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The (Bracelet) Rich Get (Bracelet) Richer At The World Series Of Poker

Adam Friedman Makes Poker History With Back-To-Back-To-Back Wins

by Erik Fast |  Published: Dec 01, 2021


The Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino has already seen 50 World Series of Poker champions decided in 2021, with another five gold bracelets awarded online in tandem with the series. More than $96 million in prize money has been paid out so far at the series, with plenty of massive tournaments including the WSOP main event (Nov. 4-17) left to play. A total of 71,266 entries have been made with roughly 40 percent of the scheduled tournaments yet to conclude.

Below is a look at the latest big stories from the series. (Recaps of the earlier events can be found in the two previous issues of Card Player).

Top WSOP Vets Add To Their Bracelet Collections

There were 26 bracelets awarded since our last WSOP update. Of those, 12 went to players who already had a bracelet win on their résumé. In fact, nine players already had at least two. Three players earned their fourth bracelets over the past fortnight, with two becoming five-time WSOP champions.

Brian Rast was the first to join the five-time bracelet winner’s club among this group. The 39-year-old high-stakes pro emerged victorious in the $3,000 six-max no-limit hold’em event to become just the 27th player in poker history to have won at least five titles at the series. He defeated a field of 997 total entries to secure the hardware and the first-place prize of $474,102. The California native now has $21.7 million in career live tournament earnings.

Just a few days later, Shaun Deeb came out on top in the $25,000 buy-in pot-limit Omaha high roller, earning $1,251,860 and becoming the 28th player with five or more bracelets to their name. This was the second time that Deeb won this particular high-stakes PLO tournament, having also emerged victorious with the gold and a seven-figure payday back in 2018.

The 35-year-old New Yorker told reporters that he has his sights set on many more bracelets in the years to come.

“Oh, I’m going to pass Phil [Hellmuth] eventually,” Deeb told PokerGO reporters after coming out on top. He went on to say that the massive increase in online bracelet events that arose during the pandemic should give him a leg up on players with less experience grinding on the internet. “I’m going to catch [Hellmuth] one day. It’s going to take me a decade or two, but I’ll be there.”

Speaking of Hellmuth, the Poker Hall of Famer came incredibly close to winning his 17th gold bracelet just a few days after he had earned his record-furthering 16th WSOP title. The Poker Brat has been on fire during the series, racking up five final-table appearances, the latest of which was the $10,000 buy-in Dealer’s Choice championship event.

Hellmuth got down to heads-up play, but in the end, it was Adam Friedman who wrote his name in the poker history books. The 39-year-old Ohio native emerged victorious in the event for an unprecedented third consecutive time, becoming the first player to ever win the exact same WSOP tournament back-to-back-to-back.

Friedman first won this event in the summer of 2018 for $293,275. He successfully defended his title in 2019 for another $312,417 and was set to try for the threepeat in 2020, but the in-person WSOP was postponed and eventually canceled due to the live poker shutdown that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the long layoff, Friedman was still able to find the winner’s circle this year, along with $248,350.

“I’ve waited 28 months to play this tournament, with the pandemic and the delay this year,” Friedman said moments after achieving his historic victory. “All I kept saying was, ‘Just get me to day 2, I just want a chance.’ I don’t need to win this tournament. I’ve got nothing to prove. I’ve got literally nothing to prove. It was just a pure challenge, to see if I could do it.”

If anybody was going to deny Friedman his slice of history, it was going to be Hellmuth. Back in 1989, Johnny Chan was going for a third consecutive main event title before running into a then 24-year-old Hellmuth who would not be denied.

(Note: Michael Mizrachi has also won the same event three times, taking down the $50,000 Players Championship in 2010, 2012, and 2018. Thang Luu finished second in the 2007 Omaha eight-or-better event, before winning it in 2008 and 2009.)

This was Friedman’s fourth career bracelet overall, having won the 2012 $5,000 stud eight-or-better event for $269,037. This also isn’t the first time that Friedman has won the same event three times. In 2006, he won the Midwest Regional Poker Championships main event in Indiana. He skipped it in 2007, and then he won it again in both 2008 and 2009.

Farzad Bonyadi became just the 55th player in poker history to have won four or more bracelet events. The 62-year-old Iranian defeated a field of 122 entries in the $10,000 buy-in no-limit deuce-to-seven lowball event. This victory came 16 years after his third title run at the series back in 2005, and 24 years after his first, back when he won the 1998 $2,000 limit hold’em event.

Less than a week after Bonyadi came out on top, 35-year-old Ben Yu increased the list of players with four or more WSOP wins to 56. The Los Angeles native took down the $10,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em six-max event, defeating a field of 329 total entries to earn $721,453. Yu’s first win came in the 2015 $10,000 limit hold’em event. In 2018, he earned a massive $1.65 million payday in the $50,000 high roller event.

David ‘Bakes’ Baker was the first of five players to earn their third bracelet in the tournaments covered in this update. The 35-year-old won his first two in 2010 and 2012, taking down the $10,000 no-limit 2-7 lowball event and the $10,000 H.O.R.S.E. championship. After a nine-year wait, the Michigan native took down the $1,500 deuce-to-seven triple draw lowball event to complete the trilogy.

High-roller crusher Michael Addamo emerged victorious in the $50,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em high roller, earning his third bracelet and the second seven-figure top prize awarded at this year’s series. The former chess prodigy took home $1,132,968 for the win. You can read more about the Australian’s big win on pg. 12.

Josh Arieh was the next to secure number three by taking down the $1,500 pot-limit Omaha event. The Georgia poker pro won his first bracelet in a 1999 limit hold’em event, and his second in a 2005 pot-limit Omaha tournament. The 47-year-old now has $7.8 million in live tournament earnings.

Kevin Gerhart won his third bracelet as the champion of the $10,000 H.O.R.S.E. event. The mixed-games grinder has won a bracelet each year since breaking through for his first, taking down the 2019 $1,500 razz, and the 2020 $500 pot-limit Omaha online event.

Bradley Ruben rounds out this list of players to join the ranks of three-time bracelet winners. The Florida native also took down the $1,500 razz event for his first live bracelet, with his two previous wins coming in pot-limit Omaha online events in 2020 and earlier this year.

Tommy Le was one of two players to earn their second bracelet during this stretch of the series. Fresh off of a runner-up finish in the $1,500 pot-limit Omaha event won by Josh Arieh, Le took down the $10,000 buy-in PLO championship for $746,477.

This was Le’s seventh career PLO tournament title. According to HendonMob, with this latest win, Le surpassed Stephen Chidwick ($2.5 million in earnings) to take the lead on the pot-limit Omaha all-time money list with $3.3 million.

Chidwick has since fallen to third place, with Shaun Deeb ($3 million) climbing into second thanks to his win in this year’s $25,000 PLO high roller. Le finished ninth in that tournament, falling one spot shy of the final table while earning another $97,254. Rounding out the top five on the all-time list is Ben Lamb with $2.3 million, and Loren Klein with $2.1 million.

Le now has 24 cashes counting towards that total, with 16 coming at the WSOP. The California pro and brother of WPT champion Nam Le, has now made nine WSOP final tables in PLO events, including his two wins and runner-up finishes in both this year’s $1,500 buy-in PLO event and the 2016 $25,000 buy-in PLO high roller.

Joining Le as a second-time WSOP winner was Jim Collopy. The Maryland native came out on top in the $3,000 H.O.R.S.E. event, outlasting 281 other entries to secure the $172,823 top prize and bracelet number two. Collopy’s first win came in the 2013 WSOP Asia Pacific series where he won the AUD$1,650 pot-limit Omaha event.

First-Time Winners Take Center Stage

There have been 14 first-time bracelet winners crowned since our previous update. Perhaps most notable among them is Gershon Distenfield, who won the $1,500 no-limit hold’em shootout for $204,063 and pledged to donate every penny of his earnings to charity.

This isn’t the first time the New Jersey philanthropist has given a big score to charity. Distenfeld also pledged his winnings from the 2020 online main event, where he finished eighth for $125,885.

Michael Noori, who infamously lost a prop bet about whether he could eat $1,000 worth of McDonalds back in March of 2017, defeated a massive field of 3,520 entries to earn $610,437 and his first bracelet in the $1,500 buy-in no-limit hold’em Monster Stack event.

Anthony Denove overcame another sea of players, outlasting 3,991-entries to win the $1,000 Double Stack no-limit hold’em event for his first piece of WSOP hardware.

Karolis Sereika topped a 1,441-player field in the fast-paced $1,500 super turbo bounty no-limit hold’em freezeout to become the first player from his home country of Lithuania to take down a bracelet in a live event. Three Lithuanian players (Vincas Tamasauskas, Gediminas Uselis, and Vladas Burneikis) had earned titles prior, but each of them did so online.

Along the lines of national accomplishments, Alexandre Reard became the first French player to come out on top at the Rio this year. He survived the fast-and-furious $5,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em freezeout event to win his first bracelet and the $428,694 top prize.

A total of 5,404 entries were made in the $1,000 Seniors Championship, creating a prize pool of $4,809,560 for the event that required participants to be at least 50 years of age. Robert McMillan was the last man standing, earning $561,060 and his first gold bracelet.

The two online bracelet events to wrap up in recent weeks were the $888 pot-limit Omaha Crazy 8’s eight-max event and the $1,000 no-limit hold’em championship. Ryan Stoker locked up his first bracelet and the $95,338 top prize in the former, while Kazuki Ikeuchi was awarded $152,798 as the champion of the latter.

The remaining winners decided in the past two weeks included Ran Koller ($800 no-limit hold’em deepstack – $269,478), Anthony Koutsos ($500 no-limit hold’em freezeout – $167,272), Carlos Chang ($2,500 no-limit hold’em freezeout – $364,589), Ryan Hansen ($3,000 limit hold’em six-max – $109,692), Chad Norton ($800 no-limit hold’em deepstack – $214,830), Darrin Wright ($600 mixed NLH/PLO – $127,219), and Nicholas Julia ($2,500 nine-game mix – $168,608). ♠