On the eve of the inaugural Global Poker League season, all but one of the franchises have solidified its wildcard selections. The one team yet to do so is the Los Angeles Sunset, managed by Maria Ho.
Of the 11 franchises to select wildcard players, only Philipp Gruissem of the Berlin Bears and Andre Akkari of the Sao Paulo Metropolitans did not select themselves to be part of the team. This announcement was an especially surprising one for the Sao Paulo Metropolitans knowing how much notoriety Akkari has in his home country. In Brazil, Akkari's celebrity status has extended well beyond the walls of the poker industry.
Let's take a look at all the wildcard selections that have been announced.
London Royals — Liv Boeree and Sam Trickett
As expected, Liv Boeree, the London Royals manager, selected herself as one of the two wildcard picks. Boeree then filled out the sixth and final spot on the roster with Sam Trickett.
Between the two of them, over $23.5 million in live tournament earnings are represented, according to statistics from the HendonMob at time of writing. Boeree's largest score came when she won the European Poker Tour Sanremo Main Event to the tune of €1.25 million ($1.7 million) in 2010. Trickett's came in 2012 when he took second in the inaugural Big One for One Drop at the World Series of Poker for over $10.1 million. Additionally, Trickett's live poker career boasts four other scores worth more than $1.3 million.
With Boeree on the team, she can now work even closer with her boyfriend and team member Igor Kurganov. Trickett can be viewed as an excellent choice for the London squad both in poker prowess and notoriety. He'll certainly be someone recognized by poker fans near and far, and he often wears his emotions on his sleeve, which can resonate well with an audience.
Paris Aviators — Fabrice Soulier and Alexandre Luneau
Like Boeree, Fabrice Soulier opted to select himself as a wildcard player for his franchise, the Paris Aviators. The other roster spot was assigned to online cash-game specialist Alex "Alexonmoon" Luneau.
Soulier boasts nearly $6 million in live tournament earnings and one WSOP gold bracelet. Luneau's live poker accomplishments pale in comparison with under $200,000 in live earnings, but he's widely considered as one of the top high-stakes cash-game players in the world in the online realm. It's this online component of Luneau's game that Soulier and the rest of the Paris Aviators will be hoping translates best to the GPL format.
Moscow Wolverines — Analtoly Filatov and Igor Yaroshevsky
The Moscow Wolverines manager Anatoly Filatov added himself and the current Ukrainian No. 1 Igor Yaroshevsky as wildcards. Yaroshevsky tops the Ukrainian Global Poker Index ranking and boasts nearly $1.7 million in live tournament earnings.
Yaroshevsky is a tough competitor with an aggressive, never-back-down playing style. His career record has seen him earn six-figure paydays four times, with final tables in marquee WSOP and World Poker Tour events.
Filatov is also an exciting player to watch, but some might be distracted by the wardrobe he brings to the table. Always colorful, stylish, and not afraid to rock a bright pair of pants with some jazzy suspenders and a bowtie, Filatov is a fun-loving character who presents a fierce likeness. He's someone who will be as focused as ever at the table, but when he's not trying to take chips at the table, Filatov will be smiling ear to ear.
The Russian youngster boasts nearly $1.3 million in live tournament earnings with four six-figure prizes.
Rome Emperors — Max Pescatori and Todd Brunson
The manager who had the first pick in the GPL draft was Max Pescatori. Many expected him to take fellow Italian Mustapha Kanit, and he did, but not many expected to see him select Todd Brunson as a wildcard player for the Rome Emperors.
It's not to say that Brunson isn't a good selection, because how can one argue with over $4.1 million in live tournament earnings and a WSOP gold bracelet? He's also widely considered one of the top cash-game players in the world at the highest stakes.
Pescatori boasts around the same amount of live tournament earnings, but he has four WSOP gold bracelets to his credit, including winning two in 2015. With his addition to the team, the Rome Emperors now have the first-, second-, and fourth-ranked players on Italy's all-time money list on the roster.
Berlin Bears — Bill Perkins and Dan Cates
As mentioned, Berlin Bears team manager Gruissem didn't select himself as a wildcard for the franchise, but some expected this after seeing that Gruissem had the WPT's Lynn Gilmartin fill in for him during the GPL draft. To put it simply, if a manager is unable to make it to the draft, which is arguably the most important part of the GPL process, then you'd think he would continue to take a backseat approach to managing for the rest of the activities.
Nonetheless, Gruissem has selected two players who couldn't be more opposite, but that each bring something unique to the table.
Bill Perkins is a businessman who frequents the high-stakes poker scene. He's a fun-loving guy who can regularly be seen on his social media platforms riding on yachts in the Virgin Islands. Whenever Perkins does play poker, it's more more money than most of us will see in a year or two of salary and he's always having a good time with it. Although Perkins doesn't always look like he's seriously competitive, he is, and the combination of his competitiveness and enthusiastic attitude should go a long way with audience members.
The other wildcard was Dan Cates, or better known as "Jungleman" to the poker community. Cates is a high-stakes online player who can be seen as a bit of an introvert. At times, his attitude has been known to rub people the wrong way, and who can forget the time he threw chips at Jeff Rossiter after being eliminated from a tournament? Even so, most players recognise Cates as a highly-skilled, fearful competitor at the table — and he's the opposite of Perkins.
Hong Kong Stars — Celina Lin and Randy Lew
The Hong Kong Stars joined in on the trend of having the team manager also as a player, with Celina Lin selecting herself as one of the wildcards. Lin boasts nearly $600,000 in live tournament earnings, with a career-best score of $110,077 when she won the Macau Poker Cup Red Dragon in 2012.
Her other wildcard selection was none other than Randy "nanonoko" Lew. Although Lew has over $1.1 million in live tournament earnings, he is best known for his time spent grinding 20-plus tables of games online at PokerStars where he has won millions of dollars in cash games. Lew is also an avid streamer on Twitch and formerly a competitive video gamer specialising in Marvel vs. Capcom, Street Fighter, and Tekken.
Lew is a likable character with an extremely friendly personality, although it may take him a little bit of time to open up to the cameras and the audience. Once he does, though, he'll likely be one of the most enjoyed players in the GPL.
Las Vegas Moneymaker — Chris Moneymaker and Scott Ball
If Chris Moneymaker didn't select himself to the team that carries his name, the Las Vegas Moneymakers, then we should stop the league before it ever starts. But, Moneymaker did, so we don't have to worry about that. Now he'll look to put his poker stardom to work by marketing his team to the worldwide audience of the GPL.
One way Moneymaker and his franchise can help grab hold of the Twitch audience right from the start is with Scott Ball, the team's other wildcard selection. Ball works for Twitch as the Community Development and Poker Manager, but now his second job will be helping to propel the Moneymakers to victories in the GPL.
Montreal Nationals — Marc-Andre Ladouceur and Jason Lavallee
Like Lew from the Hong Kong Stars, Marc-Andre Ladouceur is know for his excellent online poker play. He's also a PokerStars-sponsored player, and that's where you'll find him playing high stakes on the regular. Ladouceur also boasts over $1.7 million in live tournament earnings, including two deep runs in the WSOP Main Event in 2011 and 2012. In 2011, Ladouceur, who is also the team manager for the Montreal Nationals, finished in 63rd for $130,997. He followed that performance up with a 13th-place finish in 2012 for $465,159.
Ladouceur then selected Jason Lavallee as the other wildcard, adding another Canadian to the mix. Lavallee has nearly $2.5 million in live tournament earnings. Most notably, he won the EPT London High Roller in 2013 for £357,700 ($579,975).
New York Rounders — Bryn Kenney and Tyler Kenney
Before you go and Google "are Bryn Kenney and Tyler Kenney brothers," just know that they are, and they'll both be representing the New York Rounders as Bryn selected himself and his younger sibling to the squad.
Bryn is the more well known of the two, with nearly $9.5 million in live tournament winnings and results from some of the biggest poker tournaments on the planet. He's coming off a record year, too, winning $2.1 million in 2015, but he's already smashed that mark in 2016 by winning more than $2.7 million through the first couple of months.
Tyler has over $950,000 in live tournament earnings, but he's no slouch on the felt. He has multiple deep runs in WSOP and WPT events, plus a third-place finish in the now-defunct North American Poker Tour Mohegan Sun for $170,000 back in 2011.
San Francisco Rush — Faraz Jaka and Jonathan Jaffe
The San Francisco Rush, captained by Faraz Jaka, are another one of the 12 franchises that will see its manager join the ranks of the players in the trenches.
With over $5 million in live tournament earnings and a solid record on the virtual felt as well, Jaka will be one tough cookie to crack so long as his wild, out-of-the-box style of play doesn't backfire against him as it has many times before. Whether or not you agree with some of the moves Jaka makes at the table, you have to appreciate to aggressive and creative style he brings to the table, and that could be just the thing that excels in the GPL.
Another interesting player is Jonathan Jaffe, and he's set to join the Rush thanks to Jaka selecting him as the second wildcard pick. Like Jaka, Jaffe plays a bit whacky at times, but it's done well for him, as he's earned nearly $2.2 million in live tournament earnings and a WPT title in his career.
Sao Paulo Metropolitans — Felipe Ramos and João Bauer
Last, but certainly not least, are the Sao Paulo Metropolitans, managed by Andre Akkari, as previously mentioned. Akkari did not select himself as a wildcard, which proved surprising to many, but he select Felipe Ramos to the team.
A native to Brazil, Ramos is well known in the poker world, especially Brazil, and has over $1 million in live tournament earnings. He's also a Friend of PokerStars who serves as the poker coach to Neymar — yes, that Neymar.
The other wildcard is João Bauer, with over $600,000 in live tournament earnings. Bauer make be unknown to the general poker audience, but he's known in Brazilian poker circles as an excellent player. His best live tournament result in terms of prize money was in 2011 when he took second in the Latin American Poker Tour Sao Paulo Main Event for over $200,000. The biggest live win of his career was in February of 2015 when he won the Brazilian Series of Poker Sao Paulo Main Event to the tune of $131,542, defeating a field of 1,082 entries.