Cult of the MTT Wizard
Some of poker’s biggest stars are online but who are they? David Gross, founder of www.pokerverdict.com, has the answer
Over the last few years, the biggest offline tournament winners have become ‘A’ list celebrities. The likes of Phil Ivey, Daniel Negreanu, Gus Hansen, Chris Ferguson and Phil Hellmuth can’t walk along the Vegas Strip without being stopped for an autograph or a photo.
Of course, these players play online too on the sites that sponsor them and you only have to read Phil Hellmuth’s blog on UltimateBet.com to know that he plays in the biggest cash games available online.
But these players aren’t the Internet’s biggest poker winners. There is a hard core of pure Internet player born and bred who have collectively made tens of millions but most are virtually anonymous. Some of them, like Erik ‘The Salmon’ Sagstrom, have become well known for the huge fortunes they have amassed by firing up their laptops and playing online cash games for 10 hours a day. But the vast majority remain complete unknowns.
Week in and week out these online stars are achieving incredible feats – regularly making final tables in online Multi-Table Tournament (‘MTTs’) fields with over 1,000 players, and winning six figure sums in the process.
I have played against (and even occasionally managed to beat) most of these rising stars and have had the privilege to witness their skills first hand. I am confident that many will become the stars of the future, players whose celebrity may even one day eclipse Hellmuth, Negreanu, Ivey and Co.
Whilst offline success and mass market awareness may well follow, at Poker Verdict, we think they deserve recognition for their current feats. So we are compiling a database of the biggest online stars and we’re developing an online poker ranking system that will reveal, in a scientific way, who the biggest tournament winners are. (These stats will also allow you to keep tabs on who is ‘running good’ and to find out more about your opponents whilst you are playing online).
In the meantime, I am going to use my own experiences as well as views from within the online poker community to give you an intro to some of the current ‘MTT Wizards’ – the players who tear up the biggest online multi-table tournaments week in, week out.
This week, I am focusing on the US young guns – MTT Wizards in their late teens and twenties. Next week’s column will feature the top European MTT Wizards and in my final piece, I will wax lyrical about the ‘Golden Oldies’.
MTT Wizards – US Young Guns
Still in his late teens and known for his no nonsense brash chat off the tables, Jeff Garza has been a consistent force in multi-table tournaments over the last year. He has final-tabled in at least three big Pokerstars tournaments including a victory in their 2005 World Championship of Online Poker.
Also plays as "BodogAri". Ari is a prolific "casher" meaning that he regularly finishes in the money in the tournaments he plays. He has a good strike rate of converting cash finishes into final table appearances and he has had several five-figure pay-outs in the last 12 months, particularly in tournaments with $100 to $150 buy-ins.
Recent successes for 29-year-old Dan Bokesh, aka “B_O_K_E” include outright victory in the old Sunday night tourney on Paradise Poker (good for $38k), and a third place finish in the old Party Poker Million, good for $53k.
Carl Olson’s recent offline prize money exceeds $400k and includes major finishes on both the WPT and the WSOP. His offline success has mainly been in no limit holdem events but online where he honed his skills, he is a renowned Omaha guru. His successes in this discipline include a second place finish and $50k cash at the 2005 World Championship of Online Poker.
Student Josh Klehr is a big winner in all formats of the game and a revered MTT opponent. His finest hour came with his victory in the main event of the Paradise Masters in 2005, a $311k pay-day.
Darrell Dicken is one of Internet poker’s prodigal sons and a pacesetter in moving from online success to offline tournament fame. In the first nine months of 2006 alone he has cashed in 20 big offline events, winning two of them for total earnings of $950k. Still referred to in offline poker circles as "Gigabet" he is a model for the future rising stars of the online game.
Jordan Morgan recently added to a huge series of cashes by coming second in the big Sunday night tournament on Paradise – good for $17k. He put in an impressive show at the 2006 WSOP cashing four times for a total of $130k including one final table appearance.
Few players, if any, have made such rapid progress in online poker as Kyle Bowker aka kwob20. He made history last month when becoming the first player ever to win two events in PokerStars’ fifth World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP). He won the $530 seven-card stud hi/lo event and also the $530 Omaha hi/lo limit tournament (for $68k and $103k respectively). Throw in the fact that this summer Bowker, just 22-years-old and fairly new to the offline game, finished 37th out of a field of nearly 9,000 in the World Series of Poker main event (good for another $247,000), and you can see that we have a legend in the making.
27-year-old Eric Lynch is the current darling of online poker. Earlier this year he won $156k with an outright victory in the Pokerstars million in May 2006. On that same night he final-tabled in the big tournament on Ultimate Bet and the week before he had finished second in another Sunday night biggy for a $17k pay-day. Wherever he plays online he is followed by a swarm on railbirds anxious to follow his rising star. Mild-mannered and universally liked, he is an obvious star of the future. He recently highlighted his intent with a 3rd place finish in a preliminary WSOP event ($105k) followed by a strong run at the main event crown ending with a 12th place finish and a $495k payday.
25-year-old Adam Levy is a regular Sunday night MTT demon. A serial casher and an always dangerous opponent, his deep finishes in 2006 have included two final table appearances in the Pokerstars Million ending in 3rd and 4th placed finishes.
24-year-old Matt Smith’s 2006 highlights include a $25k pay-day for 2nd place in a big Friday night tournament on Party Poker. He is another player to prove himself offline with a second placed finish at a WSOP event in 2005, good for $100k.
Canadian player "Spawng" created history by becoming the first double winner at the World Championship on Online Poker (later joined by “kwob20”). He showed great versatility by winning an Omaha title in 2005 ($67k) and a Heads-Up No Limit Holdem Knock-out in 2006 ($69k).
Young New Yorker Jason Strasser has got to rate high on any list of rising stars. A prolific cash game winner, he only plays in the biggest MTTs but has frequently final tabled in massive fields. He cemented his reputation by winning the second biggest event of the 2006 World Championship on Online Poker taking down one of the biggest ever online prizes ($442k).
In recent weeks, 27-year-old Stuart Paterson aka "TheDonator" or "Dick Holdem" has final-tabled twice in the big Sunday night $200k guaranteed on Ultimate Bet, once finishing second and the other time sealing the deal, for a $38k pay-day. He has also proved himself offline with some top cashes in 2006 including a final table at the Borgata Poker Open ($110K).
David Gross is the creator of www.pokerverdict.com, a site for the European online poker community. The site features an online tournament search engine, player blogs and online poker news. David is also the co-founder of www.easyodds.com