The biggest winners at the recently concluded World Series of Poker (WSOP) were the players who made the final table of the 2019 WSOP Main Event. The win ultimately went to Germany’s Hossein Ensan who topped an 8,569-entry field to capture his first bracelet and $10 million in prize money for his first place finish.
Italy’s Dario Sammartino won $6 million for his runner-up finish, while Canadian poker pro Alex Livingston finished third for $4 million. The six other finalists walked away with at least $1 million. However, when everything was said and done, how much will these players actually be able to take home?
Licensed tax professional Russ Fox said the players’ final profit is a lot lower than the money they win as they have to pay a significant amount in taxes. Each year, Fox examines the tax obligations faced by the final nine players of the WSOP Main Event. In his latest report, the federally licensed tax professional has pointed out how the players’ nationalities can affect their tax obligations.
His article Location, Location, Location: The Real Winners of the 2019 World Series of Poker showed that virtually all of the finalists are set to give up a huge part of their winnings due to tax burdens. As a whole, the total amount deducted from all of the players’ prize money will exceed even the $10 million top prize.
Countries Set Different Tax Rates on Gambling Winnings
This year’s Main Event champion Ensan has always considered himself an “amateur” player even though he has more than $2 million in total live earnings (which have now climbed to $12.6 million following his WSOP victory) and has scored deep runs in various events, such as those featured in the European Poker Tour.
Hossein Ensan has repeatedly affirmed his status as an amateur in interviews even before and after his massive win this summer. This is totally understandable as Ensan is well-known for his overall humble and unassuming persona, but there may be a deeper reason why he avoids calling himself a “poker pro”.
The German government passed a federal law in 2017, requiring professional gamblers to pay income tax on their net winnings (minus the expenses). Amateurs are exempted from the said law. As a result, if Ensan were to meet this tax obligation, he would have to pay $4.6 million in taxes to the Bundeszentralamt für Steuern, the country’s Federal Central Tax Office.
Milos Skrbic, who finished in ninth place will have to shell out 47.4 percent of his $1 million prize payout since he is a resident of California. Canadian poker pro Livingston does not need to pay any taxes in Canada but due to a standing tax treaty between Canada and the US, he is required to pay 30 percent of his $4 million winnings to US tax authorities. This equates to $1.2 million in taxes owed.
The only player who escapes all the tax burdens is seventh-place finisher Nick Marchington who resides in the UK. The UK currently does not impose any taxes on gambling winnings. This is one of the reasons why a lot of German players have taken up residence in the UK. Marchington will be able to completely enjoy his $1.525 million prize.
Tax Breakdown
Dario Sammartino who finished in second place will have to pay $2.5 million in taxes from his $6 million prize, Garry Gates who finished in fourth place and took home $3 million will have to pay a little more than $1 million in taxes while Kevin Maahs who finished fifth and took $2.2 million will have to pay $870,729 in taxes.
Zhen Cai collected $1.8 million for his sixth place finish will have to pay out $1.1 million in taxes and Timothy Su who finished in eighth place will have to pay $491,150 in taxes based on the $1.2 million prize that he collected.
It is not clear yet whether or not Ensan will be forced to pay taxes on his winnings, but if he does, the total amount of taxes owed by all nine players would stand at $11,972,653. It represents just under 39 percent of the $30,825,000 in total prize money paid out to the 9 final table players.

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