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The Best Of The Rest: Isaac Haxton Falls Just Short Of POY

by Erik Fast |  Published: Feb 21, 2024

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The POY race may not have had a photo finish, but Bin Weng was far from the only superstar performer on the tournament circuit this past year. The other nine players inside the top ten in the final standings combined for more than $85.6 million in collective POY earnings, with 199 final tables and 43 titles won along the way.

2. Isaac Haxton
Total Points: 10,013
POY Earnings: $15,945,975
Titles: 7
Final Tables: 27

2023 was the best year yet on the live tournament circuit for one of the most accomplished players in the game in Isaac Haxton. Everywhere you looked, his much-discussed mask and red bloom t-shirt could be seen in yet another winner photo.

The 38-year-old American poker pro ended the year with nearly $48.8 million in career tournament earnings, good for eighth place on poker’s all-time money list. He accrued the most earnings of any player in 2023, cashing for a staggering sum of $15.9 million across 27 POY-qualified final tables. Haxton also ended the year in a tie for the most titles won with Danny Tang with seven trophies.

Haxton managed an astonishing seven separate seven-figure cashes this year, accounting for the majority of the 13 such scores he has recorded in his career. He had already captured three titles by early February, including taking down the $50,000 PokerGO Cup finale and two $100,000 buy-in events at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure.

Spring saw Haxton add two more titles, winning a $25,000 event at the U.S. Poker Open in April and a €25,000 event at the EPT Monte Carlo series in May. The summer brought Haxton his first World Series of Poker bracelet. He bested a 264-entry field in a $25,000 high roller in Las Vegas to finally secure the hardware along with a top prize of nearly $1.7 million.

Then Haxton came out on top in the $300,000 Super High Roller Bowl VIII, earning more than $2.7 million and his seventh title of the year. This was his second SHRB victory, having also won the fifth running of the nosebleed-stakes affair back in 2018.

Haxton was the only player other than Weng to surpass 10,000 POY points in 2023. While he finished as the runner-up in this race, he ended atop the final standings in the high-stakes-centric PokerGO Tour Player of the Year rankings.

3. Jose Ignacio ‘Nacho’ Barbero
Total Points: 9,536
POY Earnings: $10,290,606
Titles: 3
Final Tables: 17

Argentina’s Jose Ignacio ‘Nacho’ Barbero put together by far his best year yet on the circuit in 2023. He came into last year with just shy of $5 million in lifetime tournament earnings to his name and proceeded to cash 41 times, accumulating $11,802,589 in prize money along the way. Nearly $10.3 million of that came from his 17 POY-qualified final-table finishes this year.

Barbero recorded eight of his top-ten biggest scores in 2023, including his first trio of seven-figure paydays. The bracelet winner started the year off strong by finishing fourth from a field of 1,014 entries in the $25,000 PokerStars Players No-Limit Hold’em Championship for $1.5 million.

His two largest career scores came as a pair of runner-up finishes in high-roller events. In August he took home more than $3.4 million as the runner-up in the Triton London $200,000 buy-in event. A couple of months later he placed second in a $100,000 Triton Monte Carlo tournament for nearly $2.2 million.

Barbero recorded three victories on the year, taking down a $15,000 event at the Triton Vietnam stop, a $10,000 pot-limit Omaha event at the PGT PLO Series, and a $10,000 tournament at the Summer ARIA High Roller Series.

At the risk of being a bit cheesy, it will be difficult for Nacho to ever top this performance.

4. Chris Brewer
Total Points: 9,455
POY Earnings: $13,489,681
Titles: 5
Final Tables: 26

The very first live high roller cash made by Chris Brewer came in December of 2020. Since then, the former college distance runner has proven to be one of the most consistent grinders in the game, finishing inside the top 10 of the POY race in each of the past three years. He finished ninth after his first full year on the high-stakes circuit and backed that up with a 10th-place showing in 2022.

The third year was the charm for Brewer, though, as 2023 saw him record the second-highest POY earnings of any player. He cashed 51 times, making 26 final tables and winning five titles on the year. The $14.4 million in total cashes he recorded on the year account for more than 68 percent of his lifetime earnings of over $21 million.

In addition to securing his highest POY finish yet, Brewer also earned his first two WSOP bracelets, and nearly a third. His first saw him top a field of 69 entries in the $250,000 high-roller for a career-high payday of nearly $5.3 million. Later in the series he also came out on top in the prestigious $10,000 no-limit deuce-to-seven lowball championship for another $368,000. He also finished third in the $25,000 heads-up championship.

Brewer’s top six scores all came in the past 12 months, including a $1.4 million cash for a top-four finish in a $125,000 Triton Monte Carlo event and just over $1 million for a win in a €50,000 buy-in at the EPT Paris festival.

5. Ren Lin
Total Points: 9,380
POY Earnings: $5,922,976
Titles: 3
Final Tables: 26

Nine of Ren Lin’s biggest paydays came during his 2023 campaign. He saved his best for last, taking down a $50,000 buy-in WPT Alpha8 high roller at the season-ending WPT World Championship festival at Wynn Las Vegas for his very first seven-figure cash. He walked away with just over $1 million for that victory after outlasting a field of 69 entries.

That was one of three titles that Lin locked up, with his first coming back in March in a $10,500 event at the U.S. Poker Open. His second was in a $25,000 pot-limit Omaha high roller at the Hard Rock Poker Showdown in April.

All told, Lin accumulated more than $5.9 million in POY earnings across 26 final tables. That put him in a tie with Chris Brewer for the third most final-table finishes of any player on the circuit last year.

6. Danny Tang
Total Points: 8,980
POY Earnings: $10,573,175
Titles: 7
Final Tables: 23

No one won more POY-qualified titles in 2023 than Danny Tang. The Hong Kong native had an incredible run on the high roller scene, finding particular success in Triton Poker events. He was no stranger to deep runs on that tour but had always come up just a bit short before last year.

He finally broke through with his win at the Triton Vietnam stop in March, taking down a $25,000 short deck tournament for $427,000. Incredibly, by the end of 2023, he had won four more titles to put himself in a tie with legend of the game Phil Ivey for the second most Triton trophies with five.

Tang won a $50,000 short deck event at Triton Cyprus for $750,000, along with the 50,000 no-limit hold’em turbo event for another $545,000. He then banked $1.6 million for taking down the $60,000 high roller at Triton London, and another $1.58 million for winning the $50,000 high roller at Triton Monte Carlo.

Tang now has more than $24.3 million in lifetime earnings after an eight-figure outing on the circuit in 2023.

7. Stephen Chidwick
Total Points: 8,779
POY Earnings: $8,722,628
Titles: 5
Final Tables: 24

If there was a Player of the Decade award, Stephen Chidwick would be the winner. He has finished inside the top 50 in the POY standings for nine years straight, with seven consecutive top-25 showings. In that stretch he has finished atop the standings twice in 2019 and 2022, with a second-place finish in 2018.

The amazingly consistent high-stakes crusher and bracelet winner from Deal, England was back at it again in 2023, recording 24 final-table finishes and five victories on his way to a seventh-place showing.

With more than $8.7 million in POY earnings on the year, Chidwick increased his lifetime total to more than $55 million, good for fourth place on poker’s all-time money list.

Two of his 11 seven-figure tournament cashes came in 2023. Chidwick finished fifth in a $125,000 buy-in Triton London event for $1,260,000 and second in a $75,000 Triton Vietnam for $1,245,000. He most notably won the 2023 Poker Masters Purple Jacket, topping the points race in that PGT high roller series with more than $1.1 million in earnings across four final tables and one victory.

8. Jason Koon
Total Points: 8,592
POY Earnings: $12,395,033
Titles: 6
Final Tables: 18

Jason Koon has about as long a list of poker accomplishments as any player, but among his extensive résumé of victories around the globe, his domination of Triton Poker events stands apart as one of his most noteworthy achievements.

All six of his 2023 wins came in Triton events, giving him a massive lead on the nosebleed-stakes tour’s all-time title leaderboard. He now has 10 total Triton trophies, which is twice as many as his nearest competition in Phil Ivey and Danny Tang. His six wins in 2023 are more than any other player’s lifetime total!

The 38-year-old American poker pro accumulated 18 final-table finishes during the year, cashing for nearly $12.4 million in those events. His largest score came in a $100,000 buy-in main event at the Triton Cyprus stop. He beat out a 101-entry field to earn more than $2.4 million.

Koon now has more than $26.2 million in earnings across 41 cashes on the tour, which accounts for a sizable chunk of his $55.3 million in total career scores. The bracelet winner is the third-highest-earning tournament player in the game, trailing only Justin Bonomo ($65,537,214) and Bryn Kenney ($65,368,379).

9. Alex Foxen
Total Points: 7,281
POY Earnings: $3,560,567
Titles: 3
Final Tables: 24

Like Stephen Chidwick, Alex Foxen has proven to be a staple near the top of the year-end rankings recently. The 32-year-old American poker pro hasn’t yet won the honors, but has now ended inside the top 10 for six straight years, including back-to-back fourth-place finishes in 2021 and 2022.

The former college football player ended up in ninth place this year thanks to 24 final-table showings and three title runs. While he cashed for more than $3.5 million last year, none of his deep runs managed to crack his personal top 10 in terms of largest paydays.

Foxen’s largest cash in 2023 was a fourth-place finish in a $50,000 high roller at the WSOP for $512,824. This only counted as the 12th-biggest score for Foxen, who is a bracelet winner and WPT champion.

10. Quan Zhou
Total Points: 6,743
POY Earnings: $4,756,221
Titles: 4
Final Tables: 14

Quan Zhou has live tournament results dating back to 2011, but he has never before had a year like 2023. Eight of his 10 top paydays came in 2023, including his four largest tournament cashes overall.

The Chinese player made 14 final tables and won four titles this past year, accumulating enough POY points along the way to end up in 10th place in the final standings. His first-ever seven-figure score came in a $125,000 buy-in Triton Monte Carlo tournament, where he finished fifth from a field of 135 entries to walk away with $1,165,000. He would also take second in the series pot-limit Omaha event for another $269,000.

As far as titles, the largest victory for Zhou was a $535,000 win in a €10,000 PLO tournament at the Grand Big Wrap festival at King’s Resort Rozvadov. Zhou would add another PLO title in December at the WPT World Championships for $282,000. ♠