2008 World Series: The cream of the crop

The PokerStars cardroom has long been known as the breeding ground for many of the game's top stars, and joining any table there might mean facing off against a Team PokerStars Pro, a few World Series bracelet winners, or leading lights of the EPT -- sometimes all three. PokerStars is widely considered to be the best cardroom available, and so the best players all play there. This is simple common sense.

There's no exception to this rule in the qualification satellite tournaments for the World Series. There's certainly no law that only amateur players can attempt to spin a meagre buy-in on PokerStars into a main event ticket, and although plenty do, and go on to record spectacular successes, there are usually a good few sharks that prosper in the deep waters of the online satellite.

This World Series, our list of PokerStars qualifiers playing on day 2A features the likes of Jeff Williams and John Shipley, both winners on the EPT; Blair Hinkle, who won a bracelet earlier this Series; Iwan Jones, who took down the inaugural $10,000 London Poker Open for $750,000; Thomas Middlethon, who won the prestigious Amsterdam Master Classics and online sensation Shaun Deeb. I could doubtless compose a similar list tomorrow morning for day 2B players.

Taken in order, Williams has perhaps the highest profile both online and off of those six. Brad Willis profiled "yellowsub86" HERE, a player who first came to our attention in Monte Carlo during the season two EPT Grand Final, in which he made himself a teenage millionaire: $1,084,037 for a 19-year-old.


This year, his first World Series, Williams has already cashed three times, including $400,000 for second place in a $1,000 limit hold 'em event.

In 2005, after Iwan Jones won the first $10,000 buy-in event to be hosted in England, some people talked of how surprising it was an unknown player had taken down such a prestigious event, particularly from a field featuring the likes of Doyle Brunson, Gus Hansen, Ram Vaswani and Marcel Luske. But those people were way off the mark.

Iwan Jones

Others, in the know, were surprised only that it had taken so long for Jones to come to the fore. He had been "due one" for many years, and this was it. Since then Jones has cashed three times at the World Series, and once each on the EPT and the WPT. He's back here as a PokerStars qualifier, with all the weapons to go deep.

John Shipley's story starts many years ago in the cardrooms of the Midlands in England, where he played and prospered in some of the country's toughest games. He took his all-round tournament skills to Las Vegas and in 2002 was the chip leader going to the final table of the World Series. His aggressive play and fearless approach, designed solely with the bracelet in mind, ended up costing him a shot at the title; he eventually went out in seventh place. But Shipley returned to Europe and continued to dominate. On the first London event of the then-fledgling European Poker Tour, he took first place. There were few more popular winners. Sapphire1, as he is known on PokerStars, has been a serial qualifier for the major events. He's still going strong here.

Blair Hinkle cheered from the sidelines as his brother Grant took down the second event at this World Series. And then roles were reversed in the $2,000 event a week or so after, where the younger of the two Hinkles from Weatherby Lake, Missouri, completed the entry in the history books when he matched his brother in the bracelet department. Today, he's on the feature table along from the Team PokerStars Pro Vanessa Rousso. He's already getting used to the attention, and should be in for a lot more before his career is done.

Thomas Middlethon, from Stavanger, Norway, came to prominence when he won the coveted Masters Classics in Amsterdam back in 2005.

Thomas Middlethon

A relatively unknown player at the time, Middlethon battled visible fatigue to overcome a star studded final that featured the likes of Patrick Bueno, Marcel Luske and Julian Thew to win Holland’s premier title and a cheque for $630,538. He laid low for a couple of years but is now back in the fray and well placed going into day two.

Shaun Deeb is one of those online players who has no fear about using his real name in he online environment. Instead, the online moniker "shaundeeb" is the one to be feared: his imperious online form took him to the top of the PokerStars Tournament Leaderboard (TLB) last year, the same season in which he joined Team PokerStars Pro Greg Raymer and fellow online tournament ace Tyler Netter as a World Cup of Poker winner in Barcelona. Deeb is devastating online, and has everything necessary in this live environment.

Stay tuned for more about them all.


Most of the PokerStars qualifiers are staying this year in the Palms Hotel, no more than a few blocks from the Rio, but a few blocks in the baking Nevada heat. For this reason, a free PokerStars shuttle bus runs from home to office, and our video bloggers shared the ride with PokerStars qualifier Sven Hoffelner. Here are his thoughts, and a view out the window as they drive.

Watch WSOP 08: Sven Hoffelner Online Qualifier on PokerStars.tv

Remember, a full archive of video blogs, as well as details of a daily freeroll tournament, can be found at PokerStars.tv.