One of the great things about the WSOP each year is that inevitably someone comes out of nowhere to go on a massive heater, winning bracelets left and right and loading up multiple wheelbarrows full of cash.
Not many people would have predicted Ben Lamb to run roughshod over the field at the 2011 WSOP or that Frank Kassela would take down the 2010 WSOP Player of the Year title.
To be fair, “nowhere” and “dark horse” are pretty subjective terms, as Lamb and Kassela and many other shooting stars at the WSOP were definitely known entities and had been around the poker block; we’re defining “nowhere” and “dark horse” here in a loose sense as someone most poker fans don’t know who and who haven’t yet had big runs on the big stage at the WSOP.
In that unscientific vein, here’s our ten picks for the 2012 WSOP as far as dark horses that have a great shot make some noise this year at the Rio, in no particular order. One big caveat: all of these aren’t confirmed as far as whether they’ll be in Vegas, how many events they’ll play, and so on — our powers of divination are limited.
Better known as “Isildur1″ for his nosebleed stakes online tussles with the world’s top players, Blom has also been popping up more on the live tournament scene of late. And with some success, as he took down the $100K PCA Super High Roller event and had smaller scores at various EPT stops.
He also won two SCOOP events recently and seems to be in good form heading into the WSOP. The only question mark is just how many events he’ll play at the WSOP, as so far he’s only committed to playing the Main.
Rettenmaier has been one of the sick grinders of the European live circuit the last few years, piling up a ton of frequent flyer miles and close to $2 million in lifetime earning in the two years he’s been actively hitting up the tables.
He’s pretty much a NLHE specialist so that might limit his upside at the WSOP but he also recently signed with PartyPoker as a sponsored pro, so he’ll have a little extra motivation to shine and he’s currently one of the chip leaders heading into Day 5 of the WPT Championship, so a big score there could add a nitro boost to his 2012 WSOP.
We have no clue if Bjerkmann even has plans to it up the WSOP but he’s popping up on other similar lists as this and for good reason, as he’s got over $2 million in cashes live and online.
Having watched him personally during much of the late stages of the last WPT Venice event, he also has that good ol’ Scandi edge to him that leads to fearless and crazy play at times — including a propensity for wandering around in slippers and getting day-long massages.
Gimbel won the 2010 PCA at the ripe young age of 19 and has over $3 million in life earnings, as well as winning everything in sight online as well.
He falls squarely in the “Thank Jebus I’m finally 21 and can play in the WSOP, let’s tear this mutha up!” category, with the 2012 WSOP his first crack at the big show. That can cut both ways, as it’s easy to burn out pretty quickly during your first trip to the rodeo but he’s definitely one to watch and will likely play a ton of events.
Nitsche is another youngster who’s finally old enough to swing for the WSOP fences, but he’s definitely been there and done that when it comes to the live poker circuit.
One of the few players to outduel Rettenmaier when it comes to frequent flyer miles, Nitsche has nearly $1.3 million in live earnings and has Hendon Mob flags for cashes in 17 countries, with a chance for a US flag now that he’s finally 21.
Eames has piled up $1.5 million in live cashes but hasn’t done much on US soil, with just $75,000 in WSOP cashes since 2010.
So far 2012 has been a struggle for him but he’s too good a player to keep coming up empty, with the 2012 WSOP possibly his year to finally put together some deep runs.
Wheeler did have a runner-up finish at the 2009 WSOP for a $418,000 score but hasn’t made much noise at the Rio since then. He has, though, been piling up nice cashes on the European circuit since Black Friday and has a knack for putting himself in great shape in the late stages with chips time and time again.
No clue what his plans for the 2012 WSOP are but he could definitely be a force if he makes a run at a lot of events.
Debus may be a bit of a reach here but all he does is win, both online and live, and doesn’t give much away whenever he takes a seat. He’s got FTOPS and WCOOP titles to his credit and close to $600K in live tournament winnings over a fairly limited schedule.
Vedes had a deep run in the 2009 Main Event and a ton of success on the WPT tour (including a win in April at the WPT Seminole Hard Rock Showdown), so calling him a dark horse is a very big stretch.
He’s still chasing that first WSOP bracelet, though, and has never really had a breakthrough performance at the WSOP like he has on the WPT tour. He plays all the games (and plays them well) so unlike a lot of the NLHE specialists listed above he could potentially play a ton of events at the 2012 WSOP.
We’ll toss Gobboboy a bone here, largely because he’s planning on playing a ton of events and he’s another one with plenty of scores over the years — just not any big ones at the WSOP.
He also skews towards the mixed games/Omaha side of the spectrum, so like Vedes he’s a little more well-rounded than some of the other players listed here.