The 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event kicks off with the first of three starting flights at the Rio All-Suite Las Vegas Hotel and Casino on Sunday. While upwards of 6,500 players will likely pony up the $10,000 buy-in for a shot at poker immortality, there are a few players who have to be considered favorites to at least make a deep run in poker's World Championship this year.
Read on to find out PokerNews' top five players to keep an eye on in the 2015 WSOP Main Event.
It's the 10-year anniversary of Joe Hachem's 2005 WSOP Main Event win, making him one to watch for sure.
No one-trick pony, Hachem won a World Poker Tour title at the 2006 WPT Doyle Brunson North American Poker Classic for $2,207,575 a year after his historic victory at the WSOP and has spent the past decade amassing an impressive $12,056,258 in live tournament earnings.
The Aussie's best run in the Main Event since 2005 came when he made it all the way to 103rd of 6,494 in 2009, but all indications are he's ready for an even deeper run this year. Hachem showed up at the 2015 WSOP half way through June and has already booked four cashes for approximately $135,000, including a final table appearance in the $10,000 H.O.R.S.E. Championship on Thursday that ended with a fifth-place finish.
A fierce competitor, Hachem is sure to enter the 2015 WSOP Main Event keenly aware that it has been 10 years since he kicked off the Australian poker boom with a win and looking to prove to he's still got it.
One of the most accomplished tournament players out there, Mike Watson has accumulated a hair shy of $8.3 million in live cashes and boasts an additional $2.97 million in winnings online as "SirWatts." The Canadian has basically done it all in the world of tournament poker, except he has one clear hole in the résumé — he has yet to win a WSOP gold bracelet.
Watson put together another outstanding run this summer with seven cashes at the WSOP and three final table finishes. Unfortunately for him, he seems cursed to finish sixth every time he gets close, as all three deep runs this year ended in that spot. Watson has also booked 11th- and 12th-place finishes this year.
With a combination of an extremely strong no-limit hold'em tournament game, the hunger of having never won a bracelet, and the ever-fleeting "running hot" status, Watson is certainly one of the top contenders for the crown.
Next, we have the man right behind Mike Gorodinsky in the GPI WSOP Player of the Year race.
Despite being a three-time WPT champion and WPT Season XIII Player of the Year, not much was expected of Anthony Zinno at the 2015 WSOP, at least according to his peers. In the 25K Fantasy Draft, the Boston native solid for just $1 to Team Gipsy.
All he has done is bank five cashes — each amazingly culminating in a final table run — capped off by winning one of the most highly-anticipated events of the summer. Zinno shipped Event #60: $25,000 Pot-Limit Omaha High Roller for more than $1.1 million. Big buy-in events have been his forte, as each cash he has booked has been in a $5,000-or-greater buy-in event, including a seventh-place in the $111,111 High Roller for One Drop for $565,864.
Although he has showcased his versatility this summer with his PLO win and Omaha hi-low and limit hold'em final tables, Zinno made his name on his no-limit hold'em success, and he's undoubtedly eager to get back to his strong suit in the Main Event.
One trait that's necessary for success in the Main Event is the ability to defeat fields filled with legions of amateurs, dodging the proverbial minefield of potential beats that lies in wait around every corner. Few players have demonstrated a more apt grasp of that ability to weave through danger than Cord Garcia.
Garcia conquered the largest field in live tournament history — 22,374 entries — when he won The Colossus for $638,880. Garcia came into that tournament well-prepared for dealing with less-experienced foes, as he had already put together a tournament résumé with about $400,000 in cashes mostly grinding out three-figure buy-ins on the WSOP Circuit.
The Main Event should perfectly suit Garcia's abilities, and if he can run up a stack he will be well-positioned to use his experience to exploit the types of opponents with whom he's most familiar.
The self proclaimed best no-limit hold'em player in the world, 14-time WSOP bracelet winner and 1989 WSOP Main Event champion Phil Hellmuth is always a player to look out for when the Main Event kicks off.
While his lavish entrances may be a thing of the past, Hellmuth's play and "Poker Brat" persona continue to make him worth watching.
Hellmuth did manage to win his 14th bracelet this summer in the $10,000 Razz Championship and although his critics will say he hasn't won a bracelet playing no-limit hold'em since his World Series of Poker Europe Main Event win in 2012, he has already proved his game is sharp with a sixth-place finish in the $111,111 High Roller for ONE DROP and a 16th-place run in the $2,500 No-Limit Hold'em in 2015.
Hellmuth's last cash in the Main Event came with a 436th place-finish in 2009 and his deepest run in the modern era was a year earlier when he finished 45th of 6,844. If they were playing chess he would likely win it all, but despite the fact it's poker, Hellmuth is still primed to make a big mark on the 2015 WSOP Main Event and worth watching either way.