History of the WSOP $25k Fantasy Draft: Howard Lederer, Jason Mercier, & Daniel Negreanu

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Daniel Negreanu’s World Series of Poker (WSOP) $25k Fantasy Draft, which will hold its draft for the 2024 WSOP this Monday at the PokerGO Studio (it’ll be streamed and PokerNews will also be there to live report), was originally the creation of Howard Lederer, a once prominent poker pro who no longer has many fans within the community due to the April 15, 2011 Black Friday scandal.

The former Full Tilt Poker pro and executive ran the fantasy league during its 2011 inception year, but he handed the keys off to Negreanu the following summer.

Each year, those willing to put up $25,000 on a fantasy poker competition bid on the performance of various poker players during that summer’s WSOP. Teams must draft eight players with a $200 auction-style bidding budget, and the winner is the team that accumulates the most points throughout the series. Player points are earned based on cashes, final tables, and bracelet wins.

Jason Mercier Holds a Record

Jason Mercier
Jason Mercier

In 2011, 15 teams signed up, but none could top Team Jason Somerville & Jason Mercier Ben Lamb, the WSOP Player of the Year, carried the team with a league-best 403 points. One year later, Jason Mercier went out on his own and won again, and remains the only two-time winner in league history.

There’s been a different winner each year since. Team Matthew Waxman took it down in 2013 behind the WSOP success of David “Bakes” Baker. Team Gypsy, thanks to the memorable summer from George Danzer, beat a field of 12 teams in 2014. Team Hastings, led by team owner Brian Hastings, conquered the fantasy league in 2015.

Team owners are not required to draft themselves. In fact, many avoid doing so. Hastings is the only player in league history to lead the team he drafted to victory. John Monnette (2012 and 2016) and Ben Yu (2017 and 2018) are the only players to twice lead a winning team in points.

Perhaps a bit of a surprise, only twice has the winning team drafted that year’s WSOP Player of the Year (2011 and 2014). And no Main Event champ from the same year has been most responsible for a fantasy league team winning, although Koray Aldemir led Team Maria Ho to the title in 2022, one year after becoming world champion.

Team DPMC took down the largest field ever — 20 teams — last year, thanks in large part to the performance of Shaun Deeb, who had his usual impressive summer. But Deeb was a bit of an outlier a year ago in that he was the first of 18 players in league history to go for $100 or more in the draft and end up on a winning team.

Negreanu’s Fantasy League Struggles

Daniel Negreanu Poker
Daniel Negreanu

There’s a reason we haven’t touched much on Negreanu, and that is because the head of the league hasn’t had much success drafting teams. The GGPoker ambassador has drafted a team every year, with his best finish — second place — coming in 2022.

Prior to that year, Negreanu’s highest finish was fourth place in 2017, but only a fantasy draft low eight teams competed. Outside of those two years, he hasn’t outperformed sixth place, and his team hit rock bottom in 2018 with a 15th place finish … out of 15 teams.

Negreanu as a player has provided plenty of value to the team’s that have drafted him. He won WSOP Player of the Year in 2013 and briefly won it in 2019 before a recalculation gave the award to Robert Campbell. But his fantasy team drafting skills haven’t seemed to catch up to his poker skills.

The 2024 $25k Fantasy Draft takes place May 27 at the PokerGO Studio in Las Vegas. PokerNews will be on-site live reporting the event.

How Will Daniel Negreanu’s 2024 Poker Heater Impact His WSOP $25k Fantasy Draft Bid?

$25k Fantasy Draft Yearly Results

Year Entries Winner Winning Team Top Player
2011 15 Team Jason Somerville, Jason Mercier Ben Lamb*
2012 11 Team Jason Mercier John Monnette
2013 14 Team Matthew Waxman David “Bakes” Baker
2014 12 Team Gypsy George Danzer*
2015 11 Team Hastings Brian Hastings
2016 11 Team Alaei John Monnette
2017 8 Team Leah Ben Yu
2018 15 Team Fleyshman Ben Yu
2019 12 Team Reiss Dario Sammartino
2022 14 Team Maria Ho Koray Aldemir
2023 20 Team DPMC Shaun Deeb

*Denotes won WSOP Player of the Year.

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