While 2011 was perhaps the worst year for online poker, there were still a couple of notable online stories. One story was the resettlement of high-stakes cash games to PokerStars; another was the subsequent race by Ilari "Ilari FIN" Sahamies and Rafi "refaelamit" Amit to become the year’s biggest winner. Things were hotly contested in December, with Viktor “Isildur1” Blom making a push for the title, but in the end, Sahamies won $2.18 million to become PokerStars' biggest winner of 2011.
According to HighStakesDB, Sahamies won $2,183,832 in 2011, only $78,235 more than Amit's $2,105,597.
Both Sahamies and Amit are high-stakes regulars who’ve been featured in the weekly Online Railbird Report more often than not, so it wasn't surprising to see both finish atop the year's leaderboard. It should be noted that Gus Hansen is listed as the overall big winner of 2011, having won $3,941,703 in the first 14 weeks of the year; however, he did so on Full Tilt Poker.
Surprisingly, both Sahamies and Amit took two very different routes to the top of the PokerStars leaderboard. For instance, Sahamies was in the red for the first two-thirds of the year while Amit built up a series of smaller wins on a monthly basis — with the exception of the summer.
Here is a month-by-month look for each player for 2011:
Ilari "Ilari FIN" Sahamies Rafi "refaelamit" Amit
|Month||Winnings||Running Total||Month||Winnings||Running Total|
The year was shaping up to be a disaster for Sahamies, who is listed as having dropped $623,000 on Full Tilt, but he turned things around beginning in August. In fact, it took just two months for him to recoup his losses of $873,360 and move a half million into the black. From there, he won an average of $810,866 per month between September and November.
A good portion of those winnings came on Sept. 7, 2011, when Sahamies won the largest pot ever played on PokerStars. It happened at a six-handed $200/$400 PLO table and began when Sahamies ($247,909) opened for $1,400 from the cutoff. Andreas "Skjervøy" Torbergsen ($30,208) and "bernard-bb" ($195,609) both made the call, creating three-way action to the flop. When it was his turn, Sahamies bet $4,595, Torbergsen raised to $18,380, and both bernard-bb and Sahamies made the call. Action checked to Torbergsen on the turn, prompting him to move all-in for $10,428. Bernard-bb then check-raised to $91,019, Sahamies called, and the was put out on the river. Bernard-bb bet $84,810 and Sahamies called, showing for a flush, which was better than bernard-bb’s . Torbergsen mucked and Sahamies took down the $421,826 pot, the largest in PokerStars' history.
Amit was actually seated at the table during the aforementioned hand, though he had folded preflop. Perhaps Amit's most memorable hand of the year came on Aug. 25 when he scooped pot worth $168,336, his biggest of 2011. In that hand, Amit ($155,605) was playing three-handed $100/$200 PLO when Ronny "1-ronnyr3" Kaiser ($29,296) folded on the button. Amit raised to $600 from the small blind while Viktor "Isildur1" Blom ($98,241) three-bet to $1,800 from the big. Amit then made it $5,400 to go, Blom called, and the flop came down . Amit bet $5,600, Blom called, and the appeared on the turn. This time Amit checked, Blom bet $17,400, and Amit called. Again, Amit check-called a bet on the river, this time $56,768, and watched as Blom turned over for a missed straight. Amit proudly rolled over to take down the pot.
Speaking of Blom, he made a late push on Thursday, Dec. 30 to become the biggest winner of 2011, collecting $492,000 while Sahamies dropped $454,000. In one hand at $50/$100 PLO, Blom ($53,885) opened for $300 while Sahamies ($67,746) exercised his option in the big blind with a three-bet to $900. Ever the aggressor, Blom four-bet to $2,700, Sahamies called, and the flop came down .
Sahamies checked, Blom fired out $3,800, and Sahamies woke up with a check-raise to $16,799.50. Blom responded by moving all-in for $51,185, and Sahamies made the call.
Both players had flopped two pair, but Blom’s was superior. Neither the turn nor river changed a thing, and Blom raked in the $107,770 pot.
Sahamies' bad day put the 2011 title in jeopardy, putting him just $50,000 ahead of Amit, but he managed to hold on for the win. Meanwhile, Blom’s late-December rush made him the third biggest winner on PokerStars, banking $1,472,695.
Here is a look at the Top 10 Winner and Losers on PokerStars for 2011:
Top 10 2011 Winners on PokerStars
|Ilari “Ilari FIN” Sahamies||1,200||99,695||$2,183,832|
|Rafi "refaelamit" Amit||1,077||101,527||$2,105,597|
|Viktor “Isildur1” Blom||3,519||384,654||$1,472,695|
|Jens “Jeans89” Kyllönen||2,417||151,034||$1,377,019|
|Gavin “gavz101” Cochrane||2,079||233,728||$1,197,672|
|Ronny “1-ronnyr3” Kaiser||1,226||78,543||$1,191,110|
|Andreas “skjervoy” Torbergsen||1,328||99,428||$1,132,635|
|Benny "Toweliestar" Spindler||2,205||201,708||$1,070,907|
Top 10 2011 Losers on PokerStars
|Richard “nutsinho” Lyndaker||1,620||160,159||$1,025,356|
|Nikolaus “RealAndyBeal” Jedlicka||742||43,419||$735,094|
|Anton “antonionel” Ionel||133||15,264||$703,103|
Data and hands obtained from HighStakesDB.com