Heaters: Five of the best

Heaters: Five of the best

Monday, 13 October 2014

When you're hot, you're hot.

To some old-school poker players, 'a massive heater' is just something they need to install in the Rio to counteract the air-con. But for the newer generation it's what makes strong players unplayable and weak players rich – Darvin Moon rich. We take a look at a selection of some of the best hot streaks we have witnessed in recent years.

There is no better feeling as a poker player than that air of invincibility that comes with a great run of results. With each victory your confidence builds, and any player able to handle the rush will find that playing while ‘in the zone’ can lead to a damn wild ride.

23 year-old hotshot Dan Colman is the latest to have enjoyed that feeling, coming desperately close to a back-to-back-to-back run (aka the fabled triple whammy) in super high roller events. 12 months ago, he'd never even had a six-figure cash. Incredibly, now he is sixth on the all-time money list, having banked over $21 million in less than eight months.
It takes only two words to sum up our sentiments regarding this.


So, how did the run begin? Well, it all kicked off with a victory in the star-studded €100,000 tournament at the EPT Grand Final in Monaco. In order to cement his win, Colman had to see off an intimidating final table including high stakes regulars Dan 'jungleman18' Cates and Igor Kurganov. But that's not all – as well as the formidable pack of nosebleed superstars, Colman also had to take on his very own poker mentor, Olivier Busquet. Yep, the student well and truly became the master. (This time with a few less lightsabers).

The heater didn't stop there however, and it was soon out of the frying pan and into the fire as Colman smashed through the richest tournament in the world – the $1 million buy-in Big One for One Drop. Just in case you didn't know, winning the One Drop netted him a staggering fifteen million dollar first prize. Get your suntan lotion out, because this one's a scorcher.

Now, for most people, that would be quite enough to be getting on with. But as you might have guessed, not for Colman. Less than two weeks later, he final tabled the Aria $100k Super High Roller for for almost $800k. Another five weeks passed, and another $1.1 million was added to his earnings when he came second to Olivier Busquet in the EPT Barcelona Super High Roller. And what do you think happened shortly after in late August? He must have had a quiet, profit-free fortnight, right? Wrong-o. He only bloody went and won the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open for upwards of $1.4 million. Typical.

“Is he the best in the world?” everyone asked. “Or is he just 'on form'?”
Whatever you think, it's pretty hard to dismiss him as ‘just a fish on a heater.’ But has a run of this kind ever happened before, and if so, where are they now? We take a look at some of history's best heaters and find out.

1. Gus Hansen: World Poker Tour Seasons 1 and 2, 2002-04

Before Chris Moneymaker’s WSOP Main Event win in 2003 thrust poker into the mainstream, the foundations were already being laid for the explosive boom that would follow.

The World Poker Tour did for US TV audiences what Late Night Poker did across the Atlantic, and at the time desperately needed enigmatic personalities for the viewing public to root for. In this case, though, the hammy acting came from the presenters rather than the players. (If you think this sounds better, you clearly never had to listen to the cheese-tastic stage-managed sighs each time a businessman decided to tank with pocket Aces.)

While the United States was represented well by the likes of Phil Ivey and Antonio Esfandiari, it was a European who came from nowhere to emerge as the tour’s first proper superstar: Gus 'The Great Dane' Hansen. It was a fitting nickname, and surely enough, Gus turned out to be the big dog in more ways than one.

Hansen dominated the debut WPT event – the Five Diamond World Poker Classic at the Bellagio – and took home a half-million first prize, which at the time was by far the largest cash prize outside the World Series. He followed that up with victory in the LA Poker Classic, another of the few stops to retain its place on the tour to this day, and added a third title in the made-for-TV special Bad Boys of Poker episode.

There was no let-up in the second season, either, with another Bellagio final table halted by eventual champion Paul Phillips, before the inaugural PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (then part of the WPT) saw the Dane bring home the bacon for the third time on the tour, a record which no one has broken to this day.

The live tournament may results have dried up for Hansen of late, but the Full Tilt Poker Professional remains one of the most recognizable faces whenever he takes to the felt.

Heater Rating: 4/5.

Scorching, but with an enduring smoulder. Like Gus's dreamy eyes.

Heaters Schneider

2. Tom Schneider: World Series of Poker/World Poker Tour, 2007

To look at Tom Schneider, a balding middle-aged accountant with a nickname (‘The DonkeyBomber’) that sounds like a weapon from Worms Armageddon, you might be forgiven for seeing him as a man unlikely to keep pace with the twentysomething crowd.

Indeed, going into the 2007 series, Schneider was reportedly close to giving up on poker after he had struggled to build on a WPT final table the previous March. However, that would soon change, as the 47-year-old Arizonan wound up ending his short trip to Las Vegas with one of the highest accolades around: World Series of Poker Player of the Year. Our only regret is that no one went with the 'Asses rising from Phoenix' headline ('Cos, y'know. DonkeyBomber... ass... eh?! Ah, forget it).

Schneider’s first two bracelets – one against a tough $2,500 Omaha/Stud Hi-Lo final table including Chris Ferguson and David Benyamine – sandwiched a fourth-place finish in a HORSE event. To prove he wasn’t purely a mixed-game expert, he followed it all up with a $220,000 score at that summer’s Legends of Poker tournament, with the title going the way of another veteran in the form of former Main Event champion Dan Harrington.

The years since had been steady but unspectacular, perhaps best remembered for the vocal railing of Tom’s wife Julie (“stack’em to the top”, anyone?) during a deep Main Event run in 2008. That was until last year, when Schneider returned to WSOP final tables with a bang. Two more bracelets followed, both in HORSE events, with a heads-up victory over Owais ‘oerockets’ Ahmed proving he can still mix it up with the young guns. Schneider's results, while being fairly steady throughout 2014, are a little thinner on the ground these days. Having said that, at least he has the 'best poker pro who looks like Louis CK' title locked up.

Heater Rating: 2/5.

Toasty, but not quite molten. Like a Creme Egg left gently in the sun.

Heaters Frankenberger

3. Andy Frankenberger: World Poker Tour Season 9, 2010

Four years ago, an unknown ‘Wall Street guy’ called Andy Frankenberger burst onto the scene with a dominating run which some were perhaps too quick to dismiss. Picture the scene: it was in the days of sophisticated HUDs, and the US online poker scene was approaching its peak (pre-Black Friday, natch). As a result, Frankenberger’s unorthodox style rankled with those unable to explain his success. (Either that, or they were too busy salivating over a mythical smoked pork patty with mustard whenever his delicious-sounding surname was mentioned.)

A former equity derivatives trader, the brash New York-born twentysomething saw almost instant success after turning his attentions to poker. Within months of his first recorded live cash, he had taken down the Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza for more than $160,000. By the end of 2010, he was well on course for Player of the Year honours on the World Poker Tour (the accolade was confirmed the following year).

Frankenberger’s first tour success came in August 2010 at the Legends of Poker, a tournament which boasts Doyle Brunson, Prahlad Friedman and the aforementioned Harrington among its title-winners. When he followed that up with a second final table at the Festa Al Lago two months later, people began to take notice, and a deep run at the Five Diamond World Poker Classic was enough to wrap up the Player of the Year title.

Even then. some remained unconvinced, and Frankenberger has arguably had to work harder than others to silence his critics. He undeniably went some way to achieving that in 2012, beating Phil Ivey heads-up to take down his second WSOP bracelet and his first in a $10,000 event. If victory over Ivey isn’t enough to earn the respect of the masses, we don’t know what is. It's just a shame no one thought to stage an exhibition heads-up match with one of the UK's best known pros under the banner 'de Wolfe and Wall Street'. (Sorry).

Heater Rating: 3.5/5.

Hot as that curry you always ill-advisedly order after a night out. Oh sweet, burning regret.

Heaters Seidel

4. Erik Seidel: 2011

While many of his contemporaries have failed to last the course, former WSOP Main Event runner-up Seidel is notable in his ability to adapt to the changing landscape of live poker, with his eight WSOP bracelets split evenly between pre- and post-2000 events. However, the respected pro waited until the age of 52 for a career year defined by a phenomenal start to 2011. (Incidentally, this was not long after he turned his attention to improving his Twitter game. Now, we're not saying the two are definitely connected, but Seidel's results certainly seemed to improve around the time he tweeted about "trying to work my way past Julian Assange on the color chart" and "disappointing menu options" at an Amsterdam coffee shop. You do the math.)

With some players treating the Aussie Millions and PCA as an either-or scenario, Seidel took on the best at opposite ends of the globe with unprecedented success. Indeed, by the end of January he had locked up close to $3.5m in live cashes.

Of the names on this list, Seidel's heater is probably the most comparable to that enjoyed by Dan Colman in 2014, with huge scores in successive high roller tournaments. A fourth-place finish in the $25k PCA High Roller, notable for the conclusion of Will Molson's second-second-first run in successive years, was followed by what almost resembled a personal battle with Sam Trickett in the richest events Down Under.

The pair traded blows in the Aussie Millions $100,000 and $250,000 buy-in events, the latter representing the highest ever buy-in at the time. Trickett won the former, with Seidel third behind another Brit, Tony Bloom, but the American took down the larger event for AU$2.5m. And if that wasn't enough, 'Seiborg' added a further five six-figure scores before the end of the year, plus another million dollar haul at a Super High Roller at the Bellagio. Not bad for someone who spends his time worrying that "we take Steven Seagal's acting talent for granted”.

Heater Rating: 4.7/5.

Hotter than your mum.

Heaters Smith

5. Dan Smith: EPT Grand Final, 2012

The European Poker Tour is notorious for taking almost 100 events to produce a two-time champion, with Victoria Coren Mitchell’s triumph at San Remo earlier in the year. However, the growth of the tour has seen smaller stops give way to huge festivals of poker with dozens of opportunities for glory.

The 2012 Grand Final remains one of the largest to date, with 30 events ranging from the €120 Hyper-Turbo all the way up to the €100,000 Super High Roller. Having said that, it was in the €5,000 buy-in events that Dan Smith made hay. ‘KingDan’ had added a notable live score to a burgeoning online reputation, taking home a cool million for his victory in the Aussie Millions $100,000 challenge.

Smith was many people’s favourite for this year’s World Series of Poker Main Event – going deep into the latter stages, he ultimately finished 20th, and his rise to worldwide superstar was helped by five days of near-perfection, showing that even those right at the top can still astound onlookers with something really special.

On April 26th he took down a six-max No Limit Hold’em turbo event for more than €150,000, before adding a quarter of a million the following day. Then, on the 30th he defeated Toby Lewis heads-up in another six-max tournament, adding a third six-figure score in less than a week. Blimey.
As if that wasn’t enough, Smith added another super high roller title in Barcelona, final tables at the World Series of Poker and the Partouche Poker Tour, and (of course!) another victory in an EPT €5,000 buy-in side event, this time in Prague. There's going on a good run and then there's winning almost literally every tournament you play, and by the end of 2012 it was getting ridiculous.

Heater Rating: 4/5.

Danger of burns.

Honourable mentions

Greg Raymer, 2012: Four Heartland Poker Tour titles remains a record for one player in one season of a poker tour. Even for a former world champion on a smaller series, you have to admit that’s impressive.

Jonathan Duhamel, 2012: The 2010 world champion reached four PCA final tables in the space of a week, with one victory and three separate six-figure scores.

Ole Schemion, 2013: Five countries. Six scores of $100,000 or more. Three high-roller final tables. And all that off the back of $2m worth of live cashes in 2012. This heater is in danger of becoming a sustained period of dominance.

Tags: Heaters, Gus Hansen, Erik Seidel, Andy Frankenberger, Tom Schneider, Dan Smith, Greg Raymer, Jonathan Duhamel, Ole Schemion