WSOP Predictions: Which Players Could Breakout This Year?

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Pavel Plesuv, Adam Owen, Lexi Gavin and Julien Martini are just some of the players poised to have a big year at the WSOP in 2019.

The World Series of Poker has a history of making stars and has played a key role in solidifying the reputation of some of the game’s biggest stars. Finding the players who could enjoy new success on the WSOP stage isn’t an easy task but the PocketFives editorial staff has accepted the challenge.

Jeff Walsh, Senior Writer

You never really know who that “Breakout Player” will be but I’ve got a couple of players I’m keeping my eye on this summer that I think could take the next step and elevate their game.

You might remember Ian Steinman from his hero fold against Joe McKeehan at the 2018 WPT Rolling Thunder Main Event when he spikes a set of kings on the river and after exhausting all of his time bank chips found an amazing fold. Well, Steinman is not only an accomplished online grinder, having won the WSOP.com online Player of the Year award in 2016 but a mid-stakes live beast. Like most amazing NLHE players, he’s fearless at the table and is able to accumulate chips in a hurry. Last year, Steinman barely missed out on his first gold bracelet falling to Eric Baldwin in heads up play in a $1,500 NLHE event, settling for a $197K score for second place. This could be the year he takes the experiences from all those big-time spots and puts it together to pick up his first WSOP win. It feels like it’s just a matter of time for this West Coast grinder and it may be this year.

Speaking of big-time my second pick has already had plenty of time in the spotlight. You might remember Julien Martini from his runner-up finish at this year’s PokerStars Players Championship. Martini is a fantastic player who plays all the games and picked up his first bracelet event in 2018. So, with all these accolades how can he break out? I’m tracking Martini to pick up his second bracelet this year in one of the Championship events. He plays all the games and he’s bringing that PSPC bankroll boost to the summer series. I figure when all is said and done, his price in the 2020 $25K Fantasy Draft is going to go through the roof.

Donnie Peters, Managing Editor

Adam Owen is very much skilled in all poker variants and is known to put in a lot of volume. His name may be known around the poker community, but the Brit has yet to truly breakout. Not only has he not won a WSOP gold bracelet yet, but he’s never experienced a major tournament victory. Specific to the WSOP, Owen has a handful of final tables and a trio of top-three finishes. I’m going to say that 2019 is a huge summer at the World Series of Poker for Owen. He’ll win his first bracelet, rack up the cashes, and contend for WSOP Player of the Year.

Ping Liu is another player who can be considered in a similar light as Owen is. Liu has gained some notoriety through his run on the World Poker Tour this season, and he’s challenging to win the WPT Player of the Year award. Like Owen, his best finish in a WSOP event is a third-place result and he’s still searching for his first major tournament title. Liu has been very much on form in recent months and earned some big scores. He closed out 2018 with a fourth-place finish in the WPT Five Diamond event for $600,000. With his padded bankroll and so many No Limit Hold’em events on the WSOP schedule, look for Liu to make a few big splashes this summer. I can easily see him winning his first WSOP gold bracelet if he puts in any sort of decent volume.

Lance Bradley, Editor in Chief

It’s hard to pick players out of relative obscurity that might enjoy success at the WSOP. That’s why the first player on my list is more of a known commodity that maybe anybody else listed here.

Patrick Leonard is a former #1-ranked player on PocketFives, the current #3-ranked player in the world, and has a little more than $2.4 million in live earnings. Despite all of that, he’s never really had a big WSOP. He only has seven WSOP cashes for $114,229 in earnings but he’s never committed to a full schedule. That changes this year. Leonard is putting the online grind to the side for seven weeks to play a full WSOP schedule. He’s an extremely talented player and will be free of the potential distraction of returning to the online felt. I expect Leonard’s going to find his way deep in a number of events this summer and might finally find himself with a realistic shot at winning his first bracelet.

Each year there’s a handful of players who skyrocket into the public eye with double-digit level cashes after having previously found some success at the Rio. Last year, Lexi Gavin cashed seven times at the WSOP including a 12th place finish in a $1,500 Pot Limit Omaha. That doubles her lifetime career cashes and I don’t see any reason why the upward trend can’t continue. She’s predominantly a No Limit Hold’em player and the WSOP schedule includes an almost endless number of opportunities for her to run up a stack and potentially make her first career final table.