The Nuts: Selbst up, O'Dwyer makes debut
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, WSOP.com managing editor Jessica Welman, PokerNews editor-in-chief Elaine Chaivarlis and tournament reporter Don Peters, Pocketfives' Dan Cypra and Poker Road's Court Harrington.
The World Series of Poker is in full swing, but May wasn't dominated by the action on the felt at the Rio. The World Poker Tour Championship and Spring Championship Of Online Poker occupied the biggest share of the attention during the month and while one surged with incredible success, the other merely held its place as an important piece on the poker calendar.
SCOOP set records in both participation and prize money awarded. Capped off by three huge main events, Nick Grippo earned the honor of being the SCOOP main event (high buy-in) champion and earned $798,675 for his efforts. However, the biggest star of SCOOP wasn't Grippo, but Shaun Deeb, who captured an amazing four SCOOP titles, made eight final tables and cashed 27 times. Deeb's online run earned him substantial consideration in this month's rankings, but he failed to break the top 10. Another player who dominated the SCOOP felt was Viktor Blom. The cash game legend has taken his tournament game to the next level and won two SCOOP events of his own. Like Deeb, Blom just missed making his debut on the rankings, but both will be ones to watch at the WSOP this summer.
At the World Poker Tour Championship, Marvin Rettenmaier won the main event and earned the largest tournament cash of his young career ($1.1 million). Rettenmaier's victory came over a final table that featured the newest member of our rankings, Steve O'Dwyer, who makes his debut at No. 6 after months of running over the tables around the world. Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi finished third in that event, and his run nearly returned him to the list for the first time since December 2010.
Tom Marchese, who has been ranked as high as No. 3 in these rankings, won the $100,000 buy-in event by defeating a field of 34 and a televised final table that included Andrew Robl, John Juanda and bubble boy Justin Bonomo. Bonomo currently holds the top spot on the 2012 money list with $2.5 million in earnings and was the bubble boy in these rankings as well. Away from the WPT Championship, but still on the World Poker Tour, Shawn Cunix won the WPT Jacksonville main event.
As the WPT Championship concluded, the players headed from the Bellagio to the Rio, where the 43rd annual WSOP is being held. Only two events counted towards this month's rankings and Vanessa Selbst turned in another huge performance to start off the Series, finishing fourth in the $1,500 no-limit hold 'em Event 2. Her first WSOP final table since 2008 was enough to move her up one spot to No. 5 in this month's rankings. Brent Hanks won the event and captured his first WSOP bracelet, defeating Jacob Bazeley heads-up.
The fact that Phil Ivey has been active at the WSOP already earned him some more respect from the panel. Ivey seems committed to playing a full WSOP schedule and that enticed some to move him up in their ranks this month. Ivey finished eighth at the 25,000-euro buy-in at the EPT Grand Final and moved from No. 3 to No. 2 this month, swapping places with 2010 WSOP main event champion Jonathan Duhamel. Jason Mercier retained the top spot and cashed in his first WSOP event of 2012, finishing 181st for $2,893.
Sam Trickett and Shawn Buchanan fell out of the rankings this month in favor of O'Dwyer and Daniel Negreanu. Negreanu's twin six-figure scores in April, along with a second-place SCOOP finish in May, were enough to get him back on the list for the first time since September 2011.
Who should be ranked higher? Who should be completely off the list? Leave us your thoughts in the comments below!
Here's a look at May's top 10:
On the bubble
The bubble boy this month was Justin Bonomo, who, unfortunately, was the bubble boy in the $100,000 buy-in Super High Roller at the World Poker Tour Championship. As mentioned above, Bonomo owns the honor of leading the 2012 money list entering the WSOP, thanks mostly in part to his $2.1 million pay day at the EPT Grand Final Super high Roller Event. Bonomo also cashed in the EPT Grand Final main event and wrapped up April with a fourth-place finish in the 25,000 euro High Roller Event. Bonomo also finished second in the $1,000 no-limit hold 'em/pot-limit Omaha SCOOP event and sixth in the $1,050 triple draw 2-7 event. Marvin Rettenmaier also received strong consideration after his WPT victory, but his run really began in early April. Rettenmaier has four top-five finishes since then with nearly $1.5 million in earnings over that stretch. John Juanda also jumped up the ranks for the first time after his High Roller finish at the WPT. Juanda had been basically silent on the tournament felt since the 2011 WSOP, but the $526,320 payday at the Bellagio and 25th-place WSOP finish reminded everyone that he's still one of the best in the world. Others receiving substantial consideration include WPT Player of the Year Joe Serock, Phil Hellmuth, Viktor Blom, Faraz Jaka, David Sands, Shawn Buchanan, Sam Trickett, Tom Marchese, Shaun Deeb and Phil Galfond.
Bradley: The top of the list is getting awfully crowded. I think the case could be made for any of the top four to be No. 1. Selbst seems destined to end up as the top player in the world in very short order. At the other end of the spectrum, this might be Seidel's last month in the top 10 unless he does something in the early weeks of the WSOP. It's nice to see O'Dwyer finally break through after crushing through most of 2012.
Feldman: Erik Seidel is one of the true greats of the game. He's a legend. He's an icon. He's someone you never want to see across from you but he shouldn't be on this list anymore. We've come a long way in keeping the list fresh with the best in the game right now and I would've rather seen Mizrachi, Bonomo or Rettenmaier in that 10th spot instead of Seidel. Now that I've called him out, I fully expect for him to capture a bracelet in June and move up once again.
We've been calling on it for months and it's good to finally see Steve O'Dwyer on this list. He's been one of the most consistent players on tour for the past year and he's really earned it. His debut at six may be a little high, but after making yet another final table at the WPT championship just last week, can you really argue if the panel is higher on him than expected?
I think the best part about the next two months is that there's a really good chance that a true No. 1 will emerge after the WSOP. Mercier and Ivey are neck and neck right now, and the one who has the better WSOP will take the top spot next month.
There's a ton of poker to be played in Las Vegas and that allows everyone on the panel to evaluate each player constantly. In next month's rankings we're going to have the Ben Lamb of 2012 and part of the fun of doing these rankings is discovering the next big poker star.