What We Learned Halfway Through the 2023 World Series of Poker

The first half of the 2023 WSOP schedule is now behind us and some of poker biggest stars have dominated the headlines so far.

Lance Bradley
Jun 23, 2023
Poker players from around the world have flocked to the 2023 World Series of Poker and given poker fans following from around the world a lot to digest. (Photo courtesy WSOP)

The 2023 World Series of Poker has officially reached the halfway mark and the first 25 days of poker’s version of summer camp has provided the poker world with storylines galore. So, as everybody buckles up for the second half, here’s What We Learned halfway through the 2023 WSOP.

The Cream Continues to Rise to the Top

The WSOP has always been a showcase for poker’s best players but the 2023 WSOP might just be one for the ages. Through the first 50 events, three players captured their sixth career bracelet and four more captured their fifth career bracelet. In the 52-year history of the WSOP, only 36 players have five or more WSOP bracelets and only 19 have six or more.

Shaun Deeb, in the midst of a million dollar weight loss prop bet, captured his sixth by winning the $1,500 Eight Game Mix 6-Handed event. Proving his excellence across all poker variations, Deeb has now won a WSOP bracelet in five different games; Seven Card Stud, Pot Limit Omaha, No Limit Hold’em, and Pot Limit Hold’em. 

Jeremy Ausmus won his first WSOP bracelet in 2013 but it took him nearly eight years to win his second. He won the $1,000 buy-in Covid-19 Relief No-Limit Hold’em Charity Event at the 2021 WSOP to start a stretch that has seen him win an unprecedented five WSOP bracelets in 629 days – and average of one bracelet win every 126 days. His sixth bracelet came online in the $3,200 No-Limit Hold’em High Roller. 

Thursday night saw Brian Rast defeat Talal Shakerchi heads-up to win the $50,000 Poker Players Championship for the third time in his career and his sixth overall bracelet. He joins Michael Mizrachi as the only players to win the prestigious title three times and his victory came on the same day that the WSOP announced him as one of 10 finalists for the Poker Hall of Fame giving voters a reminder of his greatness.

Another one of the PHOF finalists, Josh Arieh, grabbed his fifth career bracelet in the $10,000 Limit Hold’em Championship. It’s his third bracelet win in 14 months. Brian Yoon won the $10,000 Seven Card Stud Championship for his fifth career win. Yoon’s ascension up the all-time bracelet list just might be the quietest one ever. John Monnette won the $1,500 Triple Draw event for his fifth career bracelet. Each of Monnette’s five victories have come in five different variations: Eight Game Mix, Seven Card Stud, No Limit 2-7, Limit Hold’em, and Triple Draw.

Bracelets Are Still The Thing – Even for “Big Name Pros”

While future Hall of Famers like Deeb, Rast, Monnette, and Arieh continue to add to their list of WSOP accolades, a number of highly respected pros finally took care of something missing from theirs; WSOP gold. White no fewer than 38 players have won their first career bracelet over the last three-and-a-half weeks, there’s a few who clearly stand out above the field.

Jerry Wong, who had made 10 WSOP final tables without capturing gold coming into this summer, finally broke through and took down the $10,000 Razz Championship for his first career bracelet. Chris Brewer, whose history with being on the wrong side of bad beats in super high roller events around the world has been well documented, managed to work his way through 68 other players to win the $250,000 Super High Roller for $5,293,556 and his first bracelet. In the moments after his win, Brewer was interviewed by PokerGO’s Natalie Bode and the emotions were obvious.

The most notable first time winner however has to be Isaac Haxton. With more than $35 million in lifetime winnings, Haxton is 15th on the all-time money list but still hadn’t captured a WSOP title. It certainly wasn’t for a lack of trying. He had seven WSOP final tables throughout his career including a runner-up finish to Vitaly Lunkin in the $40,000 No Limit Hold’em event in 2009. Haxton beat 300 other entries to win the $25,000 No Limit Hold’em event for nearly $1.7 million and took his name off of the top of the Best Player Without a Bracelet list.

Speaking with the media afterwards, Haxton admitted that finally earning that WSOP victory felt good, but also provided him some relief.

“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.” 

Chad Eveslage is More Than Just a One-Trick Pony

Chad Eveslage finished 2022 by being crowned the World Poker Tour Player of the Year. He did it by winning the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic at the Bellagio and cashing three more times including a third place finish at the WPT Seminole Rock ‘N’ Roll Poker Open. Those tournaments were all No Limit Hold’em. He’s shown up at the 2023 WSOP and shown he’s a mixed game beast as well. 

Eveslage started things off by winning the $1,500 buy-in Dealer’s Choice event for his second career bracelet. Three days later he won the $10,000 buy-in version of the same event and launched himself into contention for WSOP Player of the Year honors. In the 20-year history of the WPT POY award, only four players have won a bracelet at the WSOP after their POY win. Eveslage is the only one to ever win two. 

Eveslage currently sits in fifth place in the WSOP Player of the Year race behind Brewer, Deeb, Michael Rodrigues Pires Santos, and current leader Ian Matakis. Nobody has ever won WPT Player of the Year and then gone on to win WSOP Player of the year the same year.

This Isn’t Another Poker Boom – It’s Better

When the COVID lockdowns started to ease in 2021 and poker players were able to return to live events, the initial response blew tournament organizers away. As record crowds made their way to events at nearly every buy-in level, observers assigned a post-lockdown need to get out and play as the reason for the strong numbers but it may have obscured the fact that live poker had been growing for years. The long lines and massive fields of the 2023 WSOP are just the most high profile example of that.

Those long lines might seem like an issue, but WSOP management should be commended for how smooth this massive undertaking has gone. Jack Effel and Ty Stewart clearly used the 2022 WSOP as an opportunity to figure some things out and players are benefitting from the lessons learned in the first year at the Paris/Bally’s property.

When WSOP officials announced the 2023 WSOP schedule they made it quite clear they were going to do everything they could to break the record for Main Event entries. These early events are an indication that breaking that record – 8,773 entries – probably isn’t in question, it’s just a matter of by how much. Taking into consideration only the summer version of the WSOP, when recreational players have an easier time making the trip to Las Vegas to play, the Main Event has grown each of the last five years. 

2016: 6,737 entries (+4.94% growth)
2017: 7,221 entries (+7.18% growth) 
2018: 7,874 entries (+9.04% growth) 
2019: 8,569 entries (+8.83% growth) 
2022: 8,663 entries (+1.10% growth)

To break the record, the WSOP Main Event needs to see just 1.28% growth over last summer’s number. Given their commitment to running satellites around the world, both live and online, it seems like a foregone conclusion that the record is set. The only real question is, by how much?