There have been many popular players that have come along, or made their name, during the Poker Boom, but this two-part series is not simply a popularity contest; the 10 men I have chosen (sorry ladies) have had a lasting impact on the game of poker, leaving their mark on the game for the current and future generations of poker players. It’s safe to say that without these players the game of poker may be in a very different place.
The list is focused on their impact during the Poker Boom years of 2003-2012, which is why I have left off accomplishments prior to this. So without any further adieu, here are the first five (actually six) players on the list:
T-#10: Viktor “Isildur1” Blom
When Blom came along in late 2009 the poker world was in a bit of a holding pattern, and his million dollar pots on Full Tilt Poker changed high-stakes poker permanently. Blom is the evolution of the aggressive young player that started with players like ElkY –as you’ll see below.
T-#10: Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier
Along with names like Neverwin, Spirit Rock, and the other early online poker savants, ElkY is usually the first name that comes to mind when you ask someone who the first online poker superstar was. Without these young “geniuses” coming along and challenging conventional wisdom it’s hard to say where poker would be today.
#9: Antanas “Tony G” Gouga
Tony G not only entertains at the poker tables, but he has proven to be a very shrewd businessman, creating one of the largest online poker media empires and having his hands in many different projects throughout the poker world. The master marketer has played the role of the villain in poker to perfection, and has been one of the most popular poker players of the last 10 years, with players either loving or hating him.
#8: Gus Hansen
Gus wasn’t simply the first WPT winner or the first televised tournament poker star, he was also the first player to bring the Loose/Aggressive style that had taken hold online into the limelight, and for this he probably changed poker strategically more than anyone during the 2000’s.
#7: Phil Laak
Phil Laak was the first player to make playing poker “trendy” as he eccentrically carved a place in the landscape for hoodies, sunglasses, and wacky behavior. Laak changed the perception that poker players were either grizzled old men or MIT grads, and in the process created a whole new poker subculture.
#6: Doyle Brunson
Doyle is the living legend of poker, and even in his 70’s he was able to perform at an extremely high level at the poker tables, and earn the respect of a whole new generation of poker players. What Doyle has meant to the game is incalculable, and during the boom he continued to drive the conversation, through playing, lending his name to a poker site, writing, and even taking to social media.
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