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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.
When we think about the poker world in February, our minds turn to one place: the Commerce Casino. While the EPT offered events in Deauville and Copenhagen, the biggest action this month took place at the Commerce and the L.A. Poker Classic. The 50-event, six-week tournament series attracted the best in the world who brought their cash for some huge buy-in events and cash games; even Phil Ivey showed up. Ivey bubbled the main event, and despite his failure to cash, it showed the poker world that he's back to the tournament grind. Even without a cash in the past month, Ivey still moved up a spot to No. 3 in the rankings.
One of the biggest winners from the LAPC was Vanessa Selbst, who returns to The Nuts after a short hiatus away from the top 10. Selbst won the $5,100 event, defeating Jonathan Duhamel heads-up for the title. She also finished second in the $5,100 heads-up side event, giving her a week complete with $171,445 in earnings. She occupies the No. 9 spot this month. Duhamel, who moved up three spots to No. 5, also made a final table in Deauville to continue his excellent start to the year. Other LAPC champions included Adam Levy, High Roller champion Eui Woong Kim and Michael Chow. Phil Hellmuth also captured a LAPC title in the $2,080 eight-game mix, but unlike Selbst, the win wasn't enough to get his name back in the top 10.
On the EPT front, Vadzim Kursevich defeated a tough final table that included Italian pro Luca Pagano in Deauville, while Mickey Petersen defeated Pierre Neuville heads-up to win the Copenhagen title. One of the most consistent players on the EPT felt these days has been Steve O'Dwyer, who finished seventh in the event. O'Dwyer has nearly $1 million in earnings since September, so while he fell short of the list, he received strong consideration from the panel for the No. 10 spot.
Kurt Jewell won his second WSOP Circuit main event title in February and was joined by James Harnden and Joe-Boy Rahme as champions on that tour this month. Rahme's victory may have been the most noteworthy as it came during the six-event WSOPC stop in South Africa. The Heartland Poker Tour also crowned Terry Presley and Joeseph Chalbaud as their latest champions.
The only removal from the top 10 this month was Jake Cody, who was replaced by Selbst. The votes for the final two spots each month are always interesting, but given Selbst's success and Cody's silence, she found her way back on. Who do you think should be in the top 10 next month? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Here's a look at February's top 10:
On the bubble
The bubble boy this month was Daniel Negreanu, who finished sixth at the LAPT Grand Final in Brazil. Collecting $28,177 for his efforts, Negreanu maintains he's more focused than ever. He's earned $279,077 in 2012 at the felt. Off the felt, he's produced a number of discussion-inspiring video blogs. Will Failla finished just behind Negreanu and continues to inch closer to the top 10 with each month that passes. The East-coast professional has six cashes in 2012, including two final tables and one victory. Most recently, Failla finished fourth in the Venetian's Deep Stack Extravaganza main event won by Keith Ferrera. Faraz Jaka's fifth-place finish in the $5,100 LAPC event is the latest of his accomplishments and the panel continues to look at Jaka as top-10 potential. He's earned $867,539 in 2012 and is a threat to make the top 10 if he's able to finish off a tournament in the near future. After his run on the list for a number of months, Ben Lamb's name slipped further from the top 10 this month. Lamb is without a tournament cash since the WSOP, but still plays in Vegas' top games and golf courses. Finally, Jake Cody fell of the list for the first time since his WSOP victory. Just like Selbst and a number of players on the bubble, one big score will put him back on there. Others receiving substantial consideration include Scott Seiver, Isaac Haxton, Patrik Antonius, Sam Stein, David Sands, Michael Mizrachi, Oleksii Kovalchuk and Phil Hellmuth.
Bradley: Given that Erik Seidel has done next to nothing since last October, it's surprising to see him this high, and I don't think he's going to maintain this spot unless he posts something big relatively soon.
I'm very glad to see Duhamel get the respect he deserves and it's nice to see a former world champion doing well. There isn't someone who has won the WSOP in the modern era who has performed this well so soon after his title, and it's great to see the panel see that he's legit.
I'm also shocked to see Vanessa Selbst so low. She's earned nearly $4 million in the past 26 months and shouldn't need a big score to keep her on this list at this point.
Feldman: For the second month in a row, I guess I'll start with Ivey. I know there are a lot of displeased players out there who see Ivey's return as nothing more than a slap in the face based on his relationship with Full Tilt, but if there was one thing to start a big poker buzz this month, it was Ivey stepping foot into the Commerce and sitting down in the main event. Some may call his stone bubble as karma, but it shows that he's dedicated once again to the game. As a result, I'll be honest and say I moved him up on my list this month. If he's playing seriously again, he deserves a serious spot and No. 3 is probably the lowest he's going to get for the near future.
I'll echo Lance's point on Duhamel and Selbst. Both players deserve their spots, but I feel both should be higher. While Seidel and Katchalov thrived in 2011, I think it's time for them to drop a little bit and move the rest of the group up. The panel needs to react appropriately to the recent successes and I feel that Duhamel and Selbst would benefit the most.
As for the biggest miss, I guess it would have to be Hellmuth. This was Phil's first win in an open event since his bracelet victory in 2007 and if he was among the best in the world when he couldn't finish the job, he should be even higher when he does.