The New Faces of Dutch Poker - Card Player Poker Magazine (2024)

For years, Dutch poker was associated with just three names: Marcel Lüske, Rob Hollink, and Rolf Slotboom. When other players like Ed de Haas and Mark Boudewijn started to have their successes, as well, the core of Dutch professionals slowly took shape. But as poker grew over the past couple of years, mainly due to the Internet, so did the number of Dutch players who frequented the international tournament circuit.

Noah Boeken and Steve Wong were the first of "the next generation" to establish a name for themselves by booking some excellent results. But in their wake, a lot of new faces are climbing the ladder at a rapid pace, to the point where it has become difficult to keep up. So, it's time to take a look at who these new players are, and why you shouldn't be too happy when they are sitting to your left!

Steven van Zadelhoff
Age: 28
The New Faces of Dutch Poker - Card Player Poker Magazine (1)Nickname: SvZff
Best result: World Poker Tour Barcelona 2007, seventh place (€67,100)

The past year has really been the breakthrough year for Steven van Zadelhoff. After winning the Sunday Million in April 2007, other successes quickly followed. At 22, he had already dabbled a bit in the stock market, discovering that he had a knack for odds, numbers, and calculated risks. Those were not really applicable at the gym, where he trained to become a free fighter. After a couple of unnecessary but painful injuries, like a torn eardrum, he quickly discovered that his fists were of better use to handle poker chips instead of boxing gloves.

He took his killer competitiveness with him to the poker table, and not without success. While at first he quietly booked his winnings in the comfort of his own home in Deil Centrum, it didn't take long for him to figure out a way to be successful in big live tournaments, as well. He surprised everyone but himself by finishing 11th in London in the World Series of Poker Europe main event, and seventh in the WPT event in Barcelona, proving that he is truly capable of beating strong fields in big buy-in tournaments.

The New Faces of Dutch Poker - Card Player Poker Magazine (2)Thierry van den Berg
Age: 35
Nickname: Bokpower
Best result: European Poker Tour Baden Classic 2007, fifth place (€132,900)

"Bokpower" got his first taste of tournament success when Noah Boeken dragged him to the Caribbean in November 2005, where he went deep in a couple of tournaments on the island of St. Kitts. After that, he committed to practicing his tournament skills online, and soon thereafter, the results came pouring in. He is currently in the top 100 of most successful online tournament players.

Van den Berg also quickly discovered a way to beat the online satellites, which he exploited to the fullest. In 2006, he qualified for an EPT event five times, but he exchanged most of the seats for cash. The year after, he won no fewer than five seats to the main event of the World Series of Poker, one of which he used to finish in 81st place. Together with his seventh-place finish in the $5,000 shorthanded event at the World Series of Poker and his fifth-place finish in the EPT Baden Classic, Thierry van den Berg definitely showed us that he is here to stay.

Marc Naalden
Age: 39
Nickname: Needleking
Best result: Master Classics of Poker 2007, €1,000 semi-freezeout, first place (€160,640)

The New Faces of Dutch Poker - Card Player Poker Magazine (3)Nobody had heard of Marc Naalden when he suddenly appeared at the final table of the EPT Scandinavian Open in Copenhagen back in January 2006, where he finished in third place. He repeated that result the following summer in a $1,500 no-limit hold'em event at the World Series of Poker, just missing out on that longed-for bracelet.

Coming from a background of the stock market and chess, it was only a matter of time before he would stumble upon a game of poker. He started playing poker seriously in 2005, and luckily for him, as he says himself, his career started with an upswing, so he could choose the professional path right from the start.

For the past few years, he has been residing in Antwerp, which made it only fitting that he won the Belgian Open Championship in December 2006. Soon thereafter, he added another title to his list, becoming the Dutch Heads-Up Poker Champion in January 2007. Last November, he proved that his past results were no fluke, when he also won the €1,000 semi-freezeout at the Master Classics of Poker in Amsterdam.

The New Faces of Dutch Poker - Card Player Poker Magazine (4)Eric van der Burg
Age: 46
Nickname: Harryxxxx
Best result: EPT Grand Final Monte Carlo 2007, ninth place (€99,550)

Eric van der Burg is one of the most colorful characters in the Dutch poker community. His unorthodox playing style and his demeanor at the table always catches his opponents off guard. His most famous play was when he folded pocket aces preflop at the EPT French Open in Deauville, back in 2005. At first, everybody thought the man wasn't playing with a full deck, so to speak, but his reasoning behind it convinced everybody that it was indeed a justifiable play.

Van der Burg was in the big blind when a short stack moved all in from under the gun. After everybody folded around to him, he showed his aces and said: "Here, because I like you," and folded his hand. Of course, liking his neighbor had nothing to do with it. Eric explained that at the time, he had the chip lead at the table, and was in total control. By busting that short stack, adding only about 5 percent to his stack, he would run the risk of that empty seat to his left being filled by an aggressive player with an enormous stack, totally changing the game he was controlling, forcing him to hold back. By keeping that short stack alive, he continued to dominate the action at the table, amassing chips hand after hand, until he busted out in an unfortunate 16th place.

Back in 2004 at the main event of the World Series of Poker, all Dutch eyes were on Marcel Lüske with his 10th-place finish, so nobody noticed that Van der Burg went deep in the same event, as well, finishing in an excellent 27th place. He finally got noticed by the public at the EPT Grand Final in Monte Carlo in 2007, though, where he finished ninth, just missing out on the final table.

The New Faces of Dutch Poker - Card Player Poker Magazine (5)Jorryt van Hoof
Age: 25
Nickname: TheCleaner11
Best result: Master Classics of Poker 2006, main event, seventh place (€53,125)

For people who have been following the online cash games lately, this man needs no introduction. Coming from a background of playing Magic: The Gathering, just like Noah Boeken, he switched to poker in 2004, quickly discovering that that game was way more profitable.

In the few years that van Hoof has been playing poker, he has rapidly become one of the most successful online cash-game players, beating the most difficult no-limit games around, often playing 12 tables at the same time. Most of the Dutch players agree that he is currently the best no-limit player their small country has to offer, and that is saying a lot, given the quality of the players praising him.

He doesn't play tournaments much, but when he does, "The Cleaner" is always one of the favorites, which he proved in 2006, when he made the final table of the main event at the Master Classics of Poker.

The New Faces of Dutch Poker - Card Player Poker Magazine (6)Abel Meijberg
Age: 25
Nickname: Bonkrs
Best result: Master Classics of Poker 2007, €300 pot-limit Omaha with rebuys, first place (€75,552)

Abel Meijberg is one of the young players who started their careers in the Dutch town of Groningen, also known as the Linköping of Holland. That quiet city in the north of the country was the first where poker boomed among students who preferred to make their money playing cards than delivering pizzas. Abel is part of that first generation of "Stadjers" who made it all the way to the top. Back in 2004, he started playing friendly home games with fellow poker enthusiasts like "Smoking" Joep Durkstra, Daan Ruiter, and Daniel Smidt, who are all currently travelling the European circuit.

Just like Jorryt van Hoof, he prefers high-stakes cash games to tournaments, but in the few tournaments he has played, he has already racked up a very impressive resumé. He came third in the EPT Baden Classic in 2005, won the Austrian Open in Bregenz in 2006, came third in the Helsinki Freezeout in 2007, came third in a $3,000 buy-in WPT side event at Bellagio in April 2007, and recently won the €300 pot-limit Omaha with rebuys event at the 2007 Master Classics of Poker.

When he sits down at your table, be afraid - be very afraid.

Daan Ruiter
Age: 24
Nickname: PokerDaan
Best result: EPT Dublin 2007, fifth place (€105,510)

The New Faces of Dutch Poker - Card Player Poker Magazine (7)In his high-school years, Daan Ruiter already realized he had a knack for cards, although it wasn't until 2001 that he discovered his talent for poker, playing in the above-mentioned games in Groningen. He was one of the first Dutch players to step onto the online scene, where soon he was grinding out a decent living to pay his way through college.

Trips to the Dutch casinos were rare in those days, as games were offered only on the other side of the
country, and were treated as a night out with the boys from up north. Since there was way more money to be made online, the live games were never really taken seriously. After several hours of serious poker, Ruiter and his friends frequently went all in blind on the final hand of the night, which wasn't as easy as one might think, considering that back then the game was still pot-limit. The crowd always gathered to see the spectacle, giving affirmation that these young guys were nothing but a bunch of degenerate gamblers. That image still helps them get the necessary action today.

Only since the start of this EPT season have they come from behind their computer screens more often to play live tournaments. Their sponsor recognised the talent and founded Team, where Ruiter was joined by Joep Durkstra, Daniel Smidt, and Michiel Brummelhuis. "PokerDaan" is currently the most successful team member, finishing 25th in the EPT Barcelona Open, and fifth at the EPT Dublin.

Holding a bachelor's degree in social geography, and at the point of finishing his master's degree in real estate, it seems clear what Ruiter plans on doing with his poker winnings.

The New Faces of Dutch Poker - Card Player Poker Magazine (8)Lex Veldhuis
Age: 24
Nickname: RaSZi
Best result: WPT Mandalay Bay Poker Championship 2007, 20th place ($13,115)

Lex Veldhuis is part of the group of young players emerging from the game Starcraft, where it's all about fast thinking and even faster mouse clicks, which of course easily translates to online poker. Other players with the same background are Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier, Hevad "RaiNKhaN" Khan, Dan "Rekrul" Schreiber, and his good friend Victor "Nazgul18" Goossens. All still have the tendency to play an insane number of online tables at the same time, because they're used to averaging about seven to 10 clicks per second. That's why "RaSZi" usually prefers to play fast-paced heads-up no-limit cash games, because if he doesn't have anything to do for two seconds, he gets bored. To give you an idea, his personal best is a little more than 48,000 hands in one 48-hour session.

It's quite the contrast when the man from Rotterdam sits down in live tournaments, where the pace can slow down to 20 hands an hour. At first, the other players expected him to have trouble with his patience, but he has already proven that he is well capable of sitting through those tiring multiday tournaments. He has gone deep a number of times already, but the fall of the cards kept preventing him from reaching the heads-up stage, where he would definitely be the favorite, considering his experience in that department.

With a 20th-place finish in the EPT French Open in Deauville, another 20th place in the WPT Mandalay Bay Poker Championship, and an 18th place in the 2007 Belgian Poker Championship, along with a couple of final tables in smaller events, it has become clear that it's only a matter of time before he will be the one lifting the trophy at the end of a major tournament, although a bracelet would be preferred.

Daniel Smidt
Age: 23
Nickname: Danistar5
Best result: Master Classics of Poker 2007, €300 no-limit hold'em with rebuys, first place (€74,493)

The New Faces of Dutch Poker - Card Player Poker Magazine (9)Daniel Smidt is the Benjamin of the bunch, but that doesn't mean he has the least experience. With more than five years of poker under his belt, he knows he is capable of taking on all comers in his favorite game, no-limit hold'em. He is also one of the best deuce-to-seven players our country has to offer, but unfortunately for him, there's no game to be found for 5,000 miles. So, like so many others, through lack of options, he has logged an insane number of hours online, secretly becoming one of the strongest Dutch no-limit players around.

"Danistar" has always formed a team with fellow Team member Joep Durkstra. As friends from way before the day they first stumbled across a card game in Groningen, they practiced, travelled, and lived together since day one, and always took care of each other when one of them went broke taking another shot at the higher limits.

When they recently started travelling the international circuit, people doubted if these youngsters were ready to challenge the tough competition that's out there today. These voices were quickly silenced, though, when Smidt made two final tables at this year's Master Classics of Poker in Amsterdam, and turned one of them into a victory, scoring his first big win of the many that will surely follow in the years to come. The New Faces of Dutch Poker - Card Player Poker Magazine (10)

The New Faces of Dutch Poker - Card Player Poker Magazine (2024)
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