With household names, the world’s most recognizable and best players headlining the Super High Roller Bowl, it’s easy for poker fans to get excited about the $300,000 buy-in event. Players like Antonio Esfandiari, Brian Rast, Fedor Holz and Doug Polk all locked up their seats in yesterday’s live lottery and while they’ll likely be the players talked about leading up to the year’s biggest event, there are a handful of first-timers looking to crash the party this summer.
The biggest name, is easily John Juanda. The five-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner has been a staple in the High Roller community for the better part of his career and while he’s been out of the limelight over the last few years, his last WSOP cash was in 2014, he’ll certainly be a featured player when the Super High Roller Bowl comes together in May. It’s not normal that a first-timer in a High Roller event of this magnitude will also be one of the most successful tournament players in the world but with nearly $20,000,000 in career earnings, Juanda is a very, very experienced SHRB rookie.
What the German first-timers lack in live tournament experience, they make up for in numbers. There are four Germans that are going to be making their Super High Roller Bowl debuts this summer and two of them are about as under the radar as you can get. Christian Christner’s best career score came from last year’s $100,000 buy-in WPT Five Diamond Super High Roller, when he finished 5th for a $223,000 result. That accounts for close to a third of his career earnings, along with a min-cash in this summer’s WSOP $111,111 High Roller for One Drop.
Steffen Sontheimer is another relatively unknown German, although ARIA High Roller fields were introduced to his talents this past summer. Sontheimer recorded a handful of cashes in $25,000 events this summer, accounting for nearly half of his $500,000 in career earnings. Sontheimer almost introduced himself to the entire poker world last month though, as he was the chip leader heading into the final table of the $100,000 Aussie Millions Challenge. Only three players cashed though and Sontheimer was not one of them, meaning he’s still looking for that big breakthrough score.
Two Germans have less than seven-figures of career earnings but two have had their fair share of recent stateside success. Koray Aldemir notched two podium finishes in this summer’s World Series of Poker, the biggest of which came in the High Roller for One Drop. That $2,150,000 score accounts for the majority of Aldemir’s career earnings but it also shows that he’s certainly able to compete at the highest levels. Stefan Schillhabel is another German who recorded his best career result in the United States. Shillhabel won last year’s WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star Championship, for $1,300,000 and has dozens of results from across Europe to build a very respectable tournament resume.
While the German’s primarily do most of their damage in High Roller events, first-timer Ankush Mandavia has been successful at every level. The American won his first WSOP bracelet this summer in a $5,000 No Limit Hold’em event and then ended the year with a $25,000 High Roller win at the WPT Five Diamond Classic. Mandavia raised the stakes again at the start of this year, finishing 3rd in the $100,000 Super High Roller at the PokerStars Championship Bahamas.
Mandavia might record results from $1,000 buy-in events to Super High Rollers but it’s on the higher end of that spectrum where Sean Winter, pictured above, does battle. The Florida native is a staple in ARIA High Roller events, he cashed in last night’s $25,000 event, and has made over $4,000,000 in tournaments over the last two years. Winter burst onto the scene last year, with a runner-up finish in the $25,000 High Roller at the PCA but since then, he’s proven time and time again that he can compete at the highest levels.
Last year, Matt Berkey went from Super High Roller Bowl first-timer to Super High Roller Bowl final tabler. It’s still unknown whether these rookies will have the same kind of success but what we do know is that they will all look to crash the party later this year.