For players that are in contention, “Masters Sunday” is usually the most important Sunday of their lives. 18 holes separate golfers from the Green Jacket and three Sundays separate the world’s best poker players from the start of their 2018 Poker Masters journey. Before the race to the Poker Masters Purple Jacket® begins, Poker Central will preview the highest stakes week of the year with “Masters Sunday” updates covering everything and anything Poker Masters.
While the biggest change to this year’s Poker Masters series involves an expanded and revamped schedule, another change that got fans talking was the introduction of a new scoring system to ultimately award the Poker Masters Purple Jacket. Last year, money was the only thing that mattered and while money remains the motive, High Roller of the Year points will determine which player walks away with poker’s most stylish trophy.
That change will alter how the race for the Purple Jacket shapes up, but who do we expect to be in the running? The following are five players that should contend for a High Roller Triple Crown title starting September 7.
Since the start of the year, Justin Bonomo has won nearly everything under the sun. The new all-time money leader now has $42 million in career earnings, with nearly $20 million coming since Super High Roller Bowl China. Bonomo won that event for $4.8 million and then won the Super High Roller Bowl for $5 million, his second WSOP bracelet in the $10,000 Heads Up Championship, and his third WSOP bracelet and $10 million in the $1,000,000 Big One for One Drop. A good showing at Poker Masters would surprise no one, but his white-hot run has to end eventually, doesn’t it?
Justin Bonomo has gotten heads up 17 times in 2018 and has won 16 of those matches. The only player to beat Bonomo, Cary Katz. The two squared off in the $100,000 Super High Roller at the 2018 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure and while Katz has not gone full god mode since, he has put together his own career-best stretch. After opening the year with a $1.9 million win, Katz closed the summer with another $1.7 score at the Triton Super High Roller Series in South Korea. In between, the Las Vegas local has dominated the ARIA High Roller Series. Katz has recorded 11 cashes since the Super High Roller Bowl and holds the High Roller of the Year lead heading into Poker Masters.
After a busy summer, the High Roller of the Year race is starting to take shape. Five seats in the 2019 Super High Roller Bowl are up for grabs and while some players, Cary Katz included, look like shoo-ins through the first two months of play, some players will need solid showing at Poker Masters to move into the Super High Roller Bowl spots. Dominik Nistche is one of those players. The German missed out on the $300,000 buy-in event in 2018 and is currently in the HROY top-ten, thanks to a solid summer that included two outright wins. If Nitsche continues his High Roller run at Poker Masters, he won’t be sweating his Bowl prospects come the spring.
Before Justin Bonomo became poker’s all-time winningest player, Daniel Negreanu said he was “relieved of the pressure” of holding that top spot. That makes sense for someone that has been the game’s top earner for the better part of the decade, but that also doesn’t mean that Daniel Negreanu has lost the desire to compete at the highest level. Negreanu’s post-2017 Poker Masters decision to rededicate himself to the game led to a runner-up finish in the 2018 Super High Roller Bowl and “Kid Poker” will hope that work can be parlayed into another High Roller Triple Crown run.
There have been a few dominating High Roller Triple Crown performances over the last year, but Steffen Sontheimer was the first. The German owned the 2017 Poker Masters with four cashes, two wins, and over $2.7 million in combined earnings en route to claiming the series title and the first Poker Masters Purple Jacket. Sontheimer has had a relatively quiet 2018 campaign, but doubt the inaugural Poker Masters champion at your own risk.