Value Plays, Long Shots Highlight Daniel Negreanu’s $25K WSOP Fantasy Draft

16 min read

On Monday night, just hours before the start of the 2022 World Series of Poker, 14 teams of poker players assembled at the Aria Casino for the return of Daniel Negreanu’s $25K WSOP Fantasy Draft. This is the first time the draft has taken place since 2019, and the prize pool is the third-largest in the event’s history, following just behind the prize pools created by the 15 teams who participated in 2011 and 2018. 

At a price of $111, Daniel Negreanu was once again the highest-priced player in his WSOP fantasy draft. (Image: Chris Wallace)

For those unfamiliar with the format, each team starts with a theoretical salary of $200. One by one, poker’s biggest stars are nominated and auctioned off to the highest bidder. Each manager drafts eight players and, at the end of the WSOP, the team with the most overall points wins. You can view a full breakdown of the rules and points here

CardsChat broke down each of the 14 teams and identified one player on each who we think went for too little money, and one we think went for too much. Stay tuned to all summer long to track each team’s progress. There, you can also see details on how you can get involved in the action by making your own team for just $500 in the ODB fantasy league

2022 $25K Draft: Meet the Teams

With 14 teams participating in this year’s contest, team owners had to think strategically in order to assemble teams filled with players who can perform consistently throughout the summer, and in a variety of different poker disciplines.

We don’t have a dog in this race and aren’t supporting any specific team, but that doesn’t mean you can’t pick your favorites and track their progress through this year’s WSOP. So, in alphabetical order, let’s meet this year’s teams.

Team: AJ Kelsall
Owner: AJ Kelsall

  • John Racener —  $37
  • Andrew “A.J.” Kelsall — $14
  • Yuval Bronshtein — $38
  • Johannes Becker — $20
  • Jerry Wong — $40
  • David “Bakes” Baker — $15
  • David Prociak — $1
  • Randy Ohel — $26

Our thoughts

Best Value: Randy Ohel — $26

Perhaps the mixed game specialist isn’t playing as big a schedule as he normally would because $26 for a player of his quality is practically stealing. Ohel went for nearly double this price ($51) in 2019, a year where he struggled with just three cashes. Look for Ohel to enjoy a nice bounce-back year and be well worth this $26 investment.

Biggest Reach: Yuval Bronshtein — $38

To be honest, most of these prices seem fair for these players, but $38 for Bronshtein might be just a bit too much, especially considering the prices of some of his teammates. John Racener at a dollar less seems like a great value while Jerry Wong has produced a ton of consistent results to warrant his price.

Team: Blowing Loads
Owners: Luke Schwartz, Nick Guagenti

  • Chris Brewer — $39
  • Stephen Chidwick — $54
  • Phillip Hui — $27
  • Justin Liberto — $5
  • Nick Guagenti — $1
  • Ismael Bojang — $27
  • Alex Livingston — $40
  • Brian Yoon — $7

Our thoughts

Best Value: Phillip Hui — $27 

Hui went for just $21 in 2019 when he won the $50K Players Championship and it seems that many of the managers forgot about that, as he went for just six dollars more this year. Primarily a mixed-game player now, Hui got his start playing No-Limit Hold’em on the WSOP Circuit, so there’s a good chance that he’ll add some Hold’em events in here as well. One of the best values of the draft for us. 

Biggest Reach: Chris Brewer — $39

This is a large price to pay for a player who cashed in just two live events at last year’s WSOP. Granted, one of them was a final table at the $50K Players Championship, but Brewer seems like the kind of player who might be more tempted by the high-roller events at the Aria rather than grinding WSOP events. Almost $40 is too much in our opinion. 

Team: Chad E
Owner: Chad Eveslage

  • Benny Glaser — $74
  • Eli Elezra –$26
  • Dan Smith –$25
  • Justin Bonomo –$16
  • Joey Couden$17
  • Jason Koon — $2
  • Adam Friedman — $6
  • Maxx Coleman — $34

Our thoughts

Best Value: Eli Elezra — $26 

Elezra went for the same price that he did in 2019 when he logged five cashes for 76 points. As one of the most consistent players at the WSOP for the past decade, the Poker Hall of Famer always shows up to grind out every mixed-game event he can find, making three final tables in the process.

Eli Elezra was recently inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame. (Image: Chris Wallace)

Biggest Reach: Dan Smith — $25 

Smith going for just one dollar less than Elezra is a bit odd. He’s still one of the best poker players in the world, but Smith primarily plays No-Limit games including Hold’em and 2-7. Smith secured just six points when he went for $12 in 2019, and at the 2021 WSOP, he cashed just three times. He’s certainly capable of taking home a bracelet and paying off this value, but it seems more likely that he won’t. 

Team: Dan Shak
Owner: Dan Shak

  • Shaun Deeb — $110
  • Robert Mizrachi — $12
  • Phil Ivey — $33
  • Erik Seidel — $14
  • Mike Matusow$9
  • Ali Imsirovic — $1
  • Roland Israelashvili — $2
  • Scott Bohlman  — $19

Our thoughts

Best Value: Roland Israelashvili  — $2

There must be something we don’t know about Robert Mizrachi and his schedule because $12 for a player of his ability and past success at the WSOP doesn’t make any sense. So, assuming he won’t be playing nearly as much as usual, we are going with a player who might play more WSOP events than any other player, Roland Israelashvili. The Israeli pro is the definition of a grinder, logging an incredible 19 cashes at the 2021 WSOP, making him very live to hit a big field bonus or two.

Biggest Reach: Phil Ivey — $33

This could be the ultimate wild-card pick. Everyone knows that Ivey could show up with millions in bracelet bets and play every single event, including the $500 Housewarming event. We also know that Ivey might not step foot in Paris or Bally’s casinos, opting instead to play the high-stakes cash games at Aria or Bellagio. Shak likely has some insider info to be willing to spend this much on Ivey, but it’s still too rich for our blood.

Team: Fleyshman
Owner: Dan Fleyshman

  • Phil Hellmuth — $91
  • Ben Yu —  $86
  • Bryce Yockey — $11
  • Ryan Riess — $6
  • Cord Garcia — $1
  • Darren Elias — $2
  • Joe Cada — $1
  • Michael Mizrachi — $2

Our thoughts

Best Value: Darren Elias — $2 

Elias remains one of the world’s best No-Limit Hold’em players and, if he isn’t tempted by the various one-day high roller events in Las Vegas, he should have a very successful WSOP. Elias also likes to play Pot-Limit Omaha and No-Limit 2-7, so it’s possible he makes a surprise run in a mixed-game event to pay back this low price. 

Biggest Reach: Cord Garcia — $1

When you go with the stars and scrubs strategy, as Fleyshman did, that means you might get stuck with some small-bid players who are rather risky, even at comparatively low prices. The former WSOP Colossus winner is just that, as he hasn’t recorded a live cash at the WSOP since 2019. He’s fully capable of making a deep run in a No-Limit Event to hit a field bonus, but it’s also possible he cash at all during the series so, even at $1, he’s risky. 

Team: Maria Ho
Owners: Maria Ho, Koray Aldemir

  • Joao Vieira — $95
  • Marco Johnson — $30
  • Felipe Ramos$21
  • Craig Chait — $20
  • Koray Aldemir$2
  • John Hennigan — $1
  • Maria Ho — $6
  • Jim Collopy — $25
Koray Aldemir
Defending Main Event Champion Koray Aldemir is hoping to take down another title in the $25K Fantasy league. (Image: Chris Wallace)

Our thoughts

Best Value: Marco Johnson — $30

Johnson has long been one of the most consistent and dangerous mixed-game players in the world, but his price is way down this year from past years, meaning he might not be playing as much. “Crazy Marco” went for $52 in 2019, but finished in the bottom half of the field with just 45 points. Look for him to bounce back and post some nice results to pay off this price. 

Biggest Reach: Joao Vieira — $95

Vieira is an incredible player, but this is the third-biggest price on the board, behind only Shaun Deeb and Daniel Negreanu. The Portuguese pro had a great 2019 WSOP with 118 points, but a vast majority of those came in the $5,000 Six-Handed event that he won. He will certainly put a good amount of points up this year, but for a player who plays more Hold’em than mixed games, this price just seems far too high. 

Team: Mojave’s Balls
Owners: Felipe Mojave, Scott Ball

  • Dan Zack — $87
  • Sam Soverel — $5
  • Julien Martini — $52
  • Justin Saliba — $1
  • Joe Cheong — $4
  • Ari Engel — $13
  • Scott Ball — $3
  • Brandon Shack-Harris — $19

Our thoughts

Best Value: Ari Engel — $13

Another candidate for the “Who Loves it More” award, Engel will likely be at the WSOP every single day. While he primarily plays Hold’em, he has no problem dabbling in the mixed games and will likely play more events than nearly anyone else, so to get him at $13 seems like great value. 

Biggest Reach: Julian Martini — $52

Martini went for $21 in 2019 and finished with just four cashes for 13 points. In 2021, Martini cashed just three times, though one was at the $10K 2-7 final table, to be fair. Still, to pay more than $50 in this draft, we’d want someone with more of a pedigree at the WSOP. 

Team: Negreanu
Owner: Daniel Negreanu

  • Daniel Shak — $5
  • Nick Schulman — $79
  • Josh Arieh — $25
  • Shannon Shorr — $20
  • Paul Volpe — $20
  • Dario Sammartino — $16
  • Adrian Mateos –$6
  • Chino Rheem$29

Our thoughts

Best Value: Dario Sammartino — $16

Poker Twitter had some big reactions to this low price for the 2019 WSOP’s leading point scorer, and for good reason. Sixteen dollars is an insane value for a player who’s a threat to win any No-Limit Hold’em event he enters. The Italian is also a fantastic mixed-game player, final tabling the $10K HORSE Event in 2019, and finishing ninth in the Players Championship. Sammartino should have gone for at least double this price, making him arguably the best value in the entire draft. 

Biggest Reach: Nick Schulman — $79

On paper, Chino Rheem for $29 is clearly the biggest reach, but the only reason his number was so high is that Negreanu used the remainder of his budget to get him, rather than have any money leftover. So instead, we’re going with poker player and broadcaster Schulman at $79, which is just a bit too high for us given his usual light schedule. He did win a $10K bracelet in 2019, but his price is still a little too much for us.

Team: No Gamble No Future
Owners: Brent Hanks, Jeff Platt

  • Daniel Negreanu — $111
  • Jason Mercier$6
  • Eugene Katchalov — $11
  • Alex Foxen — $42
  • Mike Gorodinsky — $14
  • Joe McKeehen — $4
  • Adam Hendrix$3
  • Sean Winter — $1

Our thoughts

Best Value: Jason Mercier — $6 

For years, Mercier was one of the top two or three highest-priced players in the draft, but since starting a family with his wife Natasha, the former poker pro hasn’t been at the WSOP since 2018. Mercier did make a nice return to the felt in April, however, when he final tabled a $50K high-roller event at the Seminole Hardrock casino, and he’s said he’ll be back at the WSOP this year — bringing his family with him, of course. Even if he only plays a handful of events, Mercier should return good value at this low price. 

Jason Mercier and his wife Natasha will be back at the WSOP this year. (Image: Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open)

Biggest Reach: Alex Foxen — $42 

You could easily make an argument that Foxen is the best No-Limit Hold’em player in the world, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he should be priced this high. When a player goes for more than $30, you want them to be playing a good amount of the $10K mixed-game events, as those award the most points and attract the smallest fields. Foxen scored 108 points in 2019, but 88 of those came from a 40th-place finish in the Main Event. He could easily pay this price off, but it seems still a bit too rich.

Team: ODB
Owner: David “ODB” Baker

  • Chad Eveslage — $46
  • Jeremy Ausmus — $67
  • John Monnette — $37
  • Shawn Buchanan — $32
  • Tamon Nakamura — $8
  • Damjan Radanov — $3
  • David Benyamine — $1
  • Ben Diebold — $1

Our thoughts

Best Value: John Monnette — $37 

“Angry” John Monnette has been one of the best mixed-game players in the world for more than a decade, but his price in the draft has steadily dropped each year. In 2019, Monnette went for $43, and had his worst WSOP to date, with four cashes and just 13 points. Monnette should be hungry for a bounce-back year, but it’s also possible that big cash games keep him away from Bally’s and Paris. 

Biggest Reach: Tamon Nakamura — $8 

Most of the prices seem fair on this team, so we’re going with Nakamura here. The Japanese player has enjoyed success at the recent US Poker Open, but he doesn’t have a great track record at the WSOP and appears to be primarily a Hold’em player. Most importantly, Nakamura is another player who could be much more tempted by the one-day high-roller events elsewhere in Vegas.

Team: Pocket 5s
Owners: Remko Rinkema, Donnie Peters 

  • Kevin Gerhart$51
  • David “ODB” Baker — $53
  • Brian Hastings —  $26
  • Scott Seiver — $64
  • Dylan Weisman — $1
  • Eddie Blumenthal — $1
  • Daniel Ospina$1
  • Romain Lewis$1

Our thoughts

Best Value: Brian Hastings — $26

If Dario Sammartino at $16 was the steal of the draft, Hastings at $26 isn’t very far behind. Hastings went for $70 in 2019 and made three final tables, securing 173 points — the 15th highest total. Hastings won another bracelet last November in the $10K Stud 8-or Better event, so this price really makes no sense. He’ll likely be one of the most drafted players in the ODB league.

Biggest Reach: Dylan Weisman — $1

This lineup is another example of where we don’t think there are any big reaches to be found, so we’re going with the player who’s likely to play the fewest number of events. Weisman plays Pot-Limit Omaha nearly exclusively, and for good reason, as he’s now arguably the best player in the world at that game. He proved that last October when he took down the $1,000 PLO-8 bracelet, so while he’s had past success, he seems the most likely player on this list to put up single-digit points. 

Team: Riess
Owner: Ryan Riess 

  • Ryan Laplante — $13
  • Ryan Leng — $16
  • Dylan Linde — $64
  • Yueqi Zhu — $8
  • Christopher Vitch — $1
  • Ian O’Hara — $9
  • Yuri Dzivielevski — $61
  • Scott Clements — $28

Our thoughts

Best Value: Ryan Laplante — $13

Another player like Ari Engel who just loves to play in each and every event, Laplante seems to be great value at $13. He’ll play all of the low buy-in No-Limit Hold’em events with big field bonus points, and he’s also likely to play the smaller buy-in versions of many of the mixed-game events. Assuming Laplante is playing a full schedule, this is a great pick. 

Biggest Reach: Chris Vitch — $1

Every year, there are one or two managers who nominate a player not realizing they aren’t playing at the WSOP; this year, it was 2013 Main Event champion Ryan Riess. Normally, Vitch would likely be one of the top-10 highest-priced players, but he announced on Twitter that he’s unlikely to play any events this summer due to family commitments, so it looks like the fantasy draft’s reigning champion will defend his title with a one-player handicap. 

Team: Shaun Deeb
Owner: Shaun Deeb

  • Jake Schwartz — $46
  • Matthew Gonzales — $38
  • Cary Katz — $23
  • Allen Kessler — $3
  • Matt Glantz — $8
  • Patrick Leonard — $31
  • Chance Kornuth — $45
  • Daniel Weinman — $1

Our thoughts

Best Value: Matt Glantz — $8 

As mentioned already, the easiest way to rack up points is to draft mixed-game crushers and, while Glantz might not be playing the packed schedule he was a decade ago, he still should make a few nice runs. Glantz went for just $3 in 2019 and paid off nicely with 98 points, good for 41st overall. If he gets another 100 points this year, $8 will seem like a big steal. 

Biggest Reach: Cary Katz — $23

Katz has enjoyed some success at the WSOP, but for $23, we’d prefer someone who’s likely to play more events than he will, and who plays events other than the high-roller No-Limit tournaments where he can often be found. This is the first time that Katz has been drafted and for him to go for $23 is a bit of a head-scratcher. 

Team: Trivett
Owner: Michael Trivett

  • Mark Gregorich — $31
  • Anthony Zinno — $62
  • Michael Noori$21
  • Calvin Anderson — $12
  • Brian Rast — $41
  • Michael Trivett —  $13
  • Robert Campbell — $6
  • Ray Henson –$8

Our thoughts

Best Value: Calvin Anderson — $12 

Anderson is the final candidate for steal of the draft at a price of just $12. He went for $26 in 2019 and ended up fifth in overall points with 12 cashes and 246 points. Another player who will dabble in both NLH and mixed games, Anderson he should easily meet the value on this number if he plays anywhere close to his regular schedule of events. 

Biggest Reach: Brian Rast — $41 

Rast is definitely a wild card at this price. In 2019, he went for $10, was hardly at the WSOP, and put up a goose egg. In 2021, by comparison, he won his fifth WSOP bracelet in the $3,000 Six-Handed event. Rast usually only plays a handful of WSOP events, so this price suggests that he’s playing more this year. Even so, $41 is still tough to swallow because of the unpredictability that comes with a guy like Rast. 

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