The Top 10 Poker Players of 2017
January 5, 2018
The curtain comes down on another year of the World Poker Tour which means we have a brand new GPI Player of the Year.
2017 was a rollercoaster of a year. We had a player who was atop of the rankings for 4 months who didn’t even finish in the top 5 for the year, a win from the much-derided Chris Ferguson at the World Series of Poker, and a GPI Player of the Year who held the number one spot for just two weeks.
So then, who took 2017’s crown? Starting at number 10, let us run you down…
10. Rainer Kempe – 3,086.76 GPI points
“I don’t want to say I expected it and I definitely don’t want to say I automatically deserve it, because you have to get so lucky. But at the same time, I don’t feel like it came overnight,” Kempe commented earlier this year on his success.
The 28-year-old German has enjoyed an astronomic rise to the top in the past 18 months which began in the summer of 2016 when he beat his compatriot Fedor Holz to a cool $5m in the coveted Super High Roller Bowl.
Since then Kempe has gone from strength to strength and won a further $3.3m across 2017, placing in 17 GPI ranked tournaments including two first-place finishes in November and December to round off the year in style.
9. Nick Petrangelo – 3,134.62 GPI points
“For my friends and family who don’t really understand poker as a profession, to have them be able to follow it and see that I was ranked in the Player of the Year rankings is cool. When I was primarily an online player they pretty much just had to take my word for it, that I was doing well. Now that I have had some bigger live results, it makes my success a little more tangible to them,” says Petrangelo.
Since 2015, Petrangelo has consistently been in the top 10 of the GPI rankings finishing 4th in 2015, 8th in 2016 and 9th this year after leading the leaderboard for 20 straight weeks from April until August.
The 31-year-old American, who has been dubbed by some as the ‘best tournament player in the world’, won over $3.5m across 2017, placing in 18 GPI ranked tournaments. Though he never actually won a single GPI tournament all year, Petrangelo’s consistency across 2017 was phenomenal, especially at the PokerStars Championship in Macau back in April where he finished 2nd, 2nd and 4th over three events.
8. Alan ‘Ari’ Engel – 3,153.16 GPI points
“I don’t have a home. I’ve been living out of a suitcase for four years. Moving around there’s some negatives to it, but being a poker player you get to see the entire world. It’s good,” said Engel back in May.
Alan Engel didn’t play a single tournament in 2017 which wasn’t a GPI ranked event. Across the year, the 33-year-old Canadian ranked in 26 events making $955,217 and winning tournaments in Panama, Wisconsin and Illinois.
The Illinois win put Engel back into the top 10 ranking for the first time since October where he picked up $162,154 in the process.
7. Dan Smith – 3,180.30 GPI points
“I love the opportunities it has given me and I’m very excited about my expectations for the next few years. Since I’m doing pretty well these days, I don’t have to play if I don’t want to,” said Smith on his recent success.
At the age of just 28, Smith has already had some magnificent years on the poker circuit, and 2017 was another one to add to the scrapbook. Smith cashed out in 19 GPI ranked events across the year earning himself more than $4m in the process.
Four wins came over the year for the man from New Jersey, including a monster victory in Las Vegas in late November where he collected nearly $1.5m.
6. Sergio Aido – 3,196.93 GPI points
“I am just lucky, I guess. I have been feeling confident these last six months. I am winning and having a lot of deep runs. I also play in a lot of cash games in Macau, I’ve been living there for the past six months,” reflected Aido earlier this year.
Despite what his modesty might have you believe, the Spaniard definitely has more to his game than just luck. Aido placed in 29 tournaments across the year winning two of them and finishing second in the High Roller Series where he took home $1.3m.
2017 was a breakout year for the 28-year-old winning $3.6m, doubling his all-time winnings in the space of just 12 months.
5. Stefan Schillhabel – 3,236.48 GPI points
“Maybe we get motivated by each other, since we’re able to talk with friends that play the same tournaments. So it was always helpful to talk to others who were already in these fields, maybe that helped. I mean, there’s not like a hidden secret, it’s not in the genes,” said Koray Aldemir when speaking about Germany’s ongoing poker success.
Stefan Schillhabel is one of three Germans in the top 10 for the year, more than any other country apart from the US. The 30-year-old Schillhabel entered the top 10 for the first time ever in November following an incredible year placing in 22 GPI ranked tournaments, winning three of them.
His victory in Macau back in October was his largest, winning just over $750,000, which helped propel him into the top 10. Across 2017, Schillhabel won a massive $5.4m.
4. Koray Aldemir – 3,266.11 GPI points
“It started as a hobby about 10 years ago, we were playing with friends every now and then. Actually, the first time I was playing, I barely knew the rules, but somehow got lucky and won. That’s probably why I liked the game in the first place,” said Aldemir.
Since starting out playing for fun, the 28-year-old German has gone from strength to strength, and for the last three years has been consistently magnificent.
Over 2017, Aldemir placed in 24 GPI ranked tournaments winning three of them, including back-to-back victories back in February with wins in Paranaque City and Los Angeles. The win in Paranaque City made Aldemir nearly $1.3m which helped to push up his overall winnings for the year to $4.6m.
3. Stephen Chidwick – 3,341.89 GPI points
“I enjoy that live poker is a much deeper and more complex game. There is much more information to take into account and playing only one table at a time with no time pressures allows a much higher level of play, in my opinion. You can really study your opponents and make very specific adjustments to each one that just isn’t possible playing online,” said Chidwick who was a big online player before making the leap from online to the pro circuit in 2013.
The only Brit in the top 10 this year – in fact the only Brit in the top 24 – Stephen Chidwick, who was aptly born in the city of Deal in England, has been in top form ever since turning pro, and said in 2012 that he knows he’s going to win a WSOP bracelet.
This year, the 28-year-old Chidwick has been at his imperious best placing in 17 GPI ranked tournaments, winning two of them. Across the year Chidwick won $3.5m with his biggest win coming at the PokerStars Championship in Barcelona when he took the title.
2. Bryn Kenney – 3,478.06 GPI points
“I want to be the absolute best tournament player in the world, according to the rankings. That’s my goal, and that’s why I still grind so hard,” said Kenney at the start of 2017.
Known for having, ‘the greatest mind in the game’, Kenney looked destined to take the number one spot for the year, but for a late surge from the winner. The 31-year-old American did, however, take the crown for year’s winningest tournament player, securing $8.5m in earnings.
Kenney’s 2017 was phenomenal. In the 23 GPI ranked tournaments he placed in, only twice was he unable to finish in the top 10, four of which he won including a monster $1.9m win at the PokerStars Championship in Monte Carlo back in April.
1. Adrian Mateos – 3,504.71 GPI points
“I have to play and study every day if I want to be at the top. I don’t know if I can be a top player for even a year, let alone the next ten years. I just focus on today and tomorrow. I think it is incredibly difficult to reach the highest level in any sport or game, so I’m just going to do my best and focus every day,” said Mateos at the beginning of the year.
And how apt were those words? The 23-year-old Spaniard was only atop of the GPI rankings for a meagre 14 days, but those 14 days were when it mattered most – right at the end of the year to crown Adrian Mateos the GPI Player of 2017.
Mateos finished the season making 10 final tables in the final three months of the year in a magnificent comeback victory which included wins in the Dominican Republic and Macau. But the race for the number one spot came down to the final major event of the year where Mateos edged out Kenney in a thriller in Prague.
The consistency of Mateos’ play was remarkable over the course of the year. The Madrid man placed in 31 GPI ranking tournaments in 2017 of which he won four and finished in the top 10 a further 19 times. His cash total came to $5.8m.