The “Mock Draft”: Ranking The Top 12 Picks for The Inaugural Global Poker League Draft

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On Friday, the Global Poker League released a list of 203 poker professionals who had agreed to a two-year deal to offer their availability to the fledgling organization. Each player has signed a contract – which has generated some controversy in the poker world – and the players are ready to see who the 12 teams in the GPL will pick. The first round, which will take place February 25 at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills, CA, prior to the 2nd Annual American Poker Awards, will be widely watched to see who the team managers – poker professionals themselves – hold in the highest regard. With this in mind, Poker News Daily is putting together the first round “mock draft”; if any of the managers of the GPL decide to fade PND’s picks, we demand a cut of the revenues!

First PickJason Mercier, United States – How can you go with someone outside of Mercier for the first pick? He’s been one of the most consistent performers in poker since 2008, with only one year where he failed to make seven-figures on the tournament poker circuit (2012). He is versatile at several games (not exactly applicable in the GPL, but good to have in the bank if there are any rule changes) and excels at full table, six- and four-handed and heads-up play. Ranked #6 in the world at the end of 2015, Mercier’s a pretty good anchor for your team to have.

Second Pick:  Dominik Nitsche, Germany – As a fan of poker, I’ve always liked Nitsche and his overall approach to the game. While he is an excellent player – as proven by the three World Seires of Poker bracelets and the seven straight years of six figure income from tournament poker (ranked #13 on the GPI) – he also puts on a great face for the audience, a segment that the GPL is going to have to garner if the league is going to be a success. He’s young, photogenic and an outstanding ambassador for the game. When you can get that all in one player, I think he’s (or she) has to be snapped up fairly early.

Third Pick:  Vanessa Selbst, United States – While the women of the poker world have gained acceptance in the managerial seats – Celina Lin (Hong Kong Stars), Maria Ho (Los Angeles Sunset) and Liv Boeree (London Royals) all will be responsible for team management and probably will also step to the felt – there are few that are among the 203 pros eligible for the draft. Selbst (#321 on the GPI) is one of eight women (Kitty Kuo at #308, Kelly Minkin at #342, Natasha Barbour at #347, Xuan Liu at #359, Esther Taylor-Brady at #481, Cate Hall at #651 and Fatima Moreira de Melo are the others) who have declared themselves eligible for the draft (just under 4% of the total field) and arguably is the only one who might be drafted in the first round. Selbst’s overall skills in poker AND her place in the game as arguably the best woman player currently on the felt should hold her in high regards by the managers.

Fourth Pick:  Sorel Mizzi, Canada – If there’s a game of poker going on anywhere, Mizzi always wants to have his hands in it. He’s been fairly successful as a professional also, with three straight years of seven-digit earnings under his belt. There isn’t a challenge that Mizzi doesn’t like to face and it seems that some of the new formats that the GPL is cooking up – timed events, short-handed, etc. – would be right up Mizzi’s alley in figuring out the optimum strategy. There are a couple of other gentlemen who would be right with Mizzi in this regard, including…

Fifth Pick:  Chris Moorman, United Kingdom – By far the most dominant online player of his generation, Moorman is one of the few that has been able to parlay that success into the live arena. Much like Mizzi, he can rapidly adapt to any game situation put in front of him and play that discipline at an optimum level. Add in the fact that he’s earned more money online (over $12 million) than anyone in history, his $4 million-plus live and his World Poker Tour championship (2014 WPT L. A. Poker Classic) and Moorman (a surprising #793 on the GPI) might be a pretty good chap to have on your side.

Sixth Pick:  Brian Rast, Canada – Rast is arguably one of the most underrated players in the world, odd for a guy who has won the WSOP Poker Players’ Championship and has two WSOP bracelets. He also is extremely versatile in a multi-game format, making it fairly easy for him to adapt to a changing discipline. The defending champion of Poker Central’s Super High Roller Bowl (#38 in the GPI) has already shown he can perform on the big stage; a manager that wants a big-time player can’t go wrong with picking Rast.

Seventh Pick:  Fedor Holz, Germany – Get used to Germany supplying many of the players you’ll see in the GPL. Along with the United Kingdom and Canada, these might be the three countries that the most players will come from (outside of the United States). Holz (#9 on the GPI) is only a click behind Nitsche as to his achievements in the game; while Holz has a WPT Alpha8 championship in his pocket, he has yet to capture a major tournament poker championship. Perhaps that will come as a team championship as the inaugural champion of the GPL.

Eighth Pick:  Igor Kurganov, Russia – When you look up the word “fearless” in the dictionary, there is a picture of Kurganov, no definition necessary. Kurganov (#137 in the GPI) is one of the most relentlessly attacking players in the game today, forcing opponents into making mistakes and reaping the rewards. That has parlayed itself into well over $10 million in career earnings for Kurganov, who has terrorized High Roller events but lacks a signature major title on his resume. That attacking style would also translate well into “The Cube” when Kurganov’s team is inside of it.

Ninth Pick:  Antonio Esfandiari, United States – If entertainment is the name of the game, then there’s no reason to leave Esfandiari on the outside looking in for the GPL. One of the top money earners all-time in poker with over $26 million, Esfandiari (#434 in the GPI) might not have the technical skills that some of the players on this list have, but he has something that many of them don’t. Esfandiari is a master showman and would provide endless good copy for the “regular” media to cover and entertain the crowds at live events (that is if he doesn’t “pull his PCA,” if you get my drift).

Tenth Pick:  George Danzer, Germany – Does everyone forget that this guy is a triple WSOP bracelet winner? A former WSOP Player of the Year? Sorry, that was more than a year ago and everyone forgot. Danzer (#205 in the GPI) is an outstanding player that would fit in well with the GPL and its format. If anything else, he’d like to take some shots at Nitsche and Holz to show who is actually the best player from Deutschland!

Eleventh Pick:  Jonathan Duhamel, Canada – If you were going to discuss who has been the most successful WSOP Championship Event winner of the Internet Age (2003-present), you would be left with two men. One of those, Joe Hachem, did not declare for the GPL Draft. The other is Jonathan Duhamel who, along with Hachem, can arguably claim to have been one of the most successful World Champions of the Internet Age. With over $17 million in winnings and three WSOP bracelets, Duhamel (#13 in the GPI) would be able to handle the interview responsibilities that would come with the GPL and would be a fine representative of the “ambassadors” that the WSOP has crowned over the past decade-plus.

Twelfth Pick:  Bertrand Grospellier, France – Yeah, he might not win as much as he used to…yeah, he might not be the young wunderkind he once was. But Grospellier (#192 in the GPI) cut his teeth on live video gaming battles and would find himself right at home in the GPL “Cube.” Grospellier, a poker Triple Crown winner, would be able to help bridge the gap between the GPL and the growing eSports scene, the groundbreaker, if you will, between the two worlds.

This is just the first round of draft picks! There are still two more rounds that the managers need to fill out and a “wild card” selection, just to make it more fun. Who would you put in your “mock draft” for the GPL? What would be the reason for putting them there? It promises to be interesting as the discussions ramp up heading to Draft Day on February 25.

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