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.
After the first month of the 2012 World Series of Poker, there's really only one thing that this panel needs to say Mr. Ivey, we're sorry and we were wrong. Ivey returned to the WSOP felt after skipping it in 2011 and although he didn't win a bracelet in June, he ran over the tables. During a 12-day span, Ivey made five final tables and brought back the buzz to the WSOP. His historic run has once again earned him the top spot in these rankings and, as was said during the first few installments of this list a few years ago, there's only a very small chance that he's going to be removed from No. 1 anytime soon. That's unfortunate news for Jason Mercier who has now been relegated to No. 2.
Ivey's start of the Series wasn't impressive, but he put the pieces together when many of the others on this list just simply could not. Three who couldn't, Daniel Negreanu, Erik Seidel and Chris Moorman, fell out of the rankings this month. Taking those coveted spots were two players who have had previous stints in these rankings, $50,000 Poker Players' Championship winner Michael Mizrachi and all-time bracelet leader Phil Hellmuth, and newcomer John Monnette.
Mizrachi came close to making the rankings in May after his third-place finish in the World Poker Tour Championship. He's added three final tables at the Series (first, fourth and fifth) and earning his third bracelet was enough to bring him all the way to No. 3. Mizrachi fell out of the rankings shortly after his fifth-place finish in the 2010 main event. Hellmuth trails right behind Mizrachi in the rankings as he returns to The Nuts at No. 4. He earned his 12th WSOP bracelet, finished fourth in the $10,000 HORSE and cashed three other times in June to give him a total of 90 cashes on the WSOP felt. Monnette debuts at No. 8 thanks to finishes of first, second, third and 94th place in this Series. Monnette prefers cash games and doesn't play tournament poker all that often. However, when he does play tournaments, they're usually of the limit variation where he's proved he is one of the best in the world.
Vanessa Selbst holds strong at No. 5, but that ranking must be accepted with a major asterisk as her bracelet victory was not factored in during the creation of this month's list. Selbst is having her first solid WSOP in a number of years and has earned $634,935 thus far in 2012.
After the top five, and with the exception of Monnette, the rankings get a little interesting. The remainder of the players on the list haven't really stood out in Las Vegas. All of them have cashed, but the big, influential scores that we expect from the players here just didn't happen. Cases could've been made for other players to take their spots, but as a whole, Jonathan Duhamel, Bertrand Grospellier, Steve O'Dwyer and Eugene Katchalov earned their spots this month based on their impressive accomplishments in 2012.
June's rankings are always unique in the fact that there is much more to consider than in a typical month and July should be no different. Did we leave out your favorite player? 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 June's top 10:
On the bubble
The bubble boy this month was Chris Moorman. The online superstar has had a tough WSOP and, unable to play the biggest online events as a result of being in the U.S., he hasn't had the online performance to keep him on the list this month. Moorman has only one WSOP cash this Series. Daniel Negreanu reappeared on this list a month ago and while we thought he'd stay there for a while, he once again ran into a roadblock at the WSOP. Negreanu still has an incredible $1.5 million in earnings in 2012, but he has only two WSOP cashes (one final table) despite playing a full schedule. Negreanu hasn't been able to break through with a win at the WSOP since 2008. Andy Bloch was also strongly considered for ranking this month but fell to the bubble. Many called Bloch the "best without a bracelet" since his runner-up finish to Chip Reese in the $50,000 HORSE in 2006. He finally earned his gold earlier this Series, then, for the second time in his career, Bloch made the final table of the $50,000 Players' Championship. It was also his fourth cash in the event. Last month's bubble boy, Justin Bonomo, remained in the same spot despite cashing five times in Vegas. Those five cashes totaled only $23,821 and were not enough to gain any upward momentum into the top 10. Others receiving substantial consideration include Marvin Rettenmaier, Andy Frankenberger, David Baker (both of them), Sam Trickett, Joe Cassidy, Viktor Blom, Dan Smith, Oleksii Kovalchuk and Bryn Kenney.
Bradley: That's better. The top spot on this list looks a lot better in my opinion. Ivey hasn't won a bracelet this year (yet) but he's shown that he's still the best player on the planet. Five final tables in 12 days? That's absurd and it's just a matter of time before he's wrapping bracelet No. 9 around his wrist. Since the votes were cast before Vanessa Selbst won her second bracelet it's hard to imagine that she won't move up next month. I'd be more than happy to make the argument that Selbst is the second-best player in the world.
Feldman: For poker fans, media and players, there is no better time of the year than the WSOP. Along those lines, this is the best time of the year for these rankings. We get a great look at all these players and really can put in those who deserve the top 10 spots. I liked how high Grinder and Hellmuth placed, but to me, Monnette seemed more like 10th than eighth. I think Duhamel's and Katchalov's time on the list has run its course and would've preferred if the panel had players like Chris Klodnicki or Dan Smith instead of those two. During WSOP time there shouldn't be any reason to include players who haven't performed and for the most part, I think we got things right. That said, I will defend O'Dwyer's spot because we were a few months too late in including him to begin with. He definitely deserved a second month on the list after what he's accomplished over the past year.
Back to Mizrachi, even at third I don't think he's given a fair shake. He's earned more than $14 million in his career and has won the game's most prestigious tournament twice! While Lance may believe that Selbst is No. 2, I'm more inclined to have Mizrachi in that spot moving forward. and that brings me to Jason Mercier. He's been No. 1 on the list for a year, but has somewhat struggled during the first month of the WSOP. He's clearly in a league of his own, but how can we keep him up so high when we have players like Mizrachi, Hellmuth and Selbst constantly putting up incredible scores? Mercier could fall as low as fifth next month if he's unable to hit a big score, and unfortunately, for all of these players, the ceiling is No. 2. Ivey isn't going anywhere.