Anthony Zinno, the standout performer from a year packed with winners
1) Anthony Zinno
Winning one World Poker Tour title is tough enough, but Anthony Zinno did the unthinkable at the start of 2015, winning back-to-back championships for over $1.3m.
Zinno had already won a WPT title – back in 2013 when he took down the Borgata Poker Open for $825,099. He wouldn’t get another tournament win until the WPT Fallsview Poker Classic in Canada in February 2015, which put him in an elite group of players to win two WPT titles.
From there Zinno moved down to California and entered the $10k LA Poker Classic – the event won by tournament legend Chris Moorman in 2014. Zinno hit the final table as one of the shorter stacks but was unstoppable, eventually securing the title with pocket Aces against Mike Leah.
The $1,122,196 first prize was his first seven-figure score and it also tied Zinno with Carlos Mortensen and Gus Hansen as the only people to win three WPT titles. If that wasn’t enough, he was also awarded the WPT Season XIII Player of the Year award.
Zinno wasn’t done though. He couldn’t go back-to-back-to-back at the next WPT event, the Bay 101 Shooting Stars in March, but he did the next best thing, winning the $24,500 High Roller. He then took his incredible form into the World Series of Poker, cashing in five events, final tabling them all, including the $111,111 ONE DROP High Roller, and winning the second biggest of the lot, the $25k PLO High Roller for $1,122,196. It secured him sixth place in the WSOP Player of the Year race and cemented 2015 as the ‘Year of the Zinno’.
2) John Juanda
Juanda has been getting it quietly for 18 years now. He final tabled his first WSOP event in 1999, got his first six-figure score in 2000 and won his first bracelet in 2002. He took a year out after the 2014 WSOP to win some ‘insanely high stakes’ prop bets, including running 100 yards faster than his friend could hop 50 yards and learning to speak Japanese.
Missions accomplished, he returned to the poker stage in August for the largest EPT Main Event of all time. EPT Barcelona attracted 1,694 entries and Juanda muscled his way to the final table, where he turned down a deal (‘And forfeit the chance for a million?’) and went on to win the whole thing.
Juanda was also inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame. Unfortunately he was too busy playing ultra high stakes cash games in Macau to attend.
3) Bill Klein
Businessman Klein took centre stage at the $111,111 ONE DROP High Roller this summer, after Phil Hellmuth was eliminated in sixth place. Klein had promised to donate all of his winnings to charity and, after busting Daniel Colman in third place, was one step away from the bracelet that would ensure he wouldn’t go home empty handed. In the end it wasn’t to be. Jonathan Duhamel won, but Klein won the neutrals’ hearts and minds.
4) Joe McKeehen
McKeehen was public enemy number one when he took Daniel Negreanu out of the WSOP Main Event. It’s fair to say he didn’t do much to change anyone’s mind when the November Nine reconvened. The Main Event final table was a drab affair, tainted by the ghost of Negreanu, and sullied further by stalling and action that was split across three nights.
That’s not to take anything away from McKeehen though as he put on a performance that Negreanu described as ‘the most lopsided since Stu Ungar in 1998.’ McKeehen never lost the chip lead and none of the other eight got to his starting stack. It was a faultless display from someone who has no interest in being the game’s next ambassador.
5) John Gale
62-year-old Gale won his first WSOP bracelet in 2006 but had to take a break from the game in 2012 after suffering serious health issues, including a brain tumour and open heart surgery. Incredibly, Gale came back to win another bracelet at the 2015 WSOP, scooping the $1,000 NLHE Turbo event, beating out 1,790 other players to grab the gold. Gale said afterwards that his condition is still ongoing, making this one of the performances of any year.
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