If you are part of the American audience reading this, you're probably less familiar with Dominik Nitsche than you should be. At barely 21, Nitsche has already made quite a mark on the international poker world. If there is a young player with potential to become a superstar on American soil beginning this summer, we think it's him.
Originally from Germany, Nitsche now makes his home in Brighton, England. He's a self-described "world traveling poker playing great food loving 21-year-old." In just a few years around the live circuit, he's already established quite a group of like-minded friends and a reputation for his dominance on the felt.
Nitsche began grinding the freerolls and play-money games as a teenager in 2006. He eventually moved up to low-limit online tournaments while still in high school, and there was no stopping him from there. Playing as "Bounatirou" on PokerStars and "JustLuck1337" on Full Tilt, he matriculated to the biggest buy-ins and the richest purses available in just a couple years.
He's never had a six-figure cash online, but there's no doubt the kid knows what he's doing with a mouse in his hand. His two largest online cashes add up to just about $100,000 together, but he's run up a total profit of more than $2.5 million in five years. Early in 2009, Nitsche banked his largest single online score, winning more than $60,000 for a second-place finish in a $200 Turbo Six-Max FTOPS event.
The year would only get better for the kid. And it was time to take his game to the bricks-and-mortar scene.
Nitsche turned 18 late in 2008 and he didn't have to wait long to break through in live tournaments. His first career cash came at the PokerStars LAPT2 Mar del Plata when he was lured to South America by the 18-year-old gambling age — and the fact that he had won five packages through the PokerStars Steps satellites.
Imagine the transition. After a few years of playing poker against screen names and avatars, he finally got the chance to sit down alongside the likes of Joe Hachem and Chris Moneymaker — men who had made millions on the felt. But Nitsche had made millions of his own online, and the transition to live play proved remarkably easy.
The 290 opponents were strewn in Nitsche's wake, and the barely legal kid made a resounding first impression with a Main Event victory. With it came $381,030, and suddenly, Nitsche had a live bankroll. In his table-side winner's interview, PokerNews asked Nitsche if he was nervous at any point as he chased the trophy. His answer was a hesitant and confused "no" almost as if "nervous" was an untranslatable word to him. When we asked him more recently to reflect on the title, he was gracious: "Winning such a big title is something you will never forget," he said. "I'm glad it happened to me so early in my career." To cap off the year, he gave himself a nice 19th birthday present with a business trip to Marrakech and a runner-up finish in the €9,000 WPT High Roller event for more than €80,000.
Since then, Nitsche has gone on to make himself a live poker millionaire, too. He's racked up about 35 career cashes all over the world. The lion's share of those, including the other two six-figure scores of his career, came in Cyprus. As was the case in 2009, Nitsche's 2011 success came in groups. In April, he won the $4,000 Merit Middle East Poker Championship Main Event. Three months later, he continued his invasion of the island nation with another Main Event win — this time conquering the $2,500 Merit Summer Open in the same building. Those two cashes combined to add nearly $300,000 to his bank account.
Nitsche doesn't strike us as a beach person, so we inquired about why Cyprus has been such a big draw for him. "Soft tourneys, incredible cash games, and an amazing hotel," he said. The hotel in Kyrenia is pretty remarkable, admittedly. It's all-inclusive, it's less than €100/night, and it's a great place for a grinder to grind without having to worry about the necessities of life. "I think the main reason why I have such good results in that country is because I am more focused. I haven't had a single losing trip and I'm willing to put in insane hours at the tables," he added.
Nitsche also mentioned a sort of love-hate relationship with Marrakech, another place where he's found tournament success. "I don't really like it, but it's kind of a must-play event. The field is full of wealthy players, and I think I have adapted to their style very well," he said. "I feel like I get into their heads and have them spew off to me as they think I'm some crazy kid who is always bluffing."
Don't let him fool you. He is almost always bluffing. His last name may start with "Nit," but his aggression and his confidence are uncanny.
When asked whether he was intimidated by the thought of playing his first WSOP, he would have none of it. "I honestly feel like that it's only a matter of time before I get my second big title," he said. "A WSOP bracelet would certainly be something I would be very proud of."
He's got a small 5:1 bracelet bet keeping him motivated, and it seems quite -EV to bet against Nitsche at this point.