Poker: Ole Schemion

The Nuts: Pre-WSOP Rankings

May, 28, 2014
5/28/14
12:12
PM ET
The Nuts is a recurring feature that takes a look at the best poker players in the world. This feature aims to produce a list of the best players at the moment. Our panel of 10 is composed of ESPN.com's poker contributors (Bernard Lee and myself); Bluff magazine editor-in-chief Lance Bradley, senior writer Tim Fiorvanti and information manager Kevin Mathers; WSOP.com managing editor Jessica Welman; PokerNews editor-in-chief Donnie Peters; World Poker Tour's Eric Ramsey; PokerStrategy's Barry Carter; and PocketFives' Dan Cypra.

The 2014 World Series of Poker is underway and new faces are poised to make their mark and establish themselves among the elite in the industry. This set of rankings was determined before the start of the action at the Rio and is destined to take a different form in the coming months. For now, we watch and wait as the best in the game compete and the members of the panel will be table-side and talk to those that thrive day in and day out.

The top of the rankings looks relatively familiar with the same four faces owning the top four spots. Daniel Negreanu remains at No. 1 and still retained the majority of the panel's No. 1 votes. Phil Ivey and Vanessa Selbst swapped places, perhaps due to Ivey's recent turnaround online, and Mike McDonald's effort in 2014 is worthy of any of the spots ahead of him. Both Ole Schemion and Scott Seiver found the winner's circle once again, but the 21-year-old German got the nod from the panel to jump Seiver this month.

The biggest change from our last set of rankings is the emergence of Dominik Panka, the 2014 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure main event champion who captured a second title and two more final tables since that festival. In just a few months, Panka has become the all-time leader on Poland's money list and at 22, has become a marketable face for one of poker's biggest brands (PokerStars). After Panka is Phillip Gruissem who continues to be the king of High Roller events with the addition of his third seven-figure score over the past eight months. If there's a "favorite" for One Drop, it's hard to not think it's him.

Chris Moorman also returned to the top 10 and will be part of the "best without a bracelet" discussion this WSOP. He finally earned the live title he was looking for on the WPT last month. Rounding out the 10 is another German, Niklas Heinecker, who continues to find tremendous online success.

The next seven weeks will define careers and build or bust bankrolls. We'll revisit the rankings after the November Nine are determined and some clear WSOP Player of the Year leaders have been established. Did we leave out your favorite player? Who should be ranked higher? Who should be completely off the list? Leave us your thoughts in the comments below. Here's a look at our latest top 10:

On the bubble

All professional poker players understand what the WSOP means to their legacies. Eugene Katchalov is no different, but sometimes opportunities present themselves that one cannot pass up. Katchalov, this month's bubble boy, will play just a few events at the start of the WSOP before traveling overseas for an undisclosed television show. Katchalov has earned more than $750,000 in 2014 and in March won the EPT Vienna 2,200 euro event for another six-figure score. He also cashed seven times during SCOOP and made one final table in the $215 eight-game event. … Mike Watson fell out of the rankings this month despite finishing 22nd in the EPT Grand Final High Roller and finishing in the top 20 on the overall SCOOP leaderboard (five final tables). Not many have the consistent results that Watson offers and he's looking to earn at least $1 million for the third consecutive year. … Marvin Rettenmaier hasn't won a title since September of last year and while that may seem recent to him, it's a lengthy time compared to what he's accustomed to. The challenge for Rettenmaier is that he's often compared to the other German high roller players who, when they win, consistently bring in six and seven-figure scores at a time. … Is Jason Mercier back? The former No. 1 player finished third at both the AU$25,000 Aussie Millions event and the WPT Alpha8 in South Africa in February, then cashed twice on the WPT. He eclipsed the $10 million lifetime earnings mark this year, and for the seventh consecutive year, has earned at least half a million on the live tournament felt. … Steve O'Dwyer, Mukul Pahuja, Dan Smith, Fabian Quoss, Daniel Cates, Viktor Blom, Antonio Esfandiari, Phil Galfond and J.C. Tran also received consideration this month.

Final thoughts

Bradley: It feels like this list is nearly perfect -- particularly at the top. Negreanu, Ivey and Selbst are -- for my money -- the three best tournament players in the world right now -- and the order is pretty interchangeable depending on who's doing what right now. Given the amount of money Ivey can win from prop bets if he wins a bracelet this summer, it's exciting for poker fans to know he'll be playing a ton of events in hopes of cashing in and breaking the double-digit barrier for bracelets. The one real surprise to me is Dominik Panka. He's basically being judged on the last five months of action. In January he won the PCA Main Event and then the EPT Deauville High Roller to put himself in the Player of the Year conversation, but he had very little live results prior to that. He's also said he doesn't plan on playing much of the WSOP, so it's possible he slips off this list soon.

Feldman: My biggest eye-opener was Scott Seiver this month, as I honestly have no clue how he can be ranked this low given his consistent success throughout his career. He plays every game on every platform and competes at the highest level with consistent success. In my personal ranks, I had him third behind Negreanu and Ivey. Panka being on this list is a slight disservice. Sure, he won PCA, but it's hard to kick off a player like Esfandiari or Duhamel or Retenmaier in his favor. Who would you rather stake? Panka or those guys? I wish we could say we'd see a ton more of him this Series, but it's highly unlikely.

Omitting Katchalov is another surprise to these rankings. Spending minimal time at the WSOP won't help his cause next time around. It's been a tremendously successful rebound for him in 2014 and unfortunately, due to his choice to skip most of the WSOP, I think he'll be on the bubble for a while.

The Nuts: A split decision for No. 1

February, 14, 2014
2/14/14
4:25
PM ET
The Nuts is a recurring feature that takes a look at the best poker players in the world. This feature aims to produce a list of the best players at the moment. Our panel of 10 is composed of ESPN.com's poker contributors (Bernard Lee and myself); Bluff magazine editor-in-chief Lance Bradley, senior writer Tim Fiorvanti and information manager Kevin Mathers; WSOP.com managing editor Jessica Welman; PokerNews editor-in-chief Donnie Peters; World Poker Tour's Eric Ramsey; PokerStrategy's Barry Carter; and PocketFives' Dan Cypra.

With the conclusion of the Aussie Millions, 14 players have already earned at least $1 million from the tournament felt this year. Daniel Negreanu isn't at the top of that list (he's seventh), but he is at the top of these rankings, holding off Phil Ivey and Vanessa Selbst. It was far from unanimous, but Negreanu's $1.7 million in earnings and deep runs in the High Roller events at both the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure and Aussie Millions were enough to retain his place. He may be confident about his game, but his ranking will continue to be in jeopardy with Ivey, Selbst and Mike McDonald thriving.

That's right, I said Phil Ivey. After months of wondering if one of the all-time greats would return to the tournament felt, he made an appearance at the Aussie Millions and cashed in for AU$4 million with a victory in the AU$250,000 Challenge. That wasn't it. Ivey also found success in the Aussie Millions cash game. Ivey was No. 2 in the last set of rankings and despite the massive score, he fell to third because Selbst's consistency is simply too much to deny.

While Ivey makes his living with an occasional poker appearance, Selbst is always on the trail and had one of the most memorable PCA's we've ever seen. She finished third in both the $100,000 event (Fabian Quoss first) and $25,000 event (Jacob Schindler first), and finished 42nd in the main event for a total of $1.3 million. The only player who found more success than any of the aforementioned trio is Mike McDonald, who makes his return on this list at No. 4.

Taylor Caby tells the tale of McDonald best:

 

McDonald, with $10 million in career life tournament earnings, has thrived in the poker world for nearly a decade. His online roots (as "Timex") made him a legend among the young stars of the game, and his knack for competing at the game's highest level is simply enviable. McDonald opened 2014 with four final tables and over $4 million in earnings. What sets him apart from Ivey, Selbst and Negreanu, is that one of his three seven-figure cashes came in the PCA main event, displaying his ability to navigate not only the elite, but the masses as well.

Despite two more final tables for $381,024, Scott Seiver dropped one spot this month to No. 5. Seiver has made six final tables since October, each bringing in at least $100,000. After a quiet PCA, Seiver finished fifth in the AU$25,000 event and seventh in the main event (won by Ami Barer) at the Aussie Millions. He currently has $9.5 million in live tournament earnings in his career. The 2013 GPI Player of the Year Ole Schemion continued his success in January with two seventh-place finishes in the $100,000 and $25,000 buy-in at PCA. He has four tournament victories and 10 final tables since last May.

The final four players all maintained a place on this list since the last rankings, but didn't gain enough support to boost their placement. Philipp Gruissem, Marvin Rettenmaier, Nicklas Heinecker and Mike Watson spent the first six weeks of the year looking for the next game with Rettenmaier being the biggest winner of the bunch for nearly $200,000. Phil Hellmuth and Noah Schwartz fell out of the top 10.

As the industry looks ahead, a quiet final few weeks in February lead into a busy March that includes the L.A. Poker Classic, Bay 101, WPT Venice, EPT Vienna and a number of WSOP Circuit, Deepstacks, UIKPT and Heartland Poker Tour stops.

Did we leave out your favorite player? Who should be ranked higher? Who should be completely off the list? Leave us your thoughts in the comments below. Here's a look at February's top 10:

On the bubble

The number of big buy-in events during the first two months reinforced perceptions (and rankings) of a number of the game's elite. Even with his runner-up finish in the Aussie Millions main event, Sorel Mizzi couldn't crack the top 10. Mizzi has found great success in the event, finishing in the top 16 four times since 2009. He also won the $25,000 event at the Bellagio in January. After Mizzi came 2012 WSOP main event champion Greg Merson who finished second in the $25,000 buy-in and 98th in the main event at PCA. Merson doesn't play many tournaments, but the high rollers have recently piqued his interest. After spending a good amount of time playing in the Macau cash games last year, it'll be interesting to see Merson's tournament schedule moving forward. A third familiar face, Antonio Esfandiari, follow that duo on the bubble. Esfandiari finished fourth in the $100,000 event at PCA and also cashed in the main event. … Fabian Quoss has over $2.3 million in earnings this year, most of which came from the largest win of his career ($1.6 million) in the $100,000 PCA event. Quoss is another talented German who thrives on the High Roller action and has accumulated $5.7 million in tournament earnings since 2009. … Former No. 1 Jason Mercier has four cashes on the year, including a third-place finish in the AU$25,000. … Ben Tollerene, Sam Trickett, Joe Kuether, Dominik Panka, David Peters, Yevgeniy Timoshenko (winner of the AU$100,000 event), Isaac Haxton, Steve O'Dwyer and Victor Blom also received consideration this month.

Final thoughts

Bradley: This might be the competitive we've ever seen the top of this list. I Imagine most voters struggled more with whom to put No. 1 than ever before. If you had $10,000 to invest in one player in one tournament, you couldn't go wrong with any of the top three players. If you wanted to invest in McDonald, you'd probably need to come up with more than $10,000. The Canadian pro traveled all the way to Melbourne to play two super high roller events -- skipping the $25,000 and the $10,000 main event in the process. All he did was cash in both events. If he keeps putting up results like that he's likely to make it even harder on panelists, forcing them to consider him for the top spot.

Feldman: Usually I have a pretty good feel about who is going to take the top spot before the votes come in. However this month, I didn't know if it would be Negreanu, Ivey or Selbst. Each of them has a tremendous track record and recent success to place them up, and I could make an argument for each and every one. To put things simply, If any of those three, or even McDonald, were to grace the top spot, I don't think the panel would have come to the wrong conclusion. That said, no matter who earned the top spot, there would definitely be a strong debate and conversation. Don't forget to add your take below.

As a whole, the group was on the same page for the top five players. After that, the rankings became a little murky. I could really put in a pretty strong argument for Fabian Quoss and Ben Tollerene and I'm surprised neither of them made it. Mizzi too. I do believe the panelists put a ton of weight on the super high roller events and in reality, that's important because that's where the best in the world compete. If you beat the field of elite players, you deserve consideration here.

Heinecker is going to prove to be a difficult player to keep on the list with his recent opt-out of his performance tracking. Many high stakes cash game players are doing similar things and it makes it very tough to gauge long-term winners and losers online as a result.

Finally, I'd like to welcome PokerStrategy's Barry Carter to the panel, replacing former ESPN Deportes editor Nahuel Ponce. He brings a great perspective to the game and to these players that will definitely make this initiative even better.
The Nuts is a recurring feature that takes a look at the best poker players in the world. This feature aims to produce a list of the best players at the moment. Our panel of 10 is composed of ESPN.com's poker contributors (Bernard Lee and myself); ESPNdeportes.com Poker Editor Nahuel Ponce; Bluff Magazine Editor-in-Chief Lance Bradley, Senior Writer Tim Fiorvanti and Information Manager Kevin Mathers; WSOP.com Managing Editor Jessica Welman; PokerNews Editor-in-Chief Donnie Peters; World Poker Tour's Eric Ramsey; and PocketFives' Dan Cypra.

Just as the poker world revolves around the World Series of Poker in June and July, when fall approaches, the biggest and best action is in Europe. From EPT Barcelona to EPT/UKIPT London and the recently started World Series of Poker Europe, the focus of the industry is far away from the United States, despite a few larger domestic efforts. Europe is not only the place to go because of the massive amount of live play, but with the World Championship of Online Poker taking place at the same time, going to Europe provides professionals the opportunity to soak up more action. WCOOP is the biggest online tournament series in the world, and proved again in 2013 that no other effort can truly compare.

To nobody's surprise, Phil Ivey retained the top spot this month. Although he's down so far this year in the online cash games, he had a strong recovery last month by pocketing more than $500,000. Ivey also found his way into WCOOP and just missed the final table in the $10,300 eight-game event; he finished 57th in the $2,100 no-limit event earlier in the series. Ivey now turns his sights to capturing his 10th WSOP bracelet, and with a 25,600-euro event on the schedule, he'll be sure to make the most of his trip to France.

While Ivey coasts at No. 1, the battle for No.2 continues between Daniel Negreanu and whoever else makes competitive strides each month. Negreanu solidified his spot with his runner-up finish in the EPT Barcelona high roller event, and then a 17th-place in the $2,100 HORSE WCOOP event. Vanessa Selbst jumped from ninth in the rankings to challenge him for No. 2 with a second-place finish (out of 1,189) at the Borgata Poker Open and two weeks later, a victory in the 2,000-pound high roller event on the UKIPT.

In addition to Selbst, some other members of the top 10 earned additional hardware over the past month. Marvin Rettenmaier, ranked fifth, found another tour to win on in September as he captured a Eurasian Poker Tour title. David Baker dropped to seventh despite winning one of the Sunday Majors on PokerStars for nearly six figures, and Phil Hellmuth, eighth, found the winner's circle in an Open Face Chinese event at UKIPT London.

Replacing Matthew Ashton and Sam Trickett on the list are Ole Schemion and Steven Silverman. Schemion is far from recognizable if you only follow the American poker scene, as the 20-year-old has conquered the European poker market for $3.3 million over the past two years. He's a stalwart in the European high roller events and will go down as the final Partouche Poker Tour champion, winning their main event title last September. Silverman, aka "Zugwat," will get national TV exposure in a few months because of his victory in the $100,000 Alpha8 debut. The Washington, D.C., native has more than $2 million in live earnings this year and may be finally getting his due.

Did we leave out your favorite player? Who should be ranked higher? Who should be completely off the list? Leave us your thoughts in the comments below. Here's a look at August's top 10:

On the bubble

November Niner JC Tran is the bubble boy in this month's rankings. The WSOP main event chip leader followed up his main event run with a second-place finish in the Alpha8, and is on the way to Europe looking for more. Tran is a few eliminations away from making this his most profitable year yet, and panelists came close to putting him on the list before the action plays out in Vegas next month. ... Dan Kelly was the bubble boy last month, and although his eight-cash WCOOP would get him back in the top 10, it wasn't enough. Kelly has been outstanding this year and should contend for Player of the Year honors this fall. … Jason Mercier earned a big cash with a third-place finish in the $700 no-limit WCOOP event and seems to be back on track. Nobody doubts his ability, and he's often one of the most debated players month after month. … Steve O'Dwyer peaked on this list in 2012 and is easily making his case once again. O'Dywer, the EPT Grand Final Champion, added $550,000 to his bankroll since August and is currently 11th on the 2013 money list. … Viktor Blom, David Sands, Sam Trickett, Chris Klodnicki, Martin Finger, Igor Kurganov, David Benefield, Mike McDonald and Paul Volpe also received consideration this month.

Final thoughts

Bradley: Spots 2-4 are all occupied by players who are having strong years. Ivey continues to sit atop the rankings, and that doesn't shock me at all. He's clearly cemented his reputation as the best player in the world, but he's going to need to show he can win something other than a new badge on IveyPoker with Negreanu and Selbst (who just won an EPT side event) hot on his tail.

I'm somewhat surprised to see Hellmuth still in the Top 10, but I guess with WSOP Europe kicking off this weekend, he could snap up another bracelet to crack the top five next month.

Feldman: In my opinion, the most interesting results this month come in spots nine and 10. Ole Schemion is crushing the poker world ... where he can. He become a true star on the European Poker Tour, but being younger than 21, he can't play in the U.S. It's hard to imagine where his career will take him, but without any hesitation, it's easy to say he'll be the rookie everyone is watching in Vegas next summer.

Silverman's stock has never been higher, and perhaps a debut at 10 is too low. Regardless, I'm glad to see him on the list and finally getting a little love from the group.

One player I feel is missing from the list this month is Viktor Blom. The high-rolling Swede remains one of the most swingy cash game players online (currently up $1.5 million this year), but he also had a strong WCOOP showing. He seems to always fall on the bubble and unfortunately, I'm not quite sure what it would take for him to actually break through. Others who I feel are deserving for ranking: David Sands, Steve O'Dwyer, JC Tran and Dan Kelly.

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