The World Championship of Online Poker begins tomorrow. Ever since 2002, online poker players from all over the world look forward to WCOOP, including some of tournament poker’s toppermost talent.
As we anticipate the first events kicking off on Thursday at 13:00 ET — get the full schedule here — here are a few of the players we wouldn’t be surprised to see fighting at final tables and taking titles during this 18th running of the WCOOP.
You might recall how last year the WCOOP began adopting the popular “three-tier” format long employed by the Spring Championship of Online Poker by offering “low,” “medium,” and “high” buy-in events. That meant the overall number of WCOOP tournaments — and titles — increased markedly.
When last year’s WCOOP began, Dan “djk123” Kelly was the all-time leader in titles with five. There were a couple of others with four, however, and both would pass Kelly after collecting multiple wins a year ago.
In fact, one of those other two managed to win FIVE titles last year alone — last year’s WCOOP Player of the Series Denis “aDrENalin710” Strebkov. That makes him the current all-time record-holder with NINE (!) WCOOP wins.
Before last year’s WCOOP, Strebkov had a number of live victories to his credit as well, including having earned a couple of silver spades in mixed game events at EPT Malta. Then came last September when the Russian won those five WCOOP events in five different games — pot-limit Omaha, razz, five-card draw, stud hi-lo, and the 8-game mix.
Since then Strebkov has added a World Series of Poker bracelet to his hardware collection after topping a 301-player field to win the $3,000 H.O.R.S.E. event back in July. With such prowess in so many different variants, it seems safe to say “aDrENalin710” will be shooting up the WCOOP leaderboards throughout the next three weeks.
The other four-time winner entering last year’s WCOOP was another mixed-game master, Shaun “shaundeeb” Deeb. He earned two wins himself (both in pot-limit Omaha hi-lo events) to bring his overall number of WCOOP wins to six, and returns in 2019 as a good candidate to add to that total.
As Deeb pointed out to PokerStars Blog last fall, winning a lot of tournaments doesn’t necessarily make someone the greatest. But having the range to play a lot of different variants like he and Strebkov do helps a lot in a series like WCOOP.
“I don’t think the most titles means you’re the best player,” said Deeb. “I’m far and away not the best player in most of the fields I play, but I’m one of the few who plays everything.”
Deeb will certainly be in the mix a lot again this year, aiming for Player of the Series once more with several side bets likely.
“I just like battling, y’know?”
More of Last Year’s Stars
Looking through others with multiple titles during the 2018 WCOOP reveals several more names to add to the “players to watch” list, starting with Dmitry “Colisea” Urbanovich who after winning two WCOOPs last year pushed his career total to four.
Come to think of it, Urbanovich first captured a lot of the poker world’s attention while winning four titles in a single series at EPT Malta back in 2015. The next year he’d win the EPT Dublin Main Event, too.
Both “nilsef” and Andrei “Premove” Skvortsov came into last fall’s WCOOP with two titles, then doubled that total by winning two more as well.
It was also a breakthrough series for Tobias “Senkel92” Leknes who had one title before, then won two more last fall. As he told us amid his torrid run last year, besides being a poker pro and adept at a variety of games and formats, Leknes also enjoys chess, volleyball, and all kinds of board games.
“I’m a typically competitive guy,” said the Norwegian. Fellow WCOOP players, take note.
Gillian “Gstronda” Conrado of Brazil also broke out during last year’s WCOOP, winning two titles in large-field no-limit hold’em tournaments. He’ll likely be back looking to add to those successes and his many BSOP cashes.
EPT veteran Joao “Naza114” Vieira of Portugal also won a couple of WCOOP events a year ago, and after collecting a few cashes at EPT Barcelona last week he’ll likely be another one to pay attention to over the coming weeks.
Other Players to Watch
Looking for others to rail? The other three-time WCOOP winners, Anders “Donald” Berg, Andrey “Kroko-dill” Zaichenko, Ryan “g0lfa” D’Angelo, Mikal “mikal12345” Blomlie, and Gleb “Ti0373” Tremzin should all earn attention from pre-WCOOP handicappers.
You should keep an eye on the former WCOOP Main Event winners, too, including Steven “SvZff” van Zadelhoff who talked to us last week about his win in 2017 (among other topics), and “wann2play” who took down the “High” version of the Main Event a year ago.
So, too, should you remain aware of other online phenoms we were watching in Barcelona over the last couple of weeks such as Andras “probirs” Nemeth, Griffin “Flush_Entity” Benger, Jerry “Perrymejsen” Odeen, Simon “C Darwin2” Mattsson, and Thomas “WushuTM” Muehloecker.
There are many more we might mention, of course, but that’s a good list of players to keep an eye on here at the start. And of course more stars — including those we’ve never seen shine before — will surely find the spotlight as well over the course of the 219 different events (!). We’ll do our best to share their stories with you here at PokerStars Blog as they do.
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