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These are the moments that shook the poker world in 2015
1) Colossal success
The Colossus, May 29 – June 2
Every poker player dreams of playing at the World Series of Poker. Thankfully, the organisers are keen to bring people to the poker and the buy-ins for bracelet events have been dropping steadily – down to $1k in 2014. In 2015 the WSOP went one better. Event #5 was named The Colossus and it offered the lowest buy-in point of any bracelet event in history – $565. Some pros moaned about devaluing the bracelet but, petty quibbles aside, everyone else was over the moon.
But would people show up to play it? The answer was a resounding YES! The previous record for a live event was 8,77 for the 2006 WSOP Main Event. The Colossus attracted an incredible 22,734 entries from 14,284 unique players, 5,664 of whom were playing a WSOP event for the first time. That’s a huge success in anyone’s book, but especially Cord Garcia’s. He won, bagged the bracelet and $638,880, and narrowly beat out his roommate Ray Henson for a $23k last longer. Incredibly, Henson finished third.
2) Spin for a million
PokerStars might not have invented the hyper-turbo jackpot SNGs, but they made them their own in 2015. On January 12 a Russian handyman clicked to start a $5 Spin & Go. The numbers started spinning and – defying odds of 3/10,000,000 – landed on the $1.2m jackpot. 13 minutes and 26 seconds later he’d won a million. We can’t even imagine what that would feel like. A week later two more $1m jackpots landed, won by Canadian player anushan_2323 and Tornado111 from the Czech Republic.
Fast forward to October, and PokerStars must have accidentally pressed its own Doom Switch, with six jackpot winners landing in a single week! In all now, 13 players have had their lives changed in a single spin.
3) Hellmuth does it again
WSOP $10k Razz, June 6-8
What more can you say about Phil Hellmuth? The phenomenally successful tournament player won his first bracelet – the $10k Main Event – in 1989. Since then he’s had to put up with ridicule from young online players, convinced his game is out of date and out of shape, or at the very least, only suited to large field NLHE events. Hellmuth has just kept winning.
These days he concentrates on the World Series, which he sees as his legacy, and in June he added to his collection of bracelets, winning number 14 in the $10k Razz Championship. He had to get past 2015 WSOP Player of the Year, Mike Gorodinsky, heads-up. It puts him four clear of his nearest rivals, poker legends Phil Ivey, Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan. Phil, we salute you.
4) Born in the USA
When the Scheinbergs sold PokerStars to Amaya last year, getting back in the States was a huge part of the narrative. It probably would never have happened with what the US authorities saw as ‘bad actors’ involved. But, just over a year on, and more than four years since Black Friday saw the last real-money hands dealt, Stars were finally awarded a license for New Jersey. They haven’t started offering real-money poker yet, but are planning to in the first half of 2016. It’s good news for PokerStars, but it’s also another step down the long and painful road to full regulation.
5) Stars strike
It wasn’t all good for Stars in 2015 though. Maybe strike is the wrong word here – after all, poker players aren’t employees of PokerStars. However, pros clearly believe that the world’s biggest online site owes them a duty of care. They were feted when the site grew to take almost 70% of the market, but now seem to be surplus to requirements. Loss of rewards and VPPs at the high stakes tables meant the players felt they had no choice but to boycott the site in the first of a number of planned ‘strikes’. PokerStars responded that the strike had no effect but the players haven’t been put off and are currently boycotting the site again.
Two high profile PokerStars pros felt more aligned with the players too. Alex Millar resigned and Ike Haxton turned down an extension to his contract. This is a story that’s going to rumble on through 2016.
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