Coming into 2023, Isaac Haxton had a lot to be thankful for in his poker career. He’s amassed nearly $30 million in lifetime tournament earnings and strong finishes on every major tour on Earth. But strange as it is to think about, considering the sheer volume of his final table appearances, Haxton lacked a signature win.
He’d been close plenty of times before. In 2007, at just 21 years old, Haxton was the runner-up to Ryan Daut in the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure back when that event was a staple on the World Poker Tour. Two years later, Haxton was again the runner-up on a major stage – taking home over $1.1 million for second to Vitaly Lunkin in the World Series of Poker’s 40th Anniversary $40,000 buy-in event.
But 2023 has been a cathartic year for Haxton, in terms of outright victories. Coming into the WSOP, Haxton had already recorded five wins, including a pair of $1 million cashes in high rollers at the PCA. And then, on Thursday, Haxton shook a long-time weight from his shoulders by winning his first career WSOP bracelet in the $25,000 8-Handed High Roller (Event #16) for just shy of $1.7 million.
In a triumphant moment, Haxton finally got to shake the sort of label that tends to hang around a handful of people in sports and high-level competitions for whom a signature win has been elusive: best player never to win “the big one.”
“This is my 20th year as a professional poker player,” said Haxton. “And yeah, it does feel good to finally get that bracelet… It is a little bit of a monkey off my back, I guess. I’ve had a funny career, in terms of finishing distributions. Prior to this year, all my biggest scores were second-place and third-place finishes, except for the  Super High Roller Bowl. Then this year, I’ve got six wins, all of them in pretty big stuff. It’s been funny watching it change.”
With this WSOP bracelet win, Haxton pushed past Sam Greenwood to the No. 1 spot with the most money won in tournaments thus far in 2023, with $7,614,857.
Whether it’s because he was still in the moment, or because the experience of breaking through to win in a major event felt fresh, Haxton appeared to have a level of appreciation for this win that others hadn’t previously evoked.
“It hadn’t occurred to me to think about it that way,” Haxton said of ranking his favorite career wins. “But I suppose it’s got to be up there. It’s a pretty big one – winning a 300 [plus]-player $25K is pretty good.”
Haxton was supported throughout the final table by Justin Bonomo, his long-time friend and fellow hyper-successful tournament poker player. On what was, appropriately enough, National Best Friends Day in the United States, Haxton was happy to show some appreciation for the role they’ve played in each other’s ascent in the poker world.
“I mean, I’ve known Justin since right when I first moved to Vegas in 2008,” Haxton said. “And yeah, we’ve always been very close, and collaborate a lot on poker. He’s been an incredibly supportive friend and incredibly valuable partner in poker, study, and training.”
Haxton’s ascension up the poker ranks in 2023 has him just outside the top 10 in all-time tournament results. Bonomo currently holds the all-time top spot with north of $60 million in results, and they regularly cross paths in some of the biggest tournament buy-ins on the calendar. With the WSOP’s $50K kicking off Friday, and the $100K on the horizon, there’s even more opportunity for a chase to commence.
Haxton could certainly be in the thick of either event, or both. But hitting that top spot and passing his friend isn’t going to be the motivating factor to get him there if he does.
“I don’t think about the all-time money list at all,” said Haxton. “It just feels good to still be around, and still able to win the toughest tournaments. I like playing cards, and making money.”