Two weeks ago, German poker pro George Danzer had made multiple WSOP final tables but had never come out on top. As of today, he’s a two-time bracelet winner with serious designs on the World Series of Poker Player of the Year award.
There’s no question at all that Danzer is now the man to beat for the WSOP POY. With nearly half of this year’s qualifying events already in the books, Danzer is currently sitting atop the leaderboard of what was as recently as last night a highly competitive race. Even prior to his win in Event #38, the $10,000 Seven-Card Stud Hi-Lo Championship, his 456.20 points led second-place man Justin Bonomo by nearly 43. Now Danzer leads fellow 2014 WSOP bracelet winner Calvin Anderson, who has 525.20 points after finishing third in the same $10K Stud Hi-Lo tourney, by 202 points.
This kind of success against top competition isn’t new to Danzer, who plays online as a member of Team PokerStars Pro and has averaged one final table per year over the last six WSOPs. It’s just the latest extension of a winning streak he’s enjoyed, online and offline, over the last few years. He played in 133 tournaments in two and a half weeks and finished tied for second place on the Player of the Series leaderboard during the 2014 PokerStars Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP), trailing the very same Calvin Anderson who is currently second on the WSOP POY leaderboard behind Danzer.
The runner-up finish on the 2014 SCOOP leaderboard matched Danzer’s mark from SCOOP 2013, when he played 130 tournaments and finished behind only Eric ‘AceQuad’ Brix. And that performance itself came hot on the heels of his third-place performance in the race for the 2012 PokerStars World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) Player of the Series. Overall he has two WCOOP bracelets, one in shorthanded pot-limit Omaha and the other in no-limit hold’em. And SCOOP has been even better to him, producing four bracelets since 2010. Each has come in a different game, with one apiece in Limit Badugi, NL 2-7 Single Draw, NL Hold’em (4-max), and PL Omaha.
All that high-volume online experience in a wide variety of games has not just prepared Danzer for success at the WSOP, but made the world’s most prestigious live poker series seem easy for him by comparison. In a PokerListings interview last year, Danzer told Arthur Crowson that the WSOP was a breeze compared to online poker. “[Online tournament series] are harder,” he said. “There are a lot more tournaments and you only have a five-minute break. It’s two weeks where I have no days off. Here I bust from an event and I can choose to not play the next event.”
That easiness at the tables in Las Vegas has translated to success at the WSOP dating back to a cash in the 2006 Main Event. He has cashed in the $2,500 Omaha/Seven-Card Stud Hi-Lo for three years running, with two consecutive final tables appearances before finishing 34th this year. The last two years running, he made the final table. In 2012, it was his first cash of the series; he was denied his first bracelet heads-up by the Ukrainian player Oleksii Kovalchuk. In 2013, it was also his first cash of the summer, this time a sixth-place finish. Both years saw Danzer make another deep run against top competition, racking up two more final tables, first a repeat of his third-place finish in the $10,000 NL 2-7 Single Draw from 2010 and the other a fifth-place finish in last year’s $50,000 Poker Players Championship.
This year, though, Danzer has gone from enjoying success at the WSOP thanks to his online experience to putting himself in position to win its Player of the Year award. He kicked off his cashes with another final table appearance, this time fifth place in the $10,000 Limit 2-7 Triple Draw tournament. On June 8th, he won the first-ever $10,000 Razz event, taking down the tournament (and his first career WSOP bracelet) against a final table lineup that included five past WSOP champions. With that $2,500 O/8-Stud/8 cash and a ninth-place finish in the $10,000 Six-Handed NL Hold’em tournament, he was sitting in great shape to stay competitive in the WSOP POY race for the rest of the year.
Then, last night, he triumphed over another tough field of players in the $10,000 Seven-Card Stud Hi-Lo Championship. He entered the third day of play with the chip lead. Four of Danzer’s final table opponents – Anderson, Brian Hastings, Jeff Lisandro, and David Singer – were past bracelet winners, but he put those chips to work and produced a dominant performance with his trademark aggressive style. In the end he outlasted Anderson and Racener for the win, adding $352,696 to an already successful summer. It was his second-largest live cash of all-time, behind only his fianal table appearance at last year’s $50,000 Poker Players Championship.
George Danzer has now won two gold bracelets and $772,374 – nearly 40 percent of his $1,942,812 total career live tournament earnings – since the start of the 2014 WSOP. Even if another player manages to come out of the blue and outperform him for the Player of the Year award – currently unlikely, yet still possible – he’s still had the kind of year at the WSOP most poker players can only dream of. And coming as it has on a strong foundation of high-volume online, there’s no reason to think he’s done yet. With another 25 tournaments to be played before the end of the Vegas series, and another 11 events on the WSOP Asia-Pacific schedule for this fall, keeping up his pace would see Danzer win two more bracelets before the end of 2014 WSOP. No sane person would ever predict such a performance from the German pro – after all, two bracelets in a single WSOP is already an outlier. But at this point, after seeing how he’s been playing this month, nobody’s probably willing to bet much against him keeping it up, either.
(Full disclosure: I’ve covered plenty of George Danzer’s online final table appearances for the PokerStars blog, including his fourth SCOOP bracelet win earlier this year.)