Top 25 Young Poker Tournament Players

When people run down their lists of the best tournament poker players invariably the names mentioned are legends of the game: Phil Hellmuth, Johnny Chan, Erik Seidel, Daniel Negreanu, Carlos Mortensen, and so on. These players may very well be the best tournament poker players in the HISTORY of poker, but when it comes to the current group of tournament players it’s usually youth that wins out.

In this article I’ll take a look at the Top 25 tournament poker players under the age of 30 (one or two of my choices may be in their early 30’s, but they LOOK young!). Some are well-known, some are considered among the best in the business already, but many of them will only be recognizable to poker enthusiasts at this point in their careers. But mark my words, in 15 years many of these players will be amongst the greats to ever play the game.

The players chosen are all in the early stages or primes of their careers, and have been chosen for a number of reasons including their potential, but also the successes they have already had. I have also chosen to leave off “One-Hit-Wonders” like 2011 World Series of Poker Champion Pius Heinz, who even though I believe he has bright outlook, he just hasn’t proven it beyond his one big win at this point.

The basic criteria I used were that each player must have multiple strong showings in major tournaments; in the ballpark of at least $1 million in career tournament earnings; and/or multiple major victories. So without further adieu, here are the 25 players I have chosen as the best young talents in the tournament poker genre, beginning with the Big Names on the list…

The Big Names

Chris Moorman

Anyone who has followed the world of online poker over the past five years is surely familiar with the exploits of the UK’s Chris “moorman1” Moorman. With 11 career PocketFives.com Triple Crowns (where a player wins three tournaments at three different poker sites in the same week) and over $7.5 million in career online tournament earnings, it was never a matter of IF Chris Moorman would break through in the live poker arena, but WHEN.

Career Tournament Earnings: $2,440,512

Major Wins:

  • None

Major Cashes:

  • 7th place in the 2011 Aussie Millions Main Event — $173,079
  • 3rd place in the $2,500 NLHE 6-Max tournament at the 2011 WSOP– $271,800
  • 2nd place in the $10,000 NLHE 6-Max Championship tournament at the 2011 WSOP — $716,282
  • 2nd place in the 2011 World Series of Poker Europe Main Event tournament — $1,068,690

Moorman is the face of the largest online poker room in the US, Lock Poker, where he is part of Team LockPRO Elite.


Jake Cody

Cody is another young Brit (there seem to be quite a few of them!) who has already made his mark in the world of live poker, and will likely be a part of poker lore for the rest of time thanks to his improbable run that saw him win the Triple Crown (a WPT championship, an EPT championship, and a WSOP bracelet) in less than two years!

Career Tournament Earnings: $3,101,043

Major Wins:

  • 1st place in the €5,000 NLHE Main Event at the 2010 EPT Deauville– $1,213,194
  • 1st place in the £5,000 NLHE Main event at the 2010 WPT London — $425,492
  • 1st place in the $25,000 Heads-Up NLHE Championship at the 2011 WSOP — $851,192

Major Cashes:

  • 7th place in the 2011 world Series of Poker Europe Main Event tournament — $200,379
  • 2nd place in the 2011 Grosvenor UK Poker Tour Grand Final tournament –$181,774

Cody recently signed with the leader in 3-D poker PKR Poker.


Vanessa Selbst

Vanessa Selbst is the online poker generation’s version of Jennifer Harman, a female poker player who has had such success that she transcends gender, and is simply considered one of the best poker players, male or female. While still a Law Student at Yale University Selbst was able to book a WSOP win, two North American Poker Tour Championships, and a Partouche Poker Tour Championship; feats that any full-time poker player would drool over, and Selbst managed to accomplish this playing a limited tournament schedule!

Career Tournament Earnings: $4,740,247

Major Wins:

  • 1st place in the $1,500 PLO tournament at the 2008 WSOP — $227,933
  • 1st place in the $1,850 NLHE tournament at the 2008 World Poker Finals — $115,000
  • 1st place in the 2010 NAPT Championship at Mohegan Sun — $750,000
  • 1st place in the 2010 Partouche Poker Tour Main Event — $1,823,430
  • 1st place in the 2011 NAPT Championship at Mohegan Sun — $450,000

Major Cashes:

  • 3rd place in the 2011 WPT Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic Championship – 4338,351
  • 4th place in the 2010 EPT London £20,000 High-Roller tournament – 4226,910
  • 3rd place in the $5,000 Heads-Up NLHE Championship at the 2007 WSOP — $128,968
  • 3rd place in the $10,000 Heads-Up NLHE Championship at the 2008 WSOP — $108,288
  • 7th place in the $2,000 NLHE tournament at the 2006 WSOP — $101,285

Selbst’s accomplishments have earned her a coveted place on Team PokerStars Pro.


Sam Trickett

Yet another young Brit, Trickett is considered by many to be in the conversation of “Best Poker Player in the World” for his outstanding tournament record, as well as his cash-game prowess that has seen him win millions in the highest-stakes cash-games around the world. If there is a high-stakes cash-game or tournament taking place somewhere in the world, you can bet that Trickett is not only participating, but dominating.

Career Tournament Earnings: $6,304,096

Major Wins:

  • 1st place in the $1,000 NLHE Main Event at the 2008 Grosvenor UK Poker Tour Luton — $215,178
  • 1st place in the $10,000 NLHE Party Poker World Open VI tournament in 2010 — $200,000
  • 1st place in the $100,000 Championship at the 2011 Aussie Millions — $1,508,258
  • 1st place in the €8,500 NLHE Championship at the 2011 Partouche Poker tour — $1,364,666

Major Cashes:

  • 2nd place in the $250,000 Super-High-Roller tournament at the 2011 Aussie Millions — $1,384,631
  • 2nd place in the $5,000 NLHE tournament at the 2010 WSOP — $505,725
  • 4th place in the $5,000 NLHE tournament at the 2008 WSOP — $245,927
  • 4th place in the €5,000 NLHE tournament at the 2010 EPT Vilamoura Championship — $177,519
  • 7th place in the $25,000 NLHE 6-Max Championship at the 2010 WSOP — $141,168
  • 7th place in the £20,000 NLHE High-Roller tournament at the 2011 EPT London — $107,534
  • 4th place in the €5,000 PLO tournament at the 2011 WSOPE — $103,719

Trickett represents Titan Poker.


Jason Mercier

Mercier seems a lot older than he is thanks to his early rise to the top of the poker world, and his amazing ability to stay there year after year. Considered by many to be THE BEST tournament player in the game Mercier appears to have a legitimate shot at being the most successful tournament in the history of the game by the time he calls it a career.

Career Tournament Earnings: $7,667,831

Major Wins:

  • 1st place in the 2008 EPT San Remo €4,700 Main Event — $1,372,893
  • 1st place in the 2008 European Poker Championships High-Roller tournament — $944,847
  • 1st place in the 2009 $1,500 PLO tournament at the WSOP — $237,462
  • 1st place in the $25,000 High-Roller Bounty Shootout at the 2010 NAPT Mohegan Sun — $475,000
  • 1st place in the $10,000 High-Roller Bounty Shootout at the 2011 NAPT Mohegan Sun — $246,600
  • 1st place in the $5,000 PLO tournament at the 2011 WSOP — $619,575
  • 1st place in the $100,000 High-Roller tournament at the 2011 Doyle Brunson Five Diamonds — $709,767

Major Cashes:

  • 4th place at the 2009 WSOP Europe Main Event — $440,620
  • 3rd place in the Epic Poker League Main Event, August 2011, — $360,970
  • 6th place at the 2008 EPT Barcelona Main Event — $324,946

Mercier is a member of Team PokerStars Pro, and one of the faces of the site.


Bertrand Grospellier

Bertrand Grospellier, better known by his online handle of “ElkY”, is actually in his early 30’s, but his style of play and personality make him seem much younger. The former Starcraft player made the transition to online poker early on, and has been a dominant force both online, and even more so in live tournaments. ElkY, like Jake Cody, is a Triple Crown winner, and has already amassed one of the most impressive tournament resumes in the history of poker.

Career Tournament Earnings: $8,646,605

Major Wins:

  • 1st place at the 2008 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) $7,800 Main Event — $2,000,000
  • 1st place at the 2008 WPT Festa al Lago $15,000 Championship — $1,411,015
  • 1st place at the 2009 PCA $24,500 High-Roller tournament — $433,500
  • 1st place in the 2011 €25,500 EPT Grand Final High-Roller tournament — $779,221
  • 1st place in the 2011 €10,000 EPT Grand Final High-Roller tournament — $227,087
  • 1st place in the $10,000 Seven Card Stud Championship at the 2011 WSOP — $331,639

Major Cashes:

  • 3rd place in the $25,000 WPT Championship in 2009 — $776,245
  • 3rd place in the $10,000 NLHE 6-Max Championship at the 2011 WSOP — $447,074
  • 2nd place in the 2007 EPT Scandinavian Poker Open Main Event — $399,953
  • 3rd place in the 2009 NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship — $125,000

ElkY is another of the players on this list who is a member of Team PokerStars Pro.


Eugene Katchalov

Katchalov has long earned the respect of his peers, but his incredible 2011 tournament run brought the Ukrainian-born, New Jersey-raised poker pro to the general public. A longtime winner in both cash-games and tournaments, Katchalov put together an impressive resume throughout 2011, culminating with the BLUFF Magazine Player of the Year Award.

Career Tournament Earnings: $7,027,213

Major Wins:

  • 1st place in the $5,000 NLHE tournament at the Bellagio Cup III in 2007 – $118,785
  • 1st place in the 2007 WPT $15,000 Doyle Brunson Five Diamond Poker Classic Main Event – $2,482,605
  • 1st place in the $100,000 Super-High-Roller tournament at the 2011 PCA — $1,500,000
  • 1st place in the $1,500 Seven Card Stud tournament at the 2011 WSOP — $122,909

Major Cashes:

  • 3rd place in the €5,000 Main Event at the 2011 EPT Barcelona — $453,812
  • 3rd place in the £20,000 NLHE High-Roller tournament at the 2009 EPT London — $307,247
  • 3rd place in the $10,000 HORSE Championship at the 2010 WSOP — $248,831
  • 6th place in the $25,000 NLHE 6-Max Championship at the 2010 WSOP — $194,559
  • 39th place in the $10,000 WSOP Main Event at the 2009 WSOP — $178,857
  • 2nd place in the $10,000 NLHE High-Roller 6-Max tournament at the 2011 PCA — $131,920
  • 9th place in the 2009 $25,000 WPT Championship at the Bellagio — $130,735
  • 6th place in the $10,000 Omaha 8 or Better Championship at the 2008 WSOP — $110,450

Katchalov, like many of the previous entries is also a member of Team PokerStars Pro.


Mike McDonald

The Canadian poker pro known as “Timex” online has one of the most impressive resumes considering that Mike McDonald actually retired from poker for a spell! McDonald has also built-up a reputation in the poker world that was strong enough to see the 25 year-old named to the Epic Poker League’s Standards and Conduct Committee.

Career Tournament Earnings: $4,036,149

Major Wins:

  • 1st place in the €7,700 Main Event at the 2009 EPT German Open — $1,370,161
  • 1st place in the $1,500 NLHE tournament at the 2010 PCA — $146,804
  • 1st place in the $20,000 Main Event at the 2011 Epic Poker League in September — $782,410

Major Cashes:

  • 3rd place in the €5,000 Main Event at the 2010 EPT Deauville — $417,610
  • 5th place in the €5,000 Main Event at the 2009 EPT German Open — $249,105
  • 2nd place in the €10,000 NLHE tournament at the 2011 EPT Prague — $150,896
  • 4th place in the €4,000 Main Event at the 2009 WPT Venice — $146,542
  • 3rd place in the €10,000 NLHE tournament at the 2011 EPT San Remo — $131,262

McDonald is currently not sponsored by any poker site.


Galen Hall

The 2011 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Champion, Hall is a new face on the tournament trail. However, in less than a year since his PCA put him on the poker map, Hall has managed to replicate his success on multiple occasions. Hall looks like he is here to stay, and has his eyes set on being one of the true bright spots in the poker world.

Career Tournament Earnings: $3,564,033

Major Wins:

  • 1st place in the $10,000 Main Event at the 2011 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) — $2,300,000

Major Cashes:

  • 3rd place in the $25,000 Championship at the 2011 WPT Bellagio — $589,355
  • 3rd place in the $100,000 Super-High-Roller at the 2012 PCA — $470,400

Hall has yet to settle on sponsor in the poker world.


Scott Seiver

Scott Seiver has quietly become one of the best poker players in the game, and whether it’s cash-games (what he is best known for) or tournaments, Seiver has been there and done that. The affable young star is rarely mentioned by casual poker fans, but if only the top poker players in the game were compiling the list Seiver’s name would figure prominently on the list of the best players in poker.

Career Tournament Earnings: $4,272,749

Major Wins:

  • 1st place in the $5,000 NLHE tournament at the 2008 WSOP — $755,891
  • 1st place in the $5,000 NLHE tournament at the 2009 Five Diamond Poker Classic — $218,008
  • 1st place in the $25,100 High-Roller tournament at the 2010 LA Poker Classic — $425,330
  • 1st place in the $25,000 WPT Championship at the 2011 WPT Championship at Bellagio — $1,618,344

Major Cashes:

  • 7th place in the $50,000 Players Championship at the 2011 WSOP –$243,978
  • 4th place in the $25,000 Invitational Shootout at the 2010 Deepstacks Extravaganza – $215,000
  • 4th place in the $4,700 Main Event at the 2010 NAPT Mohegan Sun — $190,000
  • 3rd place in the $24,500 High-Roller tournament at the 2009 PCA — $137,000

Somehow Scott Seiver has yet to be signed by a major sponsor.


Jonathan Duhamel

Duhamel broke a run of WSOP Main Event winners that simply failed to live up to the lofty (and in most cases unreasonable) expectations heaped upon them. In addition to picking up a few big scores since his 2010 World Series of Poker Main Event Championship Duhamel has also worked tirelessly to promote the game of poker, including working hand-in-hand with Cirque de Soleil creator and fellow Canadian Guy Laliberte in marketing the $1,000,000 buy-in Big One for One Drop WSOP tournament.

Career Tournament Earnings: $10,828,194

Major Wins:

  • 1st place in the $10,000 WSOP Main Event at the 2010 WSOP — $8,944,310
  • 1st place in the €10,000 NLHE High-Roller tournament at the 2011 EPT Deauville — $272,209
  • 1st place in the $5,000 NLHE tournament at the 2012 PCA — $239,830

Major Cashes:

  • 2nd place in the $25,000 High-Roller tournament at the 2012 PCA — $634,550
  • 4th place in the $100,000 Super High-Roller tournament at the 2012 PCA — $313,600
  • 4th place in the 2011 NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship — $125,000

Duhamel was signed by PokerStars shortly before his WSOP win, and inked a long-term deal soon after winning the biggest prize in poker.

The Lesser Known Players

Oleksii Kovalchuk
The Ukrainian Kovalchuk was one of the top performers on the tournament scene in 2011; success he has so far continued upon in 2012. This is made all the more amazing by the fact that Kovalchuk’s first tournament cash was in February of 2011! In 2011 Kovalchuk hammered out four 6-figure scores and won a WSOP bracelet, and an Italian Poker Tour (IPT) title, a Russian Poker Tour (RPT) title, in addition to making the final table of the Partouche Poker Tour Main Event. Kovalchuk seems to have a very bright future in the world of poker.

Xuan Liu
Liu has been one of the real bright spots in women’s poker over the past year, with a win on the IPT and two final tables on the European Poker Tour, including a 4th place finish at the coveted PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event (PCA). Also helping the young Canadian is her beauty, which as we’ve seen over the years can make or break a female poker players sponsorship opportunities. Liu has already bested her 2011 haul of $567,270 in the first month of 2012, with $600,000 in tournament winnings thus far for the year.

Andrey Pateychuk
Pateychuk’s 2011 campaign was so good that he won the 2011 European Poker Award for Rookie of the Year, on the back of his EPT and WPT victories. In the space of just over two months Pateychuk completed two of the three legs of the Triple Crown –and a 15th place showing in the WSOP Main Event could have been the third leg! A feat he would have accomplished in less than six-months!

Martin Jacobson
Jacobson made a remarkable three EPT final tables in 2011, including two runner-up finishes and a 4th place showing. In just over three years he has FIVE Top 10 finishes in EPT Championships, as well as two WPT Final Tables and a WSOP final table. It’s only a matter of time before the young Swede books his first major win.

Steve O’Dwyer
O’Dwyer has been on the tournament trail for some time now, but really made his mark on the poker world at the tail-end of 2011 where he went on an amazing tear and almost took over the Card Player Magazine Player of the Year award in the process. O’Dwyer has quietly amassed over $2 million in career tournament earnings at this point in his career.

Harrison Gimbel
It’s hard to believe that the 2009 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) Champion is still too young to participate in tournaments around the US, so his best years are still ahead of him. Gimbel has also had other success on the tournament trail (mostly in his native Florida where the gambling age is set at 18) and looks to be the real deal.

Faraz Jaka
Known as “The Toilet” to online poker players, Jaka has put together a number of deep-runs in major live tournaments in his young career. Still searching for his first major win, Jaka has booked five 6-figure scores thus far including a 2nd and 3rd place in WPT Championships, a 3rd place showing in an EPT Championship, and a 3rd place finish in the $5k NLHE event at the 2009 WSOP.

Sorel Mizzi
Mizzi is well known to online poker fans, but the young star didn’t appear on the mainstream radar until 2010 when he won the Bluff Magazine Player of the Year award. Despite all his prowess in tournaments, Mizzi is perhaps best known for a number of transgressions in the poker world (both live and online). If he really wants to make it big in poker he will have to work extremely hard to rehabilitate his reputation.

Tom Marchese
Like Sorel Mizzi, Tom Marchese was also a Player of the Year winner in 2010, winning the Card Player Magazine award, in his first full year on the tournament trail. Despite a somewhat disappointing 2011 campaign, Marchese is a prolific tournament player who simply keeps plugging along, which will no doubt lead to more titles in future years.

Sam Stein
Sam Stein has been a fixture on the tournament trail for a number of years, and while his skills were well-known to the poker community it was only in recent times that the mainstream of the poker world took notice. Stein started of 2011 with a 4th place finish at the PCA (worth $1,000,000) and went on to win his first WSOP bracelet at the 2011 WSOP, where he also finished 3rd in another event.

Shawn Buchanan
Shawn Buchanan should be far better known in the poker world considering the longtime player is atop the ESPN The Nuts rankings, but it’s only been over the past six months or so where Buchanan has penciled his name alongside the other tournament greats in the poker world: Which just goes to show you that sometimes it’s not what you do, but when and where you do it!

David Sands
Probably best known for his deep-run in the 2011 WSOP Main Event alongside his girlfriend Erica Moutinho, David “Doc Sands” Sands is one of the most accomplished online tournament players, and has been tearing up the live tournament scene for the better part of two years now, doing most of his damage at the WSOP.

Marvin Rettenmaier
The young German is one of the top tournament players in Europe, evidenced by his ever-growing resume which includes a laundry list of five-figure cashes all over the world. In just two full years of tournament poker Marvin Rettenmaier has amassed nearly $1.4 million in career earnings, two wins, and one of the best entry to cash ratios I have ever seen by a poker player. Which has led to him receiving a sponsorship deal with Titan Poker.

Russell Carson
Carson is an online poker legend, as well as being a highly sought after poker coach, who has turned into a very prolific live tournament player over the past couple of years. Coming really close to a major title at the 2010 EPT Snowfest (where he finished in second place), it’s only a matter of time before the man known as “rdcrsn” at the online poker tables has a breakout year.

Steve Gross
The former Card Player Online Poker Player of the Year and former member of the Brunson 10 at Doyles Room is one of the most accomplished online poker tournament players in the game’s history, and over the past few years Gross has managed to amass quite a few live tournament accolades for his resume.

Other Worthy Players
While there are plenty of tough young poker players to choose from these are my picks for the best of the best right now, based on what they have done along with what they have the potential to do. A few players were tough to leave off the list like Shaun Deeb, Mohsin Charania, Vladimir Geshkenbein, John Racener, Liv Boeree, Melanie Weisner, and Matthew Waxman, but in the end I think I did a pretty fair job in choosing based on the criteria I set out at the beginning of the article.

A quick look at the home countries of many of these players shows a new trend in poker, where the best young talent seems to be coming from the UK, Canada, and Eastern European countries like the Ukraine and Russia. Hopefully the US will soon straighten out the online poker situation so a new generation of young, talented, poker players can be created, and the US can once again compete in the growing global poker market.

If you have any thoughts on who should have been selected feel free to leave a comments below.



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