Who's Got Next? Meet the 2015 Spirit of Poker Rising Star Nominees

Rising Star Pl Awards2015

No matter how often people say poker is now "unbeatable," every year several young players emerge who literally crush the tournament scene.

Joe Hachem was clearly wrong when he said “poker is dying" and Jonathan Little very right when he said that when everyone’s getting better, you just have to stay ahead of the pack.

Amazingly there are young players all over the world who not only stay ahead but come from nowhere to bypass almost everyone.

The PokerListings Spirit of Poker Awards were designed to highlight these outstanding up-and-comers and our 2015 Rising Star category is filled with eight players who captured poker's imagination on and off the felt over the last 12 months.

Now it's up to you to pick whomever you think deserves the final reward for those efforts. Read on for more on our nominees and then vote here to show your appreciation.

Dzmitry Urbanovich

dzmitry urbanovich

Age: 19

Country: Belarus/Poland

Cashes last 12 months/at 2015 WSOP: 23/0

The only reason why Urbanovich, who was born in Belarus but lives in Poland, didn't cash in the WSOP this year is because he’s still too young to play in it.

What an incredible year for the shooting star! He had a couple of cashes in the second half of 2014 -- even winning a side event at the PCA -- but then something happened and his results went through the roof.

He came to the first EPT Malta and straight out won the €25k High Roller event. He then finished 8th, 1st, 1st, 2nd and 1st within the next eight days, skyrocketing him to the top of both the Polish GPI and the GPI POY race.

That was the first time a player won four tournaments at one EPT. Urbanovich then went on to play the EPT Grand Final, where he came second in the €100k Super High Roller, cashed in the main event and then finished off with a third place in the €10k turbo.

If Dominik Panka put Poland on the map with his success last year Urbanovich took off running with the torch, showing just how much poker potential there is in Eastern Europe.

Adrian Mateos

Adrian Mateos 1 2

Age: 21

Country: Spain

Cashes last 12 months/at 2015 WSOP: 14/1

The short career of the young London resident from Madrid is nothing but staggering.

Second-youngest player to win the WSOP Europe Main Event. One of the youngest to win an EPT Main Event. First Spanish player to win an EPT Main Event - and it was the Grand Final at that.

Youngest Spanish player to hit the top spot of Spain's Global Poker Index rankings. Highest-ranking Spanish player in the GPI. All before he was even allowed to enter a casino in the United States.

Maybe even more impressively with such an awe-inspiring resume – the young superstar with the most humble attitude.

While an increasing number of young players seem to have lost the capability to speak in anything but poker lingo, with Mateos it’s still about fulfilling dreams and doing things he couldn’t have done without poker.

He just turned 21 on July 1 and made the money at the WSOP Main Event on his first attempt. It seems there are no more limits to what Mateos can do.

Fedor Holz

Fedor Holz 2015 WSOP Main Event 2

Age: 21

Country: Germany

Cashes last 12 months/at 2015 WSOP: 19/4

The shooting star from Germany has been crushing both live and online poker rooms in the last 12 months. In August 2014 Holz was ranked no. 1849 in the GlobalPokerIndex. In July 2015, he now no. 38.

Holz had played live before but after he won a €2k side event at EPT Barcelona he went into God mode. He cashed in the main and the High Roller and then went home to play the WCOOP.

As if he’d known, he said in a only hours before the WCOOP main event that he felt like he has a great edge and that he was optimistic about reaching his goal to win a million before turning 22.

It took him only 48 hours to win the tournament and $1.3m. Back on the road Holz went on to win an MPS event in November and final tabled an EPT main, €50k High Roller and a €100k Super High Roller event.

This summer was the first time Holz was allowed to play at the WSOP. He came third in the $10k NLHE 6-max Championship and reached Day 7 of the WSOP main event, ultimately finishing 25th.

Apart from all that Holz is a frequent and passionate traveler, reader and podcaster. He’s accessible and socially active and he’s happy to share his experiences. Holz had a long way to the top but got there through hard work and studies and there’s no one questioning he deserves his success.

Charlie Carrel

Charlie Carrel

Age: 21

Country: Great Britain

Cashes last 12 months/at 2015 WSOP: 11/2

What Urbanovich is for Poland, Holz is for Germany and Mateos is for Spain, Charles Carrel is for England.

Carrel went from cashing in an EPT side event in San Remo to winning the €25k High Roller event of the EPT Grand Final for €1.1 million in 13 months.

In between Carrel won a GUKPT main event and final tabled the €10k High Roller Event in Malta. He also managed to turn a $15 deposit into half a million dollars playing online poker.

Maybe falling victim to an online hack was what made him really famous, though, when last January a railbird managed to log into his team viewer account and transferred $1,000 to himself live on Twitch while Carrel was in the bathroom.

His unrelenting spirit in the face of poker travails both good and bad  - plus his psychedelic hoodies - make Carrel a memorable addition to the poker world.

Sabina Hiatullah

Sabina Hiatullah

Age: 28

Country: Germany/Italy

Cashes last 12 months/at 2015 WSOP:12/1

German-Italian player Sabina Hiatullah is  on the verge of a serious breakthrough at the international poker tables. Having scored several final tables at open events on the EPT, IPT and Eureka Poker Tour plus cashes at the FPS and the CPT in St. Maarten, it’s only a matter of time until she takes one down.

Having said that Hiatullah did "win" the now-infamous Ladies event at the final EPT in Deauville, losing the heads-up to a male player after which she was presented with the trophy.

That tournament re-sparked the discussion of how to keep men from joining Ladies events. Not that it bothered her, really, as she couldn’t find any good players among those men.

Hiatullah has also shown her skill on TV, coming out victorious in the second season the Italian version of House of Poker.

Akira Ohyama


Age: N/A

Country: Japan

Cashes last 12 months/at 2015 WSOP: 2/0

With more than 4 billion inhabitants it’s pretty obvious Asia is the future of online poker. It's a pretty safe bet Akira @ClutchHero Ohyama will be remembered as one of the players that spearheaded the development.

888poker realized it first and signed Ohyama as one of its team pros. He’s been out and around at many of the largest tournaments in Asia – like the APPT, APT, the Macau Poker Cup etc - but he learned the game when he studied at William and Mary in the US.

He learned quickly because his first entry in the Hendonmob database is a WSOP Circuit tournament win in Atlantic City for $29,843.

Ohyama is more of an online player, though, and he’s won almost $2m. His results keep on coming on both platforms; just the other day he came second in “The Whale," one of the majors on 888poker.

In his homeland he tops the rankings of online players; worldwide he’s already one of the top 400 players according to pocketfives.com. That’s good enough to become one of the coaches at Runitonce.com - the marquee poker coaching site online.

Pablo Gordillo

Age: 20

Country: Spain

Cashes last 12 months/at 2015 WSOP: 3/0

Gordillo is a silent assassin with lethal efficiency. Of his six entries in the Hendonmob, four are final tables.

In 2014 he was close to snatching away the first Spanish EPT title from Adrian Mateos when he came 4th in Vienna.

But Gordillo really hit his stride earlier this year when he chose to play a couple of online tournaments on PokerStars on a Sunday afternoon.

As it turned out he went on to win the Sunday Kick-off, the Sunday Storm and the Bigger $55 all in one session, beating out around 45,000 players in the process.

It's an accomplishment not likely to be matched anytime soon.


brainsvsAI2Claudico's on the left

Age: 1

Country: United States

Cashes last 12 months/at 2015 WSOP: 0/0

The most controversial candidate of the 70+ nominees we’ve had at the Spirit of Poker Awards is Claudico, the most sophisticated No-Limit Hold'em AI ever created.

In today’s poker world the question isn’t any more of "if" there are bots or not. There are, and they're improving. Quickly.

Claudico proved just how high the bar has already been set when it played heads-up superstars Doug Polk, Dong Kim, Jason Les and Bjorn Li to a virtual standstill.

Les has even said it will likely beat the best human pros in less than five years, which is both a daunting  - and inspiring - thought.

For now Claudico has the edge over all other poker software programs but the most amazing thing about it is actually what it might become beyond poker.

Its ultimate purpose - decision-making with incomplete information to be used in fields as critical as medicine and security - couldn't be more fitting of a poker award.


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