It's that time of year again. The World Series of Poker is upon us and the first open event kicked off on Monday. In preparation for the series, the PokerNews Team got together to make some predictions (like we always do). Obviously we're always right, unless we're wrong, but then, wrong doesn't count.
Donnie Peters: Live Reporting Manager
Which under-the-radar player will be the biggest surprise? Chris Bjorin. He may be well-know to poker diehards, but I can't tell you how many times a tournament has made it down to the final few tables, and Chris Bjorin is just doing his thing unnoticed. He always makes several deep runs at the WSOP and there's a great chance we'll be seeing some more of them this year.
Which big-name pro will be the biggest disappointment? Doyle Brunson. Although having him just show up for a few events seems to be all people need not to be disappointed, Brunson just doesn't have it anymore. His age is wearing on him and he's fallen a bit behind the curve both in the mental and physical department. His skills have deteriorated over the years and he just doesn't have the stamina and endurance to play a heavy schedule for days on end. The "Godfather of Poker" hasn't cashed in a WSOP event since 2009. Given that his schedule will be kept to a minimum, we probably won't see him cashing again this year.
I know this all sounds harsh, but it's the truth. In sports, the best players and the legends are able to retire, but in poker you can keep playing forever. That means you just have to keep up with the times or you're going to fall behind. Even if Brunson is my prediction for biggest disappointment, I hope I'm wrong.
Who will win WSOP POY? For me, this is a toss up between two players. Over the past couple of years, I've had the same prediction going in, but it just hasn't worked out. Still, I'm sticking to my guns and going with either Daniel Negreanu or Shawn Buchanan. My first reason is that both of these guys can play all the games and play them well. Second, they're going to play a very hefty schedule of events and the more chances you have, the better. Third, they have both been up towards the top of the Player of the Year leaderboard numerous times in the past.
If I had to choose another person, it would be Jason Mercier for the same reasons I mentioned above. The only thing that's keeping me from pulling the trigger on Mercier is that he's been running bad this year (#ItMustBeEnding), and I've seen these drafts last for quite some time.
Will Phil Hellmuth win #12? Anyone can get lucky, we know that. Phil Hellmuth has the largest ego of anyone in poker, yet he never changes his game or adjusts to the new age. He might make a few deep runs with some run-good, but I don't see him winning gold bracelet No. 12 anytime soon.
How many players will enter the Main Event? After 2005, the number of entrants in the WSOP Main Event has bounced up and down from the previous year. Up in 2006, down in 2007. Then up in 2008, down in 2009, up in 2010 and down again in 2011. You know what gamblers say, right? Never bet against the streak. I'm going to say the numbers are up this year, but only slightly. I'll go just shy of 7,000 with 6,968 players in the 2012 WSOP Main Event. That's 103 more players that in 2011 when Pius Heinz won and seems like a realistic number to reach.
Which member of Team PokerNews will have the most success? Kristy Arnett. She's simply the best one out of all of us and, given the chance to, will shine.
Who, of the known players in the field, will win the Big One? Sam Trickett. When thinking of someone who could win, I want someone who has the skills but also won't let the amount of money they're playing for emotionally affect them. For me, Sam Trickett is the guy. He has amazing skills in no-limit hold'em events and has shown that over the years. He regularly plays in the largest cash games in the world held in Macau with astronomical stakes, meaning the money won't be affecting him as it might some of the other players. That could backfire on my prediction here and Trickett could be out early, but I see him using an aggressive, fearless style of skilled play to power his way through this tournament.
Kristy Arnett: Producer/Hostess
Which under-the-radar player will be the biggest surprise? Aaron Jones. He's not exactly under the radar, (he's the CEO of LeggoPoker and crushes online cash games) but hasn't found a ton of tournament success. He has less the $400,000 in winnings and no career titles. Granted, he doesn't play nearly the volume as some tournament grinders do, but I think he's prime for a big score or two. He clearly knows what he's doing as far as poker goes, so I think it's just about timing now.
Which big-name pro will be the biggest disappointment? I think Pius Heinz will be a disappointment because there is always so much pressure on the reigning champion to perform the next year. He's been a great ambassador, and he's a very good player, but there will be a lot of eyes on him this year. Hopefully, he can take it in stride.
Who will win WSOP POY? Daniel Negreanu. That might be an easy, cliche-type answer, but it's just what I think. I interviewed him at the very beginning of 2012, and he said he was focused more than ever and that this was going to be his year. I'm going to listen to the guy that calls out his opponents hands on TV. I mean, right?
Negreanu not only has the heart and skill to do well, but also is motivated by the extra incentives of his bracelet bets. He's going to put in the volume it takes to win POY.
Will Phil Hellmuth win #12? No, but if he does, I'd love to see him finish second one more time first. After three second-place finishes last year, I think his head will explode! Come on, he's the guy everyone loves to lose. It's great for poker, and I'm sure his ego will heal.
How many players will enter the Main Event? Hmm... more than last year.
Which member of Team PokerNews will have the most success? I'd have to say Mickey Doft. He's going to win a razz tournament. I'm pretty sure I said that last year, but I'm going to stick with it!
Who, of the known players in the field, will win the Big One? Jonathan Duhamel. He had a great start to the year winning more than $1.2 million during the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, including a fourth place in the Super High Roller event and a second place in the High Roller. Duhamel has a knack for performing in high-pressure situations, so I think he's poised to do well.
Chad Holloway: Senior Writer
Which under-the-radar player will be the biggest surprise? Mark "P0ker H0" Kroon. I'm not saying this because we're both from Wisconsin, I'm saying it because this guy suddenly has a renewed passion for the game. He's an old-school player making the transition from playing primarily online to live, and he has had success on the WSOP Circuit; in fact, he'll be one of the players in this year's National Championship.
Throw in the fact that he has scaled way back on consuming alcohol (despite the fact that he is the owner of the infamous Players Bar in Madison, Wisconsin, the place where Phil Hellmuth cut his chops), is getting in shape physically, and is rumored to be backed for a ton of events, well, I think he's going to surprise a lot of people this summer.
Which big-name pro will be the biggest disappointment? Phil Ivey. He'll be at this year's WSOP, but how many events he'll play remains a big question mark. Obviously poker fans are going to be thrilled to see him back in action, but with all the online poker and divorce drama, I'm not sure he'll be able to pick up where he left off (i.e. winning bracelets).
Who will win WSOP POY? If recent year's are any indication, a long-time grinder will finally hit his stride and come out of nowhere to win the title. I want to pick someone who not only plays all the games, but plays them well. For that reason, I'm going to say that Matt Glantz. That man is long overdue for a bracelet or two.
Will Phil Hellmuth win #12? Yes. I thought it'd come last year, and I was almost proven right three times. However, it's much more poetic for him to win bracelet #12 in 2012, don't you think?
How many players will enter the Main Event? 6,700. I think it'll be close to last year's, but won't quite hit the mark. Obviously, I hope I'm wrong.
Which member of Team PokerNews will have the most success? I'm not even sure who is playing what. Is Mickey Doft playing the razz again? If so, he's due for the big cash. Otherwise I'm going to say Lynn Gilmartin. I watched her play an event at this year's Aussie Millions and the girl's got skills.
Who, of the known players in the field, will win the Big One? I think Daniel Negreanu is going to have a big year. I'm not sure why, but I have a gut feeling he's going to win a bracelet. He's got the drive, experience and motivation, so I wouldn't be surprised if he takes home the titanium bling.
Danielle Barille: Strategic Development
Which under-the-radar player will be the biggest surprise? Harrison Gimbel. He's a rookie but has already made quite the scene in tournaments where he was legal to play like Florida and the PCA. I think it's going to be no different at the WSOP.
Which big-name pro will be the biggest disappointment? Jean Robert-Bellande
Who will win WSOP POY? For me it's really a toss up between Chris Moorman and Ben Lamb. I think Benba has the potential to go back-to-back and win POY this year but if I had to choose between the two I would go with Moorman. He made two final tables last year in six-handed events, and I think he will make even more final tables this year.
Will Phil Hellmuth win #12? Absolutely not.
How many players will enter the Main Event? I'm going to go with over 7,000. Last year the Main Event drew 6,865 runners and the largest Main Event drew 8,773 runners. So I'm going to go somewhere in between and say 7,711 entrants.
Which member of Team PokerNews will have the most success? I'm going to have to go with Kristy Arnett. I think she's going to crush it this year and has had some time to learn strategy from some of the top pros from her podcast.
Who, of the known players in the field, will win the Big One? I'm going to go with Cirque Du Soleli founder Guy Laliberte. I remember watching him play on Poker After Dark with some of the big-name pros and he showed no fear. I think he also has a little extra incentive to bink this tournament since it's for his charity.
Sarah Grant: Producer/Hostess
Which under-the-radar player will be the biggest surprise? Stephen Chidwick. He is a super diligent player who has been working on his game with fervor over the last few years. He has had some pretty good results in 2012 and is due for a big win and a bracelet.
Which big-name pro will be the biggest disappointment? Vanessa Rousso. She is busy with other interests right now and so won't have the focus she needs.
Who will win WSOP POY? ElkY or Eugene Katchalov. Both are super solid players with the kind of bankroll to play tons of events. Both of them have been playing a lot live all year and will be more than ready for a serious grind all summer.
Will Phil Hellmuth win #12? I do think Phil will get it done. He is clearly still working on all his games and tends to chose fields which are smaller which gives him a distinct advantage to capture #12.
How many players will enter the Main Event? 6,889, Last year had 6,865. Obviously last year was pretty crazy and thus is a tough indicator of what to expect this year. However, most players have found themselves settled outside the U.S. and are stoked to come back and grind the Series this year. For those players who chose not to pursue poker full-time, many of them will come to play the main anyways because the value is so sick. So, I think it will be close to last year and maybe a little bit more.
Which member of Team PokerNews will have the most success? If we get a chance to play even though we are so busy pumping out amazing coverage, Kristy is due for a Day 2.
Who, of the known players in the field, will win the Big One? Erik Seidel will win the One Drop. Generally speaking, if there is a buy-in over $25k, he is a good bet to win it. He is a consistent and patient player who will be able to play this event without focusing on the insane amount of money.
Rich Ryan: Senior Writer/Podcast Producer
Which under-the-radar player will be the biggest surprise? Bryan Devonshire. Since finishing 12th in the Main Event last year, Devonshire has been playing in smaller buy-in tournaments, but he's been crushing. He's made ten final tables, winning four events, and has qualified for the National Championship. Devo has all the confidence in the world right now, and that should translate well on the felt.
Which big-name pro will be the biggest disappointment? Viktor Blom, and only because the expectations are too high. The 21-year-old legend has already won a $100K Super High Roller and two SCOOP events this year, so anything less than a bracelet will be disappointing in the eyes of the fans.
Who will win WSOP POY? Tom Dwan. This is the year he finally breaks through and wins a bracelet — maybe two.
Will Phil Hellmuth win #12? Yes, but in hold'em. He won't make it to Day 3 of any non-hold'em event.
How many players will enter the Main Event? 7,050.
Which member of Team PokerNews will have the most success? Chad "Birdshirt" Holloway. He will successfully blind his opponents with the infamous bird shirt and hopefully take down a bracelet.
Who, of the known players in the field, will win the Big One? Andy Beal. One Time!
Brett Collson: Associate Editor
Which under-the-radar player will be the biggest surprise? Paul "paulgees81" Volpe. This is the year Volpe transforms into a poker superstar, à la Dan Kelly in 2010. He plays every game well and will be a familiar face at the biggest buy-ins at the Rio this summer.
Which big-name pro will be the biggest disappointment? Mike Matusow. Hate to say it, but Mike needs to bring his A-game and run insanely well to compete with the top talents in each of the $10,000 Championship events. It ain't 2004 anymore.
Who will win WSOP POY? George Lind. Nobody will touch Ben Lamb's performance from last year, but if anyone has the endurance and willpower to win a Player of the Year award, it's George Lind. The Team PokerStars Pro played 38 events last year and, according to several of his peers, Lind has improved greatly in non-hold'em games.
Will Phil Hellmuth win #12? No. As much as I'd love to see the chaos in the Amazon Room after Phil wins No. 12, the odds are heavily against him.
How many players will enter the Main Event? 5,200. I think we'll see a significant drop off from last year. That is, unless Full Tilt Poker refunds players in the weeks before the Main Event kicks off. In that case, expect around 6,500.
Which member of Team PokerNews will have the most success? Chad Holloway. If his tournament success last summer is any indication of things to come, Chad will make some noise around Vegas this year. Fear the Bird Shirt.
Who, of the known players in the field, will win the Big One? Patrik Antonius. He doesn't show up to the Rio often. But when he does, there isn't a better player in the place.