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Top-10 poker players to watch in 2011

3 January 2011

One of the best things about poker is its unpredictability. Thomas Marchese never cashed in a live event before 2010. Now he is the reigning Card Player "Player of the Year." If you say knew who Jonathan Duhamel was before this year, you are either lying or you're his cousin. Knowing full well that this list will look vastly different next year, here are Casino City's top-10 poker players to watch in 2011.

10. Thomas Marchese

Thomas "kingsofcards" Marchese burst onto the poker scene after winning the NAPT Venetian Main Event in February, earning a payday of over $825,000. The New Jersey native was a major player throughout the year, as he final tabled EPT events in Monte Carlo and London as well as finishing sixth in a $10,000 Pot Limit Hold'em event at the WSOP. He finished third at a televised WPT event at Foxwoods in October and capped off his terrific year by finishing fifth at the $5,000 No Limit Hold'em Bounty Shootout at the NAPT Los Angeles. Marchese won the 2010 Card Player "Player of the Year" award last week.

9. Eric Baldwin

The player who won the NAPT Los Angeles Bounty Shootout, an event broadcasted on ESPN2, was Eric "basebaldy" Baldwin. The former Division III baseball player also preceded Marchese as the 2009 Card Player "Player of the Year." His most lucrative result of 2010 occurred in $25,000 No Limit Hold'em WPT Championship Event in Las Vegas, where he earned $1,034,715 after finishing second to David Williams. Casual poker fans were introduced to Baldwin this year after his fantastic performance in the 2010 WSOP Main Event, where he finished 59th. With Phil Hellmuth and Annie Duke splitting from, will Baldwin become the most recognizable face of the online poker room? If he is able to continue posting top-tier results like he has over the last two years, there's no doubt he will.

8. Jason Mercier

Jason Mercier, like Baldwin, won a NAPT Bounty Shootout event in 2010. His victory came at Mohegan Sun in April. He won $475,000 for his efforts, his biggest cash of the year. Mercier's finished 2010 on an upswing, as he just barely missed making the final table at the WPT event in Foxwoods and finished in seventh place at the NAPT Los Angeles Main Event. Expect this Team PokerStars Pro to remain near the top of the leaderboard both in live and online events.

7. Annette Obrestad

The most anticipated debut in recent history involved Annette Obrestad competing in her first World Series of Poker in the U.S. And for any other player, her debut would have been considered a successful WSOP. She cashed in four events and just missed final tabling a $1,500 No Limit Hold'em Shootout event. But the expectations for the 2007 WSOPE Main Event champion were sky-high. Obrestad did win the £5,000 No Limit Hold'em heads-up event at the EPT London in September. The spotlight will surely stay on the Norwegian in 2011, especially come World Series time.

6. Isildur1

The Scandinavian man of mystery made headlines last month after it was announced he would be joining Team PokerStars and compete in a series of matches called the "SuperStar Showdown." He lost $41,701 to Issac Haxton in round one of the Showdown, but managed to win $44,280 from Tony G on Sunday. It has been rumored that Isildur1's real identity will be revealed sometime soon, but even if that doesn't occur, this high-stakes star will manage to remain in the headlines.

5. Vanessa Selbst

Vanessa Selbst proved that few players in the world are in her league when it comes to poker on both sides of the Atlantic in 2010. The Yale Law School student burst back on the poker scene in a big way, winning the inaugural North American Poker Tour Mohegan Sun Main Event. Selbst had taken much of 2009 off to focus on her studies, but after that major win in April, she decided to enter her hat into more tournaments. That decision paid off in a big way. She became a Team PokerStars Pro in the summer and cashed in the WSOP Main Event. She capped off the year by winning the Partouche Poker Tour Main Event in France in November. That major win earned her more than $1.8 million. If she decides to stay focused on poker 2011, look out.

4. Michael Mizrachi

Michael Mizrachi was well-known before 2010; not too many players own two WPT titles. But the year started off on the wrong foot for the Grinder, as reports surfaced that he owed $339,000 to the IRS after some failed real estate investments in Florida. Those reports are long-forgotten now, as the Grinder put together one of the most memorable World Series runs in history. He won his first gold bracelet in the $50,000 Poker Player's Championship and took home more than $1.5 million. He final tabled three other events, including the Main Event. Will he be able to keep the momentum going in 2011? Is that even possible?

3. Jonathan Duhamel

Speaking of players who will have a difficult time replicating 2010, it's safe to say Jonathan Duhamel will never have another year like last year's. The Montreal-native made history by becoming the first Canadian to win the WSOP Main Event. The nearly $9 million payday that came with the title vaulted Duhamel to 16th in poker's all-time money list. Recent Main Event winners, however, haven't fared so well. Joe Cada, the 2009 champ, cashed in only one live tournament in 2010, and that was in January. And the 2008 world champion, Peter Eastgate, retired from the game because of the toll it took on him. Will Duhamel be able to reverse this trend?

2. Tom Dwan

Our eyes are always on Tom "durrrr" Dwan, and 2011 should be no different. The Team Full Tilt pro is always in the headlines, and we look forward to these questions being answered this year: Will the "durrrr Challenge" ever be completed? How much money will be on the line at the World Series of Poker in terms of bracelet bets? Can "durrrr" break through and win his first major live title? Is it possible for a 24-year-old to suffer that many million dollar swings and not have a heart attack?

1. Phil Ivey

Who else would be No. 1 on this list? Phil Ivey proved once again in 2010 that he's the best all-around poker player on the planet. He won his eighth WSOP bracelet in the $3,000 H.O.R.S.E. event and cashed in WPT, NAPT, WSOPE and EPT events. This doesn't even take into account his online play, as he is routinely found at the nosebleed games on Full Tilt Poker. The "Tiger Woods of Poker" has been in the spotlight since winning three bracelets at the 2002 World Series of Poker. We don't think the glare will affect him.
Top-10 poker players to watch in 2011 is republished from