2022 888poker XL Winter Series

Top 10 Moments from the 2021 World Series of Poker

2021 world series of poker

After seven exciting and thrilling weeks, the 2021 World Series of Poker (WSOP) has reached its conclusion, which means it's time to look back at the best moments from the entire series.

The end of the 2021 WSOP is also the end of an important era in poker. Next year, the series will move down the road to Bally's and Paris on the Las Vegas Strip. Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino has played host to the poker extravaganza for 17 years, but it's time for a change.

Hellmuth Wins 16th Bracelet

phil hellmuth wsop

Phil Hellmuth didn't quite win WSOP Player of the Year, but he had one of the most impressive series in history. The 1989 world champion extended his own record to 16 bracelets by shipping Event #31: $1,500 No-Limit 2-7 Lowball Draw, and darn near won a handful of other tournaments this fall.

The "Poker Brat" finished the series with seven final table appearances, a record, which includes two runner-up finishes. At age 57, the G.O.A.T. of the WSOP clearly still has it.

Epic Final Hand of Main Event

Koray Aldemir

One of the most thrilling moments of the series came at the conclusion of the biggest event of the year. The 2021 WSOP Main Event was full of incredible hands, none more so than the last hand played between George Holmes and the champion, Koray Aldemir.

On the 223rd hand of the final table, Aldemir, holding {10-Diamonds}{7-Diamonds}, faced a tough decision on the river with the board reading {10-Hearts}{7-Spades}{2-Hearts}{k-Spades}{9-Clubs}. Holmes, with {k-Clubs}{q-Spades}, put him all-in for 133 million. If Aldemir called, the tournament would be over. But if he folded, Holmes would have nearly a 2-1 chip lead.

Aldemir, after tanking for a couple minutes, eventually made the call, shipped the pot, and won the $8 million prize along with the coveted gold bracelet. The shove on the river by Holmes was questioned by the PokerGO announcers as well as many on social media. His hand was strong (top pair, queen kicker), but it likely wasn't strong enough to beat a call. Hence, why so many viewers were critical of his decision to jam instead of checking behind or firing out a smaller bet.

Negreanu Takes Third in Two Events in the Same Day

Daniel Negreanu

It's been eight years since Daniel Negreanu won a bracelet. The Poker Hall of Famer had two close calls within a 17-hour period this past week, but came up short of his seventh bracelet both times.

At about 3:30 in the morning Sunday, he took third behind Hellmuth and Jeremy Ausmus in Event #84: Pot-Limit Omaha High Roller, and then late registered at noon for Event #85: $50,000 High Roller, where he also busted in third place that evening.

Philanthropist Playing for Charity Runs Deep in Main Event

Dragana Lim

Dragana Lim entered the 2021 WSOP Main Event as an inexperienced poker player who quickly became one of the best stories during the biggest tournament of the year. Not only was she the last woman standing — 64th place for $95,700. She also made headlines for vowing to use her winnings toward an animal foundation.

Lim and her husband retired young and want to give back to the community. That includes creating their own animal foundation in Las Vegas where they reside. Every penny of her winnings from the Main Event, along with money they already had saved up, will be used to fund those plans.

Pittsburgh Poker Player Brings his "Dirty Diaper" to the WSOP

Nicholas Rigby

Nicholas Rigby had the loudest rail during the 2021 WSOP Main Event. And he was also one of the most entertaining players in the field. The Pittsburgh native introduced a game he plays back home called the "Dirty Diaper" to a worldwide poker audience, and we'll never forget it.

Here's how the game works: much like the 7-2 game in which every player at the table must pay a bounty to anyone who wins a hand with 7-2, Rigby's game is played the same way except with 3-2. You can't play silly games like that in a tournament, but that didn't stop him from repeatedly three-betting and calling large bets with 3-2 on poker's biggest stage. And everyone watching loved him for it. He made the game more enjoyable for the viewers. Even top pros such as Ben Lamb were on the Rigby train.

Rigby's run to the world championship was cut short in 34th place ($136,100), but he certainly left his mark on the poker world.

Doyle Brunson Returns for (Maybe) One Last Ride

Doyle Brunson

At age 88, three years removed since his last WSOP appearance, Doyle Brunson surprised the Rio crowd on Halloween when he entered, and then quickly exited, Event #58: $1,000 Super Seniors No-Limit Hold'em.

The 10-time bracelet winner then returned for the Main Event where he reached Day 2. We can't say for sure if he'll never return to the WSOP. But in case this was the poker legend's final hoorah at the World Series of Poker, it sure was nice to watch him compete one final time.

Arieh a Surprising Player of the Year

Josh Arieh

At the start of the series, most predicted the WSOP Player of the Year race would come down to the usual suspects-- Daniel Negreanu, Shaun Deeb, and a few others. Instead, the two top candidates throughout most of the series were Josh Arieh and Phil Hellmuth.

In the end, there was no stopping Arieh, who won two bracelets and made a handful of deep runs. The Atlanta native was the top overall performer, having cashed in multiple poker variants and in low and high stakes tournaments. He's more than a deserving champion, and few saw it coming.

Poker Community Supports Terminally Ill Player

Michael Graydon

Don't let anyone tell you the poker community isn't generous. Michael Graydon, a poker player from Alabama, learned that when he asked for backers into the Main Event. He informed poker Twitter that he's terminally ill of brain cancer and players lined up to help stake him into the world championship event.

The generosity didn't stop there. MJ Gonzales and Jonathan Depa decided to just pay for his entire $10,000 buy-in and let him keep his winnings. Unfortunately, he didn't cash, but he had a memorable experience. On top of the staking arrangement, Maria Ho stepped up to cover his trip to Las Vegas. PokerNews interviewed the grateful poker player about his experience following his bust-out from the Main Event.

Moneymaker Runs Deep in the Main Event

Chris Moneymaker

Chris Moneymaker is one of the most important players in poker history. He's as responsible as anyone for the game's growth over the past 18 years. So, when he was big stacked in the money in the 2021 WSOP Main Event, the television cameras were all over him.

Moneymaker hadn't shown up at the WSOP until the Main Event, and made a late decision to compete in the tournament. But he just couldn't stay away and it turned out to be a smart move. The long-time PokerStars ambassador (now with Americas Cardroom) stacked chips the first four days, but the rungood came to an abrupt end on Day 5 when he was eliminated in 260th place out of 6,650.

Adam Friedman Rallies to Beat Phil Hellmuth

Adam Friedman

Adam Friedman ended up heads-up for the bracelet against Phil Hellmuth in Event #36: $10,000 Dealer's Choice Championship, but he was down 2.5/1 in chips.

Facing a deficit was no big deal for Friedman. After all, he'd won this same tournament the previous two years (2018, 2019). Following a lengthy battle against Hellmuth, who won his 16th bracelet days earlier, Friedman came out on top for his fourth career bracelet, three of which were in $10k Dealer's Choice, one of the most impressive accomplishments in poker history. Perhaps it's time to rename it the $10,000 Adam Friedman Invitational.

Relive the 2021 WSOP here!

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