WCOOP 2011: Meet the new champs

wcoop2009-thumb.jpgIn the whiz-bang, always-moving, four-events-per-day realm of the World Championship of Online Poker, it is sometimes easy to lose sight of how big an accomplishment winning a PokerStars WCOOP bracelet really is. These people, some 50 of them so far this year, are defeating giant fields made up of some of the best poker players in the world, and they are doing it on online poker's biggest stage. We've met many of them before, but among this years crop are quite a few people who haven't registered on WCOOP's radar of champions before.

They are a huge cross section of the poker community--old horses, young toughs, entrepreneurs, and thrill-seekers of the first order. Take the player who named himself after an infamous American killer.

The Netherlands' z0di@c won $129,840 in Event #44, a $320 NLHE rebuy tourney. The part-time player owns his own consulting company and gets his jollies from anything that will shoot adrenaline through his veins. Whether it's kite-surfing, skydiving, or motorbike racing, he'll do it.

"If it's fast and preferably dangerous, I'm down for it," he said.

Nevermind the killer instinct and potential death wish, z0di@c is a thoughtful guy, one who is planning to take his wife on a trip around the world. Asked his thoughts on poker in 2011, he pointed immediately to people who seek to suck the poker community dry and then leave it behind. The people he calls "leeches" tilt him in a way few things can.

"You all know who you are. If you want to keep poker as an income and 'keep the games' alive, you should ask yourself what your behavior contributes," he said. "If everybody contributes by playing fair and with decent ethics the poker economy could really flourish. In the end this will benefit all players. The reason I'm saying this is because I notice that a lot of people that are unknown to poker are scared away lately by all negative news surrounding our beautiful hobby."

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WCOOP winner, z0di@c

Russia has won more WCOOP bracelets in 2011 than any other country. As of this writing, the nation has won eight events so far this year. The Event #40 win by z81ima was one of the biggest. He won $225,384 in Event #40 and helped his country rise to the top of the charts. He's a fulltime player who has been grinding online for the past five years. He'll aslo clean your clock on the pool table. This was his biggest win to date.

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z81ima

This year, the country of Poland went from having zero WCOOP bracelets to four in just a matter of days. Among the winners was Olorionek who won $54,814 in the Event #30 Triple Shootout. The 24-year-old studied economics for three years before taking a haitus to grind tournaments.

"Nothing compares to the feeling of winning tournament," he said.

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Olorionek

The UK can be proud of their man Tim Piper. It's just been a couple of days since he won Event #46, a $320 PLH/PLO rotation. He banked $45,795 for the title. Just two days after winning a healthy sum in one of the Sunday majors, Piper picked up his first WCOOP bracelet. He's a man who tries to avoid not winning.

"If i'm deep in a tournament I'm always annoyed if I don't make the final table and give myself a chance," he said. "I'm annoyed quite a lot."

In this case, he walked away happy. At 24 years old, he's living a young man's dream: cricket, golf, poker titles, and hanging out with his friends.

"The poker lifestyle suits me down to the ground," he said.

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Tim Piper

Steve Gross, aka gboro780 picked up $33,332 in Event #39, HORSE. The 26-year-old from New Jersey finished up college a few years back, packed his bags and moved to Vegas. He's been a pro ever since and a successful one. He won more than $300,000 at the LA Poker Classic. He was a man born to play cards.

"My grandparents love to gamble and taught me a lot of card games growing up," Gross said. "I think we have a good skill set for poker in my family because we're good with people."

Another family man in the 2011 field of champions is Event #41's winner pistons87 who picked up $119,000 in the $10,300 NLHE High-Roller Heads-Up tourney.

"As a second generation Indian-American, online poker and becoming an entrepreneur are not normal professions," he said. "My family has been my biggest fans and I am so appreciative to have such loving and caring people in my life."

After moving from Atlanta to Toronto, pistons87 has perfected a dual focus on his life. He splits his time between playing poker and heading up a website site that allows competitors to play fantasy football and other sports on a week to week basis instead of having to wait a whole season to see who wins.

A PokerStars Supernova Elite, hes just a couple of years removed from getting his degree in economics. It's clear he's not just playing for WCOOP glory.

"My goals are to leverage poker winnings and skills into real life business opportunities and networking," he said. "I am not content with just making x amount of dollars per year. I want to to take it to the next level and use everything that I've learned to take full advantage of all of life's opportunities."

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Pistons87

Those are just a few of this years winners, men and women who are making their names and bones one of the most difficult playing fields in the game.

For more on the champions and other big winners from this year's event, see our WCOOP winners' profiles page.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in WCOOP