Poker has enjoyed a truly remarkable worldwide resurgence in the last decade or so and, while this newfound popularity is global, it’s fair to say that this has been driven largely by the US. The game has now well and truly entered the mainstream and some of its most famous players have become household names. Perhaps not surprisingly many of these poker superstars, with their larger-than-life personalities, are American, helping to bolster the country’s status as the spiritual home of poker.
Phil Hellmuth, who hails from the US, is one such character who could be accurately described as a modern day poker icon. Hellmuth seems to thrive on controversy, openly arguing with other players and even walking out of tournaments in anger when things do not go his way. Winner of a record 14 World Series of Poker bracelets, he has become a firm favorite with the fans by successfully combining an undeniable skill with an almost aggressive approach.
Nevertheless, some of the most interesting new players appearing on the scene are giving tournaments a distinctly European flavor and challenging the supremacy of the US in tournaments across the continent.
The German Dominik Nitsche is an interesting contrast to Hellmuth. While they have equally fearsome levels of skill, their personalities are notably different. Nitsche’s style is so quiet, methodical and rooted in deep-thinking that he has even been compared to chess players in his approach. He already has two World Series of Poker bracelets, to go with his World Poker Tour win, and it would appear to be only a matter of time until he wins his third.
Another player who has caught international attention is Adrián Mateos Díaz, a Spaniard who won the 2013 World Series of Poker Europe tournament, along with its €1,000,000 prize money, at the tender age of 19. He then went on to win the European Poker Tour Grand Final in Monte Carlo, becoming the first Spanish player to do so.
Fabrice Soulier is another one to watch. This Frenchman previously worked in television before becoming a professional poker player. He currently lives in Las Vegas and, along with numerous tournament successes such as being runner-up to Adrián Mateos Díaz in 2013, he has used his media skills to help promote the game by establishing a poker information site.
The World Series of Poker Europe is the first expansion franchise of the World Series of Poker outside of the US and is therefore one of the most exciting places to see the European rising stars in action. Some commentators from the world of poker have even gone so far as to describe it as the start of a new golden age for European poker talent, with Germany in particular earmarked as a hotbed of talent.
As the popularity of the game continues to grow from a global perspective, it would appear that the dominance of the US may actually be getting diluted. While this is frustrating for some fans, it can only be good for the game of poker as a whole, as a new generation of players from across the globe help the game to continue to grow in terms of entertainment, competition and popularity.