All eyes in the poker world will be on the PokerStars tables this month as we celebrate the 13th anniversary of the most revered online tournament of them all: the PokerStars Sunday Million. It takes place on April 14, 1pm ET. As you may have read, there’s a $10 million guarantee and a guaranteed $1 million first-place prize. But who’s going to win it?
Predicting a winner in a tournament with many thousands of entrants is nigh-on impossible. So let’s say this right from the start: the eventual champion almost certainly isn’t going to get a mention in this article series. But it’s still worth taking a look at some of the most likely contenders. If we were drawing up a betting market, here are a few folks who would at least attract a specified price.
MORE ON THE ANNIVERSARY SUNDAY MILLION:
WHO’LL WIN: PART 2 | STRATEGY ADVICE | QUALIFY FOR FREE | ANNOUNCEMENT
SAVE THE DATE: APRIL 14, 1pm (ET)
We have had some help from PokerStars’ data analysts, who have been able to provide us some charts of top performers in tournaments similar in structure to the Sunday Million. Their input is crucial in the second part of this series. But we’ve also spent some time looking at the PocketFives rankings, which gives the best idea of who is currently hot in the tournament world, as well as looking more broadly across the poker world for some other big hitters.
PocketFives’ top three
For more than a decade, PocketFives has tracked the great and the good of online tournament poker, and players still consider elevation to the highest echelons of the rankings to be the clearest indication that they’re doing something right. We’ll begin our hunt for the Sunday Million 13th Anniversary tournament winner at the top of the PocketFives chart:
Roman “RomeOpro” Romanovsky
At time of writing, Ukraine’s “RomeOpro” is ranked No. 1 on PocketFives’ tournament poker rankings, with 337 outright tournament wins (across all sites) and close to 500 other top-three results. On PokerStars alone, RomeOpro — a.k.a. Roman Romanovsky — has more than $6 million in online winnings. More importantly, he is a high-volume player in good form, which explains his current ranking. Barely a day passes without a significant online tournament cash by Romanovsky, often several of them, and the $215 Sunday Million buy-in is precisely his ballpark.
Niklas “Lena900” Åstedt
No discussion of online tournament poker can take place without a mention of “Lena900”, the online moniker of Sweden’s Niklas Åstedt. Swedes have been dominant at the online tables since the inception of the game (“aggro Scandis” have tormented the tables for more than a decade), and Lena900 is among the very best of them all. He first hit the No. 1 spot in March 2016 and has been in the top three pretty much ever since. He has Super Tuesday and SCOOP titles to his name, and has been to the Sunday Million final table at least twice.
Simon “C. Darwin2” Mattsson
Where Lena900 goes, “C. Darwin2” has likely been before. Though not necessarily the origin of the species, C. Darwin2 is very much the epitome of the formidable Swedish tournament grinder, who spent huge portions of 2016 as the world No. 1 and also scaled the summit in both of the following years. He has more than $7.3 million in tournament scores on PokerStars alone, including COOP accolades and a Sunday Warm-Up win. He also has around $1.3 million in live tournament results, where he tends to go by his “other” name: Simon Mattsson.
The rest of the PocketFives top 10 is similarly stacked with heroes. If all/any of the following fire in the Sunday Million, they are going to stand a high chance of making a deep run: “girafganger7” (UK), Patrick “pads1161” Leonard (UK), Johannes “Greenstone25” Korsar (Sweden), Ramiro “ramastar88” Petrone (Argentina), Conor “1_conor_b_1” Beresford (UK), Andras “probirs” Nemeth (Hungary), and Robin “robinho” Ylitalo (Sweden).
If you’ve watched any online tournament poker over the past 10 years, you’ll have seen sensations come and go. But at the same time, you’ll have seen some sensations come and stay, seemingly immune to the enormous variance inherent in the game.
It’s a fair bet that all of the following players will be playing the Sunday Million Anniversary tournament this month, and for them it will be just another tournament in a career spanning years. But despite their status as veterans, their skills are as sharp as ever.
Sami “Lrslzk” Kelopuro: Finnish boss, with great success at tournaments as well as cash games, both live and online. Lrslzk still sits 12th in the global rankings, and is No. 1 in Finland.
Anatoly “nl_profit” Filatov: Has live and online tournament scores of more than $3.5 million, and has SCOOP and WCOOP titles, five years apart.
Chris “Big Huni” Hunichen: Former online No. 1, with victories in Super Tuesday, Sunday Warm-Up, Sunday 500 and WCOOP. First recorded online cash came in 2006, so has been doing this a loooong time, both from his native United States and adopted home of Costa Rica post-Black Friday.
Connor “blanconegro” Drinan: Has retreated from the live scene a little in recent years (despite $11 million in tournament cashes) but is still crushing online, where he’s putting in more volume than ever. Has a second and fourth place in previous Sunday Millions.
Chris “Moorman1” Moorman: It’s kind of a mystery how Chris “Moorman1” Moorman hasn’t won the Sunday Million. He has won nearly 400 major online tournaments and amassed online tournament cashes of more than $15 million, more than anyone else in the world. Although he has been based in the USA for a couple of months, the Sunday Million Anniversary may be able to tempt him back to an online poker-friendly country.
Calvin “cal42688” Anderson: When you’ve won the Sunday Warm-Up and the Sunday Second Chance, surely it’s only a matter of time until you scoop the big one? Well, that’s not necessarily true, but Calvin “cal42688” Anderson has been at the top of the online game for 12 years and is still recording major cashes across all sites. This time?
All format crushers
If you’re good at online poker, chances are you’ll be all right in the live environment, too. The same broadly applies vice-versa, although many of the top-ranking live tournament players tend now to focus on high roller events around the world and play online increasingly infrequently. However while these five players might be best known for their live results, they continue to put the volume in online. And a $10M guarantee is still a $10M guarantee, no matter how big your average buy-in.
Steve “MrTimCaum” O’Dwyer: Despite sitting 11th on the all-time live tournament poker money list, and being a regular on the super high roller scene, Steve O’Dwyer has been in a rich vein of online form over the past six months. Playing from his adopted home of Amsterdam under the screen-name “MrTimCaum”, O’Dwyer hit a new high of seventh on the global online tournament rankings after he won his first WCOOP title last autumn. He has been a regular across the sites in 2019, too, and when O’Dwyer is playing, O’Dwyer is winning.
Kristen “krissyb24” Bicknell: Canada’s Kristen Bicknell still puts in a huge amount of online play despite migrating with great success recently to the live environment. “krissyb24” plays, and wins, on the PokerStars High Roller series, and has numerous tournament scores at all buy-in levels.
Ole “wizowizo” Schemion: Ole Schemion does his best to avoid the spotlight whether you encounter him at the online or the live tables. But for such a publicity-shy player, he has what must be a frustrating habit of continually winning things. If Schemion decides to sit down for this Sunday Million, that habit could easily continue.
Shawn “buck21” Buchanan: With eight COOP titles to his name, and $7 million in live tournament earnings, it’s worth listening to Shawn “buck21” Buchanan. “The key is to be one of the ones staying ahead and working hard, which for me includes playing lots of hours and seeing the trends of the game at the moment and then thinking of ideas that can work well against them,” he told PokerStars last month. No one would be surprised to see us tapping him up for a winner’s interview again in a few weeks.
Dominik “Bounatirou” Nitsche: An indefatigable presence both at the online and live tables, Dominik “Bounatirou” Nitsche has the kind of appetite that marks out the very elite. Barely a week passes without a major score, and with the live tournament schedule all but clear on the weekend of April 13-14, Nitsche is all but certain to play the Anniversary event.