The Nuts is a monthly feature that takes a look at the best poker players in the world. This feature aims to produce a list of the best players at the moment. Our panel of 10 is composed of ESPN.com's poker contributors (Bernard Lee and me), ESPNDeportes.com poker editor Nahuel Ponce, Bluff magazine editor-in-chief Lance Bradley, senior writer Tim Fiorvanti and information manager Kevin Mathers, WSOP.com managing editor Jessica Welman, PokerNews editor-in-chief Donnie Peters, World Poker Tour's Eric Ramsey and Pocketfives' Dan Cypra.
The start of the year is always one of the most exciting times for poker fans. Over the past month, eight millionaires have been crowned on the live felt in the Bahamas and Melbourne. More came close to that magic seven-digit figure in Vegas and New Jersey. If you had the ability to play online, TCOOP offered fans a quicker way to the cash and, as many of the game's best spent time abroad, the cash games online have picked up as well.
Phil Ivey had a quiet first 20-something days of 2013. ESPN's top ranked player wasn't able to find his swing at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, but once he left the Bahamas, he put on a nice show at the National Heads-Up Poker Championship (NHUPC), finishing in the round of 16, then traveled to the Aussie Millions, where he found his stride. According to HighStakesDB, while Ivey was competing in the Aussie Millions main event (where he finished 30th), he managed to have a three-day run worth more than $800,000.
Astonishingly, adding up Ivey's total winnings doesn't even come close to the monthly earnings of the new No. 2, Vanessa Selbst, or the new No. 5, Scott Seiver. Selbst found the winner's circle once again by defeating a record-setting field of 161 entries at the $25,000 PCA High Roller to earn $1.4 million. She is now the leader on the women's all-time money list and in the top 50 earners of all-time. Seiver, who fell off this list nearly a year ago, made his triumphant return as he defeated David Sands heads-up to win the $100,000 Super High Roller event. Seiver then finished in the semifinals at the NHUPC, losing to eventual champion Mike Matusow. Matusow stated on the latest Poker Edge that Seiver was his toughest competitor by far.
Sitting between Selbst and Seiver is Phil Hellmuth and Dan Smith, two players who also have found early success in 2013. Hellmuth made one final table at a side event at PCA before losing to Matusow in the finals of the NHUPC. Smith also made a run towards the Heads-Up title and defeated ESPN's No. 6 Jason Mercier and Gaelle Baumann before losing to the equally on fire Joe Serock in the round of 16. Mercier's live tournament struggles continued this month, but unlike other players who fall dramatically from the rankings after no results, the panelists still believe Mercier is among the best and kept him in the top 10.
The final four players in the rankings are Marvin Rettenmaier, Antonio Esfandiari, Michael Mizrachi and Greg Merson. Bertrand Grospellier was the only player to fall out of the top 10 this month. Out of that group, the only player to have made a final table over the past month was Mizrachi who found his way to two of them, while also cashing in the Dimitar Danchev-won PCA main event.
Among the other victors this month was a familiar face to these rankings, Sam Trickett, who captured the title in the 250,000 Challenge at the Aussie Millions. Trickett's $2 million pay day was his fifth score of at least $1 million since 2011. On the other hand, Andrew Robl captured his first seven-figure cash with his win in the AU$100,000 event in Melbourne. Other champions include Andrea Montini at IPT Campione and Jeff Fielder and Baptiste Chavaillaz, who won WSOP Circuit titles. One of the more impressive stories of the month belongs to Casey "bigdogpckt5s," who won the PokerStars Super Tuesday on Jan. 8 ($93,072) then finished fourth in the Jan. 13 Sunday Million ($78,641) and third in the Jan. 20 Sunday Million for $117,184.
Did we leave out your favorite player? Who should be ranked higher? Who should be completely off the list? Leave us your thoughts in the comments below! Here's a look at January's top 10:
On the bubble
It's tough to earn millions million in January and still find yourself on the outside of the top 10. David Sands was simply a few cards away from overtaking Seiver for the Super High Roller victory and a few votes away from making his debut in these rankings. There's no doubt that Sands has the resume to be among the top 10 with three consecutive years of seven figures in live earnings (2013 included), plus the online success that many dream of. Sands also made the money at Heads-Up. Right behind Sands was Viktor Blom, who has made more money than anyone else on the virtual felt ($2.8 million) so far in 2013. Sam Trickett joined the $2 million club down under and it appears that his goal to take a step away from the game hasn't come to fruition quite yet. ... Similar to last month, Tom Marchese, Joe Serock, Vladimir Troyanovskiy, Eugene Katchalov, Mike Watson and Tobias Reinkemeir found their way onto the ballots and the bubble.
Welman: I'm shocked that, after his run in National Heads-Up, Hellmuth is not in the top two. I fully expected to see Phil and Phil in the top two spots. I think it is time people in the poker community drop the Hellmuth hatred and acknowledge that his results in the past nine months are inarguably incredible.
Looking at the rest of the list, I think it is interesting at how different it looks from this time last year, when we saw the same names in close to the same order every month. We have so many elite-level players succeeding all over the globe who we really have a wealth of candidates to rank.
Feldman: Man, just when I thought I could even consider moving Ivey out of the top spot, he has a week where he earns more than I'll even make in my entire life. Ivey solidified his spot once again and while I do agree with those who dissented and voted for Selbst or Hellmuth, I had to keep my vote on Ivey. Sorry to those on Twitter who felt differently.
Selbst moving to No. 2 from 9 is no joke, but my bigger issue is how she got to ninth in the first place. She was underrated last month and while this jump may have been dramatic, if she was ranked where she should've been last month (fifth at the very lowest), I don't think it would stand out as much as it did. The problem I see moving forward is that there are a number of really strong competitors for No. 2, and I do think that one standout accomplishment each month is going to be the only thing that makes the difference between sixth and second.
My last thought is on Merson, and unfortunately, unless we get a ton of insight on his success in Macau, I believe he'll fall off the list next month. We knew that his interest in tournament poker was fleeting and now he's off to play in the biggest games in the world. Now, there's nothing wrong at all by competing in those games, but as panelists, it means we unfortunately neglect his results more than we would like. Maybe he'll return to the rankings if he plays successfully at the WSOP, but until then, he'll remain on the outside looking in.