When most people think of poker—Texas Hold’em in particular—several names routinely come to mind. Doyle Brunson, Phil Hellmuth, Phil Ivey and Tom Dwan are just a few of the biggest names in the game. Of course, who could forget Chris Moneymaker, who is credited almost solely for creating the online poker craze after winning the WSOP Main Event in 2013?
All of these big names are now spending more time watching the game, instead of playing. Several players who made their fortunes playing almost exclusively online, such as Viktor ‘Isildur’ Blom and Patrik Antonius, are now seldom seen. In the absence of some of the greatest players to have taken a seat at the felt, choosing the best player becomes increasingly difficult.
In order to really determine who should be considered the best No Limit Hold’em player, most will look at the high rollers who regularly cruise the Super High Roller circuit, buying in at six-figure games and walking away with seven. A few fit this category perfectly, like Feder Holz and Bryn Kenney, but Daniel ‘Kid Poker’ Negreanu has a completely different take on the subject. His choice is a name most have probably never even heard.
Negreanu, who is known for backing today’s younger generation of players, points to Steffen Sontheimer as the current best player in the world. The 27-year-old German poker pro plays a lot online under the handle ‘Go0se.core!’ and also had a tremendous run at the Poker Masters inaugural tournaments last year. Sontheimer reached the final table in four events and won two of them, ultimately stuffing his wallet with $2.7 million in less than a week. To date, he has racked up more than $7.65 million in live tournament earnings.
Sontheimer is also seen as a highly balanced player. He admits that he’s uncomfortable when he tries to bluff or if he’s sitting on the nuts. While a lot of players would rely on poker odds, and not their instincts, to make their moves, Sontheimer is a true player that knows how to connect emotionally to the cards, according to Negreanu.
Kid Poker also recognizes Sontheimer for his expert skill in GTO, or game-theory optimal. Put simply, the idea of GTO is that poker, in particular, no-limit hold’em poker, can be treated and solved like a math problem. The theory provides a mechanism through which a player can create a situation that results in zero chances of profitability for his or her opponent.
To his credit, Negreanu is now brushing up on GTO in hopes of being able to gain an edge this season. He’ll need all the help he can get if he wants to win the US Poker Open and collect on his $50,000 bet.