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"The Nuts" is a monthly feature that takes a look at the best poker players in the world. This feature aims to produce a list of the best players of the moment. Our panel includes ESPN.com's trio of poker contributors (myself, Gary Wise and Bernard Lee), ESPNDeportes.com poker editor Nahuel Ponce, Bluff magazine editor-in-chief Lance Bradley and senior writer Jessica Welman, PokerNews editor-in-chief Matthew Parvis and tournament reporter Don Peters, Poker News Daily's Dan Cypra, and Poker Road's Court Harrington.
There's no doubt that this is the rankings I've been waiting for. Sixteen WSOP events have been completed at the time of this month's poll and we've seen some incredible players prove they are at the top of their games. Michael Mizrachi's debut on this list is completely due to his current WSOP dominance. After winning the $50,000 Players' Championship, Mizrachi then made another final table that should be enough to keep him in player of the year contention. However, the current player of the year leader, Russian Vladimir Shchemelev, has three final tables to his name already and just barely missed being ranked this month.
Besides the 2010 WSOP, the other major results that weighed in on these rankings were from the Spring Championship of Online Poker. One of the biggest online tournament series of the year took place during May and resulted in numerous successes by some familiar screen names. Another PokerStars-sponsored event has continued to produce results for Jose "Nacho" Barbero, who has become quite the poker phenom. Barbero has won back-to-back Latin America Poker Tour events and a SCOOP title, but fell on the bubble of this month's rankings. He's now at the WSOP and we're waiting for him to continue his good run in Vegas before adding him to the top 10.
Falling again in the rankings this month is Daniel Negreanu. "Kid Poker" just can't seem to get anything going recently and noted in a blog that he's 0-for-11 during the start of the Series. It's been a really rough stretch for Negreanu, who anxiously looks forward to each event and another chance at his opponents.
The top four players remained the same this month, but it's now a battle between Tom Dwan and Jason Mercier for No. 2. Dwan beat out more than 2,000 players to finish runner-up in Event 11 and despite his lack of a WSOP presence last year, he came to win a bracelet in 2010. Mercier hasn't played a full WSOP schedule to this point, but he's going to be part of the action from here on out. Eric Baldwin just continues to make deep runs and enjoyed being the final pro left standing in the 4,345-player Event 3.
Who else made this month's top 10? Here you go:
On the bubble:
Faraz Jaka, recent guest on ESPN Inside Deal, couldn't have missed the final spot by a smaller margin. Jaka already cashed in the WSOP, advancing to the second round in the $5,000 shootout, and will be playing a variety of events as he pursues his first WSOP bracelet. Alexander Kostritsyn, the 10th-place finisher in the $50,000 Players' Championship, was immediately after Jaka and he's been hanging around this ranking for the past few months. I'm not sure what it will take for the entire panel to move him up, but he definitely has the potential. Also moving up, but remaining outside of the top 10, is Phil Hellmuth. Hellmuth finished 15th in his first WSOP cash and his new positive outlook is really starting to surprise people. We're all waiting for the Hellmuth blowup, but it hasn't appeared yet. Prediction time: John Juanda will be in the top 10 next month.
Bradley: With only one-third of the WSOP in the books I think it's safe to say this list could -- and maybe should -- look a lot different next month. Those on the way down are going to need a decent result while others may emerge from nowhere to make a name for themselves and grab a lower rung.Feldman: First things first. Congrats to Lance on the birth of his daughter! You'll be missed at the WSOP this year, but we're happy to hear that everything is going great at home.
This wasn't quite the shakeup I was expecting, as I wrote in this section last month, but I think we're still too early into the WSOP to really make the adjustments to our lists. I'm guessing that Mizrachi wouldn't have made the list if it weren't for his second final table, but after looking at his recent online success in addition to his WSOP achievements, he is definitely deserving of the final spot. Alaei returning to the list was no surprise at all as I felt he should've remained on it last month. He is an extremely skilled player and we haven't heard the last of him this summer.
The last thought actually comes from Don Peters, who wrote in his rankings: "Vladimir Shchemelev: No idea where this guy came from but he came in second in the $50,000 Player's Championship and then final tabled the $10,000 Stud Championship. Here come the Russians." Shchemelev has since made another final table and if he wins 2010 WSOP Player of the Year, you can bet he'll be on this list next month.