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Professional Poker Tours – 2015 Year in Review

Poker tax refunds With the 2016 poker tournament schedule in full swing, it’s a great time to look back at 2015. It was a year where records were broken, new tournaments were introduced, and new World Series of Poker (WSOP) and WSOP European champions were crowned. It’s also the perfect time to reflect on how well Canadian poker players did at live tournaments.

Canadians are always well-represented at professional poker tournaments in the U.S. In fact, two of the top 10 live poker winners come from Canada: Daniel Negreanu from Toronto tops the list with over $32.0 million in earnings, and Boucherville, Quebec native Jonathan Duhamel rounds out the list with earnings approaching $18.0 million.1

We also need to remind all non-U.S residents who play poker in the U.S,—whether they play professionally or casually—that their winnings are subject to a 30% poker tax by the IRS.

Newest Poker Tournaments

There were a number of new events introduced in 2015; however, two of them stand out. The first was the inaugural 2015 WSOP Colossus, with a buy-in fee of $545 and guaranteed prize pool of $5.0 million.

The live event ran from May 29 to June 2 and attracted a field of 22,374 entries. It also broke the record for the largest ever live tournament in poker history, with an overall prize pool of $11.18 million.2

Of the 2,241 players who took home money, 90 hailed from Canada. The biggest Canadian winner was Richard Robertson from Belleville, who finished in 25th place and took home $32,349, Timothy Vukson of Ottawa came in 30th and won $27,215, and Mike Leah of Toronto was right behind in 39th place winning $23,022.

The second big inaugural poker tournament that attracted a lot of attention in 2015 was the Super High Roller Bowl, which took place from June 27 to July 4 at the Aria Las Vegas. The $500,000 buy-in attracted 43 of the world’s best poker players, creating a total prize pool of $21.5 million.3

The tournament attracted poker heavy weighs like Canadian Daniel Negreanu, Phil Ivey, and Erik Seidel. Ultimately, Brian Rast walked away with the $7.525 million first-place prize and a championship ring.4

After a successful run, the Super High Roller Bowl will be back on May 29, 2016. The freeze-out is slightly lower at $300,000 with a 49 player limit. If the tournament fills up, sponsors will kick in an additional $300,000 creating a prize pool of $15.0 million.5

World Series of Poker Main Event

The 2015 WSOP tournament ended with the highly anticipated $10,000 N-Limit Hold’em Championship, better known as the WSOP Main Event. The Main Event began in July with 6,420 entrants from 80 different countries. After two weeks the final table of players—known as the “November Nine”—was determined. These nine reconvened in November in Las Vegas, where the final was played over three days.

In the end, 24-year old Joe McKeehan from Pennsylvania won, taking home the first-place prize of $7.68 million. Of the top nine finalists, three came from outside the U.S.: Ofer Zvi Stern of Israel placed fourth and won $1.9 million; Pierre Neuville of Belgium came in seventh place, winning $1.2 million; and Frederico Butteroni of Italy placed eighth and won $1.09 million.6

Canadians and other non-U.S. citizens did well at the 2015 WSOP Main Event. Daniel Negreanu placed 11th, earning $526,778. Arman Soltani of Toronto placed 37th by earning $164,086, while Max Greenwood, also from Toronto, came in 42nd place, winning $164,086.

Canadian Poker Stars to Watch in 2016

After winning roughly $2.5 million in 2015, Daniel Negreanu set his goals for 2016, promising to cash in at least $2.5 million. He plans on entering at least 55 tournaments and cashing in on no less than 12 of those. Negreanu also wants to make at least five table appearances, move from 3rd place to 2nd place in the WSOP All-Time Money list. He also wants to win three WSOP bracelets in 2016.7

Mike Watson, from St. John’s Newfoundland and Labrador won the World Poker Tour title in 2008. In mid-January of this year, Watson won the 2016 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure $5,300 Main Event and earned $728,325. Watson now has over $9.0 million in live tournaments earnings.8

Adrienne Rowsome is a native of Edmonton, Alberta and won big at the same PokerStars Caribbean Adventure tournament in the Bahamas. Rowsome earned the biggest live event score of her career by walking away with over $30,000.

Non-U.S. Residents Subject to 30% Poker Tax

Although Canadians and other non-U.S residents fared well in this year’s tournaments, it’s important to remember that substantial winnings (typically over $1,200) are subject to a 30% withholding tax by the IRS. That means if you win $5,000 playing poker, the casino will pay you $3,500. The IRS keeps the rest. But, if you live in a country like Canada, which has signed a U.S. tax treaty, you may be eligible for a refund.

Some of the countries that do not have a U.S. tax treaty include: Australia, Bahrain, Barbados, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Israel, Kuwait, Mexico, Malaysia, Monaco, New Zealand, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, and the U.A.E. However, based on a recent court case, winners from these countries may qualify for a refund if they meet certain criteria.

RMS is the Easiest, Fastest Way to Get Your Money Back

If you are a non-U.S resident and had 30% of your winnings held back by the IRS, Refund Management Services (RMS) can help you reclaim a portion or all of your taxable winnings.

Founded by a Canadian Chartered Accountant in 1998, RMS is the most reliable and experienced gaming and casino tax refund provider for non-U.S. residents. Only RMS has the One Simple StepTM process. Our customer service agents take care of the rest.

Once you provide us with complete documentation, your claim will be processed and we will submit it to the IRS. We’ve never been refused for an eligible refund.  Contact us today by calling our toll-free number at 1-888-272-5559 or by emailing us at [email protected].


1.“10 Biggest All Time Live Poker and Online Poker Winners,” Poker Update, last accessed January 15, 2016; http://www.pokerupdate.com/news/entertainment/top-10-biggest-all-time-live-poker-and-online-poker-winners-the-ultimate-list/.
2.“Event #5: THE COLOSSUS $565 No-Limit Hold’em,” WSOP.com, last accessed January 15, 2016; http://www.wsop.com/tournaments/results.asp?rr=5&grid=1136&tid=14205&dayof=.
3.Holloway, C. and Mickey Doft, Poker News, July 5, 2015; http://www.pokernews.com/news/2015/07/brian-rast-wins-inaugural-super-high-roller-bowl-22161.htm.
4.“Super High Roller Bowl Announced”, Super High Roller Bowl, January 14, 2016; https://www.superhighroller.com/news/news-list/2016%20super%20high%20roller%20bowl%20announced.
5.“Event #68: No-Limit Hold’em MAIN EVENT,” WSOP.com, last accessed January 15, 2016; http://www.wsop.com/tournaments/results.asp?rr=5&grid=1136&tid=14268&dayof=.
6.Negreanu, D., “2016 Annual Poker Goals Blog,” DanielNegreanu.com, last accessed January 15, 2016; http://danielnegreanu.com/2016-annual-poker-goals-blog/.
7. Peters, D., “Mike Watson Defeats Tony Gregg To Win 2016 PCA Main Event for $728,325,” Poker News, January 14, 2016; http://www.pokernews.com/news/2016/01/mike-watson-pca-main-event-23838.htm.
8. “Edmonton poker pro wins over $30,000,” Metro web site, January 13, 2016; http://www.metronews.ca/news/edmonton/2016/01/13/local-poker-adrienne-talonchick-rowsome-pro-wins-big.html.

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