March 6, 2006 was an historic day for online poker. It was that day that PokerStars introduced the Sunday Million, a $215 buy-in tournament that would soon set the bar for all weekly major tournaments across the online poker industry.
The first Sunday Million attracted 5,893 players, creating a prize pool of $1,178,600. American pro Daryl "aaaaaa" Jace took down the $173,844 first-place prize, and since then, the Sunday Million has reigned as the most coveted weekly title on the Internet.
"I remember when we first decided to offer a $1 million guarantee — we were at least a little nervous about guaranteeing such a large number, but the prior few tournaments had broken through that level so we thought it was worth trying," Lee Jones, Head of Communications at PokerStars and former weekly host of the Sunday Million, told PokerNews. "Obviously the players responded with enthusiasm and have been doing so for eight years now. I recall watching the event grow almost week by week, and seeing the first $100K and then $150K first prize. I thought, 'We’ll never reach a $200K first prize,' but obviously we did, and now that’s standard."
Since that memorable day in 2006, the Sunday Million has boasted a guaranteed a prize pool of at least $1 million every week. On special occasions, PokerStars even ups the ante by multiplying the guarantee by as much as 10 times (as was the case for the 10th Anniversary of the site's launch).
Earlier this month, PokerStars tagged an $8 million guaranteed prize pool to its 8th Anniversary Sunday Million tournament, promising at least $1 million to the eventual winner. In the end, Germany's "DrUPSWING" walked away with the top prize of $1,038,540 after a heads-up deal with fellow German Fabio "hdjgkfkgsdl" Sperling.
That seven-figure Sunday Million score wasn't the biggest ever, though. Here's a look at the 25 biggest Sunday Million tournaments of all time, courtesy of the team at PokerStars.
|Date||Tournament||Entrants||Prize Pool||Winner||First Prize||Duration|
|12/18/2011||$215 Sunday Million 10th Anniv. ($10M GTD)||62,116||$12,423,200||Kyle "First-Eagle" Weir||$1,146,574||15:03:49|
|6/3/2011||$215 Sunday Million 5th Anniv. ($5M GTD)||59,128||$11,825,600||Luke "Bdbeatslayer" Vrabel||$844,209||14:34:28|
|3/3/2013||$215 Sunday Million 7th Anniv. ($7M GTD)||49,287||$9,857,000||benislovas||$848,589||15:05:14|
|3/2/2014||$215 Sunday Million 8th Anniv. ($8M GTD)||46,586||$9,317,415||DrUPSWING||$1,038,540||14:45:40|
|2/21/2010||$215 Sunday Million 4th Anniv. ($4M GTD)||36,169||$7,233,800||Mike "RichieRichZH" Friedrich||1,141,510||13:30:33|
|11/3/2013||$215 Sunday Million 6th Anniv. ($6M GTD)||33,732||$6,746,400||slyfox151||$590,482||14:21:39|
|12/8/2013||$215 Sunday Million ($5M GTD)||26,925||$5,385,000||sincinaty118||$421,971||14:37:38|
|1/31/2010||$215 Sunday Million Special ($2M GTD)||19,377||$2,875,400||OX45AL||$550,011||11:59:48|
|11/15/2009||$215Sunday Million ($2.5M GTD)||18,283||$3,656,600||Zadman5311||$365,670||12:21:51|
|12/28/2008||$215 Sunday Million Special ($2.5M GTD)||16,260||$3,252,000||lp_SakiSaki||$331,378||11:16:08|
|7/13/2008||$215 Sunday Million ($2M GTD)||14,181||$2,836,200||TimDawg888||$297,801||11:48:57|
|2/15/2009||$215 Sunday Million Special ($2.5M GTD)||13,267||$2,653,400||Ferl0k||$286,567||12:42:56|
|12/22/2013||$215 WCOOP Challenge ($2M GTD)||11,644||$2,328,800||roscootje459||$302,281||29:40:10|
|11/3/2007||$215 Sunday Million Anniversary ($1.5M GTD)||10,508||$2,101,600||Zeddor||$271,106||10:39:14|
|3/13/2011||$215 Sunday Million ($1.5M GTD)||10,352||$2,070,400||klorinho1||$201,940||11:21:59|
|5/6/2011||$215 Sunday Million ($1.5M GTD)||10,237||$2,047,400||Diogene||$284,798||11:58:28|
|7/3/2010||$215 Sunday Million ($1.5M GTD)||10,123||$2,024,600||Michael "mae9690" Eiler||$283,449||11:14:36|
|6/17/2012||$107.50 Half Price Sunday Million ($1M Gtd)||20,216||$2,021,600||Sykoen||$194,835||13:04:56|
|2/28/2010||$215 Sunday Million ($1.5M GTD)||10,077||$2,015,400||orionrg||$282,161||10:46:08|
|4/4/2010||$215 Sunday Million ($1.5M GTD)||9,749||$1,949,800||acechipchase||$272,977||11:39:36|
|3/14/2010||$215 Sunday Million ($1.5M GTD)||9,687||$1,937,400||Highway51||$271,241||11:29:14|
|3/20/2011||$215 Sunday Million ($1.5M GTD)||9,594||$1,918,800||kalmuka||$234,574||12:08:38|
|3/31/2013||$215 Sunday Million ($1M GTD)||9,498||$1,899,600||cecko80||$222,200||12:04:42|
|2/1/2011||$215 Sunday Million ($1.5M GTD)||9,466||$1,893,200||He77_Razor||$270,533||11:21:09|
|3/28/2010||$215 Sunday Million ($1.5M GTD)||9,371||$1,874,200||tony6733||$267,640||11:34:44|
It's worth noting that each of the four biggest Sunday Millions (and six of the top seven) came after U.S. players were blocked from playing on the site. The growth of the tournament after the loss of the biggest market serves as an example of PokerStars' dedication toward maintaining its dominance in the industry.
"The most gratifying thing for me has been the slow but steady growth of this institution — really a weekly global celebration of poker," said Jones. "Of course, I can’t play in the Sunday Million, but I’ve been proud to sit on the rail for hundreds of Sundays as the poker community turns out in their thousands to compete."