With all the news surrounding the WSOP Player of the Year controversy, you can be excused if you missed the news that another major poker festival was taking place over the last couple of weeks in Las Vegas. The Poker Masters event, which launched in conjunction with the launch of poker streaming service PokerGO, was held in Las Vegas Nov 4-18, but this year it didn’t seem to come with much fanfare.
The 10 event series was designed to bring the best in the world together on the felt to make for some great broadcasts. The initial installment of the series was launched with a lot of noise as PokerGO was the first full time dedicated poker streaming service available to the general public, and this event was exclusively shown on this network to subscribers.
This year, the ten events had entry fees that were designed to bring out only those with a bankroll big enough to afford it, and that can be seen in the list of winners:
Event 1: Isaac Baron
Event 2: Ryan LaPlante
Event 3: Jonathan Depa
Event 4: Jared Bleznick
Event 5: Julian Martini
Event 6: Kristen Bicknell
Event 7: Sam Soverel
Event 8: Sergi Reixash
Event 9: Kahle Burns
Event 10: Sam Soverel
Most notable in that list of winners is likely Bicknell’s win in the 25k No Limit Hold’em event. The Canadian pro has been on a bit of a run lately with some big cashes, and she continues to hold her own at tables that are still male-dominated despite the growth in numbers of female players in the tournament fields. Bicknell hopes to take a great run in 2019 capped with this win into 2020.
The “coveted” Purple Jacket
In this poker series, the goal is to win tournaments of course, but the big prize that everyone seems to be chasing is a custom-made purple jacket. This concept is very popular in golf, with the obvious connection being the Green Jacket awarded annually to the champion of The Masters. While this is a clear copy of the concept, it is difficult to tell if the Poker Masters jacket will ever be held with even close to the same regard.
Regardless, the jacket was indeed up for grabs at the 2019 event. It is awarded to the player that accumulates the most points during the series, and if you guessed who the winner might be from the list of tournament winners above, you would be correct. Sam Soverel is another player who is making a name for himself in high stakes poker, having also won the British Poker Open earlier this year. He was firing on all cylinders at the Poker Masters, capturing two of the 10 events including the $50,000 No Limit Hold’em Main Event. During this event, his poker skills were on display, as he seemed to steamroll the field on his way to victory. With cashes in 7 of the 10 events, the winner was really never in doubt, but this Main Event performance sealed a more than convincing victory for the high-stakes pro. The purple jacket is his this year and no doubt he will display it (and perhaps wear it) with pride. Here are the final point standings for the series:
Place Name Points Earnings Cashes
1st Sam Soverel 1160 $1,396,800 7
2nd Kahle Burns 630 $585,950 3
3rd Chance Kornuth 630 $556,400 3
4th Sean Winter 480 $495,350 4
5th Ali Imsirovic 450 $497,600 3
6th George Wolff 420 $404,500 3
7th Alex Foxen 330 $169,450 3
8th Kristen Bicknell 300 $408,000 1
9th Sergi Reixach 300 $369,000 1
10th Isaac Baron 300 $223,100 1
Where are the celebrities?
The big question coming out of this year’s Poker Masters is what happened to all the poker pros who are the most recognizable. With apologies to all those who played in the event, there wasn’t much of a presence from those who have dominated the poker airwaves over the years. A quick check of Instagram found Phil Hellmuth in Florida for a charity event, Daniel Negreanu returning from WSOP Europe only to find out he wasn’t actually the player of the year and taking it out on some Golden Knights hockey games, and others nowhere near the PokerGo studio.
This seeming lack of interest on the part of the most popular players in the game could spell trouble for this event. Designed essentially to sell subscriptions to the streaming network, without the faces people are used to seeing on traditional poker broadcasts, this event may find itself fading into obscurity faster than anyone thought. With a very busy land-based global poker event calendar, pros can’t be expected to play every major event without burning out, so the Poker Masters will have to do something to make it more attractive to the game’s mouthpieces.
PokerGo continues to improve
One thing that cannot be taken away from the event is the continued improvement of the streaming of the events as a whole. One thing that we have learned in recent years is that poker fans and players alike are starting to enjoy watching the game being played live. While the fair-weather fan still likes the “highlight” package that WSOP or WPT televised broadcasts have become, watching every hand live (with a slight delay) gives players more to learn from, and PokerGo has put themselves in the lead position from a streaming service perspective.
With expanded coverage of tournaments and cash games, the long-term viability of the subscription network is not in doubt. What may cause the growth model to be slower than expected, however, is not featuring the most popular players more often. This is why the network must figure out a way to attract more top names to their Poker Master series, either by finding a more suitable event or by boosting the prize pools. If they don’t, they may find themselves trying to make household names out of a second tier of players. Fingers are crossed that they find a solution, as the Poker Masters is an excellent event that we hope will stick around for a very long time.