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Top 10 players to watch vying for their first WSOP bracelet

16 May 2016

By Dan Podheiser
The 2016 World Series of Poker kicks off in a few weeks, as tens of thousands of hopeful poker players will compete all summer for 69 different gold bracelets.

A poker player's legacy has traditionally been measured by several factors, but perhaps none more important than the number of bracelets he or she has won. Phil Hellmuth has 14, more than anyone, as he won't hesitate to remind you. Meanwhile, there are crushers all over the globe who remain relatively anonymous despite winning millions, and there are well-known players out there with multiple bracelets to their names and zero dollars in their bank accounts.

The "new school" poker player will downplay the importance of the bracelet, but the fact remains that winning one is always going to be pretty damn special. Everyone wants one. I know I want one, and this year I'll take my first crack at a bracelet when I play the $565 Colossus II in early June.

I'll be one of several players seeking their first bracelet in 2016. But besides myself, here are 10 players you should keep an eye on as they look to win their first WSOP tournament.

10. Alexandru Masek

Casual poker fans likely have never heard of Masek, but the 30-year-old pro has won more WSOP Circuit rings (nine) than any other player since the Circuit launched in 2005. He also finished second in the 2015 WSOP National Championship, and has cashed 16 times at the WSOP in Las Vegas.

One of these days, a player who seems to be able to close tournaments as well as Masek should be able to take down a bracelet event.

There has been no hotter player over the past few years than Fedor Holz, but will it translate into a WSOP bracelet?

There has been no hotter player over the past few years than Fedor Holz, but will it translate into a WSOP bracelet?

9. Ari Engel

"BodogAri" has been crushing the game online and on the live felt for more than a decade now, and lately has been putting up staggering numbers while traveling the world playing poker tournaments. Engel has made five WSOP Circuit final tables already in 2016, and is tied for second all-time with eight Circuit rings. In January, he took down the $10,600 buy-in Aussie Millions Main Event for $1.12 million.

Engel has 23 WSOP cashes to his name throughout his career, but hasn't had luck sealing the deal at the summer series. But like Masek, he's an excellent closer, and is due to win a bracelet eventually.

8. Tony Cousineau

Cousineau is the answer to a common poker trivia question: Who has the most cashes at the World Series without a bracelet? Cousineau has cashed a whopping 72 times dating back to 1999, good for seventh in the history of the series! And yet, his best-ever score at the WSOP was in 2005, when he placed fifth in the $5,000 Pot-Limit Hold'em event for $67,400, and he's never finished higher than fourth place in a WSOP event.

Unlike our previous two superstars, Cousineau doesn't seem to have any luck closing out tournaments. But for a guy who always seems to find his way into the money, you'd have to think he'll win one someday.

7. Allen Kessler

Kessler comes from the same school as Cousineau: Make the money, then bow out gracefully. Maybe the nittiest player on the pro tour, Kessler has 45 cashes and over $1 million in WSOP earnings, but of course has never won a bracelet. He came close in 2010, though, when he finished second in the $10,000 Seven Card Stud Hi-Low Split-8 or Better World Championship for $276,485.

To his credit, Kessler does have three WSOP Circuit rings, and is definitely a tough player to bust from a tournament. That said, he has never not busted from a WSOP bracelet event.

6. David "Chino" Rheem

There was much controversy in the aftermath of Rheem winning his record-tying third WPT title last month, as several in the poker community took Rheem's $705,885 score as an opportunity to point out and/or collect on his debts.

Still, Rheem has been one of the most successful tournament poker players of the past decade, as evidenced by his share of the WPT record and his seventh-place finish at the 2008 WSOP Main Event. In addition to that November Nine appearance, Rheem has 22 other cashes for roughly $1.5 million at the WSOP, but no bracelets to his name. He is feared in any tournament he plays, and if he plays a high volume this summer, don't be surprised if he makes a run at a bracelet.

5. Sam Trickett

I'm not sure if Trickett even played any WSOP events in 2015 or plans to play any this year, but this list cannot properly exist without the player best known for finishing second for $10 million in the first $1,000,000 The Big One for One Drop in 2012. That tournament, along with 13 other cashes for another $1.2 million, makes Trickett the all-time leading money winner at the WSOP to not have a bracelet. Poor guy, huh.

4. Matt Glantz

One of the most prolific tweeters in the poker world, Glantz has turned himself into the game's premier East Coast ambassador. He's also undoubtedly one of the best and most versatile players out there. But despite his 38 cashes and $2.5 million in WSOP earnings, Glantz has still not added a bracelet to his resume.

It remains to be seen if Glantz, who publicly criticized the WSOP last summer, will play in any events in 2016. If he plays a full schedule, he's definitely a favorite to go deep in at least one event and make a run at his first bracelet.

3. Mustapha Kanit

If you don't know Kanit by now, you need to educate yourself. The 25-year-old Italian pro, best known for his flashy clothes and even flashier play, has been crushing the tournament scene lately, thanks to plays like this:

Kanit is the all-time leading money winner from Italy, but he only has nine cashes at the WSOP. He'll be one player to watch closely this summer.

2. Steve O'Dwyer

Somehow, O'Dwyer – who seemingly wins every single "high roller" event throughout the year – has never won a WSOP bracelet. Despite his $15.2 million in lifetime tournament winnings, he hasn't even cashed at the WSOP in Las Vegas since 2013, and has just $322,088 in total series earnings.

Respected as one of the top tournament players in the world, O'Dwyer will eventually win plenty of bracelets if he wants to put in the time at the WSOP during the summer. It's only a matter of when he'll win the first.

1. Fedor Holz

Because of the swings and variance involved in tournament poker, it's hard to say that one player is the "best" in the world. But there's been no hotter player over the past few years than Holz.

The 22-year-old played in his first WSOP last summer and got off to a great start with six cashes, including a deep run in the Main Event in which he garnered a lot of TV time. But the German pro has been crushing online and in Europe for years now, and in 2015 secured his spot as one of the most feared regulars on the high roller circuit.

Holz will win many WSOP bracelets in his career, and could turn into one of poker's most marketable superstars, if he wants to.