In the end, it was Grinder

July 20, 2010  

To determine the Ante Up World Series of Poker Player of the Year we didn’t hire some expensive firm to come up with a formula or have a team of bean counters and actuaries add up the buy-ins and place particular weight to different events. We’re poker players (in the loosest sense of the word, of course) and as poker players we’re driven by what our gut tells us.

Perhaps someday we might hand out something more prestigious than a mere cover story for this award, which likely would require us to be a little more sophisticated with the process. But until that day comes our winning players will have to settle with the pure joy of appearing on the front of our magazine and having us write something nice about them.

This year, picking our WSOP Player of the Year was about as tough as folding a set when your tournament life is on the line. There were numerous players from our corner of the country who had multiple cashes, great showings and even won bracelets. But, ultimately, it came down to two players: Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi and Frank “No Nickname” Kassela. On one hand there’s Grinder, a Florida native who lives in Miramar and spends some time in Vegas. On the other hand there’s Kassela, who lives in Vegas but once called Tennessee home and still has business ties there.

Right out of the gate Mizrachi won the first open event, the prestigious $50K Players Championship, an eight-game mix that sports a field of the toughest rounders ever to play on the felt. He then made another final table just a few days later in the $10K World Championship Stud event. But soon after Kasella made his presence known, winning the $10K World Championship Stud/8 title and then capturing a razz event, making sure the WSOP had yet another double bracelet-winner in one series. Mizrachi would counter with another final table, as would Kassela, finishing third in the $25K six-handed event.

Who would it be? Mizrachi had four final tables (Kassella had three); Kassela won two bracelets and cashed six times; Mizrachi won one bracelet and cashed five times, but he took home more money overall than Kassela. They both entered the $2,500 mixed event and Mizrachi finished higher, cashing 26th ($6,324) while Kassela finished 36th ($5,376). And as you likely already know, Grinder outlasted Kassela in the 7,319-player main event, currently sitting in seventh place at the November Nine. Is that enough to be the kicker that breaks the tie? Probably.

But we looked beyond the table, and that’s where we found our answer. Mizrachi had just come under incredible public scrutiny when his nearly $340K tax lien and subsequent home foreclosures were brought to light in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel newspaper. The news spread through the poker world faster than the blinds in a $2 turbo. He also entered the Series with an extremely heavy heart after a family tragedy. Add to all of that the ignominious label of being arguably the best player in the world never to win a bracelet and you can see why the Grinder was indeed chosen as our 2010 WSOP Player of the Year.

To not only succeed but to thrive during a time when he easily could’ve tossed in the towel and gone into hiding is a testament to his professionalism and poker courage. We salute the Grinder on his amazing accomplishment and tell his story on Page 30.

We’d like to congratulate Kassela on a fantastic effort. We’re certain the two gold bracelets on his wrists will help him deal with the disappointment of not winning our award.
Also, we’d like to welcome aboard Pennsylvania and Delaware to the Ante Up Nation this month as those states recently joined the legal poker ranks. It’s a natural addition to our expansion throughout the right half of the United States, and be sure to look for more states appearing in our magazine in the coming months.

We’ll see you at the tables.

Christopher Cosenza and Scott Long