The Past Week in Poker, November 22nd to November 28th, 2021: Recapping All the Action From the Poker World

WSOP Logo on Right

No event means quite as much to the game of poker as the World Series of Poker, and it made its grand return to live-action in 2021. Over the past month or so, the WSOP held dozens of tournaments of all shapes and sizes for the world’s best poker players.

It was a welcome return to the tables after the action in the WSOP had been mostly online in 2020.

It will also turn out to be a historic World Series of Poker, as it’s going to be the last at the Rio for the foreseeable future. The announcement was made a couple of weeks ago that the event would be moving to a pair of Caesar’s properties (Bally’s and Paris) on the Las Vegas Strip.

And the WSOP will also be returning to a spring schedule as well in 2022 (at least tentatively).

Closing Out The WSOP

What was so much fun about this year’s WSOP was how nicely it was balanced between the familiar names and the surprising performers. It seemed that each new event brought with it another interesting angle. Here’s a quick recap of some of the top stories we witnessed in the 2021 World Series of Poker:

WSOP Logo and Binions and Rio Background

  • Germany’s Koray Aldemir managed to capture the Main Event and bag $8 million in the process. Aldemir built a big lead coming into the final table, but he actually briefly lost that lead to American “Home Game Hero” George Holmes. He rebounded and was able to capture the title on a memorable hand.
  • Aldemir also proved that he can win out over the Taxman as well. His recent move from Germany to Austria will allow him to avoid paying any taxes on his winnings. If he had still been living in Germany, he likely would have had to cough up around 40% of that $8 million purse.
  • Holmes may not have won the event, but he captured the imagination of the fans who were watching. Although he had cashed in the Main Event two years ago, he is not someone who usually plays in big tournaments. Yet his savvy play very nearly got him home against Aldemir before he finally relented.
  • Phil Mickelson enjoyed a World Series of Poker for the ages as he made it to seven different final tables in a single year, a new record. Mickelson added a victory as well in a H.O.R.S.E event, giving him his 16th bracelet, easily the most ever. What made this even more impressive was that Phil had most of his success this year in non-Texas Hold’em
  • It wouldn’t be Mickelson if he didn’t cause some controversy as well. He went on an expletive-filled rant when a hand didn’t go his way in one of his final table appearances, apologizing later for his actions. In addition, he also complained about the way that the WSOP Player of the Year race was scored, as that title once again eluded him despite his outstanding performance.
  • Speaking of that Player of the Year race, Josh Arieh came out on top. He wasn’t in the clear until the very final event when Ben Yu, who had to chance to catch him, came up a bit short. Arieh won two bracelets during the 2021 WSOP and also cashed multiple times as well.
  • Among the other big names competing throughout the WSOP, Daniel Negreanu enjoyed an excellent month of play. Kid Poker wasn’t able to come up with any bracelets, which was a bit of a disappointment. But he did end up with seven Top 10 finishes and wasn’t too far behind Arieh in the race for Player of the Year, ending up 3rd.
  • Old rivals Hellmuth and Negreanu nearly had a heads-up showdown at a final table. Both were in the final three of a Pot Limit Omaha event with a $50,000 buy-in, giving fans hopes that they might end up going head to head. But they were denied by Jeremy Ausmus, who ended up outlasting them with Hellmuth in second and Negreanu in 3rd.
  • Negreanu also pulled off an unlikely feat not very long after that third-place effort. He entered an event later that night and ended up 3rd in that one as well. That’s pretty impressive stamina, as he came up with two third-place finishes in a span of less than 24 hours.
  • Nobody has been hotter this year in high-roller events that Australia’s Michael Addamo, and he continued that streak with his World Series of Poker play. Addamo closed out the WSOP by winning the $100,000 buy-in final event. That gave him his second high-roller bracelet in this year’s WSOP and pushed him near $10 million in seasonal earnings.
  • Chris Moneymaker, the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event winner, made a nice return to the scene of his greatest triumph. After falling out of the limelight, he ended up being one of the last former champions to stay alive in this year’s Main Event. Moneymaker also rose pretty high in the chip lead at a couple of different moments early on in the action.
  • Speaking of grand returns, Doyle Brunson warmed a lot of hearts by playing in the Main Event. The 88-year-old pro with back-to-back Main Event titles already in his rear view managed to stick around for a bit despite some awful luck. Although he wasn’t able to cash, it was still an impressive performance by Brunson, showing he is still very much a threat on the felt.
  • For an event that’s been around as long as the World Series of Poker, it can be difficult for any new feats to be achieved. But Adam Friedman did just that when he captured the $10,000 Dealer’s Choice Championship. It was the third consecutive time that Friedman won this particular event, following up his titles in 2018 and 2019 (it wasn’t held in 2020), making the first back-to-back-to-back winner in that way in WSOP history.
  • In a $1,500 buy-in no limit event in the final days of action, Leo Margets came up with a win, her first bracelet ever. What made that even more notable was that she was the only woman who was able to come up with a win in an open event at this year’s WSOP. She ended up over $376k in purse for the victory.
  • Sticking with the finest female performances at the World Series of Poker, Dragana Lim was one of the more memorable players in the Main Event. Despite lacking in experience, she went on a run to finish 67th for a cash of nearly six figures. She also gained notoriety as well for planning to use her winnings to help fund a foundation for animals in Las Vegas.
  • Philanthropy was a big part of this year’s World Series of Poker, as a matter of fact. There was the way that the poker community rallied to pay the way of terminally ill part-time tournament enthusiast Michael Graydon to the Main Event. And Gershon Distenfeld, who won a $1,500 Hold’em shootout, donated his entire winnings from the event of over $204,000 to charity.
  • Perhaps the most memorable player of this year’s Main Event was Nicholas Rigby, a Pittsburgh resident who had a boisterous backing group as he maneuvered his way through the field. Rigby made noise with his wild strategies, such as betting feverishly with 2-3 as his hole cards. But it was a case where whatever works if fine, as he finished in 34th place for a healthy six-figure cash in.
  • Things didn’t always run smoothly in this year’s World Series if Poker, as there were issues with inexperienced dealers at some tables. On one occasion, a player attempted to forfeit all his remaining chips to another player at the table. The dealer, not realizing this was a major poker faux pas, was about to allow it when the other players at the table correctly objected.
  • Investors who staked players part of their earnings for the World Series of Poker did quite well if they made their choices correctly. Josh Arieh, Daniel Negreanu and Erik Seidel were among those who gave their backers some serious return on investment with their excellent play. Expect this practice to continue with greater frequency in years to come.

Wrapping It Up

The numbers that the World Series of Poker was able to produce this year ended up being pretty impressive. 127,245 entries, second-most ever in the event’s history, competed for 99 bracelets, which was a new WSOP record. At the end of the day, purse money of around $237.9 million was handed out, which was #3 on the all-time list.

WSOP Bracelet and Money

When you consider how the WSOP had to kind of dust itself following 2020’s absence of live play and try to rev up momentum again, it’s hard to see those numbers as anything other than a ringing success. It’s impossible to know right now for sure if next year’s event will be able to go off without a hitch. But if it can recapture some of 2021’s magic, it will do quite well.

Keep in mind as well that the poker play is continuing overseas with the World Series of Poker Europe, where bracelets started being handed out this past week. We’ll keep you posted about how all of that action goes down in the weeks to come. And in the meantime, we’ll be catching our collective breaths from all the WSOP excitement that just went down in Vegas.

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