Main Event Ready to Rumble, Negreanu vs. Ferguson (vs. Hughes and Racener) for POY, WPT Champ Calderaro Wins WSOP $25K PLO, and Selbst Near Ladies Lead

6 min read

So much to cover, so little space and time. The WSOP Main Event begins at 11 am PT on Saturday, but we’ll also be keeping an eye on a couple other tournaments that could impact the Player of the Year race. Daniel Negreanu and Chris Ferguson, both within striking distance, need some Saturday rungood to shake things up. And we haven’t even mentioned the ladies event that just got underway, or the two Friday bracelet winners. Busy, busy, busy.

Chris Ferguson, 7-Card Stud Championship
A more casual Chris Ferguson finds himself in a great position to contend for WSOP Player of the Year, but he’ll still need some rungood on Saturday before he can relax. (Image: Jamie Thomson /

Let’s Get It On

We’ll start today’s recap with the Main Event because it is the tournament poker fans all over the world mark on their calendar. Some 6,500-plus bracelet hopefuls will sign-up for this $10,000 buy-in event.

At this time last year, defending champion Qui Nguyen was a low-stakes grinder in Las Vegas. Thanks to a sick heater, he’s now $8 million richer.

Some of the greatest poker players ever have won this event that crowns a world champion. Pros such as Doyle Brunson, Phil Hellmuth, Scotty Nguyen, and Johnny Chan all have banners hanging from the rafters inside the Rio commemorating their victories. For legends who have passed, like Johnny Moss or Stu Ungar, we might hardly know them if it weren’t for what they accomplished in this annual tournament.

The 2017 Main Event will have three Day One starting flights, with the first on Saturday. For survivors, Day Two starts on Tuesday. As former boxing referee Mills Lane would say, let’s get it on.

POY Still Up for Grabs

Saturday is an important day in the Player of the Year race. In Event #68, $3,000 No-Limit Hold’em, Daniel Negreanu is one of 37 players to advance to Day Three. They’re well into the money in this event, so POY points are still in play.

Negreanu has 262,000 chips after dumping nearly half his stack late in the day Friday. Chance Kornuth bagged the most chips (1,467,000) in that event.

There’s far more at stake for Kid Poker than the $645,922 championship prize. The winner will receive 227.5 POY points, which would put him at 879.34. He’s currently at 651.64, for those who aren’t good at math.

That would propel him to the top spot heading into the Main Event, ahead of current leader Ryan Hughes (820.71) and 2nd place John Racener (814.42). Negreanu is guaranteed at least 62.1 points, but that won’t be enough to win POY unless he runs well in the Main Event or in WSOP Europe events later this year.

Chris Ferguson also within striking distance for POY. The definitive “bad guy” in this race, he was first to break the single-year cash record (13), and is now at 15 cashes. (Hughes is also at 15, and Racener currently holds the new record at 16.)

How important is the Main Event in determining Player of the Year? No POY winner has cashed in the Main Event since Greg Merson in 2012. Merson did more than just cash. He won the event.

This year, given how close so many players are in the standings, the Main Event is likely to have a significant impact on POY.

Ferguson’s last chance to score some pre-Main Event POY points will come in the type of event Negreanu has been complaining doesn’t garner enough points this year: Event #72, $10,000 Seven Card Stud Championship.

Ferguson, once a crowd favorite now despised by many, finished the day 9th in chips (189,000) with 29 players remaining. He’s currently 4th on the POY leaderboard (733.46), and could win up to 134.8 points in this event.

One of his opponents also is still in this race. “Angry” John Monnette finished Day One with the chip lead (371,000), and he begins play on Saturday one spot ahead of Ferguson for POY with 784 points.

WPT Champ Wins WSOP Bracelet

James Calderaro might not have the name recognition of, say, Daniel Negreanu. But the man has an impressive resume that has gone under the radar.

Calderaro took down Event #67, $25,000 Pot-Limit Omaha 8-Handed High Roller, for $1,289,074. It was his first bracelet, but not the first time he won a major poker tournament.

The Floridian is also a World Poker Tour champion, having won the WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open in 2014. He’s made three final tables on that tour.

Calderaro finished 13th in the WSOP Main Event in 2009 and cashed in 2011.

Heads-up on Friday, he defeated Alexey Rybin heads-up. Other notables at the final table included Esther Taylor (3rd), the last woman standing, Dan Smith (7th), and Ben Tollerene (8th).

For Smith, it was another close call. The poker-playing philanthropist has done just about everything in the poker world but win a WSOP bracelet. He has more than $5 million in cashes lifetime at the Series, but just can’t quite get over the hump.

Hellmuth on Short Stack

It’s been a rather disappointing summer for Phil Hellmuth. The 14-time bracelet winner can’t seem to run it up lately, but he’ll have another opportunity to do so on Saturday in Event #69, $1,500 Razz.

Hellmuth is one of 10 remaining players, but he has the smallest stack (116,000). The Poker Brat is chasing chip leader David “ODB” Baker (614,000) in hopes of winning his 15th bracelet (his third in Razz) and another $132,957 for his bankroll.

Selbst Chasing Fourth Bracelet in Ladies Event

Vanessa Selbst, arguably the best female player in the world, spent much of the day with the chip lead in Event #70, $10,000 Ladies No-Limit Hold’em Championship, which women get to enter for the discounted price of $1,000.

Selbst didn’t finish the day at the top of the leaderboard, but her 94,800 stack puts her at 6th out of 85 remaining players.

The lawyer turned poker pro is shooting for her fourth career bracelet. She would be the first woman to accomplish this milestone. Selbst has $2.2 million in lifetime WSOP earnings and would love to add the $135,098 the winner is going to receive in this event to her resume. 

“Javatinii” Wins Online Bracelet

The third and final online bracelet tournament, Event #71, $1,000 Online No-Limit Hold’em Championship, went to an American avatar using the screen name “Javatinii.”

Mr. Java (or is it Mr. Tinii?) won $237,688 and will be awarded with a gold bracelet. The tournament lasted just 14-and-a-half hours.

Main Event in Your Pocket

Don’t forget, for the first time ever, you can watch the Main Event live (30-minute delay) starting on Day One (Saturday).

PokerGO, a new subscription-based app from PokerCentral, will begin coverage at 11 am PT on Saturday until ESPN2 picks it up at 2 pm. The tournament then switches back to PokerGO at 5 pm.

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