Poker Players on the Move: Five Rounders on the Rise in 2017
Ups and downs are part of life in poker. A final table here, a deep run there – everyone is just looking to stay consistent and hit the occasional heater. With the World Series of Poker Europe now underway, PokerNews takes a look at a few players from outside North America – players whose A-game has shined in recent months. Whether it's a breakthrough win, an upward swing, a major accomplishment, or a nice comeback – these are some players who are on the move. Oh, and they're raking plenty of chips and big money.
After some nice scores and finishes in smaller international tournaments, 2017 has been a banner year for 29-year-old Albert Daher (pictured above). A native of Beirut, Lebanon, he notched several six-figure scores in 2013-15 including a runner-up finish in 2014 at the €10,300 High Roller 8-Handed at the European Poker Tour in Deauville, France, for $258,136. In 2015, Daher earned another big finish when he won the $2,200 Main Event at the Merit Poker Gangster Cup in Kyrenia, Cyprus, for another $108,940.
Now with more than $1.8 million in tournament winnings, Daher has crushed the international poker scene with eight final tables including another big win in September on the Merit Poker Tour in Cyprus – taking down the $5,000 MSOP Main Event for $218,000. That was preceded by two nice cashes in August at the PokerStars Championship Barcelona: eighth in the €5,300 Main Event for $159,870; and fourth in the €5,200 No Limit Hold'em Turbo for $34,340.
A few other big finishes in 2017 include:
- 3rd – Merit Mediterranean Poker Cup Kyrenia, Cyprus ($2,200 Main Event) – $72,184
- 5th – WSOP Las Vegas ($10,000 No Limit Hold'em - 6 Handed Championship) – $138,644
- 3rd – Wynn Summer Classic, Las Vegas ($ 1,100 No Limit Hold'em) – $48,322
As if his year wasn't good enough, Daher also cashed in the WSOP Main Event this summer, finishing 544th for $22,449.
"I did pretty well in tournaments in 2013 and then I just decided to quit tournament poker and focus on cash games," he told Merit Poker after his win. "I've barely played tournaments since and decided to come back to the scene in 2016."
Daher loves playing cash games and the freedom that comes with it, but has been pleased with his recent results back on the tournament circuit, adding: "Now since I've been doing better, maybe I should play more and more tournaments."
Five- and six-figure live tournament finishes have become the norm over the last two years for this 27-year-old from Charleroi, Belgium, who spends most of his time grinding online. At the WSOP this summer, Boivin made two big runs – finishing just short of his first bracelet. In Event No. 43: $1,500 No Limit Hold'em Shootout, he finished runner-up for $159,273. A week later, he took third in Event No. 56 $5,000 No Limit Hold'em for $ 264,306.
Boivin's big breakthrough win came in June 2016 at the Mid-States Poker Tour $1,100 No Limit Hold'em event as part of the Venetian's DeepStacks Extraveganza. The win brought his first title and $352,153 in cash. In January, he added another title at the Aussie Millions in the A$1,150 No Limit Hold'em - Six Max for $88,195.
Success at the tables comes with effort. He attributes constant work, discussion, and studying the game as the keys to solid play Feeling good in both mind and body has also been key – including dealing with a recent breakup of a long relationship. He also analyzes tournaments that fits best for his game.
"Computing all the parameters in tournaments is important," he says. "Of course, that includes lots of technique and strategy, including a good approach on how and when to play GTO or max exploitative. And then some hardly quantified things like tournament life value, edge management, and tournament selection."
Not sure yet about playing in the WSOPE, Boivin does plans for stops in Punta Cana and at the Aussie Millions. Away from the tables, he enjoys drinking Belgian beers and hopes to open a business soon related to that passion. He is also into sports and self-development, and hopes his run at the tables continues.
"If you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you'll be successful," he says. "But mostly, enjoy life and find happiness everywhere around you and those you love."
Javier Gomez Zapatero
This Spaniard poker pro has been setting the international poker world on fire in recent years – and his run in recent months has turned up the temperature even more. In 2017 alone, Zapatero, 26, has more than $1.3 million in tournament winnings and the WSOPE may be his next stop.
In July, Zapatero topped a 688-entry field in the $5,000 No Limit Hold'em event at the Venetian DeepStacks Extravaganza for $561,349. His heads-up opponent to take down title was certainly no easy opponent. Zapatero topped 2014 WSOP Main Event champion Martin Jacobson for the title.
He followed that up in August with a second-place finish at the PokerStars Festival Barcelona for $166,227. Once again, Zapatero faced tough competition heads-up – another WSOP Main Event champion. This time it was 2013 champ Ryan Reiss, certainly no easy foe.
Zapatero, who now has lifetime winnings of almost $2 million, has several other top finishes from around the poker world in 2017 including:
- 2nd and 4th – PokerStars Festival Bahamas ($ 2,200 PokerStars National Championship and $ 3,200 No Limit Hold'em Turbo) – total of $84,440
- 2nd – Grosvenor UK Poker Tour London (£1,100 Main Event) – $93,267
- 1st – PokerStars Championship Panama ($3,200 No Limit Hold'em - Turbo Survivor) – $25,500
- 5th – PokerStars Championship Monte Carlo (€25,750 Championship High Roller Eight Max) – $ 334,439
- 5th – WSOP Las Vegas ($10,000 Tag Team Championship) – $31,627
The young rounder burst onto the scene in 2015 with a win at the €3,300 partypoker WPT Main Event in Prague for $175,000.
"It's a dream," he told PokerNews after that win. No doubt his dream run continues.
This young Russian poker force has been running well both online and on the felt. In September, Pisarenko was named PokerStars WCOOP Player of the Series after a massive run playing as "ImluckNuts." The title earned him the Champions Trophy, a PokerStars Caribbean Adventure package, and $20,000 in cash.
Inside a poker room, Pisarenko has been no slouch in 2017 either. At the PokerStars Festival in May in Sochi, Russia, Pisarenko cashed three times. That included winning the 618,000-rouble buy-in ($10,770) No Limit Hold'em High Roller for $46,840. He's a player to watch out for in the coming years.
Another Russian rounder, Kakhmazov had a massive run this summer on U.S. soil. While he had minimal tournament finishes from 2013-16, this year has been a breakthrough for the 29-year-old.
In June, Kakhmazov worked his way through a field of entries in the $1,100 Mid-States Poker Tour Main Event at the Venetian's Deepstack Extravaganza in Las Vegas. The victory brought his first major title and a score of $440,029 in a field that featured 3,273 entries. He then continued the massive run only a few days later at the Rio, where he took down Event No. 36 $5,000 No Limit Hold'em - 6 Handed. Kakhmazov topped a field of 574 to take home his first bracelet and $580,338.
The victory, which brings his career tournament winnings to more than $1.2 million, came at a final table that included Chris Hunichen (second), Kenny Hallaert, Faraz Jaka, and Sam Soverel. Kakhmazovu is a regular on the European poker scene with a few final tables and nice finishes, but had found limited success after a few trips to Las Vegas. He was happy to see that change and strike gold this summer.
"I am very happy," Kakhmazov told PokerNews after the win. "I have wanted to do this for three years, but every time I lose two big pots, deep in the tournament."
After grabbing that massive win, Kakhmazovu is looking for more.
*All statistics courtesy of the Hendon Mob Database.
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