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2012 WSOP Best Bets: France
Every year we like to think our vast global poker expertise allows us to predict precisely which players are set to light the WSOP on fire.
Every year, of course, we miss wildy. But we're gluttons for punishment, regardless.
In keeping with our annual tradition, we asked our international editors to fill us in on players from their country on the cusp of WSOP greatness.
By Fred Guillemot
We’ll admit it. Our picks for France were hit and miss last year.
ElkY was, of course, a winning bet. Tristan Clémençon and David Benyamine also had three cashes each including several top 20s.
Bruno Launais, Marc Inizan and Alain Roy ... not so much success.
Nicolas Levi, Ludovic Lacay and Antony Lellouche? Generally disappointing for their level of talent, except for Lellouche with five cashes and three final tables.
So, who are the French players most likely to repeat the bracelet-winning success of ElkY, Elie Payan, Fabrice Soulier and Antonin Teisseire from last year?
Guillaume Darcourt (39 years old)
The "Boa" is probably one of the best French players in poker right now.
His success really began in 2010 with his first major title at WPT Bucharest and his first cash at the WSOP - a third-place finish in a $3k Limit Hold'em event for $223,459.
A deep Main Event run in 2011 (35th for $242,636) followed and he’s confirmed his talent with cashes all over the EPT in the past year.
An 18th-place finish last week at the WPT World Championship shows he's still on form.
It now seems inevitable the man with the pink hair is about to step up into the realm of the French elite.
With the support of the French railbirds with his wife Caroline, we think it’ll be this year.
Gabriel Nassif (28 years old)
Joining Team PokerStars Online earlier this year, Gabriel Nassif is undoubtedly one of the most underrated French players on the circuit.
A fairly understated presence at the tables, Nassif, nicknamed “yellowhat” online for his once ubiquitous yellow hat, has already shown a track record of cashing with regularity.
A former professional "Magic: The Gathering" player (voted Player of the Year in 2004 and entered the Hall of Fame in 2010), Nassif has already managed 14 cashes at the WSOP (six last year alone!).
Two have also come in pretty quick succession deep in the Main Event: 73rd in 2010 and 189th in 2011.
Three final tables in 2007, 2009 and 2011 have proven that he can go deep in a donkament.
Nassif lacks little in the hunt for a bracelet and an international breakout, and we think it’s time.
Tristan Clémençon (22 years old)
Despite not technically winning a bracelet last year, we still think our Clémençon pick is bang on and we'll stick with him again this year.
After a solid inaugural WSOP in 2011 (three cashes including 10th- and 16th-place finishes in HORSE and Pot-Limit Omaha), the young Team Winamax pro will be keen to upgrade his status to WSOP heavyweight.
Clémençon’s recorded a fifth-place finish at WPT Malta and an 11th-place in Madrid since his WSOP results and with career live tournament earnings of over $1 million (not to mention online), he’s clearly here to stay in poker.
One of the most respected players of his generation on the circuit, a definitive big performance is on the horizon for Clémençon and the Rio is the perfect venue for it.
As long as he makes sure to bring his ID to the casino everyday, he should be a lock.
Bruno Lopes aka Kool Shen (46 years old)
For European hip-hop fans, no introduction is necessary for Bruno Lopes, aka Kool Shen.
The former leader of the group NTM, since converted to poker, has the results to back up the career move.
Since 2009 Lopes has had five cashes on the EPT circuit plus cashes in three WPT events.
He also made his first two cashes at the WSOP last year including a 20th-place finish in the No-Limit Hold'em Triple Chance event won by Antonin Teisseire.
The former rapper seems very fit in 2012 with a seventh-place finish at WPT Mauritius in February and a fourth-place finish at EPT Madrid in March.
An outright tournament victory at the €5,000 Euro Finals of Poker in Paris also shows he knows how to finish when he gets close.
He’s clearly on track for a big Vegas score. The only question is whether it'll be in a few days or a couple of weeks.
Roger Hairabedian (56 years old)
After Antonin Teisseire last year, is another live-game veteran in the form of Roger Hairabedian set to bring a new bracelet to France this year?
The former European champion in Judo began playing poker 30 years ago and has been a force in French poker since.
Well known for his outspokenness, Hairabedian (along with Nassif) is undoubtedly one of the best French players virtually unknown internationally.
Yet the "Terminator" is now fifth on the "All-Time Money List" for France with nearly 3.4 million dollars in earnings - behind only ElkY, Benyamine, Soulier and Antoine Saout.
Since 2002, we’ve lost count of his cashes around the world. A victory in the Grand Prix de Paris 2008 (for €419,000), a 17th-place at the EPT Grand Final in 2009 followed by a final table and seventh-place finish in 2010 are just a few highlights.
And for a player that can be called the "old generation," Hairabedian has adapted perfectly to the game today.
He recorded his first four cashes at the World Series last year. Is an even bigger bang due in 2012?