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Top 10 poker players to watch in 2019

31 Dec 2018

By Tadas Peckaitis
We've arrived at the end of 2018. It's been a year filled with exciting events in the poker world. Some new players burst onto the scene, some old ones made a comeback, and fans of the game had plenty of opportunities to enjoy themselves.

There's no better time to look into some names that made their mark the past 12 months and come up with a list of players to watch in 2019. Although a lot of it is up to the poker gods, it's always interesting to speculate about who'll fill the poker media headlines in the months to come.

10. Antonio Esfandiari
It was almost as if the Magician pulled a disappearing act in 2018, with only few recorded live results and nothing to write home about. While this may not be the best indicator of what’s to come, Esfandiari probably still has a few card tricks up his sleeve, so we might see much more of him in 2019, with much better results.

Negreanu is 2nd on the all-time money list.

Negreanu is 2nd on the all-time money list. (photo by Wikimedia Commons)

9. Daniel Negreanu
Lately, Negreanu has been picking up a lot of publicity on his social media profiles for things that aren’t necessarily related to poker. However, whatever anyone’s personal opinion of "Kid Poker" may be, he’s proven time and time again that he has what it takes to survive even in the toughest competitions, filled with experienced pros and internet "wizards."

Although he finished runner-up in the 2018 Super High Roller Bowl, the last year definitely wasn’t the best for Negreanu in terms of poker. In 2019, he’ll likely be looking to get his groove back and possibly reclaim his place on the top of the all-time money list.

8. Daniel ‘Jungleman’ Cates
Although he started off as one of the “internet kids,” Daniel Cates, better known by his online alias ‘Jungleman,’ has certainly made a successful transition into the world of live poker. Once a silent guy relying only on math and numbers, Cates has been working a lot to improve his live skills as well, trying to engage his opponents in a conversation and take advantage of any live tells.

The past year was a decent one for Cates as he was also one of the players to get involved in the Triton series, making some decent scores in big buy-in events. It will be interesting to see if Jungleman will continue his efforts on the live circuit in 2019 and how his speech play is getting along.

7. Daniel Colman
Currently sitting in the sixth spot on the all-time poker earnings list, Dan Colman had his biggest breakthrough back in 2014 when he finished runner up in the $1,000,000 One Drop event, pocketing $15.3 million. However, we barely saw anything from him in 2018, and he is definitely one to watch out for in 2019.

Like many from his generation, Colman is a master of online poker, taking full advantage of various poker tools and software, but he has also proven he’s got what it takes to compete against the best in the live arena. After an uneventful 2018, it's likely we’ll see much more of him at the tables in the next 12 months.

6. Nikita Bodyakovskiy
A name that only recently became known to the wider poker audience, Nikita Bodyakovskiy has definitely left his mark on the circuit in 2018. The Belarus poker beast finishes the year as the second-biggest tournament winner, with $14.3 million in cashes in the past 12 months. Like Koon, Nikita has been dominating various high buy-in events in the Triton Series, but he also managed to make his mark on the European Poker Tour. There is little to no doubt that Bodyakovskiy will look to continue in much the same fashion in 2019.

5. Doug Polk
Although we haven’t seen much of Polk in 2018 — primarily because he decided to take a step away from playing, focusing on his poker training site and his YouTube endeavors — we might be seeing more of him on the felt in 2019. Whether it will be in the virtual arena or on the live circuit, it is hard to believe that one of the best online players will really leave the game for good.

4. Jason Koon
Hailing from the U.S., Jason Koon is another member of the younger generation of players who took the poker world by storm. Koon’s career earnings at the time of this writing are in excess of $22 million, and more than half of that came in 2018. Koon’s been particularly active in Triton High Roller Series tournaments, with a lot of success, and there is no doubt he’ll look to continue in the same manner in 2019.

Cynn is definitely one of the players to watch for in the upcoming period.

Cynn is definitely one of the players to watch for in the upcoming period. (photo by Flickr)

3. John Cynn
Although he may not be as well-known as some of the other players in this article, you can never dismiss a player who managed to take down a WSOP Main Event in this day and age. The victory brought Cynn $8.8 million and the fame that comes with the title, but we haven’t seen much of the latest champion after the summer. Things might change in 2019, and Cynn is definitely one of the players to watch for in the upcoming period.

2. Fedor Holz
A German pro with a strong resume and $32.5 million in live tournament cashes, Holz is always a player to keep an eye on. Fedor may have taken a step back from poker and doesn’t play as much as he used to, but he’s got skills that have helped him stay near the top at all times. In 2018, the bulk of his earnings came from the second place finish in the $1,000,000 One Drop event, where his heads-up strategy eventually proved insufficient to outlast Bonomo.

1. Justin Bonomo
Say what you want about his hairstyles, Justin Bonomo has proven time and time again that he belongs in the group of the poker elite. With more than $43 million in live tournament cashes, Bonomo has been dominating the tournament circuit — and 2018 was definitely his year. In the past 12 months, he cashed for over $25 million.

Justin started the year winning the 2018 PCA Super High Roller for over $1 million and continued to crush, his success culminating with a victory in the WSOP Big One for One Drop, which came with a $10 million prize. If his recent success is any indicator, Bonomo clearly tops the list of the ones to watch in 2019.
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