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.
It's not often that we look at a month of the poker calendar and think that there's a lack of events that truly can make headlines. Since the poker boom began, there's been a constant increase of tournaments around the world, but so few of them have stuck as the major events that attract the best players in the world and can truly create a buzz. March really only offered the industry three superior events, the WPT's Bay 101 Shooting Star, EPT Madrid and EPT Campion. There were numerous events on smaller tours, like the WSOP Circuit, Heartland Poker Tour, France Poker Series, Latin American Poker Tour and the Asian Pacific Poker Tour, but the biggest money was found at only a few locations.
At Bay 101, the final table included two WSOP bracelet winners and four players who had final table experience, but it was amateur Moon Kim who earned the top prize of $960,900. An impressive 477 players attended EPT Madrid and while Mike "Timex" McDonald hoped to become the first two-time EPT champion, he finished in ninth as Frederik Jensen won $649,368 for first. EPT Campione wasn't finished at the time these rankings were posted, but Fabrice Soulier and Olivier Busquet survived the field of 570 to make the final table.
Will Failla may have been the next biggest story during the month, winning his first Heartland Poker Tour title. Failla, who won his first WPT title last August, defeated the field of 328 to win $119,064. Failla's victory almost pushed him onto the No. 10 spot on this list, but instead he became one of the bubble boys. Failla already has seven cashes in 2012. On the WSOP Circuit, Ryan Eriquezzo earned $191,194 for his victory in Atlantic City and Joseph Kuether denied Freddy Deeb his second WSOP Circuit main event title this season with his victory at Harrah's Rincon. Deeb finished fourth.
The biggest mover in the rankings was Jonathan Duhamel who has made his way to No. 2. Duhamel nearly made the Bay 101 Shooting Star final table but finished in 13th. The cash was Duhamel's seventh of the year and the 2010 WSOP main event champion is sixth on the 2012 money list. The man who leads that list, Phil Ivey, is ranked third this month.
For the first time in a while, no player dropped off the list this month, but with limited results it was a difficult task for the panel to find reasons to dramatically adjust its rankings. As April rolls around and the pre-WSOP action heats up, we can expect many changes in next month's rankings if some of those at the bottom of the list don't come through with some substantial success.
Here's a look at March's top 10:
On the bubble
The bubble boy this month was once again Daniel Negreanu. "Kid Poker" may be gaining more love from the poker community with his weekly rants, but no cashes this month still left him just off the list. Negreanu still remains in the top 60 players on the earnings list in 2012. As mentioned above, Failla also found the bubble this month despite being on it in February and also winning another major title at the Heartland Poker Tour. Before 2011, many may not have even considered Failla to be a top-10-caliber player, but he's quieted all critics with his eight-month run. Steve O'Dwyer is simply crushing the European poker scene and as Jess Welman stated, "If he was in the U.S., it would be a totally different story." Since Black Friday, O'Dwyer has traveled Europe and has earned more than $1.2 million. His latest victory came at the WPT National Series in Denmark, where he defeated a field of 289 to win $213,796. Dan Kelly made the L.A. Poker Classic final table in February then won the $1,000 event and finished 10th in the $2,000 event at the Wynn Classic in March. He has $692,876 in earnings in 2012. Others receiving substantial consideration include David Sands, Phil Hellmuth, Jake Cody, Gus Hansen, Tom Dwan, Ben Lamb, Mickey Petersen, Isaac Haxton and Faraz Jaka.
Bradley: The top three is a bit of a logjam with Mercier, Duhamel and Ivey. Duhamel continues to defy the Main Event "Champion Jinx" while Ivey is back crushing online -- provided "RaiseOnce" is Ivey, and our sources have confirmed it is. Mercier recorded a small cash at Bay 101 and with two tournaments in his home state of Florida coming up, he could be poised to strike again. The biggest omission in my mind is the online cash game scene where players like Jens "Jeans89" Kyllönen have been crushing this year.
Feldman: The fact that two players, O'Dwyer and Haxton, aren't getting more consideration is starting to bug me. O'Dwyer has become a dominant force on the European poker scene and it seems that he goes deep in every tournament he enters. He has four final tables and a win in 2012 and I'm not sure what else he needs to do to gain some traction on this list. Haxton's case is even clearer. If many in the world consider Viktor "Isildur1" Blom one of the best cash game players around, where do we rank the guy who consistently beats him? Add to all his incredible online success three third-place finishes since December for nearly $1 million and it's astounding he's not even on the bubble.
I think this month was a very tough month for the rankers and I can understand any frustration out there for those that criticize the list that has numerous players, who we rank in the top 10, with no recent successes. The list will change shortly, and I'm assuming pretty dramatically.
My last note is on the second-ranked Duhamel. It's hard to believe that in December the biggest story on Duhamel was the robbery of his WSOP bracelet. Since that time, the only thing he's wanted to focus on was his poker game, and his newfound determination is what has led him to a spot I believe he truly deserves.