The World Series of Poker is done and dusted for another year, which means it’s time for us to point out that the real winner in all this was not the Main Event champion at all, but the IRS.
In fact, it’s become something of a customary cliché at this time of year.
But once the various slices of federal and local taxes have been removed from the money pie, how much is left for the players? How much did they really win?
Thankfully, the website taxabletalk.com has crunched the numbers for us. This is good, because we have enough trouble calculating our own taxes let alone other people’s.
$10 Million in Taxes
First up, a whopping $10,109,760 of the final table prize money will go to the IRS, which leaves $15,335,628 for the players. When you put it that way, it seems hardly worth playing for, right?
You may as well just move all-in every hand.
At last year’s final table, the biggest winner (after the IRS), was Joe McKeehen. But, as a Pennsylvania resident, his $7.6 million first-place prize would have been shaved by 44 percent after taxes. That’s $3,385,952 in total, leaving the champ with $4,297,394.
Of course, much of what you pay depends on where you live and last year’s runner-up Josh Beckley from New Jersey got stung even harder: 46.56 percent, a $2,081,719 hit on his $4,470,896 earnings.
For all New Jersey’s many delights, it is no tax haven.
How Much Did Nguyen Win?
So what about Qui Nguyen? Well, this year’s champ had the good sense to live in Nevada, which means he pays zero state income tax.
That means Nguyen’s tax bill will come in at just 41.51 percent on his $8,005,310 first prize. While he won the most, he will pay the second lowest of all the Americans at the final table, after South Florida’s Jerry Wong.
Gordon Vayo gets the worst of it, though. The 2016 Main Event runner up is foolish enough to hail from San Francisco, which means he will pay 51.46 per cent. Yes, that is more than half his winnings.
The “Real” Winner
And so, the “2016 WSOP Main Event Tax Winner Apart From the IRS” is…
Well, unfortunately, it always goes to a foreigner, and in particular a foreigner who lives in a country that has a tax treaty with the US and where gambling winnings are untaxable.
This year, that man his Kenny Hallaert of Hansbeke, Belgium, who will pay a big fat zero on his $1,464,258 winnings.
Incidentally, the “unluckiest” World Series winner of all time was Peter Eastgate. After winning $9 million at the 2008 Main Event, he was presented with a $6.6 million bill from the Danish government, calculated by a 45 percent charge on winnings up to $520,000 and 75 percent on the rest. Ouch.