Thursday, June 3, 2010

World Series of Poker Fantasy Projections

This article first appeared in the June 2010 issue of Poker Pro Magazine. It also appeared on their website at

Poker Articles - June 2010

Some Tips for Picking a Winning Team This Year

By Chad Holloway

The World Series of Poker isn’t just poker’s biggest event, it is also Fantasy Poker’s biggest event. Those who love to handicap (and wager on) the players and pit their personally chosen teams of pros against all comers have a field day during the WSOP.
Every year, fantasy fanatics gather to form leagues, draft teams and compete for prizes while rooting for their favorite players on poker’s biggest stage.

Since 2005, Fantasy Poker has spread among the masses and every year participants ask one simple question: Who will be a Fantasy Poker stud and who will be a dud?
Trying to predict who will be the top Fantasy Poker performers can be a difficult and tedious task. It requires research into past tournaments, different variations and performances outside of the WSOP. Luckily, I have done much of this work for you and have come up with some solid predictions.

Based on recent success, experience and preparation, here is a list of five poker professionals I believe will earn big fantasy points at the 2010 WSOP.

Phil “UnaBomber” Laak

The Unabomber has been on a roll in the past year. In October 2009, Laak became the World Open V champion, winning $250,000. He followed this up with an awesome performance at the Premier League and cashed in the NBC National Heads-Up Championship. On top of this, he has been traveling the world, playing in some of the biggest cash games – with success. Laak has become a consistent performer, and he’ll have a big Series if he can carry that momentum into the summer.

Fantasy Assessment (2009 WSOP Winnings: $0; Noteworthy Post-2005 WSOP Finishes: 2nd, 22nd, 11th, 9th, and 24th; Number of Post-2005 WSOP Final Tables: 2): I may be going out on a limb with this prediction. Laak’s numbers certainly do not suggest that he is a consistent performer at the WSOP. He was basically non-existent at last year’s Series and has only made two final tables in his career. So, why will 2010 be different? I can think of two reasons. First, Laak is one of the hottest players on the circuit right now. Second, he recently launched a new website and what better way to introduce it to the poker world than by tearing it up at the WSOP When it comes to Fantasy Poker, Laak is a high risk, high reward player.

Phil Hellmuth

Hellmuth had a terrible year in 2009. He even acknowledged it on his blog when he wrote: “2009 was my worst year ever in poker. I did tons of stuff wrong and I actually lost money for the year. Some people say that the reason that I did poorly was because the players in the fields vastly improved the way that they play poker, and that I am now outside of the top ten in the poker world.”

Hoping to get back on track to winning his 12th bracelet, Hellmuth vowed that 2010 will be a return to glory. He’s already taken some positive steps toward that goal, having made the final table of the World Poker Tour’s Bay 101 Shooting Star and hiring renowned “Mindset Guru” Sam Chauhan. Last year Phil Ivey reigned supreme, could 2010 be the year of a new Phil?

Fantasy Assessment (2009 WSOP Winnings: $87,208; Noteworthy Post-2005 WSOP Finishes: 10th, 8th, 2nd, 6th, 1st, 3rd, 1st, 6th, 8th, 3rd, and 4th; Number of Post-2005 WSOP Final Tables: 10): No final tables and no big cashes for Hellmuth in 2009? When it comes to Fantasy Poker, there is no doubt that Hellmuth underperformed. With that said, don’t expect that to be the case this year. There are very few players who have a deeper passion for the game than the “Poker Brat.” As we’ve all seen, Hellmuth doesn’t deal with defeat well. With a renewed drive and determination, look for him to redeem himself at this year’s WSOP.

Members of the “Brunson 10”

As of this writing, six members of the “Brunson 10” have been officially announced, including some of the biggest names in the online poker world: Chris Moorman, Amit Makhija, Zachary Clark, Dani Stern, Alex Kamberis and Steve Gross. Together, the “Brunson 10” have unparalleled online success and millions in winnings. This will be the first WSOP for the “Brunson 10” as a group, so look for them to make a statement. As the new faces of Doylesroom, you can bet they will be playing in numerous events, looking to make the site proud with a victory.

Combined Fantasy Assessment (2009 WSOP Winnings: $616,237; Noteworthy Post-2005 WSOP Finishes: 13th, 24th, 4th, 9th, and 17th; Number of Post-2005 WSOP Final Tables: 2): The bulk of the Brunson 10’s winnings ($548,315) came from Stern’s fourth-place finish in the 2009 $40k No-Limit Hold’em Event, which means their collective WSOP performances in the past haven’t been all that impressive. None of the players has a bracelet, but that could very well change this year. These players have a great sponsorship deal, will be playing numerous events, and will be working hard to show that they deserve to be a member of Brunson’s elite club. I predict that at least a couple of these guys will make some noise at this year’s WSOP.

Faraz Jaka

Jaka, who goes by “The-Toilet O” online, is probably the least recognizable name on this list, but that is all going to change in 2010. So far this year, Jaka has made three televised final tables, including a second in the WPT Bellagio Cup V and a third at the WPT Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic, making him the only player to make two final tables during the WPT’s eighth season. His other final table came at the North American Poker Tour High Roller Bounty Shootout. There is no doubt that this 24-year-old California native is among the hottest players in poker headed into the WSOP.

Fantasy Assessment (2009 WSOP Winnings: $436,914; Noteworthy Post-2005 WSOP Finishes: 28th, 18th, and 3rd; Number of Post-2005 WSOP Final Tables: 1): Jaka had some success last year when he took third in a $5,000 Six-Handed Hold’em event for $400,525. He is currently at the top of the leaderboard for the WPT’s Player of the Year and has plans to play numerous events leading up to the WSOP. His preparation, combined with his unique style of play, should spell fantasy success.

“Sometimes I do stuff that might be fundamentally wrong, but at the same time, it works within my system and the way that I play. More importantly, it makes me more unpredictable,” Jaka says. “When people learn [the fundamentals] they all play the same way, so people can’t really figure out what I’m thinking, why I’m thinking and what I am doing to some extent.”

Annette Obrestad

The poker world has waited patiently for the 2010 WSOP ever since a young Norwegian poker prodigy shocked the world by taking down the 2007 WSOP Europe main event. Annette “Annette_15” Obrestad became the youngest bracelet winner ever at the age of 18, one day shy of her nineteenth birthday. Now that she is finally 21, Obrestad will make her Las Vegas WSOP debut.

Fantasy Assessment (2009 WSOP Europe Winnings: $0; Noteworthy Post-2005 WSOP Europe Finishes: 1st; Number of Post-2005 WSOP Europe Final Tables: 1): It’s hard to make a prediction about someone who has never played in Vegas’ WSOP. With that said, Obrestad has proved her chops in Europe and online; in fact, I can’t recall a player who has had more anticipation surrounding them. Not only will she be making her WSOP debut, she will be making her Fantasy Poker debut as well. If Obrestad’s track record is any indication, expect her to have a strong showing and possibly add another bracelet to her résumé.

Of course this is not an all-inclusive list of potential fantasy stars. Other players you may want to keep an eye on include: 2010 NBC Heads-Up Championship winner Annie Duke; Player of the Year contenders Sorel Mizzi and Dan Shak and WSOP Circuit phenom Dwyte Pilgrim.
Other players such as Phil Ivey and Daniel Negreanu are no-brainers each year and will complement any fantasy roster. If you want to get creative, don’t be afraid to go out on a limb and take a chance with a player; you might get lucky and land a superstar like Jeffrey Lisandro was last year.

With new events and innovative changes, the 2010 WSOP is shaping up to be one for the history books; likewise, this year’s Fantasy Poker season should be bigger and better than any before.

Chad Holloway is a semi-professional poker player from Baraboo, Wisconsin who specializes in Fantasy Poker. He currently writes poker material for and is a featured blogger at