Over the next few months, as online poker in Pennsylvania goes from a pipe dream to reality, at least a few of the newest operators in the state will be looking for players to bring on board as Team Pros or Ambassadors.
The criteria they’ll apply in their search includes looking for players who have had some success in the live or online poker arenas, have the respect of their peers, have a social media following or create content of their own, and most importantly, they have to want to be an ambassador.
Two of the most likely choices are off the board. Jennifer Shahade is already a member of Team PokerStars and Esther Taylor has been a PARX Ambassador for four years now. With those two already taken, here’s a look at five more players that could find themselves joining a new team once sites go live this fall.
Once ranked as high as #4 in the PocketFives Rankings, Zach Gruneberg has spent the past few years returning to glory after overcoming an addiction to opiates. Now five years clean, Gruneberg has put up impressive results in the live arena including a runner-up finish in the World Poker Tour’s Borgata Poker Open in 2016.
This past summer he recorded nine cashes at the 2019 World Series of Poker and worked alongside T.J. Jurkiewicz to create a series of vlogs called Behind the Grind. Just 28 years old, Gruneberg has shown his talent on both virtual and live felts and a willingness to market himself to the poker community. Two things that make for a fantastic combination with any potential ambassador.
Career Live Earnings: $8,266,591
With all the respect due to Matt Glantz, Jake Schindler, and John Hennigan, Paul Volpe is clearly on a path to becoming the greatest poker player that Pennsylvania has ever produced. That is of course if it’s not already there.
The West Chester, PA native, who owns three WSOP bracelets, has been one of the most consistent players in $10,000 or bigger buy-in events over the last five years. Of his 55 WSOP cashes, 24 of them are in $10,000 “Championship” events and he’s also found the money in the WSOP Main Event five times. He’s also a former #1-ranked player on PocketFives.
Volpe has also done some streaming, mainly video games such as Fortnite though.
cant stop playing @FortniteGame. keeping me up all night lol..
— paul volpe (@paulgees81) December 26, 2017
Career Live Earnings: $957,459
Maybe the least known name on this list, Anthony Maio calls New Jersey home now after growing up in New Hope, PA. The 31-year-old moved to the Garden State to take advantage of the legal online poker and Atlantic City card rooms. Now with the online poker coming to Pennsylvania and the growing live scene, Maio could be enticed to return home and rock a patch.
Maio, who reached #51 in the PocketFives Rankings in 2018, has a live resume that includes a third place finish in the WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open (2014), a sixth place finish in the WPT Borgata Poker Open (2018), and a runner-up finish in the $1,000 Online Championship event at the 2018 WSOP. He also won the Chris Moneymaker Tour Online event last September which earned him one of the highly coveted Platinum Pass which awarded him a seat into the $25,000 PokerStars Players Championship event where he finished 130th for $35,000.
In the months before Black Friday, Mark Herm was a regular in the top 10 of the PocketFives Rankings. Reaching as high as #5, Herm picked up wins in the PokerStars Sunday Million (2010) and the Full Tilt Poker (2008). His biggest live cash came in 2016 when he won a $1,600 Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza event for $310,114.
He hasn’t recorded an online result since 2016 and his last live cash came in 2018, but Herm has developed a loyal following and through training site, Tournament Poker Edge began producing The Chirp Herm Show, a podcast the featured interviews with the likes of Nick Petrangelo, Darren Elias, and Volpe. His experience online combined with his ability to produce content could make him an interesting choice for any site.
Career Live Earnings: $1,580,797
In at least one of the major cities in Pennsylvania, the name Kalas might as well be royalty. The son of legendary Philadelphia Phillies broadcaster, Harry Kalas, Kane Kalas has made a name for himself in the poker world for his work both on the felt and in the broadcast booth.
Kalas, who now lives in Puerto Rico and is heavily involved in cryptocurrency markets, finished runner-up in the 2014 WPT Borgata Poker Open event for a career-high $500,364. In 2018, he worked with Randy Lew to broadcast the Triton Super High Roller Series in Montenegro before jumping into one of the largest live-streamed cash games ever where he beat Jason Koon in a $1.8 million pot.