When you look back at the year that was 2005, there were some truly great things that happened throughout the year. As we continue my look back at the year that was, these were some of the things that made the year truly memorable.
1. The Poker Boom Continues - For all the naysayers and doom mongers, the power of the game of poker continues to transfix the world. A quick comparison of the World Poker Tour stops through its four year history should be one way to see that there are still millions of players who are looking at taking their shot at this particular pinnacle of success.
Other than the 2005 renewal of the Grand Prix de Paris (which came right after the conclusion of the forty five day orgy that was the World Series of Poker), every event so far in the fourth season of the WPT has seen a sizeable increase in players coming to the felt. A quick look at the number of online sites that are running satellites for WPT events demonstrates that this trend should continue as the fourth season drives into 2006. The WPT wasn't the only mark of the expansion of the game, however.
The World Series of Poker was a month and a half of some of the greatest poker the game has seen. It also was, by far, the richest gathering in the thirty five year history of the event. In the previous decades of the World Series, nearly $300 million in purses was up for grabs; in 2005 alone, over one third of that was available for the over 20,000 combatants, shattering the previous year's record. When you also look at the continued rise of online poker rooms and the millions that are wagered there, it is plainly obvious that the game is in the best shape that it has ever been.
2. Poker Has A Heart- While it seems that the cutthroat world of poker, with its "take no prisoners" approach to taking your opponents money, wouldn't lend itself to having a softer side, there were several examples of poker being used for philanthropic causes throughout 2005.
Professional player Phil Gordon has been at the forefront of using the game for that reason. With the "Put A Bad Beat On Cancer" fundraiser, thousands of players have devoted 1% of their tournament winnings for a year towards beating cancer through the Cancer Research and Prevention Foundation. Phil has also shown that he will step to the plate for other causes as well and has traveled the U. S. as a host for many other events in 2005.
Other professional players, celebrities and other groups have been using the power of the poker chip for that reason as well. Phil Hellmuth, the Circle of Outlaws, Annie Duke, Clonie Gowen and others have either donated their time and or expertise to raising money for a variety of causes. Vince Neil's charity poker tournament in November was a smashing success and the Small Town Poker Tour continues to do it part by traveling America (and soon the world!) with its amateur poker tournaments that raise funds for hometown charities. As poker enters the mainstream more and more, we should see plenty of these type of events come 2006.
3. So You Want To Learn The Game? - 2005 brought a wealth of poker information for the newcomers to the game. Be it DVDs, books, camps, computer simulators or personal training sessions, it really seems that anyone who wants to pick up the game has no excuses.
A short time ago, pretty much the only thing you might (and it was a BIG "might") find in the bookstores regarding poker was Doyle Brunson's seminal 70's poker book "Super/System". Over the last few years and especially in 2005, it seemed that there were new tomes every month that found their way into the bookstores of the world. When you add in the other media available, someone who has never picked up a deck of cards in their life can, at the minimum, have the rudimentary abilities to compete in the game.
To be able to continue expanding the game of poker, you must be able to bring new blood to it. Through the plethora of poker information out there, a person can capture in a very short time what it took someone like Brunson decades to learn. With everything people can get their hands on to learn about poker, it will also continue to add more players for the foreseeable future.
4. Poker Is Now Mainstream - Lycos, in its year end recap of most searched terms, has poker in its Top Ten with other regular mainstream subjects such as Paris Hilton, Pamela Anderson and Britney Spears. A quick Google search reveals that there are over 47 MILLION returns on the subject. Even on eBay, there are nearly 20,000 items offered for sale there.
Poker is firmly entrenched on television, as well. There is at least one poker program, be it a World Series, World Poker Tour, other prominent tournament or celebrity event being broadcast daily. Television ratings for these events are comparable to prominent televised sporting events such as golf and regular season professional basketball games. With this in mind, more is coming in 2006 to whet the appetite of poker fans around the world.
What was once the province of the backroom of bars and the local Lions Club has become mainstream, with America and the world willingly along for the ride. While some may bemoan this fact (much like Southern Americans have cried that NASCAR has forgotten it roots in its run to worldwide prominence), it is perhaps one of the best things about poker in the 21st century, not just 2005.
Even with the great things that happened during the last year, from the avalanche of cash to the prominence of the game in the minds of people around the world, there were some unnerving and unfortunate aspects to the year that was as well. With the yin, you also have to have the yang. In the next part of "The Final Table", we have to take a look at the unfortunate downside to 2005 in poker. Perhaps they are some things that we can eradicate as we look to the start of a new year.
Ed note: Party Poker have multiple tables available at every limit, 24 hours a day.