The World Series of Poker is the biggest stage in the game. The series draws thousands upon thousands of players make their way to the heart of Sin City to put their tournament skills on display in hopes of securing a life-changing score.
Every single year a few players not only find themselves in a position to take down a tournament or add a major cash to their poker resume, but also spend some extra time in the poker spotlight due to their overall performance or even just their personality.
Here are just a few of this year’s participants that found themselves emerge as one of the breakout stars of the 50th Annual World Series of Poker.
If one were to select a single player from the 2019 World Series of Poker Main Event to spotlight, you couldn’t blame anyone from choosing the charismatic 2019 World Champion Hossein Ensan or picking the dapper high-stakes pro Dario Sammartino.
However, poker industry veteran turned dark horse favorite Garry Gates (and his enthusiastic #LFGGG rail) captured the attention of poker fans everywhere and giving those who, perhaps, put their own poker dream in the rearview mirror, somebody to root for.
While Gates is known to many in the industry as PokerStars’ Senior Consultant of Player Affairs (aka the go-to guy when it comes to needing a liaison between the online giant and their VIPs), to those that know him he’s the kind of person who would literally give someone the shirt off his back. That attitude of gratitude for the position the Pennsylvania-born Gates was in at the final table was felt through the airwaves. He was painted as a lifelong poker player who was revealing in finally getting his shot. His affable style was easy to connect with and when his run finally came to an end in fourth place, netting him $3 million he didn’t leave disappointed. He turned to his rail, arms outstretched and fell into the embrace of a support system that any poker player would envy.
It’s unlikely that Gates will give it all up and hit the road as a full-time pro but while many fourth-place finishers go into the history books but fall from memory, Gates’ run will be remembered by many for a long time to come.
From out of nowhere, Hawaii has a new #1 All-Time Money List leader and that’s Kainalu McCue-Unciano. After four years of traveling to Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker, the Hawaiian took home his first gold bracelet when he took down the $1,500 Monster Stack for a career-high score of just over $1,000,000.
But, winning the bracelet was just the beginning for McCue-Unciano at the summer series. The next day, just moments after he accepted the bracelet from Jack Effel, McCue-Unciano, in front of an Amazon room packed full of poker players, dropped to one knee and asked his girlfriend of two years, Nicole, who was there supporting him, to marry him. She happily said yes, putting McCue-Unciano on a freeroll that allowed him to take his biggest shot yet.
By all accounts, the newly minted millionaire then ripped off $100,000 and battled against some of the best players in the world by hopping into the $100K High Roller. Having never cashed in a tournament with a buy-in above $3,500 McCue-Unciano climbed into 12th place for a $195,862 score.
The Main Event is great and all but let’s talk about the guy winning the Monster Stack, proposing to his gf Day1A, firing the $100k, and now being itm of the $100k. #boss
— Adam Levy (@Roothlus) July 13, 2019
Indeed that is pretty boss.
Now that summer at the Rio is over, Australian grinder Robert Cambell emerged as the leader in the 2019 WSOP Player of the Year race. He did this on the back of an outstanding 2019 WSOP campaign that saw him cash nine times with five top 10 finishes. Most importantly, Campbell was the only player this year to take home two gold bracelets, one of which provided him a career-high cash of $385,763.
Over $679,000 of his career $1.289 million in career earnings was made during the summer and his multi-bracelet performance held off such high profile names as Daniel Negreanu and Shaun Deeb from heading into the World Series of Poker Europe with the POY lead.
If Campbell decided to make the (long) trip to Rozvadov this summer and is able to put up a few results he may just forever have a banner hanging up at future WSOPs.
Most people will probably recognize Yuri Dzivielevski as the tough young Brazilian pro featured multiple time on the ESPN feature tables making a deep run in the Main Event. But it wasn’t just his charismatic camera presence and flowing mane that brought him a number of new fans. He was simply one of the toughest players featured throughout the entire broadcast. In what was supposed to be the Daniel Negreanu show on Day 1B of the Main Event, Dzivielevski stole the show by consistently chipping up and making great play after great play. This trend continued as the field dwindled and he found himself playing on camera for hours until he finally busted in 28th place for over $261,000.
Dzivielevski may have been introduced to the world-at-large this summer but PocketFivers have known of his skill for quite some time as the Brazilian is a former worldwide #1-ranked online player. Also, well before the Main Event showcased what he could do, he proved it by taking home his first WSOP gold bracelet in Event #51 ($2,500 Mixed Omaha Hi/Lo 8 or Better. Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo 8 or Better) for $213,750.
For the longest time, Dan Zack was known in poker’s inner circles as one of Los Angeles’ best cash game players and a mixed game crusher. But despite a number of final tables in previous years at the World Series of Poker, that breakout score had yet to materialize.
Everything changed for Zack in 2019 when early in the series he picked up the first WSOP gold bracelet of his career in Event #6 ($2,500 Limit Mixed Triple Draw) for $160,447. The win put him in the early lead for the WSOP Player of the Year and immediately after he came right out and said that he was gunning for the honor.
His desire to win Player of the Year fueled a 2019 campaign that saw him cash 14 times, make three final tables, and earn more than $350,000. He currently sits in fourth place on in the WSOP POY race and after this summer he’s no longer simply considered a ‘cash game pro’, he’s a threat in any tournament he enters.