• ENG
  • GERThis site has not yet been translated into the selected language.
HomeNewsMain Event WSOP 2016 – 2022 Champions: Where Are They Now?

Main Event WSOP 2016 – 2022 Champions: Where Are They Now?

In anticipation of the World Series of Poker, we recall the main event WSOP champions and tell the story of how their destinies unfolded.

Read previous parts:

About the main event WSOP 2000-2007 champions here

About the main event WSOP 2009-2015 champions here

2016: Qui Nguyen — none of the WSOP champions loved and hated baccarat more than him

Qui Nguyen was born in Vietnam and moved to Las Vegas at the age of 24, where he worked in a nail salon and played cash games ranging from $1-3 to $10-20. However, he couldn’t manage to build a bankroll as he lost all his money at baccarat tables.

Before winning the Main Event, Nguyen had never played in a $10K tournament, and his total live tournament winnings amounted to $9K.

Qui Nguyen qualified for the Main Event through a $1,100 satellite on his third attempt. His family urged him to sell the ticket, but Nguyen was determined to play.

After his victory, Qui Nguyen released a book titled “From Vietnam to Vegas! How I Won the WSOP Main Event,” which mainly features an analysis of 170 hands from the tournament.

He continues to play poker and is active on Instagram, where he mostly posts photos with his wife and son.

And no more baccarat! Now I only play poker!

2017: Scott Blumstein

Scott Blumstein partly followed the path of Moneymaker. He studied accounting at Temple University.

But he got tired of all the taxes and paperwork and decided to start playing poker. Initially, he lacked confidence in his game and played without a plan or strategy.

Scott even considered quitting poker, but his father persuaded him to continue playing.

In the summer of 2016, Blumstein won the $560 One Million Deepstack Kick Off at Borgata Casino in Atlantic City ($200K) and gave poker a second chance. A year later, he won the WSOP Main Event ().

After his victory, Scott Blumstein moved to Las Vegas, lost 45 kilograms, and continues to play poker.

2018: John Cynn

John Cynn studied finance and supply chain management at Indiana University in Bloomington. He then worked as an IT consultant in California.

His parents did not support his interest in poker:

I didn’t tell my parents for six months that I had left IT for poker. I remember my mom being absolutely devastated when I told her. However, after my victory at the WSOP, my mom and dad were over the moon, especially when strangers recognized me in a restaurant and asked for a photo.

The heads-up against Tony Miles lasted 10 hours. Cynn believed that a late friend helped him at the table:

I always maintain a positive outlook. After my friend’s death in December 2017, I learned to love life even more. When there were 12 players left in the Main Event, I told my friends, ‘Even if I go on a losing streak and bust out 12th, I will still be happy. I’m playing cards. I’m alive.’ I believe he supported me during the game.

After his victory, John Cynn traveled around half the world. The last time Cynn cashed money was at the Main Event WSOP 2022. Cynn’s second passion after poker became cryptocurrency.

2019: Hossein Ensan

Hossein Ensan was born in Iran. In 1990, at the age of 25, he moved to Germany. He studied construction at the University of Münster. Money was tight, so he had to work three jobs simultaneously: as a taxi driver, waiter, and painter.

In 2002, Ensan started his own business: he bought three cars and launched a taxi service. At the same time, he began studying poker diligently.

At that time, I was 39 years old — quite late to start a professional playing career. I only knew the hand rankings because I played Five-Card Draw Poker as a child.

Initially, he played $500 tournaments five times a month. His first success came in 2010 when he finally won $20K in a tournament. In 2011, he won $28K and bought a Porsche. That same year, he sold the car for $74K and his business for $75K — this gave him his first bankroll, and he became a professional player.

In 2014, he took 3rd place in the €5K Main Event EPT Barcelona and received €650K — this was the most significant cash of his career.

Before winning the WSOP, Hossein Ensan secured several titles:

  • Won the €5K Main Event EPT Prague (€754K)
  • Won the €1.5K Main Event WSOPC Rozvadov (€148K)

At 55 years old, Hossein Ensan became one of the oldest Main Event champions. Only the 1999 WSOP Main Event champion Noel Furlong, who was 61, was older.

I will never say that poker is a young person’s game. In poker, the most important thing is memory. It’s crucial to remember every hand and every situation and learn from your experience. Success in poker absolutely depends on experience.

Hossein Ensan continues to play actively to this day.

2020: Damian Salas — one of the oldest WSOP champions

In 2020, the WSOP Main Event was held in a “hybrid format”.

First, players from the U.S. played online in their pool on WSOP.com, while players from the rest of the world played on GGPoker. Then, the final tables were played offline: Americans at the RIO, and the rest of the world at King’s Rozvadov. Tournament winners Damian “pampa27” Salas and Joseph Hebert met in Las Vegas to play heads-up for $1M. In the end, Salas emerged victorious, earning $1.5M for his win at King’s plus $1M for his heads-up victory at the RIO.

Little is known about Damian Salas’s biography. He started playing poker in 2009. In 2017, he reached the final table of the WSOP Main Event, finishing in 7th place ($1.42M). Despite his poker successes, Salas does not consider himself a poker pro and continues to practice law.

2021: Koray Aldemir

Koray Aldemir first played poker at the age of 16 with friends. He then continued playing freerolls on PokerStars.

After high school, he enrolled at Brandenburg University of Technology (Cottbus, Germany), where he studied business administration. He then moved to Vienna, where he began studying psychology.

During his university studies, Aldemir played poker consistently. His friends included Rainer Kempe, Fedor Holz, Julian Thomas, and the player known as “PlayingWasted” — they all gathered in a Skype conference to discuss hands. Eventually, all five players became successful poker pros.

Before winning the WSOP Main Event, Koray Aldemir had already amassed $10M in winnings. He continues to play to this day. As of the publication of this article, Aldemir has cashed four times at the 2023 WSOP (out of a total of 16 events).

2022: Espen Jørstad — one of the most motivating WSOP champions

The life of Espen Jørstad is a story of “the ugly duckling turning into a beautiful swan.”

During his school years, Jørstad played WoW for 15 hours a day, skipped school, and ate frozen pizza reheated in the microwave.

Espen Jørstad during his school years

At 18, he received a call from the military recruitment office with an offer to join the army — and he agreed.

At 29, Espen opened his own brewery, but the startup didn’t take off — so he decided to focus on poker.

Espen Jørstad overcame social anxiety, started exercising, streaming, blogging, and even became an ambassador for Unibet.

In 2022, in addition to his bracelet in the WSOP Main Event, he won another bracelet in the tag team event with Patrick Leonard.

Espen Jørstad continues to actively play poker both offline and online to this day.