ran pretty good over the last few months. By December I knew I had a real opportunity to win it and I played everything, trying to win the race.”

“[In 2017] I worked so hard, so I really love how it feels to come away with the Player of the Year title,” he continued. “I know it’s pretty difficult and a lot of players really want to win, so it makes me very proud and very happy. To be the first European winner is also a plus.”

Mateos ended 2017 with 22 total POY-qualified final table scores and four titles won, including his third World Series of Poker gold bracelet. That win was of particular note because it saw Mateos, who was 22 at the time, write his name in the history books as the youngest player ever to win three bracelets at the series.

Despite his young age, Mateos is hardly a rookie on the live circuit. Coming into the year he was already a two-time bracelet winner and a European Poker Tour main event champion. With that said, 2017 was definitely the year he established himself as a dominant no-limit hold’em tournament player, finding success in both the biggest buy-in super high rollers as well as $5,000 and $10,000 buy-in tournaments with larger fields.

Mateos ended 2017 with 7,220 total points and $5,664,635 in earnings. He now has lifetime live tournament earnings of more than $12.1 million, putting him in first place on the Spanish all-time money list ahead of Poker Hall of Fame member Carlos Mortensen, who has $11.9 million in career cashes.

Mateos began his 2017 campaign somewhat slowly. His first final-table score of the year was a fourth-place showing in a $2,140 preliminary no-limit hold’em six-max event at the L.A. Poker Classic at The Commerce Hotel & Casino. Less than a week later he followed that score with a runner-up showing in a $25,000 buy-in high roller at Aria in Las Vegas.

Mateos notched two more second-place finishes in March, first in a $10,300 no-limit hold’em side event at the PokerStars Championship Panama and then in the $50,000 super high roller at the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown.

Mateos’ year really got going in April, when he defeated a field of 64 entries to win the €50,000 buy-in super high roller at the PokerStars Championship Monte Carlo. Mateos was awarded 612 POY points and €908,000 ($989,720 USD) for taking down his first title of the year, climbing just outside of the top 20 in the POY standings after coming out on top.

As the World Series of Poker loomed in the near future, Mateos kicked things into gear and made four final tables in a two-week span in Las Vegas. He began with a spree at the Aria Poker Room, where he started by finishing second in a $10,500 high roller and then four days later placed seventh in a $100,000 buy-in super high roller for $264,600. Three days after that he was a runner-up again, adding $293,340 to his earnings for a deep run in a $50,000 high roller. Mateos finished off the warm-up for the WSOP with a ninth-place showing in the $10,000 no-limit hold’em eight-max event at the Venetian DeepStack Extravaganza III.

Mateos only made one POY-qualified score at the series, but he made the most of it by winning the WSOP $10,000 heads-up no-limit hold’em championship event, defeating a field of 129 entries to win $336,656 and 660 POY points. As previously mentioned, this was his third WSOP title, setting the record as the youngest player to ever win so many bracelets. His previous two wins came when he had won the 2013 WSOP Europe main event for $1,379,300 and the 2016 WSOP Summer Solstice $1,500 no-limit hold’em event for $409,171.

It was over two months between Mateos’ win at the Rio and his next final-table finish. He placed seventh in a €25,500 buy-in high roller at the PokerStars Championship Barcelona for $144,078 and 210 points. At this point Mateos was inside the top 15 of the POY standings, within reach of the top of the leader board.

Mateos kept afloat during September by making final tables in two $50,000 high roller events at the inaugural running of the Poker Masters event, a series of high roller tournaments that awarded a purple jacket to the best overall performer. Mateos finished seventh in one event and sixth in another, adding $277,500 and 298 POY points to his totals on the year.

As the POY race entered its final quarter Mateos began to pick up the pace. From Oct. 20 through Dec. 13, Mateos made 10 final tables, winning two titles and cashing for $2,568,814 along the way. This sprint to the finish line began with Mateos placing fourth in the $1,000,000 HKD($128,150 USD) buy-in Triton Super High Roller Macau for $903,500 and 480 points.

Later that week, he placed sixth in the $300,000 HKD($38,442 USD) high roller at the Asia Championship of Poker for another $154,700 and 168 points. Mateos closed out his dominant performance in Macau by winning the ACOP $80,000 HKD ($10,251) event for $302,250 and 660 points.

In November, Mateos headed to the Dominican Republic for the Caribbean Poker Party festival put on by PartyPoker LIVE. In a five-day span he finished fourth in the $25,000 high roller there for $110,000 and 210 points and then turned around and defeated a field of 215 entries to win the $5,000 buy-in, $1,000,000 guaranteed eight-max event for $250,000 and 720 points. This was enough to see him move into second place in the Player of the Year race standings.

Mateos proved to be a closer in December. He began his final push by making three final tables in one week at the Five Diamond World Poker Classic at Bellagio in Las Vegas. He finished third in a $25,000 high roller for $156,000 and 280 points and then added another $58,818 and 288 the very next day by placing fourth in a $5,200 side event. Five days after that he managed another third-place run in a $25,000 high roller for $185,500 and 280 points.

Mateos’ run at the PokerStars Championship Prague in mid-December was what finally catapulted him into the top spot on the POY leaderboard. He finished third in the €50,000 super high roller for $288,982 and 340 points. The very next day he placed fourth in the €25,500 high roller for $159,064 and another 210 points. With that, his 22nd final table of the year, Mateos finally climbed into the outright lead with just over two weeks remaining in the year.

Earlier in the year Mateos spoke to Card Player and shared his thoughts on the modern tournament world and how hard it is to stay on top.

“I have to play and study every day if I want to be at the top. I don’t know if I can be a top player for even a year, let alone the next ten years. I just focus on today and tomorrow. I think it is incredibly difficult to reach the highest level in any sport or game, so I’m just going to do my best and focus every day,” said Mateos.

Mateos’ best was the very best there was this year, and the focus he referenced certainly paid off in a major way. At just 23 years old, Adrian Mateos is the winner of the 2017 Card Player Player of the Year, the first European player to ever achieve that feat. It will be exciting to see what else this promising young star will accomplish in the years to come. ♠

Adrian Mateos’ 2017 POY-Qualified Scores

Date Event Buy-In (USD) Place Earnings (USD) POY Points
Feb 27, ’17 L.A. Poker Classic NLH $2,140 4 $18,510 144
Mar 03, ’17 Aria High Roller NLH $25,000 2 $186,000 350
Mar 20, ’17 PokerStars Championship Panama NLH $10,300 2 $69,260 200
Mar 30, ’17 Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open Super High Roller $50,000 2 $413,567 340
Apr 30, ’17 PokerStars Championship Monte Carlo Super High Roller $54,526 1 $989,720 612
May 23, ’17 Aria High Roller NLH $10,500 2 $75,000 250
May 27, ’17 Aria High Roller NLH $100,000 7 $264,600 150
May 30, ’17 Aria High Roller NLH $50,000 2 $293,340 340
Jun 05, ’17 Venetian DeepStack Extravaganza III NLH $9,725 9 $27,590 30
Jun 09, ’17 WSOP NLH Heads-Up Championship $10,000 1 $336,656 660
Aug 22, ’17 PokerStars Championship Barcelona Super High Roller $30,086 7 $144,078 210
Sep 14, ’17 Poker Master High Roller $50,000 7 $127,500 128
Sep 15, ’17 Poker Master High Roller $50,000 6 $150,000 170
Oct 20, ’17 Triton Super High Roller Series Macau $128,150 4 $903,500 480
Oct 24, ’17 Asia Championship of Poker Super High Roller $38,442 6 $154,700 168
Oct 28, ’17 Asia Championship of Poker High Roller $10,251 1 $302,250 660
Nov 21, ’17 Caribbean Poker Party High Roller $25,000 4 $110,000 210
Nov 25, ’17 Caribbean Poker Party MILLIONS $5,000 1 $250,000 720
Dec 03, ’17 Five Diamond World Poker Classic High Roller $25,000 3 $156,000 280
Dec 04, ’17 Five Diamond World Poker Classic NLH $5,000 4 $58,818 288
Dec 09, ’17 Five Diamond World Poker Classic High Roller $25,000 3 $185,500 280
Dec 12, ’17 PokerStars Championship Prague Super High Roller $58,611 3 $288,982 340
Dec 13, ’17 PokerStars Championship Prague High Roller $30,021 4 $159,064 210

A Look At Rest Of The Top Ten In The Final 2017 Player of the Year Standings

Adrian Mateos came through in the clutch to win the Player of the Year award, but he was far from the only player to have an incredible year on the tournament circuit. The final top ten of this year’s POY standings features some of the brightest young stars in poker, each of whom put together fantastic results across the past 12 months. Here is a look at the rest of the top ten on the POY leaderboard and what they accomplished in 2017.

2. Bryn Kenney

Total Points: 7,173
POY Earnings: $8,201,128
Titles: 5
Final Tables: 23

Bryn Kenney led the POY race for the majority of the year, and he ended 2017 with the most final tables made (23), the most titles won (5) and the most money cashed for ($8.2 million). The only key category he didn’t finish the year at the top of was POY points, and he only missed out on that by 47.

Kenney had a historic year on the circuit, but ended up with essentially no results in tournaments outside of high roller events. Each of his five wins this year came in events with buy-ins of $25,000 or higher, and the largest field in an event that he won was 69 players. Of Kenney’s 29 cashes in 2017, only six came in events with buy-ins below $25,000. His average buy-in in a tournament he made the money in over the year was $47,578.

Kenney kick-started his incredible run by winning the $50,000 super high roller at the 2017 PokerStars Championship Bahamas for $969,075. Just two days later he won his second title, taking down the $25,750 high roller for another $392,876. His third title came in April in a $25,000 high roller at Aria. The biggest win of the year for Kenney came a week later at the PokerStars Championship Monte Carlo. He outlasted a field of 61 entries to win the €100,000 buy-in super high roller, taking home $1,944,302 for the largest cash of his career. His fifth title came when he defeated 48 entries to win one of the $50,000 high rollers at the Poker Masters series for $960,000.

3. Fedor Holz

Total Points: 5,875
POY Earnings: $6,367,213
Titles: 4
Final Tables: 14

Fedor Holz announced that he was retiring from being a full-time poker professional in 2016, a year that saw him finish second in the POY race. As an “amateur” player in 2017 he won four POY-qualified titles and made 14 final tables, cashing for over $6.3 million along the way. Three of his titles were won during the busy summer months. He took down two $50,000 buy-in events during the Aria Summer High Roller Series, cashing for more than $860,000. The 24-year-old German also won a couple of smaller buy-in tournaments this year, including the €5,200 hyper turbo at the PokerStars Championship Monte Carlo and a €2,200 turbo at the Grand Prix Austria. Holz’s biggest score of the year came when he finished as the runner-up in the $1,000,000 HKD ($128,150 USD) buy-in Triton High Roller Macau for over $2.1 million. Even as a retiree Holz remains one of the best tournament players in the world.

4. Koray Aldemir

Total Points: 5,510
POY Earnings: $4,105,519
Titles: 3
Final Tables: 17

Koray Aldemir exploded onto the live tournament scene in 2016. Prior to that year he had only $154,687 in cashes and had yet to log a six-figure score. Since the start of that year he has cashed for nearly $8 million, becoming one of the top players on the circuit. In 2017 he made 17 final tables, finishing third or higher 14 times. He won three titles this year, starting by emerging victorious in the $1,000,000 HKD ($128,850 USD) Triton High Roller Manila event for $1,304,273. Just a few days later he won a $5,250 buy-in side event at the L.A. Poker Classic, and in June he took down a $25,000 buy-in at the Aria Summer High Roller Series. With 14 cashes for six-figures or more this year, he proved incredibly consistent as he cashed for $4.1 million throughout the year.

5. Justin Bonomo

Total Points: 5,144
POY Earnings: $4,362,250
Titles: 3
Final Tables: 16

Justin Bonomo finished in third place in the 2016 POY race, and managed to nearly match that performance this year. Bonomo added over $4.3 million in earnings in 2017, bringing his lifetime total to more than $20 million. He won three titles this year, all in high roller events. The 32-year-old American’s biggest score of the year came when he won a $50,000 buy-in at the Aria Summer High Roller Series for $779,520. With 13 six-figure scores Bonomo managed consistent deep runs throughout the year, earning a spot in the top five of the POY standings.

6. David Peters

Total Points: 5,034
POY Earnings: $3,139,160
Titles: 3
Final Tables: 18

2016 Card Player Player of the Year award winner David Peters came incredibly close to becoming the first ever back-to-back POY winner. The 30-year-old American showed no signs of slowing down after his incredible performance in 2016, following up a 22 final table year with another 18 final tables made in 2017. His biggest score was a $687,070 cash for finishing fourth in the €100,000 super high roller at the PokerStars Championship Monte Carlo.

7. Stephen Chidwick

Total Points: 4,912
POY Earnings: $3,451,860
Titles: 2
Final Tables: 13

The United Kingdom’s Stephen Chidwick had consistent success in high roller events, but he also managed to final table a massive-field main event, finishing sixth in the £5,300 partypoker Millions Nottingham from a field of 1,204 entries. The 28-year-old’s largest score of the year came when he won the €25,500 high roller at the PokerStars Championship Barcelona for $814,672. With over $10 million in lifetime earnings Chidwick is now second on the British all-time money list, behind only Sam Trickett.

8. Jason Koon

Total Points: 4,859
POY Earnings: $3,835,191
Titles: 3
Final Tables: 15

Jason Koon kicked off his biggest year on the live tournament scene by winning the 2017 PokerStars Championship Bahamas $100,000 super high roller for a $1,650,300 payday, the largest of his career. The 32-year-old American captured two other titles and made 15 total final tables this year, cashing for more than $3.8 million along the way.

9. Steffen Sontheimer

Total Points: 4,782
POY Earnings: $6,812,332
Titles: 3
Final Tables: 16

27-year-old German poker pro Steffen Sontheimer made his first live tournament score in 2015. He now has lifetime earnings of $7.6 million, with over $6.8 million of that money being won in 2017. Sontheimer’s true breakout came at the Poker Masters series. The event saw five super high roller events hosted in the span of a week. Sontheimer cashed in four out of five of the events, winning both a $50,000 and a $100,000 buy-in event along the way. All told he cashed for $2,733,000 throughout the series, winning the Poker Masters purple jacket in the process.

10. Benjamin Pollak

Total Points: 4,660
POY Earnings: $4,931,902
Titles: 0
Final Tables: 5

France’s Benjamin Pollak was the only player in the top 30 without a title won in 2017 and the only player inside the top ten with less than 13 final-table finishes. While most of his peers put together resumes full of consistent high roller success, Pollak managed to make his way toward the top of the rankings with just five final table finishes. Pollak’s key score came when he placed third out of a field of 7,221 players in the World Series of Poker main event for $3.5 million. Later in the summer he placed third in the €10,300 PokerStars Championship Barcelona high roller that drew 557 entries. His next largest cash came when he finished second in the €25,500 WSOP Europe high roller event for $538,928. ♠