Photo caption: Chris Tryba already has one bracelet this summer, but tomorrow he will be one of up to 200 players with a chance to pick up another one in the WSOP National Championship (Photo by Joe Giron for PokerNews/WSOP)
There is a lot of buzz surrounding Friday’s WSOP National Championship. It’s one of the premier events on the schedule, it’s being filmed for ESPN and it has the potential to have an additional $1,000,000 added the already juice-free prize pool. While poker fans may know a lot about the event itself, what they may not know is whom the players are that will be getting a shot at a giant payday.
Over the course of the past year, 100 players on the WSOP Circuit have already locked up a seat in this event, be it by winning a WSOPC Main Event, winning the Casino Championship title at one of the 17 WSOPC stops, or qualifying for one of the 66 at-large bids based on the total number of points earned on the Circuit.
These 100 players will have company though. In fact, up to 100 additional players may join the field of the $1 million freeroll event. The top 100 point earners from the past two years of WSOP events have the ability to buy into the event for $10,000. Those buy-ins will make the seven-figure prize pool even larger, with a chance that the total amount of prize money could double.
Casual fans will certainly be excited to see some of the POY qualified players like Phil Hellmuth, Michael Mizrachi and Ben Lamb play for a potential $2,000,000, but the hidden stars in the field will be the WSOPC qualifiers.
Aaron Massey, Roland Israelashvili and Jamie Kerstetter aren’t the household names viewers will know, but they are the newest crop of WSOP stars that have been honing their game on the road. They don’t travel to exotic locations, they don’t stay in the finest hotels and they play far from the spotlight.
hey are true grinders; traveling from stop to stop, fighting to rack up points, looking to make have their names mentioned in the same breath some with the game’s greatest. A deep run for one of these players will make their year and propel them into the upper echelon of poker players.
Before these grinders get their moment in the limelight on July 6th, we’re going to give you one last glimpse of insight into who they are and who you might be seeing at the televised final table on ESPN later this month:
Chris Tryba – At Large Qualifier
Chris Tryba is as pure of a poker player as they come. The name probably sounds familiar now, as he finally broke through and won his first WSOP gold bracelet in the $2,500 Mixed Hold’em event just a couple of weeks ago. He’s racked up $1.2 million in worldwide tournament cashes since 2003.
Tryba has performed well at the WSOP before, and one Tryba’s greatest performances came during the 2011 WSOP. Within one week he finished in 8th place in the $10,000 Seven Card Stud Championship and then finished 16th in the $10,000 Seven Card Stud Hi Low Championship.
Tryba has the big game experience and knows how play under the spotlight, but he also has plenty of WSOPC experience that will help him when facing off against some of the other qualifiers. This season on the Circuit, he made five different WSOPC final tables at four different WSOPC venues. He’s got a decade worth of experience of playing with the world’s best players. He’s got two WSOPC rings to his credit and will give players fits during the National Championship.
WSOPC Earnings 2011-2012: $30,869
Horseshoe Hammond $560 No Limit Hold’em: 8th for $3,507
IP Casino Biloxi $345 No Limit Hold’em: 3rd for $4,572
Harrah’s Atlantic City $555 No Limit Hold’em: 3rd for $17,105
Palm Beach Kennel Club $345 H.O.R.S.E.: 19th for $755
Palm Beach Kennel Club $345 No Limit Hold’em: 6th for $3,684
Palm Beach Kennel Club $345 No Limit Hold’em Turbo: 9th for $1,246
David Nicholson – Bossier City Main Event Champion
David Nicholson ended up holding the overall points lead after all the WSOPC stops wrapped up with 265, but he didn’t even those to earn his seat. He started the WSOPC season by winning the Bossier City Main Event and locking up one of the first guaranteed spots in the field. He then went on to collect eight more cashes throughout the season.
Even with the Main Event victory, Nicholson flew under the radar for a lot of the year as he collected a string of additional results. After earning nearly $200,000 over the year on the Circuit, he then turned in a final table finish at the WSOP in Event 33, $1,000 No Limit Hold’em, that saw 2,795 entrants. Max Steinberg won the bracelet with Matt Stout, Vincent Van Der Fluit, Doug Carli and Tim Finne all making deep runs. Nicholson finished strong in sixth place.
Nicholson won’t garner much attention at the table. He’s an average looking guy with an average looking game. Nicholson can play a variety of games and gears though, as evidenced by his cashes, and he should bring a sound, steady game to the National Championship.
WSOPC Earnings 2011-2012: $191,034
Bossier City $345 No Limit Hold’em: 5th for $5,707
Bossier City $1,600 Main Event: 1st for $148,590
Horseshoe Hammond $350 Omaha Hi Low: 1st for $17,467
Harrah’s Tunica $1,600 Main Event: 35th for $3,897
Palm Beach Kennel Club $555 No Limit Hold’em: 271st for $1,147
Horseshoe Council Bluffs $350 No Limit Hold’em: 11th for $1,807
Horseshoe Council Bluffs $350 Omaha Hi Low: 6th for $1,943
Horseshoe Council Bluffs $350 Pot Limit Omaha: 3rd for $8,566
Harrah’s New Orleans $355 No Limit Hold’em Turbo: 7th for $1,913
Aaron Massey – At Large Qualifier
Had Aaron Massey been born a decade earlier he might have been a big part of the poker explosion. He’s young, confident, a bit brash and has the mysterious “it” that ESPN’s cameras pick up on.
Born and raised in Chicago, Massey has been traveling across the country alongside Kurt Jewell racking up scores. Massey’s game is a combination of the brashness of Mike Matusow, where his mouth earns him pots, and a Viktor Blom-esque style of aggression, where he’s not afraid to put piles of chips in the pot.
During Massey’s Southern Indiana Main Event final table he had a healthy chip lead going into three-handed play. But a run of cards from runner-up finisher Jacob Bazeley left Massey dazed when he finished in third place.
Massey’s confidence coupled with his talkative table image could serve him well in field where ESPN’s cameras will be looking for the next breakout star.
WSOPC Earnings 2011-2012: $64,889
Horseshoe Southern Indiana $345 No Limit Hold’em Turbo: 16th for $699
Horseshoe Southern Indiana $1,600 Main Event: 3rd for $48,060
Horseshoe Hammond $350 No Limit Hold’em: 19th for $1,794
Harrah’s Tunica $555 No Limit Hold’em: 23rd for $1,017
Harrah’s Tunica $345 No Limit Hold’em: 12th for $2,099
Harrah’s Tuncia $1,600 Main Event: 62nd for $2,871
Palm Beach Kennel Club $1,080 No Limit Hold’em: 12th for $2,963
Harrah’s St. Louis $355 No Limit Hold’em Turbo: 6th for $3,597
Harrah’s New Orleans $355 No Limit Hold’em: 15th for $1,789
AP Phahurat – At Large Qualifier
AP Phahurat, an Oklahoma native, has a relatively new poker resume but he is quickly racking up cashes all over the country, playing in everything from the smallest events to the $25,000 Bellagio event.
He racked up nine cashes in just three Circuit stops and has already cashed three times at this year’s WSOP. He’s well known among serious players in Texas, Oklahoma and took 2nd place in the televised 2011 Harrah’s New Orleans Regional Championship.
Phahurat has the fearlessness that the best players in the world possess and will be totally off the radar of the WSOP POY qualifiers. A deep run in the National Championship could be the exclamation point his career is looking for.
WSOPC Earnings 2011-2012: $68,942
Choctaw Durant $345 No Limit Hold’em: 12th for $4,990
Choctaw Durant $345 No Limit Hold’em: 15th for $1,666
Harrah’s Tunica $345 No Limit Hold’em: 5th for $15,681
Harrah’s Tunica $345 No Limit Hold’em: 11th for $1,908
Harrah’s Tunica $345 No Limit Hold’em Six-Handed: 33rd for $569
Harrah’s Tunica $555 No Limit Hold’em Heads Up: 4th for $5,980
Harrah’s St. Louis $355 No Limit Hold’em Turbo: 10th for $1,413
Harrah’s St. Louis $565 No Limit Hold’em: 11th for $2,501
Harrah’s St. Louis $1,090 No Limit Hold’em: 2nd for $34,234
Jamie Kerstetter – At Large Qualifier
This year’s WSOP has seen a resurgence of female poker players in serious contention for bracelets and final table runs not to mention two bracelet winners – Allyn Jaffrey Shulman and Vanessa Selbst.
Jamie Kerstetter is in the forefront of the movement as one part of The Grindettes – a group of female players that play strong, aggressive poker that also includes Katie Stone, Katie Dozier and Jennifer Shahade.
Away from the table, Kerstetter is a tax attorney that still has time to play along the East Coast. Last year, she cashed in the 2011 WSOP Main Event. Last year’s National Championship saw La Sengphet finish third--could this be the year a woman wins it?
WSOPC Earnings 2011-2012: $49,119
Harrah’s Atlantic City $345 No Limit Hold’em: 33rd for $959
Harrah’s Atlantic City $555 No Limit Hold’em: 29th for $947
Harrah’s Atlantic City $345 No Limit Hold’em Six-Handed: 2nd for $17,813
Harrah’s Atlantic City $1,080 No Limit Hold’em: 6th for $9,145
Harrah’s Atlantic City $1,600 Main Event: 58th for $2,940
Palm Beach Kennel Club $345 No Limit Hold’em: 38th for $604
Palm Beach Kennel Club $345 No Limit Hold’em Six-Handed: 8th for $2,928
Horseshoe Council Bluffs $350 No Limit Hold’em Turbo: 17th for $695
Horseshoe Council Bluffs $1,080 No Limit Hold’em: 4th for $13,088
Roland Israelashvili – At Large Qualifier
Viewers at home won’t know Roland Israelashvili, but with 49 combined WSOP and WSOPC cashes totaling over $1 million since 2005 he’ll be known by just about everyone playing in the National Championship. An Atlantic City legend, now living in Forrest Hill, New York, Israelashvili has played in events raging from $350 to $50,000 from coast to coast.
If there are any questions about Israelashvili’s game, keep in mind he just turned in a 5th place finish in this year’s $50,000 Poker Players Championship good for $317,882. He also just missed a final table in $1,500 event with a 10th place finish earlier this WSOP.
Israelashvili is the living embodiment of a character straight out of “Rounders.” His thick accent, his 1,000 yard stare and all business approach at the table will have viewers looking to Knish for protection.
WSOPC Earnings 2011-2012: $53,980
Harrah’s Atlantic City $345 No Limit Hold’em Turbo: 5th for $4,869
The Bicycle Casino $345 No Limit Hold’em: 38th for $805
Choctaw Durant $345 No Limit Hold’em: 8th for $3,723
Cochtaw Durant $345 No Limit Hold’em Turbo: 38th for $537
Harrah’s Tunica $345 Pot Limit Omaha Hi Low: 21st for $635
Caesars Atlantic City $1,600 Main Event: 6th for $37,148
Horseshoe Council Bluffs $350 No Limit Hold’em: 9th for $1,420
Horseshoe Council Bluffs $350 Omaha Hi Low: 13th for $629
Harrah’s Philadelphia $555 No Limit Hold’em: 15th for $1,089
Harrah’s Philadelphia $1,600 Main Event: 28th for $3,125