While 2004 was memorable for the return of the legendary Doyle Brunson to the winner's circle at the Legends of Poker and the stirring victory of thirty-nine year old Greg Raymer at the Main Event of the World Series of Poker, it has been admitted by many that poker is a "young man's game". While the veterans and the professionals have struck often in the world of poker, it seems that the "Young Guns", whether male or female, seem to have the upper hand.
What is it that makes them able to become so good so fast? Perhaps it is just, as Prince once said, a sign of the times. Many things have added to their accelerated learning pace, including Internet poker, the vast amount of resources in print or on DVD, or just the old fashioned "hard work" theory. It actually depends on which young player you are looking at.
Of the young players out there today (and, when saying "young", they are either thirty or below or started making their mark at or before that age), three that demonstrate the diversity of approaches are Gus Hansen, Daniel Negreanu and Erick Lindgren.
Gus Hansen falls into that "genius" category, who uses his smarts and learning to show his expertise at the tables. While his hyper aggressive style is difficult to play and harder to attack, it is only after great analysis that Gus chooses to shoot into pots with less than the best of it at the start. It is a style that has worked wonders for him; he has won an astounding four World Poker Tour championships, which earned him induction into the Poker Walk of Fame at the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles, CA, along with The Godfather, Doyle Brunson, and actor James Garner. While 2005 has started slow for "The Great Dane", it is only a matter of time before he strikes again!
Daniel Negreanu comes from the "hard work" phase of the game. He started playing the game at a very young age, working his way through the local poker clubs of his hometown of Toronto, Canada. After building up a sizeable bankroll, he headed to the deserts of Las Vegas soon after he turned 21. As with most, he lost that bankroll and headed back to Canada to regroup. Once he rebuilt, the ascension to the top of the poker world was rapid. At 23 and on his first trip to the World Series of Poker, Daniel captured his first of six World Series bracelets. In addition, he has captured two World Poker Tour titles and achieved two career milestones in 2004, the Player of the Year award at last year's WSOP and the overall 2004 Player Of The Year championship. He has started off 2005 in the same form as last year and is consistently challenging for any poker title out there.
Erick Lindgren is one that carries the "competition" edge into any poker tournament. A natural born competitor who carried his drive for any game over from his All-League football and MVP basketball career in high school, Erick has brought that same drive to his success at the felt. He also earned his skills by working as a dealer before moving to the tables. He has been able to parlay those experiences into being the Player of the Year in the WPT, earning two championships in those events, and continues in 2005 to be a contender for any final table that comes along.
Many others have made the walk from the online world to the "real" world seem almost easy. Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi, Finland's Juha Helppi and Maciek "Michael" Graz (who emigrated to America from Poland) have all shown that the online game and the physical game are more similar than one would expect. They have also shown that the game is the same across the board and that the poker skills online are the same poker skills that work at the tables.
Still more have learned the game from working on the other side of the tables as dealers. Those that have made the move from dealing the cards to receiving them include Scott Fischman, who took home two World Series bracelets in 2004, and two women who have shown their skills not only at major championships but also in the WPT Ladies' Night events, Evelyn Ng and Isabelle Mercier, who was the champion of the second Ladies' Night tournament.
There are many others that can be mentioned that have the same attributes and achievements of the players previously mentioned. One of the most feared cash game players, Phil Ivey, recently challenged for a WPT title, and World Series runner-up David Williams, Chip Jett, John D'Agostino, Haralabos Voulgaris and Matt Matros have all been highly regarded players who have shown that they have the skills to have long careers in the world of poker, in either the WPT or the WSOP.
Whichever approach these great young players have taken, it has shown that there are a multitude of avenues that anyone can take to become a great poker champion. It has even demonstrated to older players that they may as well be a champion, through hard work and education in the game. Whatever route you decide, any way is the best way to become a poker champion, be you a "Young Gun", as those here are, or as a veteran working their way to the top!
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