2014 PokerPlayer awards: Moments of the year

Join us as we pour stiff drinks, light cigars and reminisce on the biggest and best moments – and crown the game’s largest winners and losers

Naysayers love to proclaim poker a dying game. And each year we look forward to thumbing our noses at them. The online world might still be waiting for the US to start playing ball properly but the live game has never been more popular and, with official rankings from the Global Poker Index spreading to mainstream outlets and the promise of poker’s first professional poker league (Global Poker League) next year, we could be standing on the cusp of the next big poker boom. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves… This has been 2014 and these are the headlines that made it.

Moments of the year

5: Numbers game
WSOP Main Event, July 2014
The WSOP Main Event is the biggest tournament of the year, but since its peak in 2006 it’s been on a largely downward spiral. When Jamie Gold won $12m in 2006, 8,773 players rocked the Rio. In 2012 it was down to 6,598 and numbers were down again in 2013 when Ryan ‘Best In The World’ Riess defeated 6,351 opponents. This year though, the WSOP stuck a $10m guarantee on the first prize and it paid dividends, with 6,683 players putting an uptick on the stats and a huge smile on the face of Martin Jacobson, the Swedish pro who took home the $10m.

4: Got a spare million?
Big One for One Drop, June 2014
When the first ever $1m buy-in Big One for One Drop played out in 2012 it was the story of the year. Antonio Esfandiari won it all in shorts and flip-flops and looked forward to doing it again in 2014. As it turned out, it was ever-so-slightly disappointing. For starters it only attracted 42 runners, down from 48 in 2012. Some of poker’s biggest stars chose not to play, with the biggest disappointment being the lack of the Poker Brat, Phil Hellmuth.
The action was still incredible though and it was fascinating to watch the biggest names being pushed out of their comfort zones. It came down to old school versus new school; Negreanu versus Colman. The youngster was the eventual victor but he refused all media requests afterwards. But that’s another story…  

3: 100 not out!
EPT Barcelona, August
The fact that the European Poker Tour features in this top five twice is testament to
its standing in the poker world. Outside of the WSOP an EPT is the most prestigious event you can win in poker and it celebrated its 10th birthday, and 100th festival, in Barcelona this year in typically bullish fashion – by smashing records and attracting a staggering 18,000 entries across 44 different events. Barca boasted the largest high roller event in EPT history (393 entries), and the largest non-PCA main event, with 1,496 runners creating a huge €7.2m prize pool.

2: PokerStars cashes out
August 2014
First came the rumours: PokerStars were going to be bought by Canadian gaming company Amaya. Then came the scoffing: Amaya was a company with $150m in revenues that wanted to buy the Rational Group (owners of Full Tilt and PokerStars) with revenues of $1.1bn in an all-cash deal. How?

The source of the story was solid though and it wasn’t long before the rumours were confirmed. On August 1 it was announced that the biggest deal in gambling history had gone through – Amaya paid $4.9bn for the Rational Group. For Isai and Mark Scheinberg it was the end of a rollercoaster ride that saw them turn PokerStars into the biggest online poker room in the space of 13 tumultuous years.

1: ‘It’s a brick! IT’S A BRICK!’

EPT Sanremo, April 2014
If you don’t think there’s any passion left in the game, take a listen to James Hartigan calling the moment that Victoria Coren Mitchell became the first player to win an EPT twice, at Sanremo in April.

It took 98 EPT main events to get the double winner and, after Coren Mitchell won her first EPT in London in 2006, it’s fair to say that her name was maybe one of the less likely two-timers. As it turned out, PokerStars couldn’t have scripted a more popular winner.

Coren Mitchell has been a fantastic ambassador for the game and there’s no better way to get more women into poker – and give short shrift to any dinosaurs who insist that women can’t compete at the highest level – than this. The poker world simultaneously erupted in joy as the news spread.

Perhaps the only person not deliriously happy was runner-up Giacomo Fundaro, but he seemed more than happy with $414k and an awkward hug.


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