Granted, we could just namedrop here and list the top 50 or 100 “big name” players that everyone will be watching anyway, regardless of what a blogger tells them to look out for – but we’re not gonna do that.
I’ve picked a few select pros to watch and listed them below along with the REASONS they should be watched at this year’s World Series of Poker. Here are the first 5; the next 5 will come tomorrow.
Daniel Negreanu – Can you imagine if Daniel Negreanu was one of this year’s November Nine? He is simply the most entertaining player to watch play poker anywhere and anytime. Whereas he hasn’t posted the best of results as of late, with notable losses on season 6 of High Stakes Poker, Negreanu tends to shine and come into his own during the Word Series each year. Also known for his uncanny reading abilities, look for Negreanu to be a major presence on TV this year (as usual), and even more so if he makes a deep run.
Phil Ivey – The guy is the agreed-upon best player in the world. ’Nuff said.
Phil Hellmuth – Until someone passes him on the “poker players with most WSOP bracelets list”, Hellmuth is simply a lock to get attention at each year’s installment of the World Series of Poker. Lesser known are Hellmuth’s cashing statistics. Not only is he the all-time leader in WSOP events cashed in (75), but he is also the leader in WSOP events cashed in from 2004-2009 (since the start of the poker boom). This latter statistic is his most impressive, in my opinion, as he’s been the most successful poker pro at navigating the thousands-large fields that began forming after Chris Moneymaker’s landmark win in 2003. Look for Hellmuth to pad his leads in cashes and bracelet wins this year.
Phil Laak – Antics at the table and obvious poker skill aside, the one thing every poker fan can agree on is that the Unabomber knows how to grab headlines. Famous for being made up to look like an 80-year-old at the World Series of Poker, Laak’s new challenge/gimmick (call it what you may) is to break the Guinness World Record for most hours of continuous poker play by going 80 hours straight. Now I’m not saying you should watch him for 80 straight hours, but seeing how a pro performs under that kind of long-term stress and pressure (plus there’s over a month more World Series of Poker action to come afterwards!) is something you simply can’t pass up the chance to witness.
Joe Cada – Okay, this one’s a bit of a gimme. Just as in every year, it’s always interesting to watch how the past year’s Main Event champion will defend his title. Granted Cada hasn’t achieved “household name” status this past year, but most poker aficionados would agree that he possesses far greater poker skill that some of the other more recent Main Event champs.
Update: here are some additional top players I feel are worth watching at this year’s World Series of Poker.