“Top Top”: Going Deep More Than Once In the WSOP Main Event

“Top Top”: Going Deep More Than Once In the WSOP Main Event

We are less than three months out from the start of the World Series of Poker Main Event and people are already setting markup, selling shares, and lining up their prop bets for the big show. How good is this player asking me for money? What are my chances of cashing as well as I did last year? Do I spend this money on a buy-in or do I buy a piece of this guy who got good results last year? (And why does he need my money, anyway?)

A Sunday correspondent inquires:

“I was wondering if you knew how many people have cracked the top 100 of the 10k summer ME more than once? If you do not have the answer, do you know where I might look?”

As it happens, I didn’t know that piece of information off the top of my head, but I had a good idea of where to find it. Sure, I could have just asked Kevmath, but since he’s about to be so snowed under with inquiries about which WSOP events are re-entry, when late registration closes, and where the live streams are, I figured I’d let him sleep in this particular weekend.

The History

It was an intriguing question, and one rife with all sorts of interpretations. Sure, you could say Johnny Moss cracked the top 100 by winning the first two Main Events, but so did everyone else who played as the fields were only seven and six players, respectively. The same could be said of everyone playing multiple Main Events all of the way through 1981, the last year fewer than 100 players took part.

When looking at top 100 finishes, it obviously made more sense to focus on the recent era of big-field Main Events. In 2002, the year Robert Varkonyi took the title, there were only 631 entries in the Main Event, and only 45 players cashed. The next year — Chris Moneymaker’s year — 100 players was more than 10% of the field of 839, and there were just 63 payouts (take that, people who complain about not enough of the field being paid — payouts only to the top 7.5%!)

It wasn’t until the next WSOP when the number of entrants broke 1,000, and of course it did so in a spectacular way, with 2,576 players and 225 payouts. So when I decided to poke around in the databases, 2004 was where I decided to start, meaning I only looked at WSOP Main Events featuring fields of 2,500 or more (with most since being in the 6,000-7,000s).

That gave me a dozen years’ worth of Main Event cashes, but it did mean that players like Phil Hellmuth and Daniel Negreanu — both of whom have made the top 100 in the Main Event since 2004 — didn’t count for two times, because they each had only one finish that high since 2004. It also left out Moss who actually won the Main Event three times, and, of course, Stu Ungar, another three-time winner.

Like I said, rife with interpretations. Next time ask about the top 1.6% (or 100 out of 6,420, the number of entries in 2015).

The Method

I’ve done a fair amount of poker data-mining, and chose to do this the quick and dirty way. The “WSOP tab” on the Hendon Mob database gets you to a page with a popup for every season of the World Series, I navigated to the page for Main Event payouts for each year, copied the top 100, and pasted it into a sheet in Microsoft Excel. From there I added an identifying column for the year, combined the tables into a single list, and just like that I had myself a list of 1,200 top 100 players with the year, rank, country, name, and winnings.

I then sorted the list by name (I just needed matches, so I didn’t bother trying to separate last from first), added a simple formula that flagged a row where the name was duplicated from above, and I was done.

The Results

The answer to the question of how many players have made the top 100 of the WSOP Main Event more than once in the last 12 years is 63. Of 1,200 top 100 finishes, 67 are duplicates from players who made the top 100 twice or — in four cases — three times over the 12-year period:

  • Kyle Bowker made the top 100 in 2006, 2012, and 2014
  • occasional PokerNews strategy contributor Andrew Brokos made it in 2008, 2010, and 2011
  • Marc-Etienne McLaughlin finished 30th in 2009, 86th in 2011, and made the final table for sixth in 2013
  • And Mike Matusow hit it twice in a row in 2004 and 2005 (the latter being a final table appearance), then did it again in 2008

Other final tablists who have made a second top 100 cash in the last 12 years include:

  • 2012 ninth-place finisher Steve Gee (he made it to 24th the next year)
  • Sam Holden (ninth place in 2011, 55th in 2012)
  • Phil Ivey (20th in 2005, 7th in 2009)
  • 2008 champion Peter Eastgate, who placed 78th the next year
  • Matthew Jarvis (eighth in 2010, 51st in 2015)
  • Lee Watkinson finished 45th in 2005 and eighth in 2007
  • Kevin Schaffel got 42nd in 2004 and eighth in 2009
  • Jonathan Kalmar, 82nd in 2005 and fifth two years later
  • Greg Raymer, who followed up his 2004 win with 25th place in 2005
  • Eric Buchman, fourth in 2009 and 74th in 2012
  • Dennis Phillips, with a strong return from third place in 2008 to 45th the next year
  • David Benefield, who went from 73rd in 2008 to eighth in 2013
  • Ben Lamb, another third-place finisher (2011) who’d almost made the 2009 final table (14th)
  • Allen Cunningham who was the only player from the final table of the largest-ever Main Event in 2006 (where he finished fourth) to cash a second time in the top 100 since 2004 (69th in 2011).
  • And, of course, there’s Mark Newhouse, the one person in the 12-year period to make two final tables, placing 9th in both 2013 and 2014

We should add an honorable mention to Ayhan Alsancak, who got to the unofficial final table in 2005 (10th), after placing 71st in 2004.

The Chances

So prop-bettors — here’s the skinny if you want to place any bets on players’ chances of getting back to the top 100...

Out of a total of 1,133 players who have cashed in the top 100 over the last dozen years, 63 individuals have done it two or three times, which is about 1 out of every 18 players. Something to shoot for if you’ve already made the top 100.

If you’re interested in checking out the top 100 for each year and the entire list, it’s available here as a Google Sheets document.

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  • How many players made it to the top 100 of the WSOP Main Event more than once over the last 12 years?

  • PokerNews digs into the statistics to find players who've beaten the odds in the post-Moneymaker era.

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