This “Greatest WSOP Player of the Year” list is a look at some of the most dominant World Series of Poker runs in the 16-year history of the WSOP Player of the Year (POY) award. Many in the poker community were quite simply glued to monitoring the leaderboard throughout the WSOP and WSOP Europe this year.
The 2019 WSOP offered poker aficionados one of the closest and most compelling POY races ever, with fans around the world, in the UK in particular, placing bets on sites like BettingLounge on their favorite players. Robert Campbell narrowly edging out past POYs Shaun Deeb (2018) and Daniel Negreanu (2004, 2014) when all was said and done. It took all 97 eligible bracelet events and a much buzzed-about correction in point calculations in the WSOP aftermath to decide the eventual winner.
Races of any nature are always competitive, and Campbell’s victory was one of the most compelling we’ve seen since the POY distinction was introduced in 2004. With that in mind, below we rank the five most impressive runs to the Player of the Year award, from 2004 to present.
5. Jeffrey Lisandro (2009)
- BRACELETS: 3
- FINAL TABLES: 4
- CASHES: 6
- EARNINGS: $807,521
Jeff Lisandro is one of two players on the POY list to have won three bracelets in a single WSOP, and that accomplishment alone makes the Australian stud specialist a must-include on this list.
Lisandro won all three of his 2009 bracelets in stud variants, with the wins coming in $10,000 World Championship Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo ($431,656), $2,500 Seven Card Razz ($188,390) and $1,500 Seven Card Stud ($124,975).
The legendary stud player also made a fourth final table appearance, finishing ninth in the $10,000 World Championship Seven Card Stud event.
With six career WSOP bracelets, Lisandro is one of the most accomplished players in WSOP history, and his 2009 run is one for the record books.
4. George Danzer (2014)
- BRACELETS: 3
- FINAL TABLES: 5
- CASHES: 10
- EARNINGS: $878,993
Much like Lisandro, George Danzer makes this list as one of two WSOP POY award winners to take home three bracelets in a single year.
Like Deeb, Danzer has proven to be a master of several different poker variants. Danzer’s trio of 2014 bracelets came in $10,000 Seven Card Razz ($294,792), $10,000 Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo ($352,696), and the A$5,000 Eight-Game Mixed event ($74,760) at the 2014 WSOP Asia-Pacific, held at the Crown Casino in Melbourne, Australia.
Danzer’s 10 total cashes also included final table appearances in the $10,000 Limit 2-7 Triple Draw event ($70,308) and A$ 1,650 Eight-Game Dealer’s Choice ($6,499).
The German poker crusher also cashed in Omaha/Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo mixed, No Limit Hold’em, and Pot Limit Omaha events at the 2014 WSOP.
3. Ben Lamb (2011)
- BRACELETS: 1
- FINAL TABLES: 4
- CASHES: 5
- EARNINGS: $5,352,970
Ben Lamb boasts the second-highest money for a Player of the Year in the series in which they won the award. The then 26-year-old Lamb put together one of the best WSOP runs we’ve ever seen in 2011, coming away with $5,352,970 in total prize money.
Lamb cashed in five events that year, a low number in comparison to Deeb’s 20 cashes in 2018, or 2017 POY winner Chris Ferguson’s 23 cashes. All five cashes, however, brought in big money for ‘Benba’.
Four of Lamb’s five cashes came in tournaments with a $10,000 or higher buy-in, including his third-place finish in the 2011 Main Event for a career-best $4,021,138 payday.
The Main Event showing was one of four six-figure plus cashes for Lamb in 2011. Lamb took home his first and only career WSOP bracelet with a win in the $10,000 Pot Limit Omaha Championship ($814,436).
He also posted a runner-up finish in the $3,000 Pot Limit Omaha event ($259,918), an eighth-place finish in the $50,000 Poker Players Championship ($201,338), and a twelfth-place showing in the $10,000 No Limit Hold’em Six Handed Championship.
2. Shaun Deeb (2018)
Shaun Deeb, 2018
- BRACELETS: 2
- FINAL TABLES: 5
- CASHES: 20
- EARNINGS: $2,534,511
Shaun Deeb’s run at the 2018 WSOP is one of the greatest ever, with Deeb winning the POY award by a wide margin in the point standings.
Deeb’s landslide win in the POY chase came as the result of 20 cashes, five final tables and two bracelet wins. The first-place finishes, which brought Deeb’s number of career of WSOP bracelets up to four, came in the $25,000 Pot-Limit Omaha High Roller ($1,402,683) and $10,000 No Limit Six-Handed Big Blind Ante ($814,179).
Deeb narrowly missed out on a third bracelet at the 2018 WSOP Europe, finishing second in the €1,500 Pot Limit Omaha/ No Limit Hold’em Mixed event ($73,410). His other final table appearance came in a fourth-place showing in the $1,500 No Limit 2-7 Lowball Draw event ($36,330).
Perhaps the biggest testament to Deeb’s overall ability is his results across all of the different variants of poker. His 20 cashes at the 2018 WSOP included money finishes in No-Limit Hold’em, Omaha Hi-Lo, Mixed Triple Draw Lowball, No-Limit 2-7 Lowball, Limit 2-7 Lowball, the $50,000 Poker Players Championship, Mixed Big Bet, and Pot-Limit Omaha.
Deeb’s 2018 WSOP total earnings of $2,534,511 is the third highest total of all time for a POY winner.
1. Greg Merson (2012)
- BRACELETS: 2
- FINAL TABLES: 2
- CASHES: 4
- EARNINGS: $9,755,180
The 2012 Main Event champ tops this list, and Merson is the only player in WSOP history to win the Main Event and Player of the Year distinction in the same year.
Merson’s total earnings of $9,755,180 at the 2012 WSOP are by far the highest of any POY in the 16-year history of the award. Most of that total came from his win in the Main Event, in which Merson topped a field of 6,598 players and took home the grand prize of $8,531,853.
The Main Event championship was Merson’s second bracelet win of the summer, as just two days before the start of the Main Event Merson took down the $10,000 No Limit Hold’em Six-Handed event for another seven-figure payday, earning $1,136,197 in the process.
Other cash finishes for Merson at the 2012 WSOP included a fifth-place showing in the $2,500 No Limit Hold’em Four-Handed event ($70,280), and 21st place in the $3,000 No Limit Hold’em Six-Handed event ($16,850).
Ed. note: All images are courtesy of wsop.com. For all player photos used, credits are watermarked.