Several of the best live poker players have achieved celebrity status, with their names and faces known even outside of poker circles. Over the past few years, several online players have also achieved a certain amount of fame with their exploits, the most famous of whom is probably Viktor “Isildur1” Blom. However, even the best online players tend to be known only by other poker players.
While many of these pseudo-celebrities are in fact great poker players, such as Daniel Negreanu, Phil Ivey, and Phil Hellmuth, there are also plenty of excellent poker players who do not enjoy anywhere close to the same amount of fame. Below are our picks for nine of the best players from 2014 that you have probably never heard of!
#9: Rocco Palumbo
The first exceptional poker player that you may not have heard of is Italian poker pro and coach Rocco Palumbo.
Rocco’s live tournament wins include 4 WSOP cashes, including 1 bracelet from the $1,000 No Limit Hold’em (Event #44) in 2012. In 2013, he won the $3,000 No Limit Hold’em WPT Grand Prix in Venice, and has cashed in 2 other WPT events, including an 8th place finish at the $25,000 No Limit Hold’em World Championship in Las Vegas in May 2013. He has also finished in the money 3 times in the European Poker Tour, including 1 final table appearance. In 2014, Rocco cashed in 6 live tournaments, for just $106,680.
In 2014, Rocco’s focus seemed to shift to online poker, where he has demonstrated that he is equally adept. His 2014 online winnings are $1.3M, bringing his lifetime online winnings to just shy of $2.2M. His excellent performance this year is why pocketfives has him currently ranked 24th in their 2014 Points Leaderboard. He also achieved his highest ever ranking by the same site in 2014, peaking at 27th worldwide.
Currently ranked 15th on the PocketFives yearly online leaderboard, Nicholas has just over $1.8M in winnings in 2014, bringing his online winnings on PokerStars to over $4.1M. Despite peaking at 5th in the world, and a current world online ranking of 24th, Nicholas is only ranked 2nd in the small province of Guanacaste, Costa Rica, which has a population of under 400,000! He is ranked behind Chris “Big Huni” Hunichen!
Nicholas’ live winnings are $91,244, but he has not cashed in a major live event since 2012.
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#7: Patrick Leonard
Playing under the username of “pads1161”, Patrick won over $1.1M on PokerStars in 2014, placing him 5th on the pocketfives yearly online poker leaderboard. Even more remarkable is the fact that pokerprolabs.com indicate that his profits exceeded $500k, giving him an ROI of almost 100%!
Patrick’s total online winnings are just shy of $1.5M, meaning that 2014 was his breakout year. At one point this year, pocketfives had Patrick ranked best in the world for online poker, and he is currently ranked 7th.
In addition to his online winnings, the 23 year old Englishman, who currently resides in Budapest, Hungary, has also won $180,722 in live tournament play, with most of that ($164,837) coming in 2014 from 3 cashes.
As impressive as these numbers are, it’s even more impressive when you realize that Patrick normally plays zoom cash games (where winnings are MUCH harder to track). I cannot even begin to imagine how badly he’s crushing cash games if he’s choosing to play them instead of tournaments, where he’s earning roughly 100% ROI!
If 2014 is any indication, then Patrick is only getting started. Keep an eye out for this talented young Brit, and if he’s at your table, you have my deepest condolences!
#6: Igor Kurganov
Many of you may have heard of Igor Kurganov due to his budding relationship with PokerStars Team Pro and poker babe Liv Boeree. What you may not have realized is that he’s an amazing poker player himself, with lifetime live winnings of just under $7.7M (more than triple that of his significantly more famous girlfriend). $1.6M of these winnings were earned in 2014, placing Igor at 44th on the 2014 money list. He is 52nd on the all-time money list for live tournament winnings.
One of the reasons you may not have heard of Igor is that he has never made a final table appearance in a WSOP or WPT event. However, he is a consistent winner on the European Poker Tour, and absolutely tore up the 2013 Aussie Millions with a 1st, 2nd and 4th place finish in the $25,000; $100,000; and $250,000 No Limit Hold’em tournaments respectively (winning just shy of $1.5M that week).
Despite these impressive results, CardPlayer.com has just 1 article written about Igor Kurganov, compared to almost 100 articles about Huck Seed, who is 1 spot BELOW Igor on the all-time poker winnings list from live tournaments!
Igor is also heavily involved in the Raising for Effective Giving (REG) charity, which uses poker-like analysis to maximize the “expected value” of donations, ensuring they go where they will have the most impact.
Despite being just 23 years old, Yuri Martins is already one of the best on the planet. In fact, at the time of writing, pocketfives.com ranks Yuri as the best online player in the world! However, the pocketfives rankings fluctuate so much that by the time I finish writing this paragraph, they will have changed!
This year, Yuri cashed for almost $3.7M, bringing his lifetime online winnings up to just under $4.4M. Most of his winnings come from PokerStars tournaments, where he plays under the username “theNERDguy”.
Although the majority of Yuri’s winnings come from online play, he’s no slouch at live poker either! His lifetime winnings in live poker tournaments total $234,788. In 2014, the Brazilian cashed 4 times in major live events (twice at the WSOP), for total winnings of $75,555.
In 2014, Nicolas won $380k on Full Tilt under username “PokerKaiser”, as well as $861k as “PKaiser” on PokerStars.
These results have placed Nico 3rd on the PocketFives Yearly Online Leaderboard. His total profit on PokerStars was $229,521, an impressive 36% ROI. This brings the Chilean’s total online winnings to just over $7.0M!
In addition to his online winnings, Nicolas has won just over $1.1M from live tournaments. However, he has won just $9,083 from major live tournaments in 2014, from 3 cashes.
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#3: Davidi Kitai
Winamax poker pro Davidi Kitai won just under $2.4M in 2014, placing him 25th on the 2014 money list for live poker tournaments. This brings his total live winnings to over $5.8M, which places him 90th on the all-time money list. In 2014, Davidi cashed 18 times in 10 different countries!
The 35-year old Belgian also plays online, but live tournaments are clearly his primary focus. His Winamax username is “kitbul” and his total winnings in 2014 on his sponsor site are €157,310, with profits of €19,157 (12% ROI). His total winnings on Winamax are just over $700k.
Kitai also plays on PokerStars under the username “legrouzin”, where he has won over $200k. On Full Tilt, his username is “bubbledav”, and his total winnings are $142k.
Playing under username “ThEcLaiMEer” on PokerStars, Rick has won just over $1.2M in 2014, and he is ranked 2nd on the PocketFives Yearly Online Poker Leaderboard. PokerProLabs lists his profit for the year at $378,634, which is a very impressive 44% return on investment (ROI). Rick’s total online earnings exceed $5.4M.
In addition to his online winnings, the 30-year old from Sheffield, United Kingdom also has $619,301 in live winnings. However, in 2014, he won just $18,763 from 3 live cashes.
It was difficult to decide whether Jungleman deserved to be included in this list. While there is no question of his skill, it is debatable whether or not he qualifies as a “lesser known” pro. I mean, he does have his own page on Wikipedia! However, once we realized that his profile on the hendon mob database has received less than half as many views as Igor Kurganov, and less than a third as many as Davidi Kitai, it was decided that his inclusion is justified.
Daniel ranked 21st on the 2014 money-list with winnings of just under $2.6M from 3 cashes (all super-high-roller events with buy-ins of at least $100,000). 2014 brings his lifetime winnings to just under $3.2M, making this a breakout year for him in live events. Undoubtedly we will be seeing a lot more of him from 2015 onwards!
Jungleman is currently 241st on the all-time money list, but if he continues to cash in super high-roller events, his position will rapidly climb.
Despite these impressive live winnings, Jungleman makes considerably more playing high stakes cash games online. He is currently ranked 3rd on the highstakedb biggest poker winners list, where his profile has been viewed more times than Phil Ivey’s (adding to the argument that he does not qualify as a “lesser known” pro).
Playing high stakes cash games under the username “jungleman12” on Full Tilt, Daniel won $2.8M in 2014, and another $0.6M on PokerStars as “w00ki3z”. His combined lifetime winnings playing high stakes cash games on both sites are $11.4M!