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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 at the moment. Our panel includes ESPN.com's trio of poker contributors (Gary Wise, Bernard Lee and myself), 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, PokerNewsDaily's Dan Cypra and Poker Road's Court Harrington.
Up until this month, there has been one clear leader at the top of these rankings in Phil Ivey. There's no question that when you think about feared players with amazing ability and constant success, Ivey comes to mind. However, the last two years have really been about Jason Mercier and his amazing achievements that just don't seem to stop. Since last month's rankings, it was simply more of the same for Mercier, who brought in another $130,000 in tournament winnings, registering seventh- and 11th-place cashes on the NAPT and WPT, respectively. This month, Mercier received three votes for the top spot from the 10 panelists and a once-stranglehold by Ivey on the top spot might be loosening just a little bit.
The past month has provided a variety of tournaments in a variety of countries. The North American Poker Tour and World Poker Tour stopped around the United States while the European Poker Tour hosted events in Vienna and Barcelona. The final table of the WSOP concluded this month and October's third-ranked Michael Mizrachi keeps his spot with a fifth-place finish and a final table in the NAPT Bounty event just a few days later. The WSOP Circuit also continued its positive trend in attendance and qualified more players for their National Championship.
The APT stop in Macau not only offered an exciting event with an 18-year-old champion, but also the biggest live cash games we've seen in a very long time. Ivey, Tom Dwan, John Juanda and Chau Giang were playing at incredible stakes and it is rumored that Giang won a $2 million pot off a Chinese businessman. With Ivey and Dwan busy in Macau, the online cash games had a slower month, but FTOPS and USCOOP provided some additional interest on the virtual felt.
Moving up this month is Tom Marchese, jumping from 10th to sixth. Marchese continues to be an absolute force this year, and added two more final tables to his growing résumé since our last rankings. Vanessa Selbst is the only player making a debut on this list and it is rightfully earned. Selbst won France's version of the November Nine at the Partouche Poker Tour which marks her second major win of the year after a NAPT Mohegan title in March.
The last month of the year will bring larger fields with players in contention for Player of the Year honors searching everywhere they can for much-coveted points. Potential destinations will include the WSOP Circuit (which is hosting its second $10,000 Regional Championship in Atlantic City, N.J.), the World Poker Tour (caps off the year at the Bellagio in Las Vegas) and the EPT stop in Prague. It's been an amazing year thus far and we can expect some great results across the world in December.
Here's a look at November's top 10. Of course, feel free to leave your feedback and reactions in the comments section below.
On the bubble:
November's bubble boy is none other than Sorel Mizzi. The current Bluff Player of the Year leader fell off the rankings in October and almost made his way back on with four more cashes including a final table on the World Poker Tour and a victory in a L.A. Poker Open event. All said and done, Mizzi added another $100,000 to his winnings on the year which now amazingly totals $1.8 million. Matt Affleck received a solid showing this month thanks to a few more deep runs. Not only is he getting face time on TV, but lots of respect from this panel. Dwyte Pilgrim's time on the rankings lasted only a month after a quiet month for the grinder. Pilgrim has only one cash since our last ranking, but after being on such a heater for the last two years, the man deserves a month off. Daniel Negreanu had a solid showing at EPT Vienna finishing in fourth place and he moved up the lists, but not high enough. Others earning significant consideration include Jose Barbero, Jake Cody, Daniel Alaei, Joe Cheong and WSOP champion Jonathan Duhamel.
Final thoughts: Bradley: It's long been assumed that Ivey is cemented in at No. 1, but this month I had to give Ivey and Mercier a tie for first place. Mercier has done more in tournaments in the past two years than anybody and he's managed to be consistent with his deep runs against elite fields.
It's nice to see the likes of Selbst and Juanda get credit for their results with an appearance on this list. Neither one seeks the spotlight but both find themselves in with big wins or record-setting cash-game action.
Feldman: The more I think about it, the more I believe that Vanessa Selbst should've been on this list last month. Two incredible victories in 2010 have landed her here, but keep in mind that until recently, she was a student at Yale, one of the most prestigious schools in the country. Just imagine what she'll be able to do playing on tour full-time.
Even though he didn't move up in the rankings, Baldwin's win is pretty significant for him. After a year of victories away from the public eye, Baldwin now has a second-place finish on the WPT and a win on the NAPT, both televised events which will draw a lot of interest. Both players of the year from 2009 (Mercier and Baldwin), are the real deal and it's nice to see this extended run of success for both of them.
And then there's Mizzi. The arguments will remain on whether or not he deserves the spot, but you can't argue with his achievements this year. He basically won Bluff's Player of the Year honor in June and everything else since then has been gravy. It's only a matter of time until his past is put behind him and we can see his successes a little more clearly.