WSOP 2012: The Team Pro Paradox

wsop-130x100.pngJan Heitmann is poised to do what only one other Team PokerStars Pro has done before. At this hour, Heitmann is sixth in chips in the WSOP Main Event. He looks like a lock to make it to Day 7 and the final three tables of the 2012 World Series of Poker. If he does, he will join Johnny Lodden as the only Team Pro to have reached that milestone.

Wait, what? That doesn't sound right. And yet it is.

While stellar performances in the WSOP have launched the careers and PokerStars sponsorships of many Team Pros, Lodden's deep 2010 27th place finish is the only time a Team Pro started the WSOP as a Team Pro and made it into the final three tables.

Of the active 2012 members of Team Pro, there are a handful who have seen the promised land on their way to a Team Pro badge. Chris Moneymaker is the obvious example. His 2003 WSOP began as a PokerStars qualifier. It ended with a championship and still-active PokerStars sponsorship. That same year and the next, Marcel Luske would finish in 14th and 10th places. David Williams was a PokerStars qualifier in 2004 when he finished runner-up to Greg Raymer. Toni Judet made it on the PokerStars radar after his 2008 22nd place finish. And then there are the November Nines Ivan Demidov, Joe Cada, Jonathan Duhamel, Martin Staszko, and Pius Heinz. All of them are Team Pros today, but they weren't when they hit the penultimate day of the WSOP Main Event.

Heitmann, meanwhile, is the lone Team Pro alive with 51 players remaining tonight. After the in-the-money exits of Jason Mercier, Liv Boeree, Salvatore Bonavena, Daniel Negreanu, Marcel Luske, and Vanessa Selbst, Heitmann is the only one left to carry the PokerStars flag.

This drives home a couple of points. First, it's damned hard to make the final three tables. After five days of grueling play, the struggle to make it from top 100 to top 27 is just ridiculously difficult. Second, it's that very fact that makes the Team Pro roster so impressive. Ten Team Pros have made the final 27 of the biggest event in poker.

By the end of the night, Jan Hietmann could very well be number eleven.


Brad Willis
@BradWillis in World Series of Poker