When High Roller tournaments began to become popular a few years ago, there were many that believed they would be a paradigm shift. Some thought it would become impossible to make a play for the top of the All-Time Money List without regularly playing in them.
2016 may be the best example yet of the impact of high stake events on the money list. Below are the top 10 individual scores in 2016. With the exception of the WSOP Main Event, every one of them is high stakes tournaments.
Rick Salomon – $3.3 Million – $1 Million Big One for One Drop
Rick Saloman has only two live cashes in the last five years and they both happen to be in the Big One for One Drop. This time around, Salomon finished 3rd in $1 million buy-in event, earning $3.3 million.
Saloman has won $6.1 of his $6.3 million in career earnings in the Big One for One Drop.
Cliff Josephy – $3.45 Million – WSOP Main Event
Cliff Josephy came into the November Nine as the chip leader and many in the poker world were rooting for JohnnyBax to take down the title. He fell short of that goal, but the $3.45 million prize is a nice consolation for third place.
So that’s a 3rd and a 1st for Josephy in the Main Event. He backed Joe Cada in the 2009 Main Event.
Fedor Holz – $3.46 Million – $200,000 NL Hold’em Triton Super High Roller Series (WPT)
Fedor Holz literally kicked off 2016 with a $3.46 million win in the $200,000 NL Hold’em event at the WPT National series in the Philippines. This event was part of the Triton Super High Roller Series and set the pace the year.
Ironically, the top two finishers in this event would also finish in the top two spots in both the CardPlayer and GPI Player of the Year Race.
Fedor Holz – $3.5 Million – $300,000 Super High Roller Bowl
On paper, Fedor Holz won $3.5 million for finishing 2nd in the Poker Central $300,000 Super High Roller Bowl. The reality is that he chopped the first place prize with the eventual winner.
Amazingly, this wasn’t even Holz’s biggest score of 2016.
Gordon Vayo – $4.66 Million – WSOP Main Event
Gordon Vayo is probably happy that most people don’t remember second place after his brutal heads-up performance in the Main Event. Then again, after earning $4.66 million, he may care what we think.
The craziest thing about his runner-up finish is that it is just the 6th largest prize of 2016.
Fedor Holz – $4.98 Million – $111,111 One Drop High Roller (WSOP)
2016 was so nice that Fedor Holz got on this list twice. Make that thrice. Holz won his first career bracelet by winning the One Drop High Roller at the 2016 WSOP. This victory netted him a cool $4.98 million.
Not only was this the largest score of his live career but it put him in a position where he could “retire” from the game. Of course, by retirement we mean he proceeded to win over $3 million more in live and online poker tournaments by the end of 2016.
Rainer Kempe – $5 Million – $300,000 Super High Roller Bowl
Rainer Kempe won the Poker Central $300,000 Super High Roller Bowl for $5 million. We mentioned earlier that he chopped the prize money with good friend Fedor Holz, so the $5 million is what the record books will show is.
If this were a non-Big One year, Kempe would have the 2nd largest prize of the year. Instead, he is 4th.
Anatoly Gurtovy – $5.98 Million – $1 Million Big One For One Drop
Anatoly Gurtovy is the runner-up in the 2016 Big One for One Drop. This year’s event drew a smaller crowd than the previous two due to the exclusion of “pro players.” Despite the ban, Gurtovy still grew his career earnings by a factor of 10.
Qui Nguyen – $8 Million – WSOP Main Event
Qui Nguyen should have won the biggest prize in 2016. The winner of the WSOP Main Event is the World Champion of Poker and such an event should be the biggest prize of the year.
This time around, Nguyen has to settle for being second best – at least in prize money. He came out of nowhere to win $8 million and become the newest ambassador for the game.
Elton Tsang – $12.48 Million – $1 Million Big One for One Drop
The winner of the bi-annual Big One for One Drop took down the largest individual prize of 2016. Prior to this win, Tsang had a reasonable resume but this win instantly put him atop China’s All-Time Money list and 23rd on the Global All Time Money List.
Five Events Produce Top 10 Earners in 2016
What’s perhaps the most insane fact about this list is that it was compiled from the top finishers of five tournaments. Four of the five events had a buy-in of $111,111 or more.
If you look at the 2016 Money List, you will see that 20 players won $3 million. There were 45 players with $2 million in earnings and 104 players earned at least $1 million.
For better or worse, high stake poker tournaments have skewed the live tournament economy to the point where it is impossible to get to the top of the All-Time Money List without playing them.