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More Than $237 Million In Prize Money Paid Out During 2021 WSOP

The 88 Bracelet Events At The Rio And 11 More Online Attracted Over 125,000 Total Entries

by Erik Fast |  Published: Dec 29, 2021


The 2021 World Series of Poker is officially in the books. With the announcement of the relocation of the series to the Las Vegas Strip for the summer of 2022, this was the final time the series played out at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino.

More than 125,000 total entries were made throughout the series, which included 88 in-person events and another 11 online tournaments. The impressive turnouts resulted in $237,781,991 in total prize money paid out from late September through just before the Thanksgiving holiday.

Below is a look at the final 18 live events, along with the last four online tournaments on the schedule. (Recaps of the earlier events can be found in the past four Card Player issues, while an in-depth look at the main event can be found on pg. 12).

Six Bracelet Winners Add To Their Collections

Brian Hastings became just the 29th player in WSOP history to win at least five titles at the series when he defeated a field of 144 players in the $10,000 stud eight-or-better championship event, earning $352,958.

“It definitely matters to me. I think it’s cool to compete on that level. There are some great players on the list of those with a bunch of bracelets. It’s certainly a goal of mine and I’m happy to be in that company,” said Hastings when asked about joining the elite list of players with five or more titles won at the WSOP.

The 33-year-old poker pro now has more than $4.4 million in career live tournament earnings, with nearly $3 million in cashes coming in bracelet events. His previous titles are in heads-up no-limit hold’em, H.O.R.S.E., 10-game mix, and seven card stud.

Russia’s Denis Strebkov earned his second bracelet, with his first coming in the 2019 $3,000 buy-in H.O.R.S.E. event. This time around he beat out a field of 212 entries to take down the $2,500 mixed big bet event, which featured seven games: Big O, no-limit hold‘em, no-limit deuce-to-seven single draw lowball, pot-limit Omaha eight-or-better, no-limit five-card draw high, pot-limit Omaha, and pot-limit deuce-to-seven triple draw lowball. Strebkov secured $117,898 as the champion of this unique event.

Benny Glaser became a four-time bracelet winner when he took down the $10,000 razz championship, defeating a stacked final table in order to secure the hardware and the top prize of $274,693. The British poker pro is the 60th player to ever win four or more titles at the series, with each coming in a non-hold’em discipline. He earned his first bracelet in the 2015 $1,500 2-7 triple draw event and then took down both the $1,500 buy-in and $10,000 championship in Omaha eight-or-better in 2016. The 32-year-old now has nearly $3 million in career live tournament earnings to his name.

Adrian Mateos is just 27 years old, but already he has put together one of the best live tournament poker résumés in the game. His latest major victory saw him defeat a field of 33 total entries in the $250,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em high roller, earning his fourth career gold bracelet and a career-best payday of $3,265,362.

He increased his lifetime live tournament earnings to $25,945,482. Not only is he the current leader on Spain’s all-time money list, but Mateos now has more than twice the earnings of his nearest competition in Sergio Aido ($12,751,563). His previous largest score came when he won the 2013 WSOP Europe main event for $1,379,300 at just 18 years of age. All four of his bracelet wins have come in no-limit hold’em events.

One of the most exciting final tables of the entire series saw Jeremy Ausmus emerge victorious from a protracted three-handed battle with all-time bracelet leader Phil Hellmuth and Hall of Famer Daniel Negreanu. The three have combined for 24 bracelets, with more than $75.5 million in prior tournament earnings between them.

Ausmus earned his second bracelet of the series and the third of his career after coming out on top in that event, the $50,000 buy-in pot-limit Omaha high roller. He was also awarded $1,188,918 for the win, growing his lifetime earnings to $10,270,009 in the process.

“It was fun playing with those guys, like the old-school, iconic guys. I used to watch them on TV, 17 years ago before I moved to Vegas,” said Ausmus. “I’ve played with them a lot over the years, and I play a fair amount of [pot-limit Omaha], so I felt like I liked my spot, you know? Not saying they’re not great players or anything. They have a lot of tournament experience and they’ve been here a million times.”

Michael Addamo won his fourth career bracelet in the $100,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em high roller, continuing a high-stakes streak that extended back to late September and included eight final tables, six titles, and more than $9.4 million in earnings. The 27-year-old Australian poker pro locked up $1,958,569 for this win, along with his second bracelet of the series.

This was the second time that Addamo has won two bracelets in a single year. He earned his first as the winner of the 2018 $2,620 buy-in event known as The Marathon. Later that year he took down the €25,500 high roller at the WSOP Europe for his second piece of WSOP hardware.

Addamo started his streak at the tail end of the Poker Masters high-stakes tournament series. He arrived for the end of the festival and won the final two events on back-to-back days to come away with the Purple Jacket and $1,840,000 in earnings. Just days later he finished as the runner-up in a $50,000 buy-in high roller at ARIA for another $322,000 payday.

The winning spree continued a few days later, with Addamo emerging victorious in the 2021 Super High Roller Bowl for a career-best score of $3,402,000. Just over a week after that win, he added another $544,000 in earnings by finishing third in a $200,000 buy-in high roller at ARIA. He took down the $50,000 high roller event at the WSOP for his third bracelet in late October for his third seven-figure score in just over a month. A week later he locked up his fifth title of the year in a $15,000 high roller at ARIA before taking a few weeks away from the winner’s circle prior to this latest title run.

Big Names Breakthrough With Maiden Bracelet Wins

Several highly accomplished tournament players secured their first bracelets in the final weeks of the series. The most notable of these wins was undoubtedly high-stakes German tournament regular Koray Aldemir’s victory in the main event. Turn to page 12 for a thorough recap of the centerpiece of the series.

France’s Romain Lewis had more than $2.3 million in prior tournament earnings before entering the $10,000 buy-in turbo bounty event along with 306 other entries. Lewis overcame a stacked final table to secure his first title at the series and the top prize of $463,885.

German high roller Ole Schemion came into the tail end of the 2021 series with plenty of accolades on his résumé. The 28-year-old had more than $16.6 million in prior live tournament earnings, with 18 previous titles including two World Poker Tour victories and major wins in high-stakes events around the globe. The one major accomplishment he had not yet achieved was winning an event at the series. He rectified that by taking down the inaugural running of the $1,979 Poker Hall of Fame bounty event, topping a field of 468 total entries to lock up the bracelet and the top prize of $172,499.

The unique event featured an unusual buy-in that was selected for the year the Hall of Fame was established. The other interesting wrinkle for this tournament was that Hall of Fame members who participated would have bounties that match the year that they were inducted. For example, Eli Elezra was announced as this year’s inductee during day 1 of this event. Whoever eliminated Elezra from the tournament would be owed a $2,021 bounty payout. You can read more about Elezra’s HOF induction on pg. 18.

Jason Wheeler got heads-up for his first bracelet back in 2009. The poker pro with more than $4 million in lifetime live tournament earnings was at his very first series that year, and ended up finishing second. It took another 12 years, but he finally came away with the bracelet. At this year’s WSOP he beat out 1,921 entries in the $800 buy-in no-limit hold’em deepstack event to win $202,274 and the coveted wrist accessory.

Like Jason Koon earlier this fall, Mikita Badziakouski was one of the names most frequently mentioned on the dreaded ‘best without a bracelet’ list debated by poker media and fans. The 29-year-old Belarusian tournament superstar had more than $32 million in prior tournament scores coming into the final few days of the WSOP, with eight seven-figure scores under his belt.

He added a ninth by emerging victorious in the $50,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em high roller event, beating out a field of 113 entries to earn $1,462,043 while removing his name from that previously mentioned list.

Other Big Storylines

Leonor Margets put herself on the map in the tournament world by making a deep run in the 2009 WSOP main event, finishing 27th for $352,832. Until this year, that was the largest score of her career, followed by the $123,927 she banked in 2018 for finishing runner-up in a $1,000 double stack event.

She topped it by defeating a field of 1,903 entries in the $1,500 buy-in no-limit hold’em event known as The Closer. With the win, the 38-year-old Spanish poker pro earned her first bracelet and the top prize of $376,850. She also became the first and only female player to come out on top in an open event at this year’s series in Las Vegas.

The sixth-largest field of this year’s WSOP turned out for the $888 buy-in Crazy Eights tournament. With 5,252 entries, the prize pool grew to $4,150,761. In the end, David Moses earned $888,888 and his first bracelet. The score couldn’t have come at a better time, almost a year after Moses was laid off from his day job.

The other WSOP champions decided in the closing weeks included first-time winners Chad Himmelspach ($1,500 NLH freezeout – $270,877), Paulo Joanello ($1,500 NLH Fifty Stack – $321,917), Robert Cowen ($3,000 PLO six-max – $280,916), Michael McCauley ($1,000 NLH super turbo – $161,381), and Boris Kolev ($5,000 NLH eight-max – $511,184).

The final four online events of the series also concluded during the past fortnight. Latvia’s Aleksejs Ponakovs came out on top in the $7,777 buy-in high roller event, outlasting a 183-entry field to earn his first bracelet and the top prize of $432,491. It was the largest online payday awarded during the series.

Yuliyan Nikolaev Kolev took down the $777 buy-in event, overcoming a 1,122-entry field to earn $146,163 and the bracelet.

The lone online bracelet event held on the Pennsylvania-facing WSOP online site during the series saw David Eldridge walk away with the title and the top prize of $41,553 as the champion in that $1,000 buy-in NLH freezeout event. A similar tournament was also run on the Nevada and New Jersey site, with Dan Turner defeating 773 other players to earn $142,664 and his first bracelet.

Stay tuned for upcoming coverage of the 2021 World Series of Poker Europe, which kicked off on Nov. 19. After that series wraps, the countdown will begin for the 2022 series which is slated to begin on May 31 and continue through July 17 on the Las Vegas Strip. ♠