The Real Winners of the 2023 World Series of Poker

Yesterday afternoon, the 2023 Main Event of the World Series of Poker concluded. A record 10,043 entrants ponied up the $10,000 buy-in to the event leading to a prize pool of $93,399,900 (the $7,030,100 difference is the funds kept by Caesars for running the event). We focus on the nine-handed final table, but 1,507 received winnings from the prize pool; a minimum cash was worth $15,000. The winner received a whopping $12.1 million; however, did he get to keep it all?

One important note: I do need to point out that many of the players in the tournament were “backed.” Poker tournaments have a high variance (luck factor). Thus, many tournament players sell portions of their action to investors to lower their risk (and/or “swap” action with other entrants). It is quite likely that most (if not all) of the winners were backed (or had swaps) and will, in the end, only enjoy a portion of their winnings. I ignore backing and swaps in this analysis (because the full details are rarely publicized). Now, on to the winners.

Congratulations to Daniel Weinman, a professional poker player from Atlanta. On the final hand, Steven Jones, the runner-up, raised and Mr. Weinman called. On the flop of J-5-2, Mr. Weinman checked, Mr. Jones made a continuation bet, and Mr. Weinman raised with Mr. Jones calling. The turn came a 4, Mr. Weinman bet again, Mr. Jones raised all-in (after a four minute deliberation), and Mr. Weinman called in less than 30 seconds. Both players had a pair of Jacks (Mr. Weinman held K-J while Mr. Jones held J-8). Mr. Jones needed an eight on the river to win the hand, but the river was an Ace giving Mr. Weinman the championship. First place was a cool $12.1 Million. Mr. Weinman owes federal and state income tax and self-employment tax on his winnings. I estimate he will pay $4,831,195 to the IRS and $690,777 to the Georgia Department of Revenue (45.64% lost to taxes).

Second place went to the aforementioned Steven Jones. Mr. Jones, a real estate broker from Scottsdale, Arizona, earned $6.5 million for finishing second. An amateur gambler, Mr. Jones avoids self-employment tax but does owe income tax to Arizona. I estimate he will owe $2,364,616 to the IRS and $193,700 to the Arizona Department of Revenue (taxes took 39.36% of his winnings).

In third place was Adam Walton of nearby Henderson. Mr. Walton was eliminated when his pair of eights ran into Daniel Weinman’s pair of aces. Mr. Walton, a professional poker player, earned $4 million for his finish. As a Nevada resident, he avoids state income tax. However, he does owe federal income tax and self-employment tax. I estimate he will pay $1,557,986 (38.95%) in tax to the IRS.

Jan-Peter Jachtmann, a marketing manager and publisher of PokerBlatt in Germany, finished fourth for $3,000,000. Formerly a pot-limit Omaha specialist (Mr. Jachtmann won a WSOP event in that game in 2012), he’s likely to play quite a bit more no-limit hold’em in the future. On his final hand, his King-Queen ran into the pocket Aces of Adam Walton; the board gave Mr. Jachtmann no help and he was eliminated. The US-Germany Tax Treaty exempts gambling from withholding. Fortunately for Mr. Jachtmann, Germany taxes only professional poker players. Germany’s Rennwett und Lotteriesteuer (which dates to 1922!) exempts winnings of players (except for professionals). So as long as Mr. Jachtmann keeps his gambling as a hobby he won’t have to pay tax on it to Germany.

Finishing in fifth place for $2,400,000 was Ruslan Prydryk of Lungansk, Ukraine. Mr. Prydryk, a lawyer by training, plays poker part-time. He moved all-in with Queen-Ten, but ran into an Ace-Jack from his opponent. It didn’t help that the opponent also flopped two-pair. The US and Ukraine do have a tax treaty, and it exempts gambling so the IRS gets nothing. Ukraine does tax gambling, though; he faces a 19.5% flat tax rate. He ends up owing an estimated $456,000 (or 16,751,816 hryvnia) to the State Tax Service of Ukraine.

The sixth place finisher was Dean Hutchison, a professional poker player from Glasgow, Scotland. Mr. Hutchison’s long run in the main event ended when his pocket fives ran into the pocket sevens of Jan-Peter Jachtmann (and he received no help from the community cards). Mr. Hutchison earned $1,850,000 for his deep run in the event. Better still, he benefits from two quite favorable tax situations. First, the tax treaty between the United States and the United Kingdom exempts gambling from withholding. Second, the United Kingdom doesn’t tax gambling–even for professional gamblers. It’s always nice when your after-tax income is legally the same as your pre-tax income.

Toby Lewis, a professional poker player from Southampton, England finished in seventh place. Mr. Lewis was perhaps the most accomplished tournament player (along with Daniel Weinman) who made the final table. He maneuvered his short starting stack up two places to finish in seventh for $1,425,000. Like the aforementioned Mr. Hutchison, Mr. Lewis gets to keep all of his winnings thanks to the US-UK Tax Treaty and UK law.

In eighth place was Juan Maceiras of La Caruna, Spain. The Spanish poker professional entered the final table in fifth place but could never get anything going. Still, $1,125,000 is a good consolation prize. The US-Spain Tax Treaty exempts his winnings from withholding by the IRS. However, Spain does tax gambling. Indeed, Spain’s Agencia Tributeria is well known in poker circles as looking for every penny it can find (it has gone after winnings of non-Spaniards who cashed in poker tournaments held in Spain). Earlier this year, the Agencia Tributeria ruled that professional poker players are professional sportsmen; that means Spain gets to withhold tax on non-Spaniards winnings in Spain. For Mr. Maceiras, he will be in Spain’s top tax bracket of 47% (on income of €300,000 or more). Overall, I estimate Mr. Maceiras will owe $528,750 (€523,400) to Agencia Tributeria; he pays the highest percentage of tax of any of the final table participants.

The ninth place finisher was Daniel Holzner. Mr. Holzner is an apple farmer in Italy (yes, he really is) and received the entry as a birthday present for turning 30. He is quoted by PokerNews, “…I guess I have to make a really big, big, big party for them, all of them.” He’ll have plenty of funds for that party. His ninth place finished earned him $900,000. The US-Italy Tax Treaty exempts Italians from withholding. However, he will be taxed in Italy. (Gambling winnings in Italy and the European Union are exempt from Italian tax.) I estimate he will owe $387,000 to Italy’s Agenzia delle Entrate (a high 43% tax rate).

Here’s a table summarizing the tax bite:

Amount won at Final Table $33,300,000
Tax to IRS $8.753.797
Tax to Georgia Department of Revenue $690,777
Tax to Agencia Tributeria (Spain) $528,750
Tax to State Tax Service (Ukraine) $456,000
Tax to Agenzia delle Entrate (Italy) $387,000
Tax to Arizona Department of Revenue $193,700
Total Tax $11,010,024

That means 33.06% of the winnings at the final table goes toward taxes.

Here’s a second table with the winners sorted by their estimated take-home winnings:

Winner Before-Tax Prize After-Tax Prize
1. Daniel Weinman $12,100,000 $6,578,028
2. Steven Jones $6,500,000 $3,941,684
4. Jan-Peter Jachmann $3,000,000 $3,000,000
3. Adam Walton $4,000,000 $2,442,014
5. Ruslan Prydryk $2,400,000 $1,944,000
6. Dean Hutchison $1,850,000 $1,850,000
7. Toby Lewis $1,425,000 $1,425,000
8. Juan Maceiras $1,125,000 $596,250
9. Daniel Holzner $900,000 $513,000
Totals $33,300,000 $22,289,976

Once again, a player ended up placing higher than his actual finish based on after-tax results. This year, Mr. Jachmann of Germany was the beneficiary of being an amateur gambler. Do note that German professional gamblers don’t get such a good tax result. Indeed, many German professional poker players have moved to Austria (a much more favorable tax situation).

The Internal Revenue Service did not end up with taxes that exceeded the first place winnings; the agency will have to be content with finishing in second place (based on pre-tax prizes) with a haul of just $8,753,797. Still, you can’t say that the IRS didn’t do poorly because the house always wins.


Comments are closed.