Who were the ’10 Best Pro Poker Players’ of 2008?

After a year of huge cash games and tournaments, here are PokerPlayer’s ten best players of 2008

1 Bertrand Grospellier

The PokerStars-sponsored pro, better known as ElkY, shot to stardom after winning $ 2m at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in January. The Frenchman cemented his superstar credentials with his first WPT title for another $ 1.41m payday in October. He didn’t let his online game slip either, cashing in seven PokerStars WCOOP events in September, including a $ 320k runner-up finish in the $ 25k heads-up.

2008 prize money: $ 3,661,181

Best result: PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (EPT) – $ 7,800 no-limit Hold’em; 1st, $ 2,000,000

2 Jason Mercier

This young American had a huge impact on the tournament circuit in 2008. In his first ever live cash he won the EPT San Remo, which was good for €869,000. And he proved it was no fluke by final-tabling the EPT Barcelona and WSOPE Pot-Limit Omaha event in September, finishing up his European vacation with a first-place finish for £519,000 in the first ever PokerStars High Roller event at the EPT in London.

2008 prize money: $ 2,752,423

Best result: EPT San Remo – 4,700 no-limit Hold’em; 1st, €869,000

3 John Phan

Despite being one of the most established live pros on the circuit, Phan has had to wait nearly a decade for his first WPT and WSOP titles. And then like London buses, three came along at once. In fact, Phan was the only player to win two bracelets at this year’s World Series, one of which he won by simply shoving in blind. Although his WSOP haul was well shy of the seven-figure mark, he ticked that box in August when he won the WPT Legends of Poker for $ 1.1m.

2008 prize money: $ 2,101,766

Best result: Legends of Poker (WPT) – $ 9,500 no-limit Hold’em; 1st, $ 1,091,428

4 John Juanda

While his fellow Full Tilt pros have been racking up tournament wins and final tables over the past few years, Juanda has found tournament success hard to come by. But that all changed in October when he took down the WSOPE Main Event for £868,500. He then went on to finish second in the High Roller event at EPT London a few days later for another £327k. Add to that five WSOP cashes, including three final tables, and it’s been a vintage year for Juanda.

2008 prize money: $ 2,401,366

Best result: WSOPE – £10,000 World Championship; 1st, £868,800

5 Ivan Demidov

When the young Russian took his place in the November Nine at the WSOP Main Event back in July, no one knew much about him. Three months on, and having put in another incredible performance to finish third in the WSOPE Main Event in London, Demidov became an overnight sensation. He eventually finished second to Peter Eastgate in Vegas for nearly $ 6m; but in terms of achievements, Demidov’s final-tabling of both World Series Main Events in the same year may never be replicated.

2008 prize money: $ 6,458,444

Best result: WSOP – $ 10,000 Hold’em World Championship; 2nd, $ 5,809,595

6 David Benyamine

It’s been an incredible year for the Frenchman with three final tables at the WSOP, including his first bracelet win in the $ 10k Omaha Hi-Lo event for over $ 500k. And less than a month later he went close to winning his third WPT title by coming second for $ 840k in the Bellagio Cup main event. But these wins were dwarfed by his assault on the online cash tables, where it’s estimated he’s up nearly $ 4m at PLO alone this year. Benyamine is arguably the best all-round poker player in the world at present.

2008 prize money: $ 2,169,012

Best result: WSOP – $ 10,000 Omaha Hi-Lo World Championship; 1st, $ 535,687

7 Erick Lindgren

E-Dog doesn’t play many tournaments these days, preferring to spend his time on the golf course or taking prop bets. But he’s always around for the WSOP. And 2008 was a special year for Lindgren. Perhaps the best player never to have won a bracelet, Erick remedied that in the $ 5k Mixed Hold’em event. He went on to make two more final tables, including third in the $ 50k H.O.R.S.E., giving him enough points to be awarded WSOP Player of the Year.

2008 prize money: $ 1,501,493

Best result: 2008 WSOP – $ 5,000 Limit/No-Limit Hold’em; 1st, $ 374,505

8 Peter Eastgate

The new world champion! At 22 years of age, the Dane took Hellmuth’s crown of youngest ever Main Event winner in style, with an accomplished display in front of the biggest poker TV audience ever. And just to prove he’s not going to be a one-hit wonder a la Jerry Yang, Eastgate managed a very creditable 18th-place finish at the EPT London. For once, a poker ambassador who looks like he might actually bring something to the game and poker community at large for the next 12 months.

2008 prize money: $ 9,198,897

Best result: 2008 WSOP – $ 10,000 No-Limit Hold’em World Championship; 1st, $ 9,152,416

9 Neil Channing

As a veteran live cash game pro, the past 12 months have been something of a departure for top Brit player Neil Channing. After six cashes at the WSOP in Vegas, followed by two more at the European leg (including a fourth-place finish in the £1,500 NLHE event), and a string of GUKPT side event finishes, Channing’s tournament hoodoo seems to have vanished. But for all his consistency, his year was encapsulated in one magical week back in April when he took down the prestigious Irish Open title for over €800,000.

2008 prize money: $ 1,594,802

Best result: 2008 Irish Open – €4,200 no-limit Hold’em; 1st, €801,400

10 Erik Seidel

Proof that it’s not all about the online kids, it’s been another amazing year for Full Tilt pro Erik Seidel. He’s amassed over $ 2.2m from live tourneys, taking his lifetime prize money close to the magical $ 10m mark, and despite not adding to his eight WSOP bracelets, he managed five cashes and two final tables in Vegas. But the highlights of his year were a second-place finish at the Aussie Millions in January for A$ 1m, only bettered by winning his first WPT title at Foxwoods for nearly       $ 1m.

2008 prize money: $ 2,200,333

Best result: Foxwoods Poker Classic (WPT) – $ 9,700 no-limit Hold’em; 1st, $ 992,890

Honourable mentions: David Chiu, Glen Chorny, Barry Greenstein, Jesper Hougaard, Phil Ivey, Alexander Kostritsyn, Michael Martin, Mike Matusow, Daniel Negreanu, Scotty Nguyen, David Pham, Sebastian Ruthenberg, Yevgeniy Timoshenko

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