Every year, there is a player – sometimes a handful of them – who make an impression on poker fans for the first time at the World Series of Poker. Some of them may have been around but hadn’t had the notoriety that the WSOP gold bracelet brings, and others find a mixture of beginner’s luck and perfect timing to make magic.
This year, Dzmitry Urbanovich seems destined to be the breakout player of the WSOP, based on his tournament results leading up to this point. But this will be Cate Hall’s first full WSOP as a professional tournament player. And several other players have had impressive results of late, enough to put them on the WSOP watch list.
Everyone’s top pick for a 2016 WSOP breakout performance seems to be Dzmitry Urbanovich. The young Polish player has been playing in Europe since he was old enough to get into casinos and captured his first European Poker Tour side event trophy in 2014 at EPT Deauville. He won a 2015 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure side event and several events on the Eureka Poker Tour.
His breakout performance, however, came at EPT Malta in 2015, where he won three side events, finished second in another, and took down the EPT €25K High Roller for more than €572K. He continued to win and final table events on the EPT, and he took down the EPT Dublin Main Event earlier this year for nearly €562K.
Not only is Urbanovich one of the fastest rising stars on the live tournament circuit, but he was so highly anticipating this WSOP in Las Vegas that he bet Vanessa Selbst that he would win three bracelets this summer. Selbst will pay him $2 million if he does, so that is quite the extra incentive.
When she left her career as a lawyer to play poker on a full-time basis, Hall focused on cash games with a tournament here and there. But within the past year, she has switched that focus to tournaments and gone on a tear on the World Poker Tour. She barely missed the WPT Player of the Year award for the past season after several final tables, including a deep run in the WPT Showdown Championship at the end of the season where she finished in ninth place.
I feel tired just looking at this. pic.twitter.com/8kP27RhRBc— Cate Hall (@catehall) May 11, 2016
Hall does have one cash from the 2015 WSOP, but since her concentration has been on tournament poker of late, she is a player to watch at the upcoming summer games. She plans to play quite a few events in Las Vegas, and there aren’t many players more determined than this Yale graduate.
The young professional poker player is a family man who tries to play tournaments close to home in Georgia. But the World Series of Poker Circuit has captured his passion, just as he has captured four WSOP Circuit rings in less than two years. The first came in December 2014 at Harrah’s Cherokee in a side event.
During the 2015-2016 season, though, Pack came out swinging. He took down a Circuit event in September 2015 in Florida, then another a few weeks later in Southern Indiana, and he grabbed a third in November at the Cherokee stop. He has made several final tables since and secured a spot in the 2016 Global Casino Championship. Should he decide to try the WSOP in Las Vegas this summer, he might take home a bracelet to go with those rings.
The Holland resident is not a professional poker player. The recreational player has been enjoying the game for many years on a cash level, but a friendship with poker pro Pieter de Korver led to a trip to play the WPT Amsterdam in May of 2015. He not only did well but won the tournament for €201K. That win qualified him for the 2016 WPT Tournament of Champions in Florida.
Despite a fear of flying, Yachou desperately wanted to compete and made his first trip to America to play the TOC in April. And he won that tournament, too, for which he won $381,600, a new Corvette, and numerous other prizes. The businessman has not confirmed that he will play the WSOP, but if he does, he may be a force.
Every race needs a longshot, and Aaron Paul is a solid pick. He has some live tournament poker experience, as he played in the 2015 WSOP Main Event, but he has been playing more often since being recruited to play in the Global Poker Team by Maria Ho for the LA Sunset. He was even spotted playing some poker recently at the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles.
Where he lacks experience, he compensates in recent training. Paul is probably being coached by the likes of Ho and teammates like Olivier Busquet, Chance Kornuth, Fedor Holz, and Eugene Katchalov. As he begins to compete in the GPL, he is likely to try his hand at a few WSOP events this summer. Keep your eyes open for some results.