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Jake Schindler Wins 2018 Card Player Player of the Year Award

29-Year-Old American Poker Pro Sets The Record For Final Tables Made In A Year With 31

by Erik Fast |  Published: Feb 27, 2019

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Before 2018 the record for most final-table finishes in a calendar year was 23 set by Bryn Kenney in 2017. Jake Schindler blew that number away last year by eight, making an astounding 31 final tables during the 12-month stretch. To put that in perspective, the 29-year-old poker pro averaged one final-table finish every 12 days this past year.

As a result of his unprecedented consistency, it’s not a surprise that Schindler has earned the 2018 Card Player Player of the Year award.

“Winning Player of the Year feels like more of an accomplishment than winning any specific tournament because it’s a year worth of tournaments as its sample size as opposed to one tournament,” Schindler told Card Player. “I’m very fortunate I was on the positive side of things and able to achieve the POY accolade.”

Of course, it wasn’t just the final-table record or the POY award that Schindler earned in 2018. He also won quite a bit of money, cashing for $8,731,019 and winning six titles along the way.

Schindler notched two of the three largest paydays of his career in 2018, both of which were seven-figure scores. The Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania-native currently sits in 14th place on poker’s all-time money list with career live tournament earnings of more than $23.5 million.

Schindler was incredibly successful at the highest stakes in live tournaments, consistently making deep runs and winning titles in the elite, small-field events with buy-ins of $25,000 or higher. But it was his success in several smaller buy-in events with much larger fields that helped him accumulate enough points to surpass some of his fellow high rollers and secure the POY award this past year. Schindler had two final-table finishes in fields with 500 or more players at the $5,000 buy-in price point that accounted for just shy of a quarter of his total points for the year.

When asked if someone could be considered a top tournament player in the modern climate without proving themselves at the high-roller level, Schindler said, “It depends how you characterize a top player. Someone can prove they are sharp, intuitive and an undeniable winner in tournament poker without taking on high roller tournaments. If someone isn’t able to hold their own in the tougher fields however, it isn’t fair to say they’re a top player by the same standards. Being theoretically tougher doesn’t always directly correlate to higher edge in a tournament, but it does make it significantly more likely.”

While this is Schindler’s first Player of the Year title, he has frequently been a top POY contender in recent years. He finished eighth in the POY race in 2014, fifth in 2016 and 15th in 2017.

“I’ve played a ton of poker and have tried to focus on cultivating my specific strengths,” said Schindler, when asked about how he’s been able to be such a consistent presence at the top of the POY leaderboard in recent years.

Schindler’s Road To The POY Award

Despite setting the record for final tables this past year, Schindler’s 2018 campaign actually got off to a somewhat delayed start; his first recorded cash didn’t come until early February. He made up for lost time by making four final tables that month, all at the inaugural running of the U.S. Poker Open.

Schindler notched a ninth-place, fourth-place and two second-place finishes in four different no-limit hold’em events at that series, with buy-in ranging from $10,500 up to $52,000. He cashed for a total of $693,400 and 880 Player of the Year points in the span of nine days.

In March, Schindler notched his first two titles of the year, winning two Aria High Roller events in the span of three days. He took down a $10,000 buy-in on March 1 and then won a $25,000 buy-in on March 3, taking home $412,300 and 432 POY points for the two title runs.

April saw Schindler go on a run at the 2018 partypoker LIVE MILLIONS Grand Final Barcelona, starting with a seventh-place showing in the €26,000 high roller for $110,700 and 189 points. Just two days later he defeated a field of 48 entries to win the €101,000 super high roller event for the second largest payday of his career, $2,170,000. He also earned 600 POY points after defeating Stephen Chidwick heads-up for the title. His run at the series concluded with an eighth-place finish in a €10,300 buy-in no-limit hold’em event for $86,800 and 140 points.

He closed out his monster spring with five final-table finishes in May, all taking place at Aria. The 2018 World Poker Tour Tournament of Champions Festival played host to a number of high roller events. Schindler won a $10,000 no-limit hold’em side event to kick off the series, and then finished fourth, third and second in three separate $25,000 high rollers. The WPT Elite Poker Championship had begun earlier in the month, but saw the final table of the $25,000 high roller play out at the end of the month at the Esports Arena at Luxor. Schindler placed fifth in that event, bringing his total haul for the month to $650,000 and 1,003 points.

June was another solid month for Schindler, as he added another four final tables to his 2018 resume. He had two scores at the Aria Summer High Roller Series, finishing second in a $25,000 high roller and seventh in a $10,000 pot-limit Omaha event. He also made two final tables in $5,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em with big-blind ante events, one taking place at the World Series of Poker and another at the Venetian DeepStack Championship Poker Series. The month saw him add 1,177 points and $422,467 to his yearly totals.

Schindler added four more final-table finishes in July, including the score that earned him the largest amount of POY points for the year. Schindler made two more final tables at the Aria Summer High Roller Series, adding another $202,800 and 370 points with second and third-place showings in $25,000 and $10,000 buy-in events. Schindler also made his second WSOP final table of the year, placing eighth in the $50,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em big-blind ante event for $173,604 and 187 points. He closed out the month by finishing second in the $5,000 buy-in World Poker Tour Gardens Poker Festival main event for $366,740 and 1,400 points, the biggest chunk of points Schindler received in a single event in 2018. The tournament had drawn an impressive field of 584 entrants for its inaugural running.

August saw Schindler make only one final table, but he made it count. Schindler defeated a field of 123 entries in the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open $2 million guaranteed $25,500 buy-in no-limit hold’em high roller event to earn $800,758, 924 points and his fifth POY-qualified title of the year.

The 2018 Poker Masters series at Aria Resort Casino in Las Vegas featured seven events spread over the course of eight days in September. Schindler cashed in three of those events, earning $575,000 and 787 total points. He had a fourth and a third-place finish in two $25,000 high roller events, and another fourth-place showing in a $50,000 buy-in event at the series. His September run was enough to see him climb into the outright lead in the POY standings as the race moved into the final quarter of the year.

Schindler closed out the year with another handful of scores in high roller events, all of which were held in Las Vegas. His two final-table finishes in October came in the monthly high roller events at Aria, finishing second in a $10,000 buy-in for $90,450 and 150 points and third in a $25,000 buy-in two days later for another $92,000 and 168 points. His lone score of November was a third-place finish in a $100,000 buy-in at the Aria Fall Madness series for $384,000 and another 240 points.

In December, Schindler made two final tables in high roller events at the Bellagio’s Five Diamond World Poker Classic series. He placed third in a $25,000 buy-in for $168,000 and 280 points. Schindler closed out his year strong by winning the $100,000 buy-in event, outlasting 37 entries to win $1,332,000 and 480 points. This was his second seven-figure score of the year, and it brought his POY-qualified earnings for the year to more than $8.7 million.

By setting a record for final-table finishes in a year Schindler proved that he was live poker’s most consistent tournament player, and therefore truly was the Player of the Year for 2018.

When asked what his objectives are moving forward, Schindler said, “My main goal for poker is to be able to compete live in the biggest events indefinitely while maintaining an edge. I don’t plan on stopping playing anytime soon.” ♠

Here is a look at the final top 20 standings in the 2018 POY Race:
Rank Player POY Points POY Earnings
1 Jake Schindler 9,407 $8,731,019
2 Stephen Chidwick 8,845 $9,950,805
3 Alex Foxen 8,259 $6,606,037
4 David Peters 8,059 $10,598,504
5 Justin Bonomo 7,752 $25,295,441
6 Adrian Mateos 6,477 $4,844,609
7 Rainer Kempe 5,924 $5,464,179
8 Jason Koon 5,827 $12,404,918
9 Steve O’Dwyer 5,688 $6,129,062
10 Pavel Plesuv 5,626 $2,886,963
11 Christopher Michael Soyza 5,281 $2,500,726
12 Isaac Haxton 4,950 $8,037,728
13 Mikita Badziakouski 4,926 $14,594,839
14 Nick Petrangelo 4,734 $6,693,018
15 Dominik Nitsche 4,732 $5,371,902
16 Michael Addamo 4,674 $2,581,347
17 Ben Yu 4,671 $3,448,959
18 Shaun Deeb 4,610 $2,936,292
19 Cary Katz 4,306 $4,903,239
20 Benjamin Tollerene 4,269 $3,328,532

Card Player Player of the Year Winners:
Year Player Name
1997 Men Nguyen
1998 T.J. Cloutier
1999 Tony Ma
2000 David Pham
2001 Men Nguyen
2002 T.J. Cloutier
2003 Men Nguyen
2004 Daniel Negreanu
2005 Men Nguyen
2006 Michael Mizrachi
2007 David Pham
2008 John Phan
2009 Eric Baldwin
2010 Tom Marchese
2011 Ben Lamb
2012 Greg Merson
2013 Daniel Negreanu
2014 Daniel Colman
2015 Anthony Zinno
2016 David Peters
2017 Adrian Mateos
2018 Jake Schindler

Jake Schindler set the record for the most final tables made in a calendar year with 31, which was eight more than the previous record, and five more than any of his closest competitors. His transcendent performance this year was enough to earn him the 2018 Card Player Player of the Year award.

But while Schindler ended the year as the clear winner of the POY race, he was far from the only player to put together a string of incredible results this year. Justin Bonomo. had by far the most lucrative year on the felt, cashing for a record $25 million, but even he couldn’t do better than fifth place in the final rankings given the competition he was up against.

The final top ten of 2018’s POY standings reads like a who’s who list of tournament poker’s brightest young stars, each of whom cashed for millions over the past 12 months.

Here is a recap of the performances put together by the rest of the top 10.

2. Stephen Chidwick
Total Points: 8,845
POY Earnings: $9,950,805
Titles: 5
Final Tables: 26

Stephen ChidwickGreat Britain’s Stephen Chidwick has been a respected tournament professional for years, but in 2018 he cemented himself as one of the best in the game. Chidwick notched his first seven-figure score this year, and he followed that up with his second, third and fourth. In fact, six of the ten largest scores of his career came in the past 12 months. Chidwick accumulated just shy of $10 million in POY-qualified cashes, which accounts for nearly half of his total career earnings.

Chidwick found success in both super high roller tournaments and in larger field main events this year. He finished third from a field of 1,175 entries in the 2018 partypoker LIVE MILLIONS Grand Final Barcelona €10,300 buy-in main event for $1,240,000 and 1,600 points. He also finished fourth in the Card Player Poker Tour Venetian DeepStack Championship Poker Series $5,000 buy-in main event, which drew 547 entries. Chidwick added $177,091 and 840 points for that deep run.

Most of the rest of Chidwick’s 26 final-table finishes came in high roller events. The highlights of his year in these high-stakes tournaments include his winning of the inaugural U.S. Poker Open, and his second-place finish in the €101,000 super high roller at the partypoker LIVE MILLIONS Grand Final Barcelona for $1,364,000 and 500 points.

Chidwick also achieved a unique trifecta by making the final table of all three Super High Roller Bowl events held in 2018. He finished third in the Super High Roller Bowl V in December for $1,512,000 and 320 points, sixth in the Super High Roller Bowl China for $1,297,773 and 280 points, and seventh in the Super High Roller Bowl that took place in May for another $600,000 and 150 points.

3. Alex Foxen
Total Points: 8,259
POY Earnings: $6,606,037
Titles: 5
Final Tables: 18

Alex FoxenAlex Foxen has career live tournament earnings of $8.8 million. The 27-year-old poker pro earned more than $6.6 million of that in 2018, which will go down as the year that he truly put his name on the tournament map.

Foxen won five titles this year, including the Asia Pacific Poker Tour Macau $400,000 HKD shot clock event, the $5,00 big-blind ante event at the Venetian DeepStack Championship Poker Series, and the $2,650 no-limit event at the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open.

The Cold Spring Harbor, New York native closed the year strong, making four final tables in December. He won a $5,000 preliminary event at the Bellagio’s Five Diamond World Poker Classic and finished as the runner-up in the Super High Roller Bowl V, earning $2,160,000 for the biggest payday of his career just a couple weeks before the year came to an end. Foxen’s surge across the finish line was enough to see him end 2018 in third place on the POY leaderboard.

4. David Peters
Total Points: 8,059
POY Earnings: $10,598,504
Titles: 7
Final Tables: 26

David PetersIn 2016 David Peters won the Card Player Player of the Year award after making 22 final tables, cashing for $7,370,255 and winning five titles. Incredibly, Peters outdid his POY-winning performance in each of those categories in 2018, but due to the incredible numbers put up by his fellow POY race competitors, he ended the year in fourth place.

Peters was one of four players to cash for eight figures this past year, ending with just shy of $10.6 million in earnings. He won seven titles, the second most of any player in 2018. Highlights of his year include his runner-up finish in the €100,000 World Series of Poker Europe super high roller for more than $1.8 million, his third-place finish in the Caribbean Poker Party $250,000 buy-in super high roller championships for $1,420,000 and his win in the $100,000 finale event of the Poker Masters for $1,150,000.

With 26 final-table showings, Peters again proved to be one of the most consistent players in the game. Peters has now finished in sixth place or better in the year-end rankings for three straight years, having won in 2016 and finished sixth in 2017. He also finished fourth in 2013.

5. Justin Bonomo
Total Points: 7,752
POY Earnings: $25,295,441
Titles: 10
Final Tables: 23

Justin BonomoNobody won more money or titles in 2018 than Justin Bonomo. The 33-year-old broke the record for money earned in a single year, cashing for $25.3 million to blow away the previous high-water mark of $22.3 million that Daniel Colman set in 2014. As a result he moved into the top spot on poker’s all-time money list with $43,449,427 in career earnings.

Bonomo captured an unprecedented ten titles this past year, including wins in three of the largest buy-in events: the $1,000,000 WSOP Big One For One Drop, the $300,000 Super High Roller Bowl and the $271,115 buy-in Super High Roller Bowl China. Those three wins alone combined to add more than $19.8 million in earnings to Bonomo’s annual haul.

Bonomo also won seven other titles this year, including the WSOP $10,000 no-limit hold’em heads-up championship. Bonomo is now a three-time WSOP bracelet winner, having taken down this event, the previously mentioned Big One For One Drop and the 2014 $1,500 six-max no-limit hold’em event.

Bonomo’s massive year put his name in the record books, but his focus on small-field, high-stakes events somewhat limited his ability to accumulate POY points. Bonomo made 23 final tables, with all but three coming in events with a buy-in of $25,000 or higher. The largest field in a tournament that he won came in the WSOP heads-up event, which had 114 players. The average field size in the 10 events that Bonomo won was just 55 players, while the largest field in an event he final tabled was only 196. For those reasons, the biggest winner in tournament poker history had to settle for fifth place overall.

This was the third straight year that Bonomo finished inside the top five, having ended 2016 in 3rd place and 2017 in fifth place.

6. Adrian Mateos
Total Points: 6,477
POY Earnings: $4,844,609
Titles: 3
Final Tables: 21

Adrian MateosIn 2017 Adrian Mateos became the first European player to ever win the POY race, making 22 total final tables and winning four titles, including his third WSOP gold bracelet.

The 24-year-old Spanish poker pro came incredibly close to being the first player to ever win POY honors in back-to-back years but ultimately ended 2018 in sixth place. He made 21 final tables and won three titles, with more than $4.8 million in POY-qualified earnings along the way.

Mateos’ two most notable scores bookended the year. He started things off with a fourth-place finish in the “PokerStars Caribbean Adventure $10,300 no-limit hold’em main event.” He took home $372,600 and 1,050 points for his deep run in that event, which drew 582 entries this year. Mateos closed out 2018 by finishing fifth in the 2018 Super High Roller Bowl V for $972,000 and 200 points.

7. Rainer Kempe
Total Points: 5,924
POY Earnings: $5,464,179
Titles: 6
Final Tables: 26

Rainer KempeRainer Kempe ended 2018 in a three-way tie for the second most final tables made throughout the year, joining Stephen Chidwick and David Peters with 26 each.

Kempe won six titles this year, but his biggest score came when he finished third in the Super High Roller Bowl China. Kempe earned $2,039,357 and 560 points for making the final three in the $2,120,000 HKD ($271,115 USD) buy-in event. This was his second largest score, behind the $5,000,000 he took home as the champion of the 2016 Super High Roller Bowl in Las Vegas.

The 29-year-old German poker pro cashed for more than $5.4 million this year, bringing his lifetime tournament earnings to $17.3 million. This is Kempe’s highest finish in the POY standings, having ended 2015 in eighth place and 12th in 2017.

8. Jason Koon
Total Points: 5,827
POY Earnings: $12,404,918
Titles: 3
Final Tables: 16

Jason KoonJason Koon had a monster year in super high roller events, compiling more than $12.4 million dollars in POY-qualified earnings throughout the past 12 months. Only Justin Bonomo ($25.3 million) and 13th ranked POY contender Mikita Badziakouski cashed for more.

Four of Koon’s top five largest scores were recorded in 2018, with three taking place in the span of two weeks. Koon outlasted a field of 103 entries to win the 2018 Triton Super High Roller Series Montenegro $1,000,000 HKD (~$128,000 USD) buy-in short deck event to win $3,653,260 USD and 1,200 points on May 18. Eight days later he won a $100,000 buy-in at the Aria Summer High Roller Series for another $1,039,940 and 480 points. He closed out his insane run by finishing third in the Super High Roller Bowl just four days later for $2,100,000 and 400 more points.

Koon’s also took down the $25,000 high roller at the PCA early on in the year. When all was said and done Koon ended 2018 in eighth place in the POY standings, matching his finishing spot from 2017.

9. Steve O’Dwyer
Total Points: 5,688
POY Earnings: $6,129,062
Titles: 4
Final Tables: 14

Steve O'DwyerSteve O’Dwyer won four titles from 14 final table finishes this year, cashing for more than $6.1 million throughout the year. That was enough to see his career earnings surpass $26.7 million, moving him into eighth place on the all-time money list.

O’Dwyer won the $50,000 super high roller at the PCA to jump-start his year, earning $769,500 and 510 points. He scored his second title of the year by winning the €50,000 European Poker Tour super high roller, taking home $818,323 and another 510. He added two more titles at the partypoker LIVE MILLIONS UK series, contributing another $996,340 and 1,020 points to his totals.

His biggest score of the year came when he finished second in the $10,000,000 guaranteed $25,000 buy-in Caribbean Poker Party MILLIONS World. The tournament drew 394 entries, and O’Dwyer was awarded $1,300,000 and 1,750 as the second-place finisher.

O’Dwyer ended the year in ninth place for his third top-ten finish and fifth top 20 finish of the past seven years.

10. Pavel Plesuv
Total Points: 5,626
POY Earnings: $2,886,963
Titles: 2
Final Tables: 8

Pavel PlesuvPavel Plesuv won only two titles this past year, but they happened to be in two massive fields. Plesuv outlasted a total of 1,096 entries to win the $3,500,000 guaranteed $3,500 buy-in event at the Venetian DeepStack Championship Poker Series. Plesuv took home $640,062 and 1,440 for that title run in June.

In November he overcame 898 entries to emerge victorious in the $2,000,000 guaranteed $3,500 buy-in World Poker Tour Rock ‘N’ Roll Poker Open main event at the Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood, earning $504,820 and another 1,368 points.

Plesuv made six more final tables throughout the year, with his biggest score being his second-place showing in the partypoker LIVE MILLIONS Germany €5,300 no-limit hold’em main event, which attracted 927 total entries. Plesuv was awarded $930,000 and 1,520 points for that deep run. His impressive run on the live circuit in 2018 was enough to see Plesuv end the year inside the top ten in the POY standings for the first time.