2007 World Series: Worldwide Heater

In the three or so years I've been writing blogs for PokerStars, I've been fortunate to meet a lot of young players in various places around the globe. Not only do these guys have an insane understanding of the game, they have one additional quality that some of their contemporaries do not: They are mature beyond their years. If you look at the kind of money these guys have made off poker in the past several years, you could almost expect them to be a little too proud.

In the first half-day of the $5,000 Pot-Limit Hold'em event, I've seen four of these guys. If you read here regularly, you already know their names and faces. If you're just tuning in, here's a few guys that I enjoy watching play.

Terrence Chan

Terrence Chan is everything from a huge cash game player to tournament force. He's led Team Costa Rica to a World Cup of Poker win and gone deep in a number of tournaments I watched him play. Today, he's got a nice chip stack after the first few hours of play. When told it looks like he's off to a good start, he humbly responded, "I'm not going to complain."

I look back over the years and I've written a lot about Terrence. I first met him at the 2005 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. There, he made the final three tables. In the years since, I've seen him develop even further into a fantastically good tournament player. Moreover, I've seen him turn into the type of cash game player that I cannot imagine ever being.

I feel pretty comfortable with my knowledge of poker, odds, and strategy. When I talk to Terrence, I feel like I know nothing. I remember one night last year during the World Series. Terrence and I both ended up at a dinner at Ruth's Chris and while waiting for our table, Terrence started telling me about a hand he'd played against Robert Williamson. I offered my thoughts on the hand and Terrence proceded to blow my mind with an analysis that, to this day, makes me wonder if I even know how to play poker.

Gavin Griffin and Jason Strasser

Sitting together a little earlier in the $5k event were 2007 EPT Grand Final champion Gavin Griffin and tournament wunderkind Jason Strasser. When Griffin won the event in Monte Carlo this year, he did it through a cloud of sickness. He was sniffly and looking like he should be in bed. He ended up walking away with the title and everybody I talked to commented about how he acted more professionally than a lot of people twice his age.

Gavin, who a few years ago was the youngest person to ever win a World Series bracelet has proven himself to be a thoughtful and humble player who doesn't succumb to the power of television fame and the hubris that usually comes along with it.

To Gavin's left today was Jason Strasser. I've written so much about this guy in the past few years that even Strasser's mom was noticing how impressed I am with the guy. I've seen Jason in several different countries and he has never failed to impress me. Now a Duke graduate, he is going to finish out this World Series and head for a job on Wall Street.

The other night, we talked for a bit during a tournament break and I asked him how he felt about giving up the poker life as he knows it and heading onto Wall Street. Poker, he said, will be there in two years. However, if he didn't take a shot at Wall Street and stuck it out with poker, Wall Street might not have a place for him in a couple years.

This was coming from a guy who has been more successful in poker than just about any young player I know who will take the time to talk to me on a poker break...and a guy who was able to offer me a few bits of life advice and encouragement that I couldn't get from somebody twice my age.

Isaac Haxton

I can't claim to know Isaac very well. I just met him a few months back when he final tabled the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. At the time, I dubbed him The Lizard King, based on his vague resemblance to an early Jim Morrison. However, as he worked his way through the field in the Bahamas, for reasons I won't go into, I got a distinct sense that this son of a shrink and poet had a good head on his shoulders. After winning $800,000 in the PCA, he has not yet proven me wrong.

Right now, all of these guy's event is on dinner break. The field is about as tough as they come, so it's anyone guess what's going to happen. Regardless, on days when we're just starting over for the week, it's good to look out across the poker prairie and see a few faces that you can you root for.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in