Hempel and Bicknell Lead Canadians in WSOP 2020 Online

The 2020 World Series of Poker technically began on July 1 but only for players in the American states of Nevada and New Jersey. Players located in those states could play on WSOP.com for the first 31 gold bracelets of the WSOP 2020 Online. And then on July 19, the slate of 54 events started on GGPoker for those in Canada and the rest of the world.

One might think that Canadians would wait to snag a spot on the WSOP 2020 leaderboard until the GGPoker events began, but one Canadian took his chances by going to America. And it paid off for Scott Hempel with a WSOP bracelet. Kristen Bicknell then did her thing from Canada on GGPoker, winning her third career bracelet just this week.

Many more Canadian players have made final tables on GGPoker. Let’s focus on those who are making their way into the top of the leaderboard and grabbing gold.

Hempel: Representing Canada in America

Under normal circumstances, quite a few Canadian poker players would have traveled to the United States to compete in some of the first 31 WSOP 2020 events online. But the border between the two countries is closed for all intents and purposes, due to Canada controlling the coronavirus pandemic and America…well…not so much.

If we’re talking about normal circumstances, though, there wouldn’t be a split WSOP and it wouldn’t be solely online because it would be at the Rio in Las Vegas. But…coronavirus.

Anyway, Scott Hempel was actually born in America but spends quite a lot of time in Canada playing online poker. Time in America is often spent (before coronavirus) playing live poker, which was how he ended up playing the WPT L.A. Poker Classic in February of this year and making the final table. As one of the chip leaders at the delayed table – one that is now delayed indefinitely instead of just until March 31 in Las Vegas – he is guaranteed at least $185K for his efforts but will aim for the $1 million that awaits the winner.

While in America, Hempel was there when the quarantine orders hit, so he played the WSOP online in Nevada. On July 17, he played the $777 NLHE event on WSOP.com and made the final table, but he finished seventh for $22,250.

The next day, he jumped into Event 18, the $1K NLHE Turbo Deepstack, where he finished atop this field:

  • Unique players = 697
  • Reentries = 290
  • Total entries = 987
  • Total prize pool = $937,650
  • Paid players = 143
  • Minimum payout = $1,594
  • Winner payout to Scott “BudLightLime” Hempel = $181,050.21

Hempel has had a few cashes since then. As of the beginning of this week, Hempel was sixth on the WSOP.com leaderboard for the series, the highest ranking Canadian on the list.

Bicknell: Winning a Third Bracelet in Canada

Originally, Kristen Bicknell started her poker career as an online pro from her home in Ontario. As a university student studying criminology, her interest in online poker turned from entertainment to a part-time job, one she ultimately made into a career while putting her studies on hold.

She played on PokerStars for many years, even achieving Supernova Elite status on PokerStars before the site changed and ultimately removed the program. To date, Bicknell has earned more than $4.5 million online.

Occasional live poker tournaments went with Bicknell’s cash games, but her 2013 World Series of Poker bracelet win in the WSOP Ladies Championship provided a wider glimpse into live tournament possibilities. Around about 2015, she began dating a live poker pro and started to travel the live circuit for events like the European Poker Tour…back when the EPT held multiple tournaments each year.

Then at the 2016 WSOP, Bicknell won her first open-event bracelet at the WSOP, the $1,500 NLHE Bounty event worth more than $290K. Soon after, she began dating Alex Foxen, a high-stakes pro player, and she began increasing her stakes as well.

She won a WPT Five Diamond side event in Las Vegas for nearly $200K in late 2017 and won her first high roller event in Macau the following spring in the Asia Pacific Poker Tour (APPT). She made another final table in that series, a final table in the PartyPoker MILLIONS Barcelona High Roller, finished second in a WPT Bellagio side event and second in the MSPT (Mid-Stakes Poker Tour) Championship in the US for $200K. Still in 2018, she final tabled the WSOP International Circuit high roller event at Playground Poker, and the next year final tabled the $100K buy-in Aussie Millions Challenge in Melbourne and the US Poker Open in Las Vegas, and finished second in the LAPC High Roller and a Bellagio High Roller.

Just a moment to catch our breath…

In May 2019, Bicknell won an EPT Monte Carlo title, finished third in the Merit Poker Classic Main Event, fifth in the WSOP NLHE Heads-Up in Vegas, and ran deep in a few others while winning an Aria Summer High Roller. Back on the road, she final tabled the PartyPoker MILLIONS Europe Triton $100K Super High Roller in Rozvadov, finished fifth in the WPT Montreal Main Event at Playground Poker, and then won a Poker Masters event in Las Vegas for $408K.

And before the pandemic shut everything down, Bicknell won a WPT LAPC side event in Los Angeles and then finished second in the Bay 101 Shooting Star Main Event in San Jose.

Before the Canadians and Americans closed their border, Bicknell and Foxen traveled back to Canada to settle in for some online poker. Of course, when the WSOP announced that part of its 2020 series would be on GGPoker for international players, including Canada, she got in on the action.

It didn’t take long for Bicknell, a PartyPoker ambassador, to make her presence known. Little more than one week after the WSOP 2020 Online started on GGPoker, she won Event 44, the $2,500 NLHE 6-Handed event:

  • Total entries = 892
  • Total prize pool = $2,118,500
  • Paid players = 116
  • Minimum payout = $6,022
  • Winner payout to Kristen Bicknell = $356,412

This was her third WSOP bracelet, giving her one in an online event to go with her live ladies-only event and her live open event bracelets.

Canadians Climbing Leaderboards

As Hempel climbs the leaderboards in the US-based WSOP online series that wraps up tonight, Bicknell took her place on the GGPoker leaderboard in fifth thus far. The only Canadian player ahead of her on the international chart is Alek Stasiak, who won Event 33 last weekend.

Back to the WSOP.com leaderboard, it should be noted that the most famous Canadian poker player in the game’s history, Daniel Negreanu, is doing well. He is near the top of the “cashes” chart with 15 thus far. And he is soon heading to Mexico to play the rest of the series on GGPoker, so he may climb that leaderboard soon as well.

The international WSOP 2020 Online continues through September 6 on GGPoker, providing more than one more month of events that will lead to the $5K Main Event with a $25 million guarantee. There will be numerous leaderboard challenges and interesting developments as the series rolls on.

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell has been writing about poker and gambling since 2004. From her days in the WPT offices to covering summers of WSOP tournament action, she also followed gambling legislation to Washington D.C. and women-only poker to the Bahamas. Meanwhile, she lived in Los Angeles and Las Vegas for many years before moving back to her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. Now, Jen travels less, writing about poker and online gambling from her home with her two dogs watching her every move. In her spare time, she follows politics, works on her never-finished novels, and learns Italian in the hopes of retiring to Italy someday.

If you want to know more, you can follow Jen on Twitter @WriterJen


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