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A Look At The Top Performers Of A Record-Breaking Year On The Poker Tournament Circuit

Find Out The Reason Why Justin Bonomo Didn't Win The POY Award After A $25M Year


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.