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Dan ‘Jungleman’ Cates Goes Back-To-Back In $50,000 Poker Players Championship

Nearly $210 Million Paid Out So Far With Main Event Still To Come

by Erik Fast |  Published: Aug 10, 2022


The 2022 World Series of Poker is entering its final stretch, with the main event ongoing as this story goes to press. With 78 gold bracelet events in the books, this 53rd annual WSOP has already seen $209,997,049 in prize money paid out with the biggest tournament yet to be counted.

Paris Las Vegas and Bally’s have already seen 153,793 entries, with the new venue that features 200,000 sq. ft. of combined space being up to the task of comfortably housing the huge turnouts so far this summer.

Below is a look at the 23 events that have concluded in the two weeks since our last 2022 WSOP update, which can be found in issue no. 16.

Cates Channels ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage En Route To Second Victory

Welcome (back) to the jungle.

Dan ‘Jungleman’ Cates made history by successfully defending his title in one of the most prestigious tournaments in the game: the $50,000 buy-in Poker Players Championship nine-game mix. After a marathon final day that lasted more than 13 hours, the 32-year-old high stakes poker professional emerged victorious for the second of back-to-back wins, once again in costume. (Last year, Cates was dressed as Dragon Ball Z character Goku at the final table.)

This time dressed as ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage, Cates was entirely committed to staying in character throughout the event and even during interviews after the victory, trash talking his opponents as if he actually was the legendary wrestler and beef jerky salesman.

Card Player caught up with him on his first day of the main event, while he was dressed as a giant red dragon. The two assumed identities seemed to battle for prominence as Cates answered our questions about what this massive achievement meant to him.

“You know, it’s tough to defend your title against all these competitors out there, but when you’re the Macho Man, and you got a lot of animal instinct inside, a lot of fury that needs to be unleashed, that’s a perfect occasion. And what do ya know? They couldn’t handle the Macho Man,” he said.

While Cates is the first player to ever win this tournament in consecutive years, he is not the first multi-time champion. In fact, Michael Mizrachi has won this event three times since it was first introduced in 2006, while Brian Rast has also come out on top on two occasions since the shift was made to add more games to the mix in 2010.

In 2021, Cates topped a field of just 63 entries in the tough nine-game tournament to earn his first-ever WSOP bracelet. Just 239 days later (as last year’s series was held in the fall due to the pandemic) Cates beat almost twice as many players in a field of 112 to earn his second career bracelet and the top prize of $1,449,103.

Cates, who is best known for his high-stakes cash game success both online and in the live arena, now also has nearly $11.7 million in career tournament earnings to his name.

The top 17 finishers made the money in this event, which played out over the course of five days. Only three of those 17 had not yet won a WSOP bracelet. Among the big names to make deep runs were Dan Smith (17th), David ‘ODB’ Baker (15th), John Racener (12th), Daniel Weinman, Matthew Ashton (8th), and Taylor Paur (7th).

Cates then outlasted a final table that featured reigning WSOP main event champion Koray Aldemir (6th – $258,812), 2017 runner-up in this event Johannes Becker (5th – $343,531), four-time bracelet winner Benny Glaser (4th – $464,420), bracelet winner Naoya Kihara (3rd – $639,257), and two-time bracelet winner Yuri Dzivielevski (2nd – $895,614).

This was Dzivielevski’s seventh final-table finish of 2022, with one title secured and more than $1.9 million in POY earnings accrued along the way. The 850 POY points he took home in this event were enough to move him into 26th place in the 2022 race standings.

Elezra Adds Fifth WSOP Bracelet Victory

In 2021, Eli Elezra was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame as a four-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner. The Israeli poker pro is now 61 years old and is not yet finished adding to his impressive tournament résumé. He secured his fifth career WSOP gold bracelet, taking down the $10,000 buy-in pot-limit Omaha eight-or-better championship for the second-largest tournament score of his career worth $611,362.

Elezra, who is still largely focused on playing cash games, now has nearly $5.2 million in career tournament earnings. He dedicated this latest victory to two important people in his life: his father Michel, who recently passed away, and his wife Hila.

“You saw I was very emotional there because my dad died 18 days ago. And I wanted to win for him. And I did it,” Elezra told WSOP reporters. “I’m [also] so happy I can show [people] that this Hall of Famer’s still got it!”

Elezra overcame a record turnout of 284 entries in this event. Reigning WSOP POY award winner Josh Arieh was the 2021 champion and made a valiant effort at defending his title but was ultimately knocked out in seventh place ($83,920) by Elezra.

This year’s $50,000 pot-limit Omaha event champion, Robert Cowen, placed third for $271,219. This was his third POY-qualified score of the year, with two titles won so far. As a result, the UK resident has surged up the standings and into 19th place in the POY rankings. Runner-up Chino Rheem moved into 27th place in the standings thanks to the $377,855 and 950 points he secured in this event.

David Jackson Denies Phil Hellmuth, Wins Second Bracelet

David Jackson earned his second WSOP bracelet and the largest payday of his tournament career by defeating all-time bracelet leader Phil Hellmuth heads-up in this year’s $3,000 no-limit hold’em freezeout event.

The 35-year-old poker pro from Jacksonville, Florida pocketed $598,173 as the champion after he denied the 16-time bracelet winner another victory at the series. Jackson now has nearly $3.8 million in recorded tournament scores after topping the field of 1,359 total entries in this event.

“I was just in my zone, honestly. I felt like I was going to win. I knew I was going to win. I felt like it was meant for me,” Jackson told WSOP reporters after coming out on top for the largest payday of his career.

Jackson won his first bracelet during last year’s WSOP Online series, taking down a $777 buy-in tournament for $194,178. This time around he was able to close out the victory on the big stage in Las Vegas, overcoming a Poker Hall of Fame member with the title on the line.

While Hellmuth fell just short of securing his record-furthering 17th bracelet, he did earn $369,698 as the runner-up, increasing his lifetime tournament earnings to more than $25 million.

Dash Dudley and Daniel Strelitz Add To Their Bracelet Collections

Of the 23 event winners discussed in this article, five added to their already-existing bracelet collections. Joining Cates, Elezra, and Jackson in this accomplishment were Dash Dudley and Daniel Strelitz.

Dudley came into this series as a two-time bracelet winner, with his pair of previous victories both coming in pot-limit Omaha. Earlier this summer he nearly became a three-time PLO event champion but fell one spot short in the $50,000 buy-in high roller. Just two weeks removed from that runner-up showing, he made his way back to heads-up play and was able to seal the deal for his third career bracelet.

Dudley outlasted a field of 2,569 total entries in the $1,500 no-limit hold’em super turbo bounty event, earning the hardware and $301,396 as the champion. He was the very shortest stack in the field coming into the second and final day of this fast-paced tournament that featured 20-minute levels, but then went on a tear to close out the win.

Like Dudley, Strelitz was also a player who had most of his tournament success come in one game, only to win a bracelet in another. Most of the 32-year-old poker pro from Torrance, California’s winning has come in no-limit hold’em, including his first bracelet and his largest payday as the champion of the 2017 WPT L.A. Poker Classic main event.

Strelitz has been working on other poker games recently, and his efforts paid off when he took down the $1,500 razz event for his second bracelet and $115,723.

Teusl Caps Off Breakout Series By Taking Down The Ladies Event

It’s been an absolute dream series for Austria’s Jessica Teusl. The poker pro first watched her boyfriend Stefan Lehner win his first bracelet and $558,616 in the $3,000 no-limit hold’em event earlier this summer. Just days later, Teusl found herself at her own final table, finishing eighth in the $1,500 Monster Stack event for a career-high payday of $120,455.

It didn’t take long for Teusl to one-up herself, as a few weeks later she secured a bracelet of her own and $166,975 in the $1,000 buy-in Ladies Championship.

“I’ve had such a crazy time at the WSOP this year,” Teusl told reporters. “We are going to celebrate now. We have two bracelets to celebrate!”

Teusl beat out a field of 1,074 entries in the event. She came into the final table as the short stack but went on a run down the stretch that saw her knock out her last five competitors on her way to grasping the bracelet.

Accomplished players like Cherish Andrews (9th – $12,965), Natalie Hof Ramos (8th – $16,710), and Christina Gollins (3rd – $73,604) all joined Teusl at the final table. Julie Le earned $103,196 as the runner-up finisher, increasing her career earnings to nearly $290,000.

Borland Wins The Gold, Glantz Pulls The Million

The WSOP debuted an exciting new tournament in the $1,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em Million Dollar Bounty. The tournament follows in the footsteps of the mystery bounty events pioneered at the Wynn Las Vegas Poker Room, with $300 from each buy-in going to a bounty prize pool, which would be split into various bounty payouts of between $1,000 and $1,000,000.

The event attracted a whopping 14,112 entries, building a total prize pool of $12,559,680. Of that money, $8,326,080 was earmarked for the traditional prize pool, while the remaining $4,233,600 was paid out as mystery bounties.

After four starting flights and two more days of action, the last player standing was Quincy Borland. The Minnesota native earned $750,120 and his first gold bracelet as the champion.

Borland’s payout was by far the largest of his tournament career, but it was not the largest awarded in this event. That distinction belonged to poker pro Matt Glantz, an accomplished poker pro with nearly $7.5 million in prior tournament scores to his name, who drew the proverbial golden ticket in dramatic fashion. He also went on to finish 40th in the poker tournament, adding another $20,730 to his $1 million bounty.

There were six total bounties of $100,000 or higher. Arin Youssefian scored $500,000, Azim Popatia pocketed $250,000, and Ramon Kropmanns, David Timmons, and Daniel De Almedia each banked $100,000.

Timmons finished third, adding $351,800 to his haul. In addition to his six-figure bounty, Daniel De Almedia also scored a $25,000 bounty, and finished eighth for another $96,940, while his brother Caio De Almedia took 23rd place for $31,200.

Only players who made day 2 in this event were eligible for the mystery bounties. When a player earned a ticket for knocking out an opponent on day 2, they then would be able to go up to designated areas to draw their random bounty payout. If they drew a golden chest, that meant that they would have to go up to the main stage to receive their prize, with PokerGO commentator Jeff Platt on the mic calling the action as they sweated their pull.

The big turnout and positive receptions for this event on social media would indicate that this event, or something similar, might be expected on future WSOP schedules.

Notables Barbero, Leonard, Jorstad, and Eskandari Earn Their First Bracelets

A number of big-name players with long résumés that, so far, lacked a bracelet, finally got the monkey off their backs in recent weeks. Jose Ignacio Barbero’s quest to win a bracelet must have felt like a marathon. The 40-year-old Argentinian poker pro, known to many as ‘Nacho,’ first cashed at the WSOP back in 2006, and ultimately secured the gold as the winner of the fast-paced 2022 $10,000 no-limit hold’em super turbo bounty event along with the top prize of $587,520.

The tag team event was back again, and longtime online grinders Patrick Leonard and Espen Jorstad nabbed the win for their first bracelets and a total payout of $148,067. ‘Team Leonard’ topped a field of 913 teams in the $1,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em event.

Leonard, from Newcastle, England now has nearly $2.8 million in lifetime live earnings, while Norwegian online poker streamer Jorstad increased his recorded earnings to just shy of $840,000. Corey Paggeot and two-time WSOP Circuit ring winner and poker commentator Jamie Kerstetter finished second for a team payout of $91,513.

Massoud Eskandari beat out a field of 2,668 entries in the $1,000 buy-in super seniors event. The 61-year-old Mission Viejo resident earned $330,609 and his first gold bracelet for the win. This was the largest tournament payday of Eskandari’s career, besting the $330,110 he earned as the runner-up finisher in the 2014 WPT Legends of Poker main event by just shy of $500. He now has more than $2.7 million in career tournament earnings to his name.

Other Exciting First-Time Winners At The Series

The $1,000 Seniors Championship drew a record field of 7,188 entries. It took six days to determine a champion, but when all was said and done, 58-year-old Colorado resident Eric Smidinger was the last player standing. He earned $694,909 for the win after topping a final table that featured bracelet winners Andres Korn (7th – $110,662) and Kathy Liebert (5th – $186,541).

Paul Hizer topped the third-largest field so far this series to win the $400 buy-in Colossus. He was one of 13,565 entries in the low buy-in no-limit hold’em event. The UK-based poker pro earned $414,490 as the champion.

The WSOP first debuted the $500 buy-in no-limit hold’em Salute to Warriors event in 2019. The tournament benefits the United Services Organization (USO), which was founded more than 80 years ago to provide entertainment and other services to active military and their families.

The 2022 running of the event attracted 3,209 total entries to build a prize pool of more than $1.4 million. James Todd emerged victorious in the end, getting the top prize of $161,256 for the win. Meanwhile, $74,809 went to the USO and other military charities.

Hungary’s Tamas Lendvai defeated a sizable field of 4,913 entries in the $600 buy-in no-limit hold’em deepstack championship, earning his first gold bracelet and the top prize of $299,464. Lendvai now has nearly $2.4 million in career earnings, with this latest victory being his third-largest score yet. In 2011 he finished third in the EPT Grand Final main event for $816,327. The year before that he had taken down an Italian Poker Tour tournament for $311,000.

The final scoop of the $1,500 pot-limit Omaha eight-or-better event wasn’t until after 3 AM local time in Las Vegas, roughly 13 hours after play began for the day. The low draw bricked out in the end, but Texas native Lawrence Brandt’s flopped wrap draw improved to an ace-high straight on the river to see him lock up the whole pot and the title. Brandt outlasted a 1,303-entry field in this event to earn his first bracelet and a career-best payday of $289,610.

The final day of this year’s $10,000 short deck event featured five players with collective prior tournament earnings of more than $101.5 million dollars. Three of the five contenders were already bracelet winners, including one five-time champion at the series. In the end, the player that came out on top was the one with the shortest tournament résumé in Shota Nakanishi.

The Japanese player came in with the chip lead and outlasted the stacked final table to secure his first bracelet and the top prize of $277,212. His final-table neighbors included Stephen Chidwick (5th – $65,143), Sean Winter (4th – ​​$88,168), five-time bracelet winner Brian Rast (3rd – $121,718), and two-time main event final tablist Ben Lamb (2nd – $171,331).

Konstantin Petrushev navigated his way through a field of 2,858 entries in the $600 buy-in pot-limit Omaha deepstack event to lock up a career-best payout of $199,466. This event was a fast-paced affair, with 30-minute levels and an aggressive structure that helped narrow the sea of entrants to a champion in just two days of action.

Young Sik Eum was one elimination away from winning his first bracelet back on June 10 of this year. He ultimately fell just short, finishing second in that $1,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em freezeout event for a then-career-high payday of $203,949. Just over three weeks later, Eum managed to make it back to heads-up play with a bracelet on the line. This time, Eum emerged victorious, topping a field of 5,832 entries in the $1,000 mini main event to secure the gold and the top prize of $594,189. The Los Angeles resident now has more than $1.3 million in career cashes to his name.

Sean Troha was still looking for his first six-figure live tournament score when he showed up in Las Vegas this summer. The North Olmsted, Ohio resident managed to skip that step by taking down the $10,000 buy-in pot-limit Omaha championship event for a seven-figure score. Troha outlasted a record field of 683 entries to earn his first bracelet and $1,246,770. He was the ninth player to cash for a million or more so far at the series. Troha now has nearly $1.6 million in recorded tournament earnings to his name.

The final day of the $1,500 buy-in mixed Omaha eight-or-better event began with a handful of multiple bracelet winners still in contention. In the end, it was Bradley Anderson getting his maiden title. The Missoula, Montana resident overcame the field of 771 total entries, defeating Scott Abrams heads-up to earn $195,565 and his first bracelet.

Three More Online Bracelets Handed Out For Nevada and New Jersey Players

A trio of bracelets were handed out as part of the Nevada and New Jersey slate of WSOP Online events, with all three winners being first-time champions at the series. Sunday, June 26 played host to the $600 buy-in no-limit hold’em deepstack championship. William ‘swaggyb’ Corvino of Staten Island, New York overcame a field of 1,248 entries to secure the hardware and the top prize of $149,319.

The second event took place two days later, on June 28. The $500 no-limit hold’em turbo deepstack attracted an even larger field, with 1,746 entries building a $785,700 prize pool. The last player standing, or more likely sitting at a desk, was Martin Stoyanov. The Bulgarian, playing under the screen name ‘115FTW,’ earned his first bracelet and his first six-figure score ($132,783) as the champion.

LA resident Sane ‘Oohwee213’ Chung overcame a field of 2,162 entries in the $500 no-limit deepstack for $149,729. This was by far the largest recorded score ever for Chung, whose previous top payday of $1,475 came for a 19th-place finish in a $150 buy-in event at the CPPT Bicycle Casino series in 2013. ♠