All in all, it was a pretty sensational World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) this year. Every conceivable record was broken: most entries, biggest prize pools, biggest winners’ cheques. It was a fitting way to mark 20 years of online poker’s most prestigious series.
Although it’s pretty difficult to narrow the list down, here are our picks for the top five moments of WCOOP 2021. See you all again next year!
The second of those titles came in WCOOP 88-H, a $2K buy-in NLHE Turbo PKO, where the late stages were just ridiculous. The top five players in this tournament were the aforementioned Shakerchi, who had already won an event that night and two in the series, Dinesh “NastyMinder” Alt, who was also a two-time WCOOP 2021 winner, Bruno “great dant” Volkmann, who had won a $10K WCOOP earlier in the series, Pedro “pvigar” Garagnani, who had won one and finished second in another, and Martins.
It meant that when the tournament got five handed, from 190 entries, three players had already won two titles this year, and the two others had won one each. It then ended in a magnificent Brazil 1-2-3, with Martins holding off his countrymen Garagnani and Volkmann. If one tournament could illustrate the whole of WCOOP 2021 in microcosm, this was it.
It wasn’t the first time major titles had gone the way of the Red Spade. In fact, both Spraggy and tonkaaaa had WCOOP titles already, and Fintan Hand had won two SCOOP tournaments while streaming (among others). However, for both of them to do it on the same night was unprecedented. Talbot wrapped up his victory, in a $5K Midweek Freeze (for $108,730) at around 3.20pm ET, with Spraggy sealing his deal about six hours later in a $1K Turbo PKO Freezeout. That was worth around $68K. It happened on the same weekend that Lex Veldhuis finished runner up in an event and booked his largest ever online tournament score. It was quite a Red Spade rush.
For its first 16 years, WCOOP did not offer the high, medium and low tournaments in every event, meaning there were far fewer tournaments and far less opportunity for anyone to pull off a single-night double. But even since then, in an era where streak winners are more common, nobody had done this particular double. But Fisherman FV managed to win the WCOOP 68-M: $55 NLHE/PLO 6-Max, beating a field of 1,571 entries in a two-day event, shortly before also besting a field of 329 in WCOOP 72-M: $109 Stud.
The fact that Yuri “theNERDguy” Martins did the same thing only a few days later does not diminish Fisherman FV’s achievement. Far from it. The Fisherman got there first. Read our exclusive interview with the two-time hero.
For all that, this year’s winner turned out to be perhaps the one player for whom the prize money was the least important thing. Talal “raidalot” Shakerchi is one of the UK’s most successful hedge fund managers, who transferred his skills to the world of high stakes poker apparently effortlessly. But he’s also absolutely tireless, playing just about every variant at just about every buy-in level for the duration of WCOOP.
For the first two weeks of the series, commentators were too busy watching what seemed to be a two-horse race between Patrick “pads1161” Leonard and the relatively unknown Canadian player “Camilancefieldg” to notice Shakerchi creeping up behind them. But then Shakerchi pounced, winning a third WCOOP title of the series in a $1K NLO8 tournament (having previously won a $5K NLHE High Roller and a $1K 8-Game), taking over at the top of the leader board.
Though Leonard and Camilancefieldg tried to bounce back, and Russia’s FONBET_RULIT also battled hard, Shakerchi held them all off. He also finished top in the “high” leader board, bringing his total payouts in bonuses to $40,000, in addition to his at-the-table prizes.
But for a player who only really does this for the love of competition, the vindication of his incredibly sharp skills probably means far more. Check out the final Player of the Series standings.
CrazyLissy crawls back from the brink for Main Event win
If an overnight chip leader ultimately wins through a final table and takes a poker tournament’s top prize, the chances are they will do it quickly. We’ve all seen it: the big stack bullies everyone and knocks them all out in a matter of a couple of hours. But the $5,200 buy-in 2021 WCOOP Main Event final table took more than seven hours to complete, an incredibly long time by the standards of any online tournament.
It gives you a hint as to what happened. Instead of the overnight chip leader sending everyone to the rail, it was the overnight short stack, Russia’s “CrazyLissy”, who managed to crawl all the way up the leader board to claim the top prize. CrazyLissy began the day in ninth, of nine players left, but ended up with all the chips and nearly $1.5 million in prize money.
This kind of feat is rare. At start of the final day, CrazyLissy had 15.5 million chips, or 17 big blinds. (They restarted with blinds at 450K/900K.) By contrast, chip leader Stevan “random_chu” Chew had 147 million, or 163 big blinds. Even Markus “playboy99999” Prinz, who started the day in eighth, had 10 million more chips than CrazyLissy. But the Russian barely put a foot wrong.
The resurgence started when CrazyLissy found aces against Linus “LLinusLLove” Loeliger’s pocket tens. That resulted in a first double up. Soon after, CrazyLissy leapt ahead of both Tyler “Juicy_J_93” Jardine and “Rebel FishAK” after flopping two pair in a three-way pot. Soon enough, CrazyLissy had chipped up into third spot, with only Pascal “Pass_72” Lefrancois and Chew ahead. Rebel FishAK knocked out Jardine. Chew knocked out “necgaidziai”. Lefrancois knocked out Loeliger. Chew knocked out Prinz. Chew knocked out Marco “marcozevola5” Zevola. Throughout all of this, CrazyLissy’s only significant moment came with a double up with pocket sixes against Lefrancois’ ace-queen.
But four-handed, CrazyLissy then secured back-to-back huge doubles though Chew, first flopping a set with while all-in with pocket threes (Chew had pocket nines but didn’t improve) and then picking off Chew’s shove with aces. CrazyLissy assumed the chip lead. Although it was then shared around a little, CrazyLissy knocked out Rebel FishAK with pocket jacks, before Lefrancois knocked out Chew. It left Lefrancois with a big heads-up chip lead in a Canada vs. Russia battle.
But CrazyLissy still felt like they had nothing to lose and won a huge flip with pocket tens to Francois’s ace-jack. It was over soon after.
CrazyLissy won some important flips, and was on the right side of some significant coolers. But that’s the perfect recipe for tournament poker success. Having risen from ninth to first, this Russian deserves all the praise and the life-changing payday. Read a full recap from the final day.