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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 of 10 is comprised of 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 managing editor Jessica Welman, PokerNews editor-in-chief Elaine Chaivarlis and tournament reporter Don Peters, Pocketfives' Dan Cypra, and Poker Road's Court Harrington.
October is always a busy month, but in 2011, more tournaments than ever graced the schedules of players around the world. The debut of the WSOP Europe in Cannes, France, offered fans seven more bracelet events and great turnouts in each. Preliminary event champions Michael Mizrachi, Steve Billirakis, Tristan Wade, Andrew Hinrichsen, Philippe Boucher and Guillaume Humbert set the stage for one of the most memorable final tables in the WSOPE main event that would dramatically shake up these rankings.
As Elio Fox wrapped up his WSOPE main event victory, it really brought the attention of the panel to a few players who had been unable to clear the bubble in these rankings over the past few months. Both Shawn Buchanan and British online legend Chris Moorman could have overtaken Ben Lamb for the lead in the WSOP Player of the Year race with a WSOPE main event victory, but even though they both came up short, they've proved that they're deserving of their spots here. Buchanan cashed four times out of the seven WSOP Europe events and earned the fifth spot in his Nuts debut; Moorman begins his stint here in ninth.
Away from Cannes, the European Poker Tour's stops in London and San Remo kept that tour rolling with larger fields and victories from Andrey Pateychuk and Benny Spindler, while domestically, the WSOP Circuit stop in "Chicago" (Horseshoe Hammond) set an attendance record as well. It's clear that while the world continues to focus on the failures of the online industry in the United States, the live game has picked up the slack, and through multiple tour innovations, the games at the live felt continue to thrive.
With so much to consider, the panelists really looked at the big picture. The top four in the rankings retained their spots, but there was no stagnation after that. Jake Cody, another member of the WSOP Europe main event final table, moved up, along with Bertrand Grospellier, who saw his hopes of winning a second WSOP bracelet crumble in the WSOPE shootout, finishing fifth. Despite a seventh-place finish in WSOPE Event 1, Phil Hellmuth dropped from fifth to eighth. One of Britain's top tournament players, Sam Trickett, was able to make his way back onto the list after a few months off and Daniel Negreanu fell to this month's bubble spot, unable to retain his sixth-place spot in September. Trickett will have the Partouche Poker Tour final table in November, and if he's able to put up another top finish, he'll most likely lock up a much higher position next month.
Here's a look at October's top 10, and of course, feel free to leave your feedback and reactions in the comments section below.
On the bubble:
The bubble looks quite different in October. After months of talking about Sam Trickett, Chris Moorman and Shawn Buchanan, those who previously occupied spots in the top 10 dropped down. Michael Mizrachi landed as the square bubble and it's interesting that he wasn't able to jump back into the top 10 after his latest bracelet victory. He's proved that he's capable of being among the best, but perhaps there are just too many great talents to recognize at this moment. As usual, Daniel Negreanu, John Juanda and Vanessa Selbst also received a good amount of support from the panel and one major cash for any of them will launch them back into the top 10. Others who earned substantial consideration include Elio Fox (WSOPE Champ and 23rd at EPT San Remo), Will Failla, Sam Stein (EPT San Remo High Roller champion), Steve O'Dwyer, Andy Frankenberger, Matt Giannetti, Marvin Rettenmaier, Tom Dwan and Vanessa Rousso.
Final thoughts: Bradley: I think the British influence on this list is only just beginning to show. The talented trio of Jake Cody, Chris Moorman and Sam Trickett all had breakthrough years -- mostly overseas. Had those three players posted the same results on U.S. soil, I think there's a good chance that's three of your top five players. Trickett alone has made six final tables, booked two wins and earned $3.4 million -- and that doesn't count his upcoming appearance on the Partouche Poker Tour final table.
Mercier seems solid at the top but the likes of Shawn Buchanan and Bertrand Grospellier are really beginning to push. If Buchanan can close out a big tournament in the next few months, he could knock Mercier off the top spot.
Feldman: Talk about a young, fresh perspective on this list. I think the additions in October are all well-deserved and I've been hoping to see a changing of the guard like this for the past few months. There's no doubt that Buchanan, Moorman and Trickett should be in the top 10, but maybe Trickett at 10 is too low. In my mind, Grinder was a lock, too, but with so many players on top of the game at the moment, it takes more than a bracelet to separate yourself from the pack.
The biggest failure this month may have been Sam Stein, but the truth is that his win was barely recognized. Stein seems to have a tendency to fall under the radar, and even when he wins a huge buy-in event, he doesn't get the love.
There's also a strong potential that there will be a few new players on the list next month. As the November Nine finally play out their long-awaited final table, Giannetti, Collins or O'Dea (in addition to Lamb, who is already ranked) have probably done enough as of late to warrant discussion about their inclusion into The Nuts.