Truth be told, though, we love picking our “Players to Watch” for the following year more.
Why? Because it’s impossible, of course.
No one can predict tournament poker success. Who do we look like, Madame Cleo?
Still, it’s very, very fun to speculate on who is due for a breakout year. It's also a chance to highlight some of the hidden gems we’ve come across in our reporting and make us look brilliant if they go on to nail a big score.
(Note: We stand by our picks from last year, highlighted by Mike Telker crushing the WCOOP main event, even if some (we’re looking at you, Marcel Bjerkmann) disappeared entirely.)
This year we took our speculation even further into the realm of "lesser-known" players (in mainstream circles, anyway) and we love our picks.
These are the five who we think will grab a share of the poker spotlight in 2013.
1) Sebastian “p0cket00/p00cket00” Sikorski
Sebastian Sikorski (Photo: PocketFives.com)
Canadian Kinesiology student Sebastian Sikorski doesn’t make many appearances live, but if you play at all online you’ll recognize the screen name “p0cket00.”
A multiple PocketFives Triple Crown winner and former #1 ranked player, Sikorski is yet another elite Canadian grinder who crushes alongside the likes of Griffin “Flush_Entity” Benger, Matt “ch0ppy” Kay and Russell “rdcrsn” Carson.
His online scores are almost too plentiful to count with over $5.6 million in earnings, kickstarted early on in his career in 2008 with a win in the bwin Grand Tournament for $213,000.
Sikorski wrapped up 2012 with authority. He won a WCOOP title for $69,000, chopped the PokerStars Sunday 500 for $59,000 and beat Chris Moorman heads-up for an FTOPS title and $27,000.
If there’s any trick to predicting who’s next to hit a big score, it’s finding players who bring consistency to the tables and Sikorski brings it in spades.
We expect more of the same from Sikorski in 2013.
2) Nick “caecilius/canofcorn22” Petrangelo
Sticking with our online grinder theme Petrangelo is another consistent, high-level performer who ended 2012 on a very impressive note.
Nick Petrangelo (Photo: Foxwoods Casino)
Already a feared grinder with close to $3 million in career earnings, Petrangelo took it to the next level in early December when he won both an FTOPS title and the PokerStars Sunday Million on the same weekend.
A Massachusetts native who moved to Montreal to keep grinding after Black Friday, Petrangelo had already made it worth his while before that weekend with a $166,000 runner-up finish in a $1k SCOOP event in the Spring.
Not just an online star, though, Petrangelo made his mark on the live scene this past year with five WSOP cashes and a $73k win in a $1,500 NLHE tourney at the 2012 Foxwoods World Poker Finals.
He now has close to $180k in live earnings and we expect that number to grow substantially this year.
3) Charlotte Van Brabander
Charlotte Van Brabander. (Photo: HLN.be)
Given the long and storied track record of former gamers who’ve made big waves (and big money) switching over to poker, we’re believers in Belgium’s Charlotte Van Brabander.
A former CounterStrike player like Griffin “Flush_Entity” Benger, Brabander’s poker results have been OK to this point but we think she has the game to more than justify her spot as a Friend of PokerStars.
It doesn’t hurt that she’s attractive, sure, but there’s something about the skill set and fortitude of women that can make it in the gaming world that inevitably sees success follow in poker.
A Criminology student who plays oniine under the name "Sjlot," Brabander won the Ladies Event and finished 69th in the main event at EPT Berlin last year for a very impressive week of poker.
If she spends more time on the felt this year she'll be a force on the EPT we predict - starting next week at the 2013 PCA.
After an impressive year for women in 2012 that brought Xuan Liu, Elisabeth Hille, Gaëlle Baumann, Amanda Musumeci, Lucille Cailly, Veronika Pavlikova, Cherish Andrews and more into the spotlight, we think an even bigger year is in store.
4) Jack Ellwood
Jack Ellwood (Photo: Neil Stoddart, PokerStars Blog)
If you haven’t heard of Jack Ellwood yet, we’re pretty sure you’re at least familiar with a couple of his running mates.
Part of an elite UK poker crew that includes WSOP bracelet winners Jake Cody and Matt Perrins, the Newcastle-Upon-Tyne native has all of the necessary ingredients to make a major step up the recognition ladder in 2013.
Beyond his in-house strategy support network, Ellwood has the holy trinity of precursors:
- Major online scores including second in the 2010 SCOOP for $500k and a chop in the FTOPS main event for over $200k
- A long list of online results totaling nearly $2.5 million
- A rapidly growing resume of live results that include a runner-up finish at UKIPT Manchester and a WSOP final table
In other words, all signs point in the direction of a breakthrough year.
With three WSOPs now under his belt Ellwood also now knows what it takes to survive the Vegas grind and excel so expect to see his name at a few more final tables this summer.
5) Max “$kill Game” Weinberg
Last but certainly not least in our list of players to watch in 2013 is Max “$kill Game” Weinberg.
Much like Ellwood, the Chicagoan-turned-Vancouverite has all the necessary prerequisites for a breakthrough year on the live circuit.
Solid track record of online scores? Check.
- Weinberg has about $600k in earnings across PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker.
Big momentum-building results in late 2012? Check.
- Weinberg had a stellar WCOOP this Fall followed by a win in the PokerStars Sunday Warm-Up for over $100k in early November.
A big live near-miss and a growing list of deep runs? Check again.
- Weinberg actually has two big near-misses with a seventh-place finish at the 2011 PCA Main Event for $300k and a 4th-place finish in a $1k at the 2011 WSOP for $201k.
Next up? Surely a major live tourney win either at home or abroad. Either way, we don’t think we can go wrong betting on a guy named $kill Game.