There were 104 poker tournament millionaires made in 2016 and 20 of those players won $3 million or more in live tournaments. We’ve already looked at the top players in 2016 but now it is time to look forward to next year and speculate on the “players to watch.”
Below is a list of 9 poker pros that the world will be watching in 2017.
Justin Bonomo had a career year in 2016, earning $3.58 million. His year was riddled with near misses at final tables. At the 2016 WSOP, he made four final tables with two 3rd place finishes and two runner-up finishes. The best of those runs was his runner-up finish in the $50,000 Poker Player’s Championship.
Bonomo also finished runner-up in the HK$ 500,000 NL Super High Roller at the 2016 Asia Championship of Poker for $721,392. His last near miss was at the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic where he finished 5th.
How uncomfortable or agitated does it make you when a poker player stares directly at you the whole time you are in pots against them?— Justin Bonomo (@JustinBonomo) December 15, 2016
His year wasn’t all near misses. Bonomo did manage two victories in 2016. He won an Aria High Roller event back in February and NL preliminary event at the EPT Grand Final in Monte Carlo.
After a year filled with near misses in major tournaments, the poker world will be watching in 2017 to see if he can take one down.
Relatively speaking, Vanessa Selbst had a horrible 2016. Winning just $115k in live events, Selbst was a non-factor in most events. If you look at her past stats, she may be on course for a monster year in 2017.
Back in 2009, Selbst just posted $103k in earnings – the low point of her career. The following year she posted $2.8 million in earnings – her career best to this point. If history repeats itself, Selbst could be one of the top earners in 2017 and definitely tops among female players.
Jason and Natasha Mercier are poker’s newest power couple. Both had an epic 2016 WSOP. Jason won two bracelets and Natasha finished 3rd in the $5k NL. Jason claims that he is freerolling for a while after his prop bets, so don’t be surprised to see him play more events in 2017.
Was able to negotiate this during NFL commercial breaks . Merry Christmas everyone 🙂 👪 pic.twitter.com/UzvLxAmZZV— Natasha Mercier (@natashabarbour) December 25, 2016
Natasha is a rising player in her own right and after back-to-back years with WSOP final tables, she may break through for her first bracelet in 2017. If both Jason and Natasha could manage to win a WSOP bracelet next year, they would be the first married couple to do so since Dr. Max Stern and wife Maria did so back in 1997.
Fedor Holz would be the undisputed king of 2016 if not for David Peters. Finishing the year with $7.27 million, Peters overtook Holz for both the CardPlayer and GPI Player of the Year titles at the last minute with a 3rd place finish in the EPT Prague Main Event.
He had a career year that included his first bracelet win at the 2016 World Series of Poker. 2016 was his second consecutive career year in terms of earnings and it is hard to imagine him improving on that total. If anyone can do it, he can.
Peters has a tendency to play in and run well at all buy-in levels. As such, he will be a player to watch whenever he shows up. Based on 2016, we can expect him to continue his “home run or strikeout” approach to tournaments.
File this under the “thanks Captain Obvious” file. After posting the second largest single year total for a live tournament player this year, Holz is going to be on the radar in any event he chooses to play.
Even if he is half as successful as he was in 2016, he could finish the year as one of the top earners. Some will argue that 2016 is a fluke and that he will come back to earn in 2017. Time will tell.
That was my last tournament of the year – gg 2016 🌞 pic.twitter.com/vYFKIOjYK3— Fedor Holz (@CrownUpGuy) November 6, 2016
Poker fans love a comeback story, provided the player isn’t Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson or Russ Hamilton. Gus Hansen is the ultimate comeback story in 2017. He claims that he will return to live tournaments on a regular basis and plans to win one.
If Hansen plays well in 2017, he will be one of the year’s top stories. Some would like to see him return to the online arena and see if he can climb out of his $20 million hole. Others would prefer he stick to games that he can beat in order to make himself relevant in the pro poker world once again.
Phil Ivey (If He Plays)
Phil Ivey only cashed once in 2016 and still managed to finish 186th on the 2016 Money List. He largely took a pass in 2016 and it remains to be seen how much he plays next year. Personally, I believe we will see more of him at the tables because this is his Hall of Fame year.
He may also decide to return to poker in order to distance himself from his recent losses over his edge sorting activities. Even playing a somewhat limited schedule, Ivey can still make headlines because he’s just that damn good.
Play a few events, win a couple of million and a bracelet and then finish the year with an induction into the Poker Hall of Fame. Sounds like a full 2017 to me.
I won’t lie when I say that a bit of personal bias led me to put Mikey on this list. After a two year stint where he hardly played, Matusow had a decent 2016 WSOP with 5 cashes and a final table near miss in the $10k 2-7 Lowball Championship.
I play 2 or 3 nl holdem tourneys a yr & after playing 4 days last week ill put my nl holdem skills against anyone! I knew everyones hands!— Mike Matusow (@themouthmatusow) December 11, 2016
Matusow is the epitome of streaky poker. When he is focused and playing well, he is one of the game’s top players. Otherwise, he is good for entertainment value at least. With the New Year, we can all hope that Mikey is playing well and can make a few deep runs. A winning Mike Matusow is good for poker.
Maria Ho had her second best year in live tournaments in 2016. She cashed six times at the 2016 WSOP with a 4th place finish in the $3k NL Shootout and a mid-deep run in the WSOP Main Event. She also made the final table of the WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star Main Event, finishing 6th.
On to day 2 of the Milly Maker with a short stack because my Aces blah blah blah blah blah you know how the story goes.— Maria Ho (@MariaHochips) June 12, 2016
Ho has been on the cusps of breaking through for a major poker title for the last few years. She is arguably one of the best female players in the game today and it is a matter of when, not if she will win her first major title.