When my gaffer gave me the task of finding a suitable number of players I thought would make an impression in the game during 2014, I decided to even out the playing field by selecting live tournament scores as my indicator for progression.
So with that in mind here are the five players I believe will make some of the bigger splashes in the poker pond throughout 2014.
1. Daniel Negreanu
With the exception of 2010 Daniel Negreanu has banked a seven figure wage in five out of the last six years, and even in that drought he managed to make over $680,000.
He is the one member of the ‘old school’ that continues to learn from the new generation to take his game onto a greater level. But more than that, he has a love for the game that is second to none, and is a goal setter and goal getter.
2013 saw Negreanu return to his inimitable ways as he started to win major tournaments – something that had been missing from his game for a number of years – instead of becoming the ‘so close…but yet so far’ guy.
His triumph at the World Series of Poker Europe (WSOPE) High Roller event, that handed him the historic WSOP Player of the Year double, is the event that I believe will lead to a heater of epic proportions.
The other thing that Negreanu has going for him is his number one position on the Global Poker Index (GPI) rankings. That’s not a position he will want to give up without a fight, and I think it will bring out the best in him.
2. Sorel Mizzi
John Tabatabai once told me that Sorel Mizzi is the best pound for pound live tournament player in the world, and after accruing close to $4m in live tournament earnings, this year, the man is starting to live up to that mantle.
Mizzi is now one of the regulars on the High Roller circuit and he is more than holding his own against the best players in the world. During a recent interview with Mizzi, he told me that the only difference between his near misses and a few sure things was just a little bit of luck.
A few months later and Mizzi took down the PartyPoker Premier League for close to a half a million dollars, and it’s that injection of winning blood that I think will fire up his heart to go onto greater things in 2014.
Mizzi has also joined forces with the likes of David Randall, Daniel Cates, Max Altergott and Steven McCloughlin to create a poker seminar/training site called 3D poker, and I think that business will also bring greater awareness into everything he does around the poker table.
3. Griffin Benger
If it wasn’t for the turn of a few very unfortunate cards, Griffin Benger could well be a WSOP and World Poker Tour (WPT) champion right now.
Instead, he is still that hungry online tournament revelation who is determined to stamp his footprint on the live tournament world, and stamp it he will.
Benger has had a breakthrough 2013 with close to a million in live tournament earnings that includes an EPT High Roller win that he earned, on his birthday no less, in Berlin for half a million bucks.
Once you have found your way to the top of a live event, it’s a hell of a lot easier to find your way back, and I believe if Benger finds the luck he needs, his patience, studious approach to the game and technical ability will see him land one of the biggest prizes in the game.
4. Stephen Chidwick
Stephen Chidwick is well known within the professional circle as being one of the most underrated all round poker players in the game.
It doesn’t matter if Chidwick is playing live or online, No Limit Hold’em (NLHE) or Happy Families, this kid is great at anything. In fact, I would even go so far as to say he would probably beat himself at Solitaire.
Chidwick has racked up a few milly, both online and live, without ever having to deposit any real dough. Instead, he has grafted his way into the game, and there are few that work as hard as he does on the games that most people don’t give a second glance.
Chidwick has three six-figure scores in some of the most difficult tournaments in the world, and I believe we will see him win at least one bracelet at this years WSOP.
5. Shannon Shorr
Shannon Shorr has burst into the GPI top 10 after another consistent performance that has seen him earn seven six figure annual scores on the trot, after emerging onto the international scene with a seven-figure start back in 2006.
Shorr has his head well and truly screwed on, and his feet firmly rooted into the ground. If this kid has any worries he hides them well, and he has this demeanor about him that screams winner.
The only thing missing from his game is luck, and if he can continue to ride this wave as long as it will allow him, I am sure he will find it when it matters the most, to finally capture one of the big three come 2014.