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Top 5 Poker Free Agents at 2012 WSOP
Heading into the 2012 World Series of Poker there are perhaps more unsigned big name poker pros than ever before.
The events of Black Friday and the subsequent collapse of Full Tilt Poker made sure there would be an army of pros without online poker site sponsors hitting the Rio this summer.
Not every player is a great acquisition. Phil Ivey represents a challenge because of his alleged ties to Full Tilt Poker management while U.S. players such as Tom Dwan are a tough sell because the country is currently closed to the online poker market.
Here’s a subjective look at five great potential free agents going into the 2012 WSOP:
5) Gus Hansen
Danish pro Gus Hansen is one of the few former Team Full Tilt members who made it out of Black Friday relatively unscathed.
Hansen was not an original member of Full Tilt and made a clean break from the site after Black Friday.
So what would the “Great Dane” bring to an online poker site?
Hansen is one of the most well-known players in the world and is a fan-favorite thanks to his loose style and outgoing personality.
In addition he’s not American, which is a huge benefit thanks to the current legal climate of online poker in the U.S.
He would also stimulate the high-stakes cash games of wherever he signed as he was known to win or lose millions on a regular basis on Full Tilt Poker.
Where he would fit best: Titan Poker (despite just ending contracts with Sam Trickett and Marvin Rettenmaier) has raised its profile over the last few years and adding a huge name like Gus Hansen would be a coup. It would also be huge for its cash games.
4) Doyle Brunson
The Grandfather of Poker has been without a sponsor since cutting ties with Doyles Room after Black Friday.
Despite getting a little long in the tooth, there are very few poker players who have had as much of an impact on the game as Doyle Brunson. He owns 10 WSOP bracelets and basically wrote the book on modern poker when he released Super/System.
Any online poker room would instantly benefit from having one of the most recognizable names in the game on board.
The biggest question is if Brunson is even interested in getting involved with an online poker site after what happened with Doyles Room.
The other problem is that Brunson lives in the U.S. so he’s unable to play online and he doesn’t do that much traveling anymore.
Where he would fit best: PokerStars has an immense team of celebrated poker players from around the globe. Doyle Brunson would be the icing on the cake for a site set on world domination.
3) Sam Trickett
The U.K. poker scene is exceptionally strong these days and Sam Trickett is the best of the best.
Trickett has waged an all-out war on the live tournament circuit and has amassed over $5 million in earnings over the last couple years alone.
The Nottingham-native is hardly a one-trick pony and has been raking in some million-dollar pots in the high-stakes games from Vegas to Macau.
As a U.K. player, Trickett is available to sign on with any online poker room and would give a serious boost to any site trying to increase its presence in England.
Trickett left sponsor Titan Poker earlier this year.
Where he would fit best: 888poker has been making huge strides lately with improved software and more players. The only thing missing is some big-name pros and Sam Trickett would certainly fit that bill.
2) Phil Hellmuth
Love him or hate him, there’s no doubt Phil Hellmuth is one of biggest stars in the poker world.
Hellmuth’s poker credentials are unparalleled: 11 WSOP bracelets, over $13 million in live tournament earnings and 85 cashes at the WSOP.
One of the most recognizable faces in the game, Hellmuth built a reputation based on his “Poker Brat” persona in the 2000s and instantly became a fan favorite.
Hellmuth split from beleaguered UB.com in early 2011 and, likely due to Black Friday, has remained unsigned since.
Hellmuth has been criticized in recent years for not keeping up with the game but last year finished second in three bracelet events and second in the WSOP POY rankings. He was also somewhat tarnished by being part of UB Poker during the super user scandal.
Most poker sites would benefit from having Phil Hellmuth on its roster but he would likely be expensive.
Where he would fit best: Party Poker has a small team of big-name pros and Hellmuth would certainly be the biggest name on his roster he signed. Party already has loudmouth Tony G so probably wouldn’t mind signing the Poker Brat.
1) Patrik Antonius
Finnish poker pro Patrik Antonius doesn’t even have to play a single event at the WSOP and he would still be the most coveted free agent at the WSOP.
Antonius is a bona fide god in the online community and is also one of the remaining stars from the poker boom in the early 2000s.
His reputation survived the Full Tilt collapse better than most (although financially he could potentially lose millions from it) as he didn’t sign with the site until 2008, supposedly lost money when the site went down and had little to do with management.
Antonius could single-handedly kickstart the high-stakes games on a site as there are numerous pros who would love a shot at one of the best online players in the history of poker.
Where he would fit best: Patrik Antonius would look pretty sweet wearing a PokerStars logo. PokerStars has yet to sign any former Team Full Tilt members but Antonius must be particularly enticing considering what he would bring to the high-stakes games.