First Rounders: 2023 Poker Masters

In the latest edition of First Rounders we’re sizing up who’s going to win the Purple Jacket of the 2023 Poker Masters.

Jeff Walsh
Sep 13, 2023
The 2023 Poker Masters kicks off on September 14.

The Poker Masters Purple Jacket will once again be up for grabs when the eighth iteration of the high roller series returns to the PokerGO Studio from September 14-26. The Poker Masters has been a cornerstone of the PokerGO calendar from the moment Steffen Sontheimer won the inaugural series back in 2017. Since then, some of the biggest names in the high roller scene have battled to take down the title. Sam Soverel, Sean Winter, and Michael Addamo also have a coveted Purple Jacket hanging somewhere in their closets.

It’s safe to say, if we haven’t before, that many of these PokerGO Studio events are going to be among the toughest fields of the year. Packed with pros who know every spot and are looking for the smallest of edges to score some of the biggest paydays of the year, these tournaments are for elite grinders and the well-padded bankrolls of shot-taking VIPs. So what can we expect from this year? Likely much of the same in terms of your favorite workhorse nosebleed players battling it out at the livestreamed final tables with a few new faces jumping in the mix. Last year, the fields topped out at 97 runners (Event #6 – $10,000 NLHE won by Martin Zamani) but with so many poker tours still experiencing that post-COVID bump in attendance, there’s a shot that this year’s Poker Masters can set some records of their own.

While some new faces are likely to be in the mix, when picking our favorites, we’re sticking with several names who have found success in the studio before – both in front of and behind the scenes. So let’s suit up and get into it – here’s our First Rounders for the 2023 Poker Masters.

Alex Foxen

Alex Foxen has to absolutely love playing in the PokerGO Studio. He’s found success in nearly every series they’ve offered, including event victories in both the PokerGO Cup and the U.S. Poker Open. One glance at his poker resume instantly reveals that throughout his more than $29 million in live earnings, he’s earned a significant amount of that on the PokerGO tour with more than 50 of his 328 results coming in events that either took place in the PokerGO Studio or qualified for points on the tour.

However, he does not yet have a Poker Masters event win in the Studio. To be clearer, he does not yet have a live victory in the Poker Masters, though he did pick up a victory in the online edition back in 2020. We expect that to change here in 2023. Foxen, who doesn’t travel the high roller circuit quite as much as he used to, is likely jonesing for his chance to get back into the Studio after a successful trip to Seminole Hard Rock where he made the final table in back-to-back high rollers and a WSOP in which he took fourth place in the $50,000 High Roller for $512,824.

Despite not making headlines in 2023, Foxen’s had an incredible year with seven six-figure scores and more than $2.7 million in earnings – that’s all without leaving the U.S. (so no Triton or EPT high rollers). He’s 16th on the Poker Masters All-Time Money List having cashed for just over $1 million. Having accomplished nearly everything else in the PokerGO Studio, we’re thinking that Foxen is going to have himself a series and force PokerGO to go buy a bigger jacket by the end of the series.

Jason Koon

Jason Koon

It’s never a good idea to bet against Jason Koon – so we’re picking him. Currently sitting fifth on poker’s All-Time Money List, it’s not going out on a limb to say that Koon has proven himself to be one of the best tournament poker players in history. With more than $51 million in career earnings and a long history of smashing the nosebleed tournament scene, Koon has set himself up to be one of poker’s all-time greats.

Koon has a long history of crushing the Poker Masters as well. He’s sixth on the Poker Masters All-Time Money List with more than $1.5 million in earnings over eight career cashes. Really, nothing more needs to be said about his skill level, so let’s just take a look at some of his 2023 results, which include five Triton Super High Roller titles – putting him at the top of the list with eight. Two of those Triton titles earned him seven-figure scores – putting him at 12 $1 million-dollar-plus scores in his career.

It all points to Koon being a favorite in just about any field he enters which begs the question: will he show up for the early part of the Poker Masters schedule? He welcomed his second child into the family this summer and just returned from the Triton Super High Roller Series in London. While those early tournaments aren’t necessary to win the Purple Jacket (see: Michael Addamo) they often do provide critical points. If Koon does show up and he’s running anywhere near as hot as he has been in Triton events, the rest of the field may be playing for second.

Erik Seidel

It’s been over a year since Erik Seidel took home a high roller trophy. His most recent win was back in March 2022 when he took down a $25K event at the U.S. Poker Open. We think that’s about to change for one of the original kings of the high roller scene. It’s been more than a decade since “Seiborg” went on his nosebleed heater at the 2011 Aussie Millions, a pivotal point in the ascension of high-stakes tournaments. But ever since then, the Poker Hall of Famer has always been in the mix and is, perhaps, one of the few “old school” players left to truly adapt to the modern ultra-high stakes circuit and continue to find success.

Seidel has five cashes inside the PokerGO Studio this year, including a runner-up finish in Event #5 of January’s PokerGO Cup for $176,400 and then ripping off three in a row in the U.S. Poker Open for more than $150,000. He’s returning from an action-packed trip to Europe where he booked two six-figure scores at Triton Poker Super High Roller London and another final table in the EPT Barcelona €50,000 High Roller.

Seidel has left no doubt that he has what it takes to accomplish anything he sets his mind to, and if he arrives in Las Vegas rested and ready, he’s a top-tier candidate to add a new trophy to his extensive collection.

Nick Schulman

It seems as if Nick Schulman’s success in the PokerGO broadcast booth has literally lit a fire under his tournament game. Schulman, a well-respected elite pro in both tournaments and high-stakes cash, has put in more tournament volume in the past two years than in almost any given year in the prior ten. And he hasn’t missed a step.

Schulman has more than $1 million in earnings this year including a 2023 high score of $360,000 with a deep run in the Triton Poker Super High Roller Main Event. He plays all the games at a very high level and has proved himself in the Poker Masters before, cashing in four of the ten events in 2022 for nearly $500,000, including a runner-up finish in the $25,000 penultimate event for $283,500.

Not only does Schulman talk the talk, he walks the walk. The WPT Champions Club member picked up his fourth career WSOP bracelet this past summer. He knows what it takes to win, and we’re not talking about GPI awards (which he’s won as well). Schulman is 38 years old, and very likely looking at a future bid for the Poker Hall of Fame. But for now, we’ll simply guess that he’s going to have a breakout 2023 Poker Masters.

Sam Soverel

Sam Soverel

Perhaps no one in the wide world of poker enjoys as much home-field advantage in the PokerGO Studio as high-stakes specialist Sam Soverel. Soverel’s resume is literally littered with six-figure scores in PGT events taking place either inside the PokerGO Studio or in the neighboring Aria for an extended high roller series. In fact, 20 of Soverel’s 40 career victories have come either inside the PokerGO Studio or at the Aria.

More than $1.79 million of Soverel’s $21.6 million career earnings has come from the Poker Masters series alone, including his fifth-largest career cash which was a victory in the 2019 $50K finale which helped him lock up the Purple Jacket for that year. With 12 total Poker Masters cashes, he currently sits fifth in Poker Masters All-Time earnings.

And Soverel’s been having what appears to be a very successful 2023 headed into the series. He has seven six-figure scores highlighted by an online victory in the WSOP $5,300 High Roller Championship for $393,516, as well as two major scores in March’s U.S. Poker Open for more than $400,000. To date, Soverel has just over $1.8 million in earnings this year, but he would likely love to add to that by becoming the Poker Masters first-ever two-time champion.