Since just before Christmas, PokerNews released daily editions of the Top 10 stories of 2014. Those stories, which you can view here, were chosen from hundreds that occurred throughout the year. Some stories barely registered a blip on the poker radar, while others captured the attention of the entire community.
In our two-part The Year That Was, we’ll look back at 2014 and highlight some of the more memorable stories that took place this year. In Part I, we’ll examine the first half of the year — January through July — and tomorrow we’ll be back to finish August through December.
One of the first big stories of the year was the departure of Shane "shaniac" Schleger from PokerStars Team Online after three years. Schleger, who made the announcement in a blog post, cited his relationship as the reason why.
“My three year run with PokerStars Team Online is coming to an end, and I'm here to report that it was an extraordinarily positive experience, even despite challenges I never could have anticipated when I signed the contract,” explained Schleger, who married his long-time girlfriend during the 2013 World Series of Poker. “Not only has Stars met its obligation to its players at every turn, it has always felt like a real place within a virtual world: a place where I saw large sums of money won and lost, but far more memorably, a place where personalities were built, lifelong relationships were fostered, and community thrives.”
Bad weather made travel to the 2013 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) extremely difficult for some, but one man that got there was Germany’s Fabian Quoss, who won the first big tournament of the year for more than $1.6 million.
Quoss defeated Dan Shak in heads-up play to win the 2014 PCA $100,000 Super High Roller, and also overcame a final table that included Vanessa Selbst, Antonio Esfandiari, Tony Gregg, Matt Glantz, and wunderkind Ole Schemion.
The 2014 PCA was chock full of highlights, including Shaun Deeb winning the open-face Chinese event for $32,380 and Jake Schindler taking down the $25,000 High Roller for $1,192,624, but of course most headlines came from the Main Event, the 95th of the European Poker Tour.
Mike “Timex” McDonald, who won the EPT Dortmund in Season 4, was looking to become the first player to win two EPT titles, but he came up one spot short. Instead, it was a little known Polish player named Dominik Panka who stopped history and captured over $1.4 million in first-place prize money. Panka may have played the spoiler that day, but he’d go on to show it was no fluke by amassing several notable cashes throughout the year including a win in the 2014 EPT Deauville High Roller a month later.
Well-known poker reporter Jay "WhoJedi" Newnum stepped away from the industry after allegedly being caught stealing $700 in dealer tokes (tips) from the Foxwoods Casino in December. Newnum released a statement six days after the story was brought to light by Billy Shea, President of the union that represents the dealers at Foxwoods.
The Department of Justice finally completed its audit of Garden City Group (GCG) petitions and approved the release of $82 million in Full Tilt Poker (FTP) funds to approximately 30,000 players. Needless to say, it was a good day for those players who had their balances locked up since Black Friday.
About a week earlier, the Borgata Winter Poker Open $2 Million Guarantee was suspended, and ultimately cancelled, after the staff discovered counterfeit chips had been used in the tournament. Eventually the New Jersey State Police and the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) announced that 2.7 million in counterfeit chips from Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa were discovered in a clogged sewer pipe at Harrah's Resort and Casino, and the man who tried to flush them was 42-year-old Christian Lusardi, who entered Day 2 of the event with the chip lead.
Lusardi quickly became poker public enemy No. 1 and one of the biggest scandals in the history of the game had its villain. The story made the top three of our biggest stories of 2014, and you can read more about it by clicking here.
Feb. 8-10 – Timoshenko, Barer, and Ivey Win Big at Aussie Millions
The 2014 Aussie Millions saw Yevgeniy Timoshenko top a field of 75 entries to win the $100,000 Challenge for AU$2 million. Timoshenko did so by defeating a tough final table that included Martin Jacobson (8th - $350,000), David Steicke (7th - $450,000), Daniel Negreanu (6th - $550,000), Patrik Antonius (5th - $700,000), Doug Polk (4th - $860,000), Erik Seidel (3rd - $1.076 million), and Mike “Timex” McDonald (2nd - $1.5 million).
The next day, Ami Barer won the Aussie Millions Main Event, a tournament that attracted 669 players, for AU$1.6 million, and one day after that Phil Ivey won the $250,000 Challenge for the second time in three years and a AU$4 million first-place prize, the largest single cash of his career.
Less than a month removed from the scandalous counterfeit chip debacle at the 2014 Borgata Winter Open, another controversy erupted at the World Series of Poker Circuit Palm Beach Kennel Club in Florida when three-time gold ring winner Chan Pelton, who topped a field of 181 in Event #9 $1,125 No-Limit Hold’em to win his third ring and $47,061 in prize money, attempted to remove chips from the tournament.
Pelton apparently tried to pocket a T25,000 chip, but was caught by tournament staff. The chip swipe is said to have occurred after he had won, and Pelton claimed he only wanted it for a souvenir, though many posters in a dedicated TwoPlusTwo thread believe his real intention was to use it in the $1,675 Main Event.
Pelton was eventually stripped of the title, disqualified from the WSOP National Championship, banned from all Caesars properties, and forfeited his prize money. As a result, Chris Bolek was awarded the victory.
British poker legend Chris Moorman won the 2014 World Poker Tour L.A. Poker Classic by defeating Glenn Lafaye heads-up for the $1 million top prize and his first major live tournament title. Moorman, the world's most celebrated online poker tournament player, had previously reached major final tables at the WSOP, WSOP Europe, EPT, and Aussie Millions, but failed to close the deal until the WPT in Los Angeles.
Few things capture the poker world's attention more than the high-stakes cash games that take place at the Poker King Club in Macau. While the game has been spreading for three years now — earning the distinction as the biggest in the world — it had been shrouded in mystery. In March, Tom Hall, also known as "Hong Kong Tom," opened up to PokerNews about the big games in Macau. You can read his interview here.
We also recommend you check out our feature piece on Hall, The Road to Hong Kong: Tom Hall’s Journey from England to Macau’s Biggest Cash Game.
On Thursday, March 27, 2014, Alex Masek captured his record-setting eighth WSOP Circuit gold ring. Masek traveled to St. Louis and the Lumiere Place Casino & Hotel and took the title in the $365 Six-Max No-Limit Hold'em event after defeating Phil Stelzer in heads-up play. Masek earned $19,474 for the victory and separated himself from Chris Reslock, who has seven WSOP Circuit gold rings.
Mar. 29 — Fabrice Soulier Wins 2014 PokerStars.net EPT Vienna High Roller for €392,900; Oleksii Khoroshenin Main Event for €578,392
The record-setting EPT Vienna €10,300 High Roller, which emerged as the largest high roller of Season 10, attracted 181 entries, which moved it ahead of the EPT10 Barcelona High Roller by a single entry. The massive turnout generated a prize pool of nearly €1.8 million and France’s Fabrice Soulier captured the title and €392,900 first-place prize.
On the same day, Oleksii Khoroshenin, who had finished as the Day 1a chip leader, was crowned the PokerStars.net EPT Vienna Main Event champion for €578,392. Khoroshenin also became the first-ever Ukrainian EPT winner.
A month after 2010 November Niner Filippo Candio called it quits playing poker, another former November Niner, Sam Holden, followed in his footsteps by announcing his “semi-retirement” in order to pursue a philosophy degree at the University of Kent, which is a three-year program.
Holden rose to poker stardom as a member of the 2011 WSOP November Nine. He ultimately finished that tournament in ninth place for $782,115 and in the years that followed traveled the circuit representing 888poker.
“I’ve spent four incredible years playing poker full time and I never dreamt that my favorite card game could give me so many opportunities and experiences,” Holden explained. “Being able to travel the world, record television programs, meet people from every corner of the globe and enjoy some of the best restaurants and clubs, all while earning money playing a game, is a privilege not lost on me, and a journey that has taught me a lot. More recently though, I have lost a lot of drive to play poker, especially in live tournaments.”
The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City filed suit against poker legend Phil Ivey for $9.6 million in winnings at the baccarat table alleging he exploited manufacturing flaws. A week later more details emerged and kicked off the infamous "edge sorting" debacle, which would see other casino enter the fray. The story was PokerNews' second biggest of the year, and you can read all about it by clicking here.
Furthermore, we recommend you check out one of our most popular pieces of the year Sorting Out the Law Behind Phil Ivey's Edge Sorting Debacle at Borgata by PokerNews law contributor Mac VerStandig.
April 20-21 – Ole Schemion Captures High Roller Title; Vicky Coren Mitchell Becomes First Two-Time EPT Champ
The EPT Sanremo €10,300 High Roller attracted a field of 105 entries (88 unique/17 reentries), and the final table of eight, which included Max Greenwood and Griffin Benger, took just three hours as Ole Schemion steamrolled his way to victory for €265,000.
The next day in the PokerStars.it EPT Sanremo Main Event, Vicky Coren Mitchell defeated Giacomo Fundaro to win the €476,100 first-place prize. She began the final table as the short stack, but by the end Coren Mitchell, who won the 16th-ever EPT back in London during Season 3, was the last player standing. That meant she won the 98th EPT stop to write poker history by becoming the first player to capture two EPT Main Event titles. It was PokerNews' No. 6 story of the year, which you can read more about by clicking here.
For the third time in four years, Blair Hinkle won the World Series of Poker Circuit Horseshoe Council Bluffs, which is an unheard of accomplishment. In 2014, Hinkle took home $90,770 in prize money, down a bit from 2013 when he won it for $121,177. He also won in 2011 for $88,555. Needless to say, Hinkle owns the Horseshoe Council Bluffs stop.
April 27 — Daniel Colman Wins EPT Grand Final Super High Roller; Keven Stammen Takes Down WPT Season XII World Championship for $1.35 Million
The 2014 PokerStars and Monte-Carlo® Casino European Poker Tour Grand Final €100,000 Super High Roller saw Daniel Colman, a 23-year-old from the United States who plays online under the name “mrGR33N13,” top a field of 62 entries (50 unique, 12 reentries) to win the €1.539 million first-place prize. Colman fired three bullets in the tournament, meaning he invested €300,000 into the event, but obviously it proved a fruitful decision. It also kicked off what would be an incredible year for Colman, one that we deemed the fourth-biggest story of 2014.
At the same time across the pond, Keven Stammen defeated Byron Kaverman in the WPT Season XII World Championship, a tournament that attracted 328 entries, to win the $1.35 million first-place prize.
For a long time, the men behind the “MalACEsia” and “samrostan” online monikers remained a mystery. Then, during the EPT Grand Final, PokerNews was able to confirm that Macau high-stakes player Paul Phua was “MalACEsia" and Chun Lei Zhou “samrostan,” the player formerly known as “patpatpanda.”
“Yes, ‘patpatpanda’ is me, ‘samrostan’ is me,” Zhou, who speaks little English, told PokerNews. “I played for a long time, and lost some money. Then I changed my account to ‘samrostan.’”
May 2 — Philipp Gruissem Wins EPT10 Grand Final €25,000 High Roller; Antonio Buonanno Wins Main Event After 18-Hour Final
The 2014 PokerStars and Monte-Carlo® Casino European Poker Tour Grand Final €25,000 High Roller attracted 214 entries (159 unique entries that accounted for 55 reentries and a prize pool of €5.243 million) and saw the affable Philipp Gruissem walk away with the €993,963 first-place prize to move to the top of the all-time German money list ahead of 2011 World Series of Poker Main Event champ Pius Heinz, who was also featured in a Where Are They Now? piece in 2014.
The same day, it took over 300 hands, nearly 18 hours of play, for a winner to emerge in the €10,600 Main Event. Capturing the title and the massive €1.24 million top prize was Italy's Antonio Buonanno — the only player at the final table not to qualify for the event online — who defeated Jack Salter in a marathon heads-up match.
This year's Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP) $10,300 Main Event final table saw Ivan "vandir4rek" Soshnikov finish as the last man standing from a field 657 runners to claim the $1.048 million top prize along with his first SCOOP watch. The Russian pro defeated high-stakes regular Peter "Se7enTr3y" Akery for the title after a lengthy back-and forth battle.
The 2014 WSOP Circuit National Championship drew 126 players to the legendary Atlantic City Boardwalk and saw Dominik Nitsche win his second gold bracelet and $352,800 in prize money. The German, who won the 2012 WSOP Event #59: $1,000 No-Limit Hold’em for $654,797, was one of the top 100 on the WSOP World Rankings and paid the $10,000 buy-in to the event, much to the frustration of those who qualified on the WSOP Circuit.
Amazingly, Nitsche would go on to win his third bracelet in Las Vegas, shattering Phil Ivey's record in the process.
The final results of the European elections saw PokerNews founder and Lithuanian businessman Tony G officially elected to a seat in the next European Parliament.
"Today we made history in Lithuanian politics," commented Tony G right after the results came out. His win was our No. 9 story of the year, which you can read all about here.
Vanessa Selbst cemented her legacy as one of the world's best players when she won the 2014 WSOP Event #2: $25,000 Mixed-Max No-Limit Hold’em for $871,148 and her third gold bracelet. The only other woman to win as many bracelets is Barbara Enright, though she is far from the more than $10 million in career live tournament earnings Selbst has amassed.
The biggest event of the 2014 WSOP was Event #8: $1,500 Millionaire Maker No-Limit Hold’em, a tournament that attracted a massive 7,977 entrants. Every one of them had their eyes firmly fixed on the $1,319,587 first-place prize, but only one could have it. That man was New Yorker Jonathan Dimmig, who captured his first gold bracelet in the process.
Dimmig told PokerNews after the win: "I was able to get to the final table on Day 3 and came in with a little under the average stack, but I knew I was already going to get a six-figure payday — bigger than anything I previously had — so my outlook was either way it’s a good payday so I might as well go for the win. I may only have one chance at a big tournament like this in my life, so I’m going to go for it."
The Mid-States Poker Tour (MSPT) held its first-ever tournament in Las Vegas this past summer, and the $1,100 buy-in Main Event attracted 854 entries, a record for the MSPT. After three days it was Drake Bronk who walked away with the $163,870 top prize and his first MSPT title. The Chicago native defeated Maxsim Rosenfeld heads-up after Rosenfeld rejected several deal proposals at the final table.
Prior to the FIFA World Cup to kick off, iBus Media Network, the parent company of PokerNews, launched BookieSmash, an online portal dedicated to sports betting. BookieSmash aims to help sports fans who are too intimidated by the traditional sports-betting portals to discover the fun of sports betting, and, at the same time, meet the expectations and need of sophisticated punters looking for useful betting strategy tips, sports news, and lucrative promotions. Check it out here.
It's PokerNews' biggest story of the year, as featured here. It happened when Amaya Gaming Group Inc. acquired privately held Oldford Group Limited, the parent company of Rational Group (PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker), for an aggregate purchase price of $4.9 billion.
The unprecedented acquisition rocked the online gaming world and set of speculation, mainly that the deal could pave the way for PokerStars to reenter the U.S. market.
According to a press release issued by PokerStars: "Amaya believes the transaction will expedite the entry of PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker into regulated markets in which Amaya already holds a footprint, particularly the U.S. Additionally, Amaya will provide an extensive selection of its online casino games to expand the Full Tilt Poker casino platform. Amaya intends to strongly support Rational Group’s growth initiatives in new gaming verticals, including casino, sports book, and social gaming, and new geographies."
German poker pro Johannes Strassmann, 29, who went to Slovenia to visit some friends, disappeared from the capital city of Ljubljana on Saturday, June 21. He was last seen around 10 p.m. in Gornji, a popular street in the heart of Ljubljana’s old town, and his disappearance caused much concern throughout the poker world.
Unfortunately the story ended in tragedy as the following Friday, police found a body on the banks of the Ljublianica River in Ljubljana and a DNA test on the body confirmed it was Strassmann. It was later determined hallucinogenic drugs may have caused Strassmann's death.
Event #57: The $1,000,000 Big One for One Drop of the 2014 WSOP saw Daniel Negreanu and Daniel Colman battle it out for the biggest buy-in event of the year. It was an intense match, but ultimately Colman defeated the Team PokerStars Pro to capture the $15.3 million first-place prize. Colman proceeded to snub the media, which rubbed many in the poker world the wrong way.
Colman continued his heater throughout 2014, which you can read all about in our No. 4 story of the year.
July 2 — Chad Brown Passes Away at Age 52
After a three-year battle with cancer, beloved poker pro Chad Brown, 52, passed away at Calvary Hospital Hospice in the Bronx, New York. Brown never won a coveted WSOP bracelet on the felt, but the WSOP recognized him by awarding him an honorary bracelet in a ceremony that captured the hearts of the community around the world.
Likewise, the poker community honored Brown by holding a charity poker event a couple weeks later.
After being arrested in September on suspicion of fraud, German poker player Ali Tekintamgac was sentenced to three years and five months in prison on July 11 by the Augsburg District Court for repeatedly cheating at the poker table.
Paul Phua and Richard Yong, wealthy Chinese businessmen and regulars in Macau’s high-stakes poker cash games, were among eight people arrested for an illegal World Cup betting operation at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. The story, which is ongoing, was PokerNews' No. 7 story of 2014, which you can read all about by clicking here.
After seven long days of poker, the 2014 World Series of Poker Main Event reached its final table with the Netherlands’ Jorryt van Hoof, the second Dutchman ever to make a WSOP Main Event final table, leading the way. Meanwhile, Mark Newhouse became the first player in a decade to return to the final table a second straight year, and the first to do it in the November Nine era.
That concludes our look back at the events from January through July, but come back tomorrow for Part II of the PokerNews 2014 Year in Review. We’ll examine August through the end of the year, so stay tuned. While you wait, check out one the following PokerNews video honoring the late Chad Brown.