2019 WSOP Player of the Year Mess: Negreanu Stripped of Title; Campbell Gets The Banner; Deeb Searches For Smoking Gun

“If I have the chance to play for ninth, I play for ninth.” – Shaun Deeb.

As the World Series of Poker (WSOP) headed to Rozvadov to erect the finishing line for the Player of the Year (POY) race, Paul Volpe released a tweet criticising the organisers for not rewarding the winner, and wondering, because of this, why on earth anyone would bother entering the race. 

If you had any doubt that the WSOP POY means much more than material wealth, a complete balls-up from the WSOP has removed those stains Dyson-like.

Daniel Negreanu went into the final event of the 2019 World Series of Poker Europe (WSOPE), the €550 No-Limit Hold’em: The Colossus, knowing that should the points totals remain status quo he would win an unprecedented third WSOP. 

Two people could catch Negreanu: Robert Campbell and Shaun Deeb. 

Negreanu exited in 195th place.

Campbell fell in 148th place, failing to earn enough points to make a difference, his dream was over.

That left Deeb as the only person who could beat Negreanu. Deeb was also attempting to create history in becoming the first player to defend his POY title. Deeb went deep, and when I say deep, I mean deep. In a field of 2,738-entrants, Deeb made it to the final day sitting 3/11 in chips and needing a fifth-place finish or higher to be victorious.

Given his prowess, experience and skill, you wouldn’t have betted against Deeb taking it down, but it didn’t happen. Deeb busted in 11th place, at the hands of the eventual winner, Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier, and Negreanu celebrated becoming the first player to win three WSOP POY titles.

Here were the final standings.

WSOP POY Final Results

  1. Daniel Negreanu – 4,074.88
  2. Robert Campbell – 3,961.31
  3. Shaun Deeb – 3,917.32
  4. Anthony Zinno – 3,322.00
  5. Philip Hui – 3,186.17
  6. Dan Zack – 3,126.13
  7. Dario Sammartino – 3,091.03
  8. Kahle Burns – 2,983.37
  9. Dash Dudley – 2,860.79
  10. David “ODB” Baker – 2,808.51

That was the end of that.

Or so we seemed.

The 2019 WSOP Player of the Year: The Twist

On November 8, after speaking to the three players involved, the WSOP released a statement on Twitter declaring that they had made a mistake in the POY calculations. Robert Campbell was the winner, not Daniel Negreanu. 

The mistake happened during the summer when the person responsible for WSOP POY data entry incorrectly awarded points to Negreanu, and 14 other players for cashing in Event #68: $1,000 Online No-Limit Hold’em Championship, an event that Negreanu didn’t cash in. 

Russian journalist, Alexander Elenskiy noted the error and assumed the WSOP would fix it. Elenskiy then forgot about the misdemeanour until he had to reconcile WSOP ITM finishes for a WSOP Fantasy Freeroll competition, and realised the WSOP had still not fixed the mistake. 

Elenskiy notified the WSOP, they removed 213.1 POY points from Negreanu’s total, and he fell below Campbell and Deeb, landing in third place. 

The New 2019 WSOP POY Top Three

  1. Robert Campbell – 3,961.31
  2. Shaun Deeb – 3,917.32
  3. Daniel Negreanu – 3,861.76

The Pain 

Mistakes happen, and the WSOP will learn from this – they have to – because given the prestige of this award the error is embarrassing. Coverage of the WSOPE centred on the professional (and often, personal) rivalry between these three players. There were likely side bets. Campbell wanted to win it for the first time, Negreanu wanted to be the first player to win it three times, and Deeb wanted to be the first player to defend it. 

So who feels the most pain?

If anyone is a winner, it’s Campbell. The Australian will see his mugshot hanging from the rafters each time he visits the WSOP. No matter what happens from this point onwards, Campbell is part of WSOP history. But his victory is stained. He will always be the player who won by default, even though he won it fair and square. Most crucially, the mistake robbed him of the only reason these three went tooth and nail for this thing – the feeling of winning it. 

The claim to the title would have felt off to Campbell. Negreanu, on the other hand, should have suffered, right? He thought he had won it. He celebrated on his VLOG, on social media, and I assume he clanked a few flutes with his wife. 

And now it’s taken away from him in a phone call. 

But Negreanu doesn’t feel the pain.

In a text conversation with me, Negreanu typed:

“Honestly it didn’t phase me when I got the news there was an error,” typed Negreanu. “That surprised me. I know my younger self would have been very angry, and some may say justifiably so. In the end, I focus on the journey, and that journey was a success. I went to Rozvadov with the goal of leaving with the most points knowing what I knew at the time, and I did that. I take pride in that, and I’m genuinely happy for Robert Campbell, who is very deserving of the award.”

So Campbell has the chicken dinner, Negreanu believes his journey has been successful regardless of the title. 

So it’s all good? 

Not at all.


Let’s go back to the final day of the Colossus. 

Deeb sits third, with eleven players left. A conversation with WSOP officials confirms that Deeb needs to finish fifth or higher to retain his title. It transpires that had the error been rectified in Las Vegas, Deeb would have had to finish ninth to become the 2019 WSOP POY. 

Would that have changed Deeb’s strategy?

Would Deeb have made history?

Once the WSOP released their tweet, acknowledging their mistake. Joey Ingram went into full detective mode to see if he could find evidence that Negreanu knew of the error in advance. As part of his investigation, he invited Deeb onto his show, and Deeb was not a happy bunny. 

“I lost it twice in my eyes, and that is fucking brutal to me,” said Deeb. “I am worn out, physically exhausted. I left my wife and kids to play for this POY. I lost a lot of money in Europe. I was playing for a particular position, and I am the one who takes the brunt of this mistake.”

During the conversation with Ingram, Deeb wouldn’t rule out that Negreanu knew about the error ahead of the WSOPE, and suggested that he should be ostracised should a smoking gun be found. 

A furious and exhausted Deeb acknowledged that all three players would have approached things differently had the WSOP fixed the error ahead of the WSOPE. He even suggested that Negreanu might not have made the trip to Rozvadov given the size of the gap after the removal of 213.1 points.

“If the three of us knew the exact score the entire time, I think it’s over 60% that I would have been the winner,” said Deeb. “I get screwed the most. I spent three and a half month away from my family because I wanted to get back-to-back, and it feels like a waste of time. The goalposts were moved on me.”

Deeb even took the allegations that Negreanu may have known about the error even further.

In that same text conversation, I asked Negreanu to comment on Deeb’s claims that he knew ahead of the WSOPE about the data entry error. Negreanu called the claims ‘baseless.’

“It’s asinine, and completely out of line to suggest I knew the totals were off. Kevmath didn’t even know. I posted screenshots of the results to thousands on my VLOG, yet nobody knew. The WSOP didn’t know. My competitors didn’t know, and yet, somehow, I did. I think the accusations are disgusting.”

It matters, folks.

The WSOP POY matters.

It’s not about the money. 

It’s about emotion.

You saw how positive emotions could create a compelling sports narrative that has thousands of people hooked, and now you’re seeing the flip side of human behaviour, and it’s not as pretty.