WSOP Main Event Money Bubble Boys

[LL] “Why do players in our home tournament like to pay the bubble boy?” Leroy the Lion lamented. “It just makes a new bubble boy one place lower.”

[SS] “Well, I guess that makes it like the WSOP Main Event”, Stan the Stat suggested.

[RR] “What do you mean?” Roderick the Rock inquired.

[LL] “Some sponsor has given the official bubble boy a pretty decent prize, a buyin into the next year’s Main Event, for I don’t know how long now.”

[SS] “It’s actually only been since 2004, and two of the early years, 2006 and 2007, had a single-table tournament between the last ten or so players who missed cashing to determine who got the buyin.

Winning the buyin isn’t quite as good as cashing though, since the lowest payout has been around double the buyin since 2007.”1

[RR] “Sure does beat going home empty-handed though.”

[SS] “In the early days of the WSOP Main Event, only the winner got paid, so the money bubble boy was actually the runner up: Puggy Pearson (1971 and 1972), Johnny Moss (1973), Crandell Addington (1974), Bob Hooks (1975), Jesse Alto (1976), and Gary Berland (1977). The top five places got paid the next three years, leaving Ken Smith (1978), Sam Petrillo (1979), and Gabe Kaplan (1980) on the outside looking in.

From 1981 to 2003, I could only track down a few of the empty-handed bubble boys: Sam Moon (10th in 1981), Crandell Addington (10th in 1983), Jack Keller (28th in 1995), Chris Ferguson (28th in 1997), and Mike Magee (28th in 1998). The rest have been lost to history as nobody really cared or kept track.

Since 2004 though, the bubble boy or boys have gotten a little bit of press, so I’ve been able to put together this table:

WSOP Main Event Bubble Boys Since 2004

Year Bubble Boy Min Cash Notes
2004 Dewey Tomko,
Dave Combs
$10,000 Dewey Tomko and Dave Combs busted on the same hand in 225th/226th place, but instead of splitting $10,000, they each got $10,000 from Harrah’s.
2005 Carl Ygborn $12,500 The 25-year-old Swede flopped a pair of Tens with an Ace kicker, but Corey Cheresnick had flopped a straight. Harrah’s gave him free entry the next year, and he finished 628th for $19,050.
2006 Hoa Manh Nguyen $10,616 The Californian won the Milwaukee’s Best Light Bubble Playoff for a year’s supply of beer and free entry the next year, where he won $285,678 for 34th place.2
2007 John Sigan $20,320 His pocket Queens lost to Vandy Krouch’s 6♠5♠, which hit an inside straight on the turn. Entered into the Milwaukee’s Best Light Bubble Playoff for a seat into next year’s Main Event but lost.
2008 Steve Chung $21,230 The Hong Kong native couldn’t catch his opponent’s pocket Kings with his Eights, but he turned his free entry into 569th place and $23,196.
2009 Kia Hamadani $21,365 Had blinded down to a single ante before losing with 4♣3♥ to Reed Hansel’s 9♦2♦; turned his free entry into 459th place and $31,647.
2010 Tim McDonald $19,263 His Q♠Q♣ lost to Ismail Erkenov’s A♥2♥ after a A♣A♠2♦ flop despite a river Q♥ that gave him a smaller boat. Didn’t cash in 2011.
2011 Reza Kashani $19,359 Busted by Joseph Cheong when his K♠J♠ couldn’t catch up with Cheong’s Q♠Q♦ after a K♥Q♣9♣ flop. Didn’t cash in 2012.
2012 David Kelley,
Desmond Portano,
Steve Rosen,
Dane Lomas
$19,227 The four players split $19,227 ($4,806.75 each) for 666-669th and were supposed to have a 4-player single-table tournament to get the free buyin, but Kelley bought the other three players out (he didn’t cash).
2013 Farzad Bonyadi $19,106 The three-time bracelet winner busted with A♠J♣ when his pair of Jacks lost to Nick Schwarmann’s A♣Q♥ for a straight on a J♦5♠3♠T♠K♥ board. He converted his free entry into 238th place and $38,634.
2014 Zhen Cai,
Kori Hunter,
John Dwyer
$18,406 The three players all exited on the same hand and split $18,406 ($6,135.33 each); Kai drew the K♦ to beat Hunter’s 6♦ and Dwyer’s 6♥ to win the $10,000 buyin to the 2015 Main Event { July 16, 2015 update: Cai finished 266th in the 2015 WSOP Main Event for $24,622. }.
2015 Roy Daoud3 $15,000 Daoud, who had lost an all-in blind battle with 5h5c against 7h5d when the board hit two pairs (K♣9♠4♣K♠9♣), won a draw over Jonas Lauck (J♦ to 7♠), who busted on the same hand. Turyansky’s board was 7♥6♣5♥8♦J♦.
2016 Adam Furgatch3 $15,000 On the last hand before hand-for-hand was about to start, Furgatch moved in for his last 6,000 chips with Queen-Nine and lost to George Zisimopoulos’s Ace-Seven.


  • Five of the nine players who obtained entry into the next year’s Main Event cashed, well above the expected ten percent rate.
  • Even in the last years, the identity of the empty-handed money bubble boys are mostly unknown, but they include Tim Duckworth (2007; although Sigan also ended up not winning the entry fee), Mickey Appleman (2008), William Blake (2010), and Yuri Dzivielevski (2013).”


  1. The last officially paid prizes have been between $18,406 in 2014 and $21,365 in 2009. Before 2007, the amount had been all over the place, even dipping below $10,000 from 1986 to 1992.
  2. Nguyen had also just missed the money in 2005 by a mere three places.
  3. { Updates: Added 2015 bubble boy March 16, 2016. Added 2016 bubble boy May 8, 2017.

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