The Nuts: Ivey returns, but Mercier No. 1
Andrew Feldman [ARCHIVE]
January 31, 2012
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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.
January has been a unique month on the poker calendar. While the bigger events, namely the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure and Aussie Millions, have dominated the headlines, a multitude of smaller events around the world have been drawing big crowds. Of course, the biggest champions came in the biggest events and that leads us right into the return to the top 10 of the former No. 1 player in the world, Phil Ivey. After essentially disappearing from the tournament poker world since Black Friday, Ivey made his return well known during the 2012 Aussie Millions. He played in three events, and only failed to make the money once (in the 100,000 Challenge). In the main event he finished 12th out of 674 players for 100,000 AU$ and, immediately after his elimination, he bought in to the 16-player 250,000 Challenge. Ivey won the event for 2.1 million AU$ and many of you reacted negatively as a result of his previous association with Full Tilt Poker. With his impressive results, a challenge to the panel appeared: Where does Ivey belong? To nobody's surprise, Ivey was ranked on every ballot, but in a variety of spots. He did manage to earn two No. 1 votes, but the hesitance of others prevailed and Ivey returned to The Nuts ranked No. 4. If he continues to play a full schedule, there's a strong possibility that he returns to the top of this list in the very near future. Oliver Speidel -- no, not Erik Seidel -- won the Aussie Millions main event and perhaps the honor of being the unofficial Aussie Millions player of the series. In addition to his 1.6 million AU$ victory, Speidel also made two other final tables. Other notable Aussie Millions champions included Dan Smith, who won the 100,000 Challenge, David Bach (2,250 AU$ HORSE) and Tom Koral (10,000 AU$ 8-game). At the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, Jonathan Duhamel put on a show. The 2010 WSOP main event champion made four final tables with four top-five finishes and one victory ($5,000 no-limit hold 'em). Since the 2011 WSOP, Duhamel has made seven final tables with earnings of more than $1.3 million and made his debut on the list at No. 8. Shawn Buchanan dropped one spot to No. 7 despite winning the $10,000 six-max event and cashing in the main event as well. Other PCA champions included John Dibella (main event champion), Viktor Blom ($100,000 Super High Roller), Joe Cada ($2,000 no-limit ), Scott Seiver ($5,250 heads-up), Leonid Bilokur ($25,000 High Roller) and Noah Schwartz ($5,000 pot-limit Omaha). Away from the those two festivals and the legendary Macau cash games that reportedly made Gus Hansen quite a bit of money, other familiar faces captured titles of their own. Freddy Deeb won the first WSOPC main event at the Bicycle Casino, Brock Parker, Chris Reslock, Will Failla and Kevin Saul won preliminary events at the Borgata's Winter Poker Open, and John Dolan, Joe Tehan and Jonathan Little were some of the big winners from the Beau's Million Dollar Heater. Online, PokerStars' TCOOP (Turbo Championship of Online Poker) was the highlight of the month as thousands tried to turn their small buy-ins into some big money in a short amount of time. The 50 events offered up more than $18 million in prize money with "betudontbet" taking home the top prize of $382,855 as he eliminated Chris Oliver to win the main event. EPT Vilamoura champion Toby Lewis won Event 16 for $68,676. Phil Hellmuth and Ben Lamb fell out of the top 10 this month, replaced by Duhamel and Ivey. Who do you think should be in the top 10 next month? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. Here's a look at January's top 10: The Nuts: Poker's best in January 2012

On the bubble The bubble was relatively tight this month for the first time in a while with many players hoping to capture the final spot. Ben Lamb's lack of tournament results has affected him dramatically on this list as he became the month's bubble boy. Lamb was named the CardPlayer Player of the Year and he continues to play in the highest cash games around, but a slight tournament bias from the panel may have budged him from the list this month. Right behind Lamb was Daniel Negreanu. Negreanu started off 2012 with a fifth-place finish at the PCA Super High Roller ($250,900), but he finished fourth (as the bubble boy) in the 250,000 Challenge. Negreanu is always one solid month away from making his way back into the top 10. … Viktor Blom's first live tournament victory earned him a lot of support, but a $350,000 downswing online this month didn't help his cause. … Gus Hansen's efforts at the Aussie Millions and in Macau also earned him some consideration. He earned $823,579 in January on the tournament felt. … Others receiving substantial consideration include Will Failla, Scott Seiver, Isaac Haxton, Patrik Antonius, Faraz Jaka, Vanessa Selbst, Pius Heinz and Sam Stein. Final thoughts Bradley: Phil Ivey making his reappearance at No. 4 seems to make sense to me. Given that he hasn't been on most people's ballots for six months, it just makes sense. He's now headed back to Macau and I wonder what we're going to be able to do from here if he's not active on the tournament scene. Will he stay in the top five? Jonathan Duhamel seems like the player du jour. He had a great month, but will he stay on the list? He has proven he can play with the best and now he'll need to find a way to get results against tough fields or someone else will take his place next month. Feldman: The fact that Ivey is in fourth is the biggest topic, regardless of how pleased or disappointed you may be with Mercier at No. 1 after a difficult first month of the year. Ranking Ivey was not an easy task. Where do you put the player who really was -- and probably is -- the best player in the world after all this time? Sure, he came back and beat a 16-player field, but is that enough to put him at No. 1? I think, like many of the panelists say either publicly or not, that he needs to earn his place once again. Fourth is a good starting point for him and if he does basically anything in the coming months, I'd imagine he'll be in the top two. I think that this month offered a lot more than many of us expected in terms of results. There were so many players who consistently do well that separating the best in the world was a little tougher. In my eyes, I think Grospellier was the only player who I would remove from the list in favor of someone else. I think Buchanan should be...
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