Remember Alpha8? The Super High-Roller series returns on Friday after nearly 8 years!

Blaise Bourgeois
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Posted on: July 9, 2023 7:43 pm EDT

After nearly eight years on the shelf, the WPT Alpha8 Super High-Roller series is back! On July 14th, the same day as the WPT EveryOne for One Drop final table, the $111,000 WPT Alpha8 for One Drop will go down, with $7,000 from each entry going to the One Drop Foundation. 

The three-day, super-high-roller event will, of course, bring in plenty of familiar names and it’s little wonder why Days 2 and 3 of Alpha8 will also be live-streamed. 

WPT Alpha8 for One Drop Korea will take place a week later on July 21st, offering a tournament with a 17,000,000 KRW (~$13,000) buy-in.

Nine previous Alpha8 tournaments occurred over the course of three “seasons”, with WPT Alpha8 Las Vegas last having taken place way back in December 2015 at the Bellagio.

Since many of us, myself included, cannot remember much of what happened between 2013 and 2015 (oh, college), we’re here to provide a fresh history of Alpha8!

Season 1

WPT Alpha8 Florida (August 2013) Winner: Steven Silverman

Credit: World Poker Tour

The first-ever Alpha8 event went down at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood and attracted an overwhelming field of 21 players for the $100,000 buy-in tournament. 

Steven Silverman beat J.C. Tran ($526,890) heads-up to win $891,660 and secure his second enormous win in three months, having shipped the €25,500 EPT Monte Carlo High Roller for €775,400 ($1.01M) in May. 

Jeff Gross ($364,770) and Matt Glantz ($243,180) also cashed while Isaac Haxton and

Joseph Cheong FTed but did not cash.

It was even more painful for Haxton as he was one of just three players (Haxton, Daniel Alaei, and Daniel Perper) to fire two bullets.

Silverman, meanwhile, did not continue to take over the poker world as the last of his 27 recorded tournament cashes came in the 2015 WSOP Main Event.

WPT Alpha8 London (October 2013) Winner: Philipp Gruissem

Credit: World Poker Tour

The London version of the tournament cost a cool £100,000 to play, which, back then, was the equivalent of $160,000. 20 players bought in and Philipp Gruissem came out on top at the Palm Beach Casino Mayfair London, taking home a cool £862,400 ($1,379,840) after defeating Scott Seiver ($815,360) in heads-up play.

For Gruissem, who is currently #100 on poker’s all-time money list ($11,514,310), Alpha8 London represents the largest cash in his career. Six months later, he would win the second-largest score of his career ($1,378,059) by winning the €25,000 EPT Monte Carlo High Roller 8-Max, defeating Scott Seiver once again in heads-up play.

Tobias Reinkemeier ($564,480) and Igor Kurganov ($376,320) also cashed while Tony G was the unfortunate bubble boy.

WPT Alpha8 St. Kitts (November 2013): Winner: Philipp Gruissem

Credit: World Poker Tour

The incredibly beautiful island of St. Kitts was able to help increase the total number of entries to 28 for the $100,000 tournament. Though the field was larger, it couldn’t deter Philipp Gruissem, who won his second Alpha8 title in the span of a few weeks. Gruissem defeated Tom MacDonald ($679,000) to win the $1,086,400 top prize.

While Scott Seiver wasn’t Gruissem’s heads-up victim this time, the familiar foe did make the final table and finished 5th for $217,280. Mike McDonald ($434,560) and Jason Koon ($298,760) also cashed while Timothy Adams, Isaac Haxton, and Fabian Quoss all FTed but finished outside the money.

Gruissem is the only back-to-back Alpha8 winner in history.

WPT Alpha8 Johannesburg (February 2014): Winner: Daniel Cates

Credit: World Poker Tour

A 24-year-old Jungleman was able to conquer South Africa and walked away from the $100,000 10-entry, star-studded table to win $500,000 and a 24K special edition pair of Monster headphones. 

It was no easy task for Cates, having to overcome the likes of Kinesh Pather (2nd, $275,000), Jason Mercier (3rd, $200,000), Jeff Gross, Erik Seidel, the aforementioned Philipp Gruissem, Antonio Esfandiari, and Phil Ivey.

Emperors Palace Casino in South Africa put on quite a show for the players who sacrificed their Valentine’s Day to play the super high-roller, giving each of the players an all-expense paid three-day Safari package, a free 5-night stay at the D’oreale Grande Hotel (trust us, it’s nice), and a dedicated VIP host upon arrival. 

Season 2

WPT Alpha8 London (October 2014): Winner: Dan Colman

Credit: World Poker Tour

For whatever reason, a decision was made to drop the amount from the buy-in from £100,000 ($160,000) to £60,000 (~$95,000). Despite this, they were only able to go from 20 entries the year before to 23.

Just four months after famously defeating Daniel Negreanu in the $1M Big One for One Drop for $15.3M (the fourth-largest prize in poker history), Colman defeated Max Altergott ($558,478) in heads-up play to win $957,396, the sixth-largest prize of his career.

The victory capped off one of the hottest runs ever recorded in poker history, with Colman winning $19,626,074 over the course of just 99 days. Between the One Drop and the Alpha8 titles, Colman sandwiched in a 3rd-place finish in the $100K Aria Super High Roller ($796,821), a 2nd-place finish in the EPT Barcelona €50K Super High Roller ($1,118,479), and winning the 1,499-entry $5,300 SHPRO Main Event ($1,446,710).

Talal Shakerchi (3rd, $357,426) and Isaac Haxton (4th, $255,304) also cashed while Sorel Mizzi was the unfortunate bubble boy.

Despite nearly $29M in tournament earnings, which ranks him 22nd on poker’s all-time money list, Colman hasn’t recorded a cash since December 2017 and the last time we really heard from him was when he was allegedly scammed for seven figures by Sean Perry.

WPT Alpha8 St. Kitts (December 2014): Winner: Jason Mercier

Credit: World Poker Tour

The Alpha8 returned to St. Kitts for the second year in a row and it would be Jason Mercier’s time to top the 15-entry field, defeating entrepreneur Kathy Lehne ($436,500) to win the top prize of $727,500. Tony Guglietti finished 3rd to win $291,000 while Olivier Busquet was the unfortunate bubble. Antonio Esfandiari, Bill Perkins, Alec Torelli, and Talal Shakerchi also final-tabled.

Lehne was the first-ever woman to play an Alpha8 event and it would take Mercier getting pocket aces on the final hand to take her down.

Mercier, 38th on poker’s all-time money list, won his 6th-career WSOP bracelet this summer, winning the $1,500 No Limit 2-7 Lowball Draw.

Take a moment to appreciate the beauty of Bill Perkins playing with a wet towel on his head and Antonio Esfandiari playing in a skimpy swimsuit. You’ll never find it anywhere else.

Credit: World Poker Tour

WPT Alpha8 Las Vegas (December 2014): Winner: Andrew Lichtenberger

13 days after Alpha8 St. Kitts, the Bellagio exploded with an incredible 55 entries into the $100,000 buy-in tournament. In the end, it was Andrew Lichtenberger’s day as he secured a career-high score of $1,770,692, defeating Thomas Marchese heads-up. 

Lichtenberger and Marchese made a deal prior to heads-up play, allowing Marchese to pocket an incredible $1,574,518 for his second-place finish.

Brian Rast, who came to the final with a huge chip lead, finished 3rd for $755,370 . Noah Schwartz ($539,550), Jason Les ($431,640), and Bryn Kenney ($323,730) rounded out the payouts.

With a 3.2x bubble, the stakes were incredibly high and it was Brandon Steven and Phil Laak who made the final table without being able to cash.

For Lichtenberger, he finally got the monkey off his back as it was his fourth-straight December at a WPT final table at the Bellagio.

WPT Alpha8 Florida (January 2015): Winner: Noah Schwartz

Credit: World Poker Tour

Despite the huge turnout for the Bellagio event, only six players showed up to play the event at the Seminole Hard Rock.

In what turned into a winner-takes-all six-handed tournament, it was Noah Schwartz to emerge victorious, taking down Jake Schindler heads-up for $585,000, a gold pair of Monster 24K headphones, a Hublot King Power Unico titanium watch, and his career-best score.

The victory also made Schwartz the first (and only) player to win a WPT title and an Alpha8 title, both which came in his home state of Florida.

Byron Kaverman (3rd), Dan Colman (4th), Jason Mercier (5th), and Bryn Kenney (6th) made up the star-studded table.

Season 3

WPT Alpha8 Las Vegas (December 2015): Winner: Fedor Holz

The ninth and (then) final edition of Alpha8 went down at the Bellagio, with a total of 45 entries making for a prize pool of $4,414,500. A baby-faced Fedor Holz absolutely crushed the final table, coming into FT play with 40% of the chips, and finished everybody off in just 100 hands. 

For his efforts, the German won $1,589,219 and his then-career high score. Holz also won a Hublot watch and an Aurae Solid Gold MasterCard pre-loaded with $10,000.

Holz defeated Nick Petrangelo ($1,015,335) in under 30 minutes after coming into heads-up play with a 2:1 chip advantage. 

Daniel Negreanu finished 3rd ($640,103) while Sean Winter (4th, $441,450), Ankush Mandavia (5th, $309,015), Kathy Lehne (6th, $242,798), and Keith Tilston ($176,580) all cashed the 8-man final table. David Peters was the unfortunate bubble.

Of course, Holz went on to go on an insane sun-run in 2016 where he won over $16,000,000 in a single calendar year. The rest is history.