Who are the Best Poker Players Without a WSOP Bracelet?

Shawn Buchanan would be at or near the top of most 'best player without a bracelet' lists. (Thomas Keeling photo)

Shawn Buchanan would be at or near the top of most ‘best player without a bracelet’ lists. (Thomas Keeling photo)

In light of Noah Schwartz’s first bracelet victory this week at the 2013 World Series of Poker Europe, BLUFF decided to revisit the topic of best players without a WSOP bracelet.

This breakdown takes a look at two separate lists – most cashes at the WSOP without a bracelet, and highest career tournament earnings without a bracelet, each of which has several compelling candidates. There are two former BLUFF Players of the Year, and a number of players who have gotten down to heads-up play only to be denied in the final moments.

Most Career Cashes at the World Series of Poker Without a WSOP Bracelet

1. Tony Cousineau – 58

  • Best Finish: 4th ($1,500 Limit Omaha, 2001)
  • Career Tournament Earnings: $2,145,486
  • Cousineau has earned a reputation for being to squeeze the most out of a short stack, and that’s a big part of the reason he’s the top player on this particular list. He hasn’t, to this point, been a strong closer at the WSOP with a fourth place finish standing as Cousineau’s best result to date.

    2. Tom McCormick – 45

  • Best Finish: 3rd (2X: $2,500 Limit Hold’em, 1992; $5,000 Limit Hold’em, 1995)
  • Career Tournament Earnings: $1,608,049
  • 3. Chad Brown – 38

  • Best Finish: 2nd (3X: $1,500 Seven Card Stud, 2004; $2,000 Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo, 2005; $5,000 No Limit Deuce-to-Seven, 2007)
  • Career Tournament Earnings: $3,404,202
  • Brown has been on the precipice of a bracelet three times, getting heads-up for the hardware in three different games. The 2006 BLUFF Player of the Year also has to third places finishes at the WSOP, and with the addition of his placement on this list, he’s a strong candidate for best player without a bracelet.

    T-4. Marco Traniello – 37

  • Best Finish: 5th ($10,000 Pot Limit Omaha, 2007)
  • Career Tournament Earnings: $675,354
  • T-4. Victor Ramdin – 37

  • Best Finish: 4th ($1,500 Limit Hold’em Shootout, 2012)
  • Career Tournament Earnings: $3,840,819
  • T-6. Shawn Buchanan – 35

  • Best Finish: 2nd (3X: $25,000 Six-Max No Limit Hold’em, 2010; $10,000 HORSE, 2011; €10,400 Mixed Max, 2011 WSOPE)
  • Career Tournament Earnings: $5,441,159
  • Buchanan has had his heart broken in several of the biggest tournaments that the WSOP has to offer over the last four years. He got heads-up for a bracelet in the $25,000 Six-Max event, arguably the most coveted No Limit Hold’em bracelet outside of the Main Event every year, only to lose to Dan Kelly. In 2011 he’d lose to Fabrice Soulier in the $10,000 HORSE, and then fell just short in the heads-up finals of the first ever Mixed-Max Event later that year against Michael Mizrachi at the WSOPE.

    T-6. Yueqi Zhu – 35

  • Best Finish: 2nd ($3,000 Limit Hold’em, 2nd)
  • Career Tournament Earnings: $950,052
  • T-6. David Levi – 35

  • Best Finish: 3rd (2x: $1,500 Razz, 2002; $1,500 Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo, 2010)
  • Career Tournament Earnings: $2,275,319
  • T-9. Nam Le – 34

  • Best Finish: 2nd ($2,000 No Limit Hold’em)
  • Career Tournament Earnings: $6,685,428
  • Le has the highest career tournament earnings of any player on this list, but he only has one WSOP final table to his credit since 2009, finishing seventh in a $3,000 No Limit Hold’em event at the 2013 WSOP.

    T-9. Mark Gregorich – 34

  • Best Finish: 2nd ($5,000 Limit Hold’em)
  • Career Tournament Earnings: $1,201,635
  • T-9. Joe Tehan – 34

  • Best Finish: 6th (2X: $1,500 Pot Limit Hold’em, 2008; WSOPC National Championship, 2013)
  • Career Tournament Earnings: $3,877,248
  • T-9. Lonnie Heimowitz – 34

  • Best Finish: 2nd ($1,500 Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo, 1996)
  • Career Tournament Earnings: $539,298
  • T-9. David Plastik – 34

  • Best Finish: 3rd ($2,000 HORSE, 2003)
  • Career Tournament Earnings: $1,971,856
  • Highest Career Tournament Earnings Without a WSOP Bracelet

    1. Sam Trickett – $19,241,651

  • Best Finish: 2nd (Big One for One Drop, 2012)
  • WSOP Cashes: 12
  • Trickett’s second place finish in the Big One for One Drop weighs heavily, but in just 12 lifetime WSOP cashes Trickett has four final tables and a final table bubble to his credit. His opportunities for a bracelet are only restrained by a limited tournament schedule.

    2. Joseph Cheong – $8,613,813

  • Best Finish: 2nd ($5,000 Mixed Max, 2012)
  • WSOP Cashes: 15
  • Cheong could have been defined by his memorable third place bustout from the 2010 Main Event, but he’s remained a mainstay in poker ever since. He got heads-up for a bracelet just two years later, losing in the finals of the $5,000 Mixed Max to Aubin Cazals.

    3. Paul Wasicka – $7,943,538

  • Best Finish: 2nd (Main Event, 2006)
  • WSOP Cashes: 13
  • One wonders how differently history would have played out if Wasicka had called it off with an open-ended straight flush draw on this hand and made it a three-way all in against Jamie Gold and Michael Binger. Despite a lot of promise, Wasicka hasn’t made a WSOP final table since finishing second in that tournament.

    4. John Racener – $7,467,622

  • Best Finish: 2nd (Main Event, 2010)
  • WSOP Cashes: 24
  • 5. Sorel Mizzi – $7,190,639

  • Best Finish: 2nd (2X: £5,000 Pot Limit Omaha, 2008 WSOPE; $5,000 Pot Limit Omaha, 2009)
  • WSOP Cashes: 25
  • The 2010 BLUFF Player of the Year just missed out on a bracelet in PLO events in two consecutive series, first at the 2008 WSOPE and then at the 2009 WSOP. He lost to Theo Jorgensen the first time, but his second defeat came at the hands of a largely unheralded Richard Austin.

    6. Michael Binger – $6,946,833

  • Best Finish: 3rd (2X: Main Event, 2006; $5,000 No Limit Hold’em, 2007)
  • WSOP Cashes: 29
  • 7. Chris Klodnicki – $6,938,476

  • Best Finish: 2nd (3X: $1,500 Razz, 2008; $50,000 Poker Players’ Championship, 2012; $111,111 One Drop High Roller, 2013)
  • WSOP Cashes: 23
  • Not only has Klodnicki been heads-up for a bracelet on three separate occasions, but he made it to the final two in a couple of the most prestigious events at the WSOP over the last couple of years. Klodnicki finished second to Michael Mizrachi, who earned his second Poker Players’ Championship title in 2012, and followed it up with a defeat at the hands of Anthony Gregg in the One Drop High Roller in 2013.

    8. Justin Bonomo – $6,624,364

  • Best Finish: 2nd (2X: $5,000 Mixed Hold’em, 2008; $2,500 Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, 2011)
  • WSOP Cashes: 25
  • Bonomo has completely transitioned from being a talented but troubled online pro to being a well-respected and seasoned live tournament vet. His first close call came five years ago, when Bonomo lost heads-up to Erick Lindgren after outlaasting a ridiculous final table that also featured Andrew Robl, Roland de Wolfe, Chino Rheem, Howard Lederer, David Williams, Pat Pezzin and Isaac Haxton. Bonomo’s mixed game skills have caught up to his No Limit game too, with another close call in 2011 in Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw.

    9. Ivan Demidov – $6,415,700

  • Best Finish: 2nd (Main Event, 2008)
  • WSOP Cashes: 8
  • 10. Tobias Reinkemeier – $6,250,302

  • Best Finish: 5th (€51,000 Majestic Super High Roller, 2012 WSOPE)
  • WSOP Cashes: 3
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    Tim Fiorvanti

    Tim Fiorvanti graduated from St. John's University with a B.S. in Journalism in 2008. After several years in the industry, he started working for BLUFF in the summer of 2010. He worked his way up at BLUFF and joined full time as a Senior Writer in April of 2012. Fiorvanti now serves as the Managing Editor of BLUFF. He's a tortured Mets and Jets fan, along with several other frustrating allegiances, but he's also a two-time defending BLUFF Fantasy Football Champion.
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