Digging through the thousands of players that play professional tournament poker and picking out five names that will have successful years in 2012 is a fool’s errand.
With massive tournament fields, a rapidly expanding global player pool and any one of a million things that can happen to turn a great year into a mediocre one and vice-versa, it’s virtually impossible even.
Thankfully, we’ve never been discouraged by fool’s errands and/or the impossible.
You might even say it’s one of our strengths, having pegged Jason Mercier, Tristan Wade and Matt Marafioti, among others, as rising stars long before the general poker world knew their names.
Poker Players to Watch in 2012
So who’s going to make the biggest splash in tournament poker in 2012? We’re betting on one of these guys (and if not one of these guys then ElkY, Jason Mercier, Eugene Katchalov and Erik Seidel).
Name: Marcel Bjerkmann
Hometown: Oslo, Norway
Online Nickname: p3rc4
- Career Live Cashes: $948,192
- Career Online Cashes: $1,349,132.71
How does someone with over $2.3 million in poker cashes go as unnoticed as Marcel Bjerkmann?
Well, by playing mostly in random European events for starters. And in particular spending a lot of time in Belgium.
He won't be unknown for long, however.
Bjerkmann has two wins (a month apart no less) and a second-place finish in just four listed live cashes on his resume.
His first win was a €1,500 No-Limit Holdem event at the Belgian Open Poker Championship in October 2010 for €200,030. His second was a month later at the €6,000 Amsterdam Master Classic for €403,380
Online he’s known as p3rc4 and has an even more impressive $1.3 million in earnings including a win in the PokerStars Sunday Million this past October for $200,000 and a 2011 WCOOP bracelet in HORSE.
Given that record, we like his chances of going deep in any event he plays.
He still needs to work on his interviews, but if he’s hanging out and buying shoes for Gaelle Garcia Diaz he’s doing a lot of things right.
Name: Mike Telker
Hometown: Michigan, now living in Cyprus
Online Nicknames: telks, CuteIsWhatIAim4, munchenHB,
- Career Live Cashes: $48,207
- Career Online Cashes: $3,291,651.55
With over $3.2 million in online poker earnings and a turn at #1 on the pocketfives leaderboard late last year, Mike Telker might be the best poker player you’ve never heard of.
One of the bigger victims of Black Friday (apparently he had a lot of money online to back his horses), he also seems to be one of the nicest guys in poker as he still bought all of his friends in to the 2011 WSOP despite being underrolled.
Unfortunately they all bricked, including Telker himself.
Forced to relocate to Cyprus to keep playing poker online, Telker reestablished himself quickly and scored a new backing deal. Shortly after that he shipped a 1k WCOOP title, among other 20k+ scores, to gain back some momentum.
Telker also made a few appearances at live events in Europe and scored a 7th-place finish for €6,450 in the 2,000 No-Limit Hold’em event at EPT Loutraki to wrap the year.
If he turns his attention to the live game in Europe this year, we doubt Telker will have any more rough luck.
Name: Griffin Benger
Hometown: Toronto, Canada
Online Nickname: Flush_Entity
- Career Live Cashes: $41,809
- Career Online Cashes: $2,304,523.38
A former professional CounterStrike player, Benger emerged as an online MTT ruler in 2011 with a number of big scores including 2nd place in the PokerStars $100 rebuy and back-to-back final tables in the Sunday Million.
Benger also took second in the Full Tilt $750K in May 2011 for $113,000, among dozens of other scores.
Live, his experience is limited but when he did play he did well, almost winning a Deep Stack at the Venetian then cashing in a $1k at the WSOP this past summer.
As a Canadian he can still play online, but much like former Magic: The Gathering players, once gamers find their feet in the live poker game they tend to dominate so we imagine it’s only a matter of time before Benger does the same.
Watch for him to run deep in several WSOP events this summer.
Name: Grayson Ramage
Hometown: Red Hook, New York now living in Canada/Mexico
Online Nickname: gray31
- Career Live Cashes: $560,086
- Career Online Cashes: $2,480,164.13
Grayson Ramage has exactly the kind of mix of live and online tournament experience we think will dominate in the new world of tourney poker.
Notably taking second in the recent 10k High Roller on PokerStars for $289,000, Ramage also final tabled the Sunday Million and chopped the PokerStars $100 Sunday Rebuy heads-up on the same day in November last year.
Live his biggest scores are a 35th in the 2009 WSOP Main Event and a third in a $5k WSOPC event for $100k, but another deep run late in the year in Prague makes us think we’ve just seen the beginning of his live results.
A former student in accounting at Bucknell, Ramage now lives in Canada to continue playing online.
Name: Russell Carson
Hometown: Powell River, BC, Canada
Online Nickname: rdcrsn
- Career Live Cashes:$675,221
- Career Online Cashes: $5,856,918.34
Take a look at that online cashes number again.
That’s not a typo. Russell “rdcrsn” Carson has almost $6 million in online earnings. In less than five years.
His early scores in 2008 included winning the PokerRoom Grand Tournament for $121,000, placing 3rd in the Full Tilt $1 Million Guaranteed and winning a PokerStars $200 Sunday rebuy.
More recently he’s won the PokerStars Sunday 500 for $79,000, the Full Tilt Poker $200k Guaranteed for $54,400 and chopped the Full Tilt $1 Million Guarantee heads-up for $223,000.
Live, he’s coming off a final-table finish at WPT Prague just a month ago, two deep WSOP cashes this past summer and a second at EPT Snowfest last year.
Basically, when Russell Carson wants to do well in any format of poker, he does.
And that's the kind of guy we like to bet on.
Best of luck to all our picks this year.