Poker seems to be on an upswing in the last seven years.
With Black Friday in the rear-view mirror, Americans now have some online poker options, including plenty of major and midtier tours.
And certain promotions, like the PokerStars Platinum Pass, are creating plenty of poker buzz.
With the 2018 Year of Poker coming to a close, USPoker takes a look at some players who had stellar performances on the felt. With so many top-notch players and plenty of significant scores, this list could be virtually endless.
Here’s a look at a few who stood out.
Cada catches fire
It’s a pretty good bet that winning the World Series of Poker Main Event isn’t something repeatable. The numbers are just too huge and the odds are too long — so the thinking goes.
Joe Cada, the winner of the 2009 WSOP Main Event, not only showed it could be a possibility but had a summer that many poker players only dream of experiencing.
The 30-year-old of Macomb, Michigan, won the $3,000 No-limit Hold’em Shootout for $226,218 in early June in only the third event of the series.
Just one performance like that would be enough for many, but July was an even bigger month for Cada. Amazingly, he then made an incredible run in the Main Event and looked like adding to the 2009 title could be a reality.
After ultimately finishing in fifth for $2.15 million in an event with 7,874 players, Cada became the talk of the poker world. But he wasn’t finished.
The WSOP added some events this summer coinciding with the $1,500 Closer fittingly ending the series. The event attracted 3,120 entries, and Cada came out on top for $612,886.
He now has four WSOP bracelets and more than $13.5 million in live tournament winnings.
Two bracelets and a Main Event final table, that’s a performance that’s pretty tough to beat.
Phil finds No. 15
Phil Hellmuth Jr. made plenty of waves this summer. Not just for his antics in the WSOP Main Event, which garnered plenty of negative rebukes from poker players, but also for adding a 15th bracelet.
Not many players covet bracelets as much as the Hellmuth aka the “Poker Brat,” but it had been a pretty miserable summer for him.
By July, he’d scored five cashes but didn’t sniff a final table. His antics at the Main Event didn’t go over well with many — especially after recently publishing a book titled, “#Positivity.”
His last bracelet came in 2015, and a shot at No. 15 seemed like it would have to wait until 2019.
However, after exiting the Main Event, Hellmuth jumped in a $5,000 No-limit Hold’em event with 30-minute levels. When the two-day event was over, he had captured that 15th bracelet.
It was a huge turnaround, and after the win, Hellmuth gave much of the credit to friend and fellow poker player Brandon Cantu.
Beyond the record bracelet total, Hellmuth stands out as the only player to have won the WSOP Main Event in Las Vegas (1989) and Europe (2012). No doubt that Brat is already pining for No. 16 (and 17, and 18 and 19) and will be hoping to bring it home in 2019.
Ali, the Poker Master
Vegas’ Aria seemed to be at home away from home this summer for Ali Imsirovic. The 23-year-old from Vancouver, Wash., took down two titles at the Poker Masters, at the PokerGO Studio in Las Vegas, for $1.26 million.
His back-to-back wins came in $26,000 No Limit Hold ’em for $462,000 and $52,000 No Limit Hold’em for $799,000. It was a huge accomplishment against some of the best players in the world.
The wins awarded him the coveted purple jacket as the player of the series. Overall, it was an impressive year for Imsirovic.
In April, at the Borgata in Atlantic City, he won the $2,700 Spring Poker Open Main Event for $246,066.
In January, he also won a $10,500 event at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure for $160,050. He wasn’t finished after the Poker Masters. Imsirovic finished ninth at the $3,600 WPT Borgata for $57,510 and then finished third in the $50,000 Super High Roller at partypoker’s Caribbean Poker Party for $400,000.
This card-playing phenom now has more than $2.9 million in tournament winnings and will be a player to watch in the coming years.
For Justin Bonomo, 2018 was one big series of titles and championships as he became poker’s all-time money leader after overtaking Daniel Negreanu.
How’d he do it? By dominating tournament after tournament throughout the year.
At the WSOP, Bonomo captured the $10,000 Heads-up No-limit Hold’em Championship on June 8 for his second bracelet and $185,965. That wasn’t all; he closed out the WSOP by winning the $1 million Big One for One Drop for $10 million.
To say it was a huge run may be a major understatement. The WSOP’s Heads-up bracelet topped not only an amazing run but a stellar record of heads-up play.
Bonomo’s success goes much more beyond the felt at the WSOP however, and has been on a run unlike many others. He won the $300,000 Super High Roller Bowl in May for $5 million. In late-May, he won two $26,000 high roller events at the Aria for a total of $660,500.
His year also included several other high roller wins for a total of $20.1 million. This hot streak comes after winning $4 million in 2017 and $4.2 million in 2016.
He now has three WSOP bracelets and more than $43 million in live tournament winnings and there’s still a few weeks in the year.
Deeb slays it
Like Cada, Shaun Deeb completed a WSOP bracelet double-dip this summer.
His first win in June was at the $25,000 Pot Limit Omaha High Roller for $1.4 million, and then in July, he added another bracelet in the $10,000 No-limit Hold’em Six-Handed Big Blind Ante for $814,179. It was a massive series for Deeb, who just continued to roll throughout the series in Vegas.
One of the best players in poker, Deeb now has four WSOP bracelets and more than $6 million in live tournament winnings. After the second win, he was certainly understated about his win.
In August, he added another nice score after finishing runner-up at the Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood, Fla., in a $25,000 High Roller for $534,989.
As the WSOP Europe got underway in October, Deeb led in the WSOP Player of the Year standings and cemented that with a trip to the Czech Republic. He came close to adding another bracelet after a runner-up finish in the $1,650 Mixed Pot Limit Omaha/No-limit Hold’em event for €63,731.
Between the two series, he finished with 20 cashes and four final tables along with those two bracelets — certainly not a bad year.
Tony Tran: Not a full-time player, Tran’s win in the $5,000 WPT Jacksonville bestbet Bounty Scramble came after he was down to only two big blinds on Day 2. The real estate investor from Philadelphia came all the way back to capture the title and $341,486.
Elio Fox: His win in May at the WSOP in $10,000 Super Turbo Bounty No-limit Hold’em for $393,693 was followed by a runner-up finish in the $100,000 High Roller for $1.8 million. More huge finishes and wins followed at the Aria, Seminole Hard Rock and Bellagio.