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Player of the Year Race: The Top Ten Tournament Poker Players of 2019

A Look At The Rest of the Top Contenders Behind POY Winner Stephen Chidwick

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The 2019 Card Player Player of the Year title was won by Stephen Chidwick, and you can read more about his incredible 2019 campaign in our in-depth recap of his impressive year. While Chidwick ultimately put together the best year of any player, he was just one of the many players that crushed the live tournament scene in 2019. The other nine players who finished inside the top ten combined for more than $46.8 million in POY-qualified scores this year, with 38 titles and 161 final-table finishes between them.

Before the 2020 race leaderboard begins to take shape, here is a recap of the incredible performances put together by the second through tenth-place finishers in the 2019 POY race, which is sponsored by Global Poker.

2. Alex Foxen
Total Points: 7,354
POY Earnings: $5,729,532
Titles: 2
Final Tables: 20

Alex Foxen Stephen Chidwick improved on his second-place finish in the 2018 POY race by finishing as this year’s outright winner. Incredibly, he was not the only player from the top three of 2018’s final standings to manage a better finish in 2019. Alex Foxen built on his third-place showing in 2018 to end this past year in second place. The 28-year-old poker pro from Cold Spring Harbor, NY put together his third straight finish inside the top 20, accumulating a career-high 20 POY-qualified final-table finishes.

Foxen also won two titles along the way. His first victory came in a $20,000 high roller event held at the World Poker Tour bestbet Bounty Scramble series. He earned $182,400 and 144 points for that win. His largest score of the year came in the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic $10,400 no-limit hold’em main event. Foxen outlasted a record field of 1,035 total entries to secure his first WPT title, the $1,694,995 top prize and a massive haul of 2,400 POY points.

All told, Foxen cashed for more than $5.7 million in POY-qualified events in 2019. He secured 15 scores of six-figures or more throughout the year, starting with a $651,980 payday for a runner-up showing in a $50,000 high roller at the PokerStars Carribean Adventure. Foxen’s incredible consistency earned him a total of 7,354 points on the year, which was ultimately just 130 points shy of Chidwick’s winning total of 7,484.

3. Sean Winter
Total Points: 6,679
POY Earnings: $3,942,037
Titles: 4
Final Tables: 17

Sean WinterJacksonville, Florida’s Sean Winter first put himself on the POY map with an incredible run at the U.S. Poker Open series early in the year. Winter made the top six in five of the ten tournaments held at the high roller series, with three top-three finishes and a title won along the way. Winter accumulated $747,900 in total earnings over an eight-day span at the USPO. The 1,435 points garnered there helped propel him inside the top ten in the early POY race standings.

While Winter accumulated plenty of big cashes in high roller events this year, the centerpiece of his 2019 campaign was his victory in the $3 million guaranteed $5,250 buy-in no-limit hold’em main event at the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open in August. He overcame a massive field of 809 total entries to secure the title, the $698,175 first-place prize, and 1,824 points.

With less than two weeks remaining in the year, Winter secured his fourth title of 2019 by taking down a $25,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em event at Bellagio’s Five Diamond series for $342,000 and 336 points. The buzzer-beating win helped secure Winter the third-place spot in the year-end rankings.

4. Sam Soverel
Total Points: 6,352
POY Earnings: $5,561,333
Titles: 7
Final Tables: 26

Sam SoverelSam Soverel ended this past year tied for two 2019 (POY-qualified) tournament records: the most titles won (7), and the most POY-qualified final-table finishes (26). He was tied with Soukha Kachittavong and Cary Katz, respectively, in those two categories.

The Floridian-born poker pro’s biggest score of the year came in a pair of $50,000 buy-in super high roller events at the World Series of Poker. He finished third from a field of 110 total entries in the first for $640,924 and 680 points, then followed that up with a runner-up showing from a 123-entry field later in the summer for another $994,072 and 935 points.

Soverel also proved to be quite the closer in 2019, securing 17 of his 26 final-table finishes in the last four months of the year. The most impressive stretch came in November when Soverel went on a tear at the Poker Masters high roller series. He made the money in seven of the ten events held to secure the Poker Masters Purple Jacket, accumulating $1,396,800 in earnings and 1,619 points over the 10-day festival. When the dust cleared at the end of Soverel’s late push up the leaderboard, he had ultimately landed in fourth place.

5. Kahle Burns
Total Points: 5,804
POY Earnings: $4,118,003
Titles: 4
Final Tables: 15

Kahle BurnsKahle Burns became the first player from his home country of Australia to finish inside the top five in the POY race over the past decade, topping the previous high finish of Oliver Spiedel, who finished tenth in 2012. The 31-year-old poker pro from Teesdale, Australia secured more than half of his $7.8 million in career earnings over the past 12 months, cashing for over $4.1 million with four titles won along the way.

Burns’ marquee accomplishment of the year was winning his first two WSOP gold bracelets at the WSOP Europe in October. He won the €25,500 buy-in high roller for $662,540 USD, 672 points, and his first piece of WSOP hardware. He managed to earn his second just four days later by taking down the €2,500 short deck event for another $113,036 USD and 468 points.

Burns made nine of his 15 final tables in the last three months of the year, and as a result, was catapulted inside the top five in the rankings by the time 2020 rolled around.

6. Bryn Kenney
Total Points: 5,762
POY Earnings: $9,709,698
Titles: 5
Final Tables: 8

Bryn KenneyBryn Kenney put together a legendary year on the live circuit in 2019. He made eight POY-qualified final tables and managed to convert those opportunities to five titles won.

The 33-year-old poker pro cashed for a staggering $9.7 million in POY-qualified events in the past year, but it was a huge score in an invitational event that truly set his year apart. Kenney added a record-setting $20.6 million to his career totals by striking a heads-up deal in the highest buy-in tournament in poker history: the £1,050,00 Triton Million Charity Invitational. Due to the invitational format, the event didn’t qualify for the POY race, but it still helped propel Kenney to the top spot on poker’s all-time money list with $56.2 million in lifetime earnings.

While that score didn’t count toward the POY, Kenney still managed to lock up a few massive victories that did, including winning the $10,600 AUD Aussie Millions main event, for $916,271 USD and 2,208 points.

Kenney also emerged victorious in two of the largest events at the Triton Poker Super High Roller Series Montenegro. He took down the $500,000 HKD buy-in no-limit hold’em six-max event for $1,459,900 USD, and then three days later won the $1,000,000 HKD main event for another $2,769,000 USD. Kenney took a quality over quantity approach to final-table finishes in 2019, and it resulted in a sixth-place finish in the standings.

7. Cary Katz
Total Points: 5,729
POY Earnings: $8,037,828
Titles: 4
Final Tables: 26

Cary KatzAt 49-year-old, Cary Katz is one of the elder statesman of the super high roller circuit. The successful businessman and founder of poker streaming service Poker GO may be categorized as an amateur player, but his results on the felt tell a different tale. Katz ended 2019 tied with Sam Soverel for the most final-table finishes of the year with 26. He won four titles and cashed for more than $8 million in 2019, bringing his lifetime live tournament earnings to $26 million.

The marquee achievement of Katz’s year was undeniably his victory in the £252,500 buy-in Super High Roller Bowl London. He defeated Ali Imsirovic heads-up to secure the title, the top prize of $2,541,000 USD and 240 POY points. It was the largest payday of Katz’s career.

His other seven-figure score of the year also came in super high roller event. Katz took down the $100,000 AUD buy-in event at the Aussie Millions to earn $1,066,867 USD and 600 points. Katz’s consistency at the highest stakes in the tournament world helped him secure his fourth straight finish inside the top 20 on the POY leaderboard.

8. Ali Imsirovic
Total Points: 5,692
POY Earnings: $4,610,836
Titles: 4
Final Tables: 21

Ali ImsirovicIn 2018 Ali Imsirovic earned himself the unofficial honor of ‘rookie of the year’ in the high stakes tournament world. This past year saw him avoid any sophomore slump, as he accrued more than $4.6 million in cashes throughout 2019.

The 24-year-old poker pro made a total of 21 POY-qualified final tables, locking up four victories as he went. Five of his ten largest career cashes were secured over the past 12 months, including his first-ever seven-figure score: Imsirovic earned $1,089,000 as the runner-up finisher in the Super High Roller Bowl London.

Imsirovic now has more than $8.6 million in lifetime live earnings, despite only recording his first cash in the final months of 2015. The young Bosnian-American is sure to be a player to watch in the POY race for years to come.

9. Joseph Cheong
Total Points: 5,447
POY Earnings: $1,458,245
Titles: 3
Final Tables: 12

Joseph CheongJoseph Cheong announced himself to the live poker tournament world in 2010 by finishing third in the WSOP main event for more than $4.1 million. In the years that have followed, he has managed to remain a consistent force on the live tournament circuit, finishing inside the top 50 in the POY race five times.

This year saw Cheong earn his first WSOP gold bracelet, outlasting an absolutely massive field of 6,214 entries to win the $1,000 buy-in no-limit hold’en ‘Double Stack’ event for $687,782 and 1,320 POY points.

Cheong won two other titles and made a total of 13 final tables in 2019, adding more than $1.4 million to his career totals. As a result, he managed his third career top-ten finish in the POy standings, having placed ninth in 2010 and sixth in 2012.

10. Rainer Kempe
Total Points: 5,333
POY Earnings: $3,706,408
Titles: 5
Final Tables: 16

Rainer KempeOver the past five years, few tournament players have been more consistent than German poker pro Rainer Kempe. He has finished no lower than 34th place in the year-end POY rankings over that half-decade period, with an average final standing of just lower than 14th place.

Kempe recorded two of his five largest career scores in 2019, both in the first month of the year. He took down a $50,000 high roller at the PCA on Jan. 9 for $908,100 and 612 POY points. On Jan. 26 he emerged victorious in the $25,000 AUD high roller at the Aussie Millions for another $595,510 and 1,008 points.

All told, Kempe won five titles and made a total of 16 final tables in his latest strong showing in the POY race. He’s a safe bet to be in contention yet again in 2020.