Poker meets fantasy sports: Biggest field ever for 25k draft

Shaun Deeb
Terrance Reid
Posted on: June 01, 2023 05:28 PDT

We know poker players. They like a little gamble with their gamble. It's why we play prop bets at the cash tables. It's why we see absolutely massive fields for the Mystery Millions event happening right now at the World Series of Poker.

So, few were shocked when a record number of record 20 teams turned out to pony up $25,000 for a poker players fantasy draft to build a $500,000 prize pool.

Daniel Negreanu Daniel Negreanu Jamie Thomson

"Usually every year what I do is I'm reaching out to people who have done it before and say, hey, will you come back this year?" said league commissioner Daniel Negreanu. "And I'm like pulling teeth to get them to commit. This year I didn't do any of that. I didn't reach out to anybody. They all came to me in droves."

The league is live

If you want to deep dive into all the players drafted this year, head over to Records are updated on a regular basis.

Right now, Team Riess, headed by Main Event Champion Ryan Riess, is out to an early lead thanks to Justin Liberto's recent cash in the $25k High Roller.

It's fun to watch the leaderboard, track players' progress, and root for your team to rack up the points. Of course, these guys have very real money on the line.

The top four teams will earn money this year, with an impressive $250,000 going to first place. Last year, three teams made the money.

2022 25k fantasy results

Place Team Prize
1 Team Maria Ho $200,000
2 Team Negreanu $100,000
3 Team No Gamble No Future $50,000

All three of those teams are back in the mix for 2023, so they'll try for repeat success this year.

The players that went for the most money

Every team gets 200 "fantasy dollars" to spend to build their team. Usually, it's Daniel Negreanu and Shaun Deeb going for the most as they both play very full schedule and historically have strong results. This year was no different.

Top 10 players by price

Place Player 2023 Fantasy Auction Price 2022 Fantasy Auction Price
1 Shaun Deeb $112 $111
2 Daniel Negreanu $111 $110
3 Dan Zack $109 $87
4 Yuri Dzivielevski $99 $61
5 Benny Glaser $95 $74
6 Jaoa Vieira $92 $95
7 Jeremy Ausmus $86 $67
8 Chad Eveslage $83 $46
9 Alex Foxen $77 $42
10 Nick Schulman $77 $79

The longest bidding war ever

This year's draft had plenty of fun moments, and we were in-house at the PokerGO studio to witness them.

Daniel Negreanu had a plan. He was clearly targeting Dario Sammartino this year. But, as Mike Tyson used to say, "Everyone has a plan until you get punched in the face." That punch was waiting from a bigger bidder in Mike Lang. "Well now I have to redo my entire strategy," said Negreanu.

Much like fantasy sports, you must be willing and able to adapt your strategy on the fly since you won't always get the player you want at the price you're willing to pay.

One iconic moment was the bidding war over Max Coleman. It lasted for well over three minutes, with Team Zamani finally nabbing him for $54 of their $200 starting budget. "Are these guys drinking everclear?" said Brent Harrington, caught in the crossfire of the unexpected bidding war.

The minor leagues are also booming

The $25k price point isn't the only league available to potential WSOP fantasy players.

"Mark Gregorich created a minor league, if you will, of $2,500 buy-in," said Negreanu. So he runs the same thing."

That $2,500 buy-in league saw 22 teams shoot their shot at fantasy glory. I played with Loni Hui yesterday during the Mystery Millions event, and she took part in drafting a team that nearly had two power couples.

"We had drafted both Alex and Kristen Foxen as well as my husband, Phil," said Hui. "They wanted to draft me, too, but I told them not to," she laughed.

Loni Hui

In addition to those two leagues, David "ODB" Baker runs a $500 fantasy pool based on the prices set by Negreanu's league. He also saw a huge turnout this year.

As his deadline was drawing near yesterday, over 500 teams had entered already. He's still awaiting payments to know a final number, but there will be a huge payday for the winner of that one as well.

Teams that bid on their own players

Imagine if Patrick Mahomes organized a league and then drafted himself as the first overall pick. That shows some confidence.

Well, many players bet on themselves in the $25k league. A few of the examples we found were:

  • Dan Zack drafted himself onto Team Jew-ish
  • Anson Tsang and Ren Lin both made it onto Team Lady Gaga
  • Michael Noori went to Team Noori
  • Chris Brewer went to Team Gordo, which he's on
  • A.J. Kelsall went to Team A.J.
  • David "ODB" Baker went to Team Baker (They also got David "Bakes" Baker
  • Benny Glaser went to Team Benny
  • Martin Zamani went to Team Zamani
  • Chad Eveslage and Jake Schwartz were the first two players drafted by Team Fort Lauderdale, which consists of themselves

"If Chad doesn't go for $100, it's a travesty."

Chad Eveslage, who bought himself for $83.

Best of luck to everyone this year. Whether you're in the poker streets, the fantasy streets, or you're just following along at home; the top of the leaderboards will feature some juicy prize pools all summer long.