The 2019 edition of the world’s most prestigious and longest-running poker festival is just a few days away, and players and fans around the world are all fired up to be part of the action which will run for almost two months.
Beginning May 28, thousands of poker players around the world will gather at the Rio All Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas aiming to take down some of the bracelet events spread throughout the 50th World Series of Poker (WSOP).
Low Key Players Could Shine
The festival is expected to attract a mix of amateurs, grinders and seasoned pros, with the latter most likely to command the most sweats as they hunt for the much-coveted gold bracelets. But every once in a while, it’s interesting to see relatively unknown players, some of them grinders who are often overlooked, win big and rise to poker fame because of their exemplary skills.
In January 2019, a former fitness trainer from Barcelona, Spain, who was used to playing low buy-in events in his home country, captured the first ever PokerStars Players NL Hold’em Championship (PSPC) in the Bahamas. Ramon Colillas entered the biggest tournament in the world through a Platinum Pass and stunned the world of poker after outlasting 1,039 players for an astonishing $5.1 million. And who will ever forget Chris Moneymaker’s revolutionizing 2003 WSOP Main Event victory?
Today, let’s take a look at some skilled, under-the-radar players making some waves at the American tournament circuit who might pull off a Colillas/Moneymaker win at the 2019 WSOP.
Michael Perrone
Michael Perrone had a career in psychology before he decided to take poker seriously. The Pot-Limit Omaha (PLO) enthusiast won a $600 PLO event at the WSOP-C Horseshoe Hammond after defeating a field of 149 entries. Perrone took home his first gold ring plus $21,485 as top prize. Less than a month later, he captured his second ring after taking down the $400 PLO event at the WSOP-C Tulsa Hard Rock, winning $12,937.
His wins at the Circuit earned him enough points to take part in the $1 million Global Casino Championships to be held in August. While waiting for that huge event, Perrone will be in Las Vegas this summer to play as much PLO as possible. He’s excited to play in the $1,500 Mixed No-Limit Hold’em/PLO, the $1,500 PLO Bounty, and the $3,000 Six-Max PLO at the 2019 WSOP.
While Perrone also wants to take a shot in the hold’em front, he admits he finds more fun and enjoyment in playing PLO bracelet events.
Ian Matakis
In terms of WSOP cashes, Ian Matakis has none to his name and that is understandable since he turned 21 last year. The Minnesota poker player has done well for himself at the tables and has more than $200,000 in live earnings.
He started playing poker a few years back and slowly but surely is making a name for himself. The 21 year old has scored five-figure cashes and has some great finishes at the Mid-States Poker Tour (MSPT) – he placed second at MSPT Meskwaki, and fourth at MSPT Canterbury held respectively in September and November of 2018. Matakis stepped up his game and took part in the World Poker Tour (WPT) at Seminole Hard Rock in April, where he captured his first WPT cashout.
Matakis, who found interest in poker at a young age, is looking forward to his first summer grind in Vegas. He is especially eyeing the $3,000 Six-Max No-Limit Hold’em, though he will most likely play several bracelet events under $5,000.
Excited to play at his first WSOP Main Event, Matakis said he tries not to set goals. While he’s devoted ample time and energy to hone his skills and practice the game in the run up to the huge event, Matakis said he just wants to play his best and avoid focusing on results.
Stephen Song
Stephen Song leads the WSOP Circuit ladder this season. As of May 16, the 23-year-old has 392.5 points, winning almost $300,000 in cashes. His total tournament earnings now stand at nearly $1 million.
When asked about his secret to tremendous poker success at such a young age, Song said many of his wins mainly had to do with being at the right place and at the right time, and meeting the right group of people with whom he shares the same passion for the game.
Song’s summer schedule will be filled with no-limit events below $5,000 at the Rio. He also wants to try some of the events at Venetian or Wynn. He’s most particularly interested in WSOP’s marquee events including the Millionaire Maker and the Monster Stack, and while he admits that money is his main priority, winning a bracelet is definitely on his bucket list.

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