PokerListings Rising Star Award 2015
What makes a player fit the title of Rising Star in the game of poker?
Solid results and a sophisticated understanding of high-level poker strategy are definitely a part of it.
But when it comes to a true “star” in poker it’s always the intangibles that separate the best and brightest from the pack.
A particular type of charm at the table and off (see Negreanu, Daniel).
A mind that approaches the game in a groundbreaking way (see Spindler, Benny).
A need to share a love for the game with everyone they come across.
The eight nominees below all bring something special to the poker table that takes them above and beyond the “average” young player in the game today.
These are the Negreanus and Selbsts of the future, carrying poker’s flag into the mainstream.
And the future looks pretty bright in their hands. Vote for your 2015 Rising Star to your right; bios below.
The absolute shooting star of Spanish poker at just 20 years of age, Mateos has already won the WSOPE Main Event (at 19) and the EPT Grand Final (at 20). Let that sink in a bit. Already #1 in the Spanish GPI rankings and 2015 POY race Mateos’ strongest attribute isn’t even his awe-inspiring results: it’s his humble and workman-like approach to the game that will keep him at the top of every Spanish poker list for years to come. Turning 21 just before the start of the 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event it wouldn’t be a shock to see Mateos secure his first November Nine appearance, either.
The Belarus-born player now living in Poland has single-handedly redefined “crushing” live tournaments this year with six (!) tournament wins (four outright at EPT Malta alone) and 11 final tables. One of those was also a runner-up finish at the impossibly stacked €100k Super High Roller event at EPT Monte Carlo where only poker legend Erik Seidel was able to stop him. That he made a point to show his respect for Living Legend nominee Seidel in the process is even better. In March 2014, he was number 11,962 in the GPI. Now he’s in the top 100. That’s inspiration by definition.
Few have seized rising star gold status as early and as fast as Fedor “CrownUpGuy” Holz. The baby-faced German has racked up a dazzling list of online titles capped by the 2014 WCOOP main event title for $1.2m. Quietly one of the biggest backers in the game with a stable of pros dominating under his watch, Holz also has an enlightened perspective on both the game and life citing REG founder Phil Gruissem and legendary grinder Calvin Anderson among his heroes. If Holz is the future of the game – and he is - it’s in very good hands.
Mirroring Holz’s meteoric rise the UK’s Carrel, barely into his 20s, has already put his stamp on some of poker’s toughest events. Turning $15 to $500k online is one thing; steamrolling to a EPT Grand Final €25k High Roller title, EPT Malta €25k HR FT and a GUKPT Main Event title in the span of six months is borderline mind-boggling. His garish hoodies belie a mature poker mind with a good head on his shoulders and an eye for what poker can offer him and the world besides a gigantic bankroll.
We’re only just getting an idea of what Italy’s Sabina Hiatullah is capable of at the poker table and the early returns are, well, inspiring. How inspiring? 14 HendonMob entries in the last 12 months including nine final tables, a second in the EPT Deauville Ladies event and the last woman standing crown at IPT Malta. To cap it off she was the winner of the second season of Italian show House of Poker. Next stop: 2015 WSOP.
The 888poker team pro is the prototype of a rising star and currently taking the mantle from 2012 Most Inspiring Player Naoya Kihara as the next-gen poker ambassador in his home country of Japan. Having amassed almost $2m in online MTTs Ohyama is making his presence felt at most of the bigger live tournaments in Asia and it’s only a matter of time before his first big international breakthrough.
The 22-year-old Spaniard, now living in London, has just five Hendonmob entries -- four of which are final tables and all of which are main events from the France Poker Series, Estrellas Poker Tour and the EPT. Talk about ROI. Even more amazing Gordillo won three huge online MTTs on a single day -- one being the Sunday Storm on PokerStars with over 35,000 players. This happened on the day of the WCOOP main event, so it almost passed under the radar. Almost.
Opinions were split in our nomination process but in the end you can’t deny that Claudico - the most sophisticated No-Limit Hold’em AI ever created – is pushing poker and artificial intelligence in directions thought unfathomable just a few years ago. NLHE is (by far) the most complicated game tackled by a computer (Big Blue/Chess pale in comparison) and Claudico, while still losing, held four of the game’s best to a statistical tie. The implications run far further than just poker, though, as the ultimate purpose is to develop an algorithmic model for decision-making with incomplete information to apply in critical fields like cyber security, law and medical monitoring. Make no mistake – the bots will eventually win. It’s what we do with them that matters.