The Year That Was: Looking Back on Poker's Biggest Moments in 2014, Pt. 2
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.
Yesterday, we kicked off our two-part The Year That Was, which takes a look at some of the more memorable stories that took place this year. In Part 1 we examined the first half of the year — January through July — and now we’re back to finish it up by taking a look at August through December. Let’s get to it.
Online poker hit a speed bump in August when Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer shelved his bill to legalize online poker in California. Likewise, the Los Angeles Times reported that Sen. Lou Correa had also shelved his online poker bill. Correa won't be returning next year because of term limits.
A bill failed to pass due to two primary sticking points — the inclusion of a bad actor clause to stop companies, namely PokerStars, from participating that offered online poker in the state after passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) in 2006, and whether or not to allow horse racing tracks to take part.
The iGaming issue in California is expected to make significant movement in 2015.
Longtime Team PokerStars Pro Humberto Brenes confirmed his departure from Team PokerStars Pro Latin America. It marked the first of many departures from the team over the coming months including those of Jose "Nacho" Barbero and Angel Guillen.
The 100th stop of the European Poker Tour kicked off with Olivier Busquet topping a record-breaking field of 77 entrants to win the EPT Barcelona €50,000 Super High Roller for €896,434. The second live tournament title of his career came after he beat his good friend and winner of the 2014 World Series of Poker Big One for One Drop, Daniel Colman, in heads-up play.
Aug. 18 — Remembering Tony Korfman (1942-2014)
On Monday, Aug. 18, the poker world lost one of its most colorful characters in Tony Korfman. Two weeks earlier, Korfman had underwent hip surgery and suffered life-threatening complications. He was transferred to an intensive care unit and place on a ventilator, but ultimately passed at the age of 71.
"Thanks for being a bright light in the world of poker," said Pam Brunson. "You made me smile and laugh. I love that I got a look into your 'soft side.' I appreciated so much when you'd write me and I'd get to see the man behind the jokes and sarcasm. I also loved that side of you! You will be missed, Tony. May you rest in peace."
The record-breaking EPT Barcelona €5,300 Main Event, which attracted 1,496 runners, finished off with a marathon 15-hour final table and an epic heads-up battle that went on for six hours on its own. Ultimately, German Andre Lettau took home the title and €794,058 after a deal was made three-handed with Samuel Phillips and Hossein Ensan.
Meanwhile, a day prior Ihar Soika defeated Jason Mercier to win the record-breaking EPT Barcelona High Roller for €747,200.
The poker world was introduced to Colman in April when he won the EPT Grand Final €100,000 Super High Roller for €1,539,300. Months later, he won the WSOP $1,000,000 Big One for One Drop and then finished runner-up in the EPT Barcelona €50,000 Super High Roller. A month later, he added $1,446,710 to his yearly winnings when he bested a field of 1,499 to win the $5,300 Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open. The 23-year-old pro outlasted a tough final table that included Joe Kuether, Shawn Cunix, John Dolan, and Mike Leah, whom Colman defeated heads-up to claim his fourth seven-figure score of 2014.
The WSOP lost one if its most popular and animated dealers when Joseph "Elvis Joe" LeVine, a 56-year-old dealer at the WSOP for nearly 30 years, was shot and killed in his Las Vegas home. According to the arrest report, Marjorie Fiora, 30, was taken into custody as the primary suspect in the shooting.
The Mid-States Poker Tour (MSPT) Potawatomi Hotel & Casino attracted 487 entries and saw Jason Zarlenga emerge victorious to capture the $120,164 first-place prize.
The win marked the second MSPT title Zarlenga has captured in Season 5, joining the likes of Matt Kirby and Dan Sun as the only two-time champions. His previous victory came back in May when he conquered a field of 411 entrants to win the MSPT FireKeepers for $101,482. As a result, Zarlenga finds himself as the MSPT’s all-time money leader.
Approximately 12 people were taken into custody by the police after a raid at the Aviation Club de France (ACF) in Paris. Accusations against the ACF reportedly move from irregularities in the employment of a part of its personnel to money laundering.
The operation was carried out by the races and games division (SCCJ) of the French national judicial police (DCPJ) upon an order that came from Grand Instance Court judges Claire Thépaut and Serge Tournaire. The ACF remains closed.
Back in June, 2012 WSOP Player of the Year and Main Event champion Greg Merson departed Ivey Poker, where he was a charter member. Merson was then spotted wearing a WSOP.com patch, and naturally the rumor mill started to churn. Months later the former champ officially signed on to become the company’s first brand ambassador.
"WSOP is the most exclusive brand in all of poker, and I am honored to be able to help them promote online poker back to its full potential," Merson said when reached by PokerNews.
Ultimate Gaming, which in 2013 became the first company to launch a regulated online poker room in the United States, announced its exit from the online gambling market in New Jersey. The company ended its online gambling partnership with Trump Taj Mahal Associates LLC in Atlantic City, 10 days after the casino filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Darren Elias had made a couple World Poker Tour final tables without a win, and then things came together at the 2014 World Poker Tour Borgata Poker Open when he topped a field of 1,226 entries to win the title and $843,744.
The 2014 World Championship of Online Poker $5,200 Main Event attracted a total of 2,142 players to create a prize pool worth $10,710,000. After two long days on the felt, Austria's Fedor "CrownUpGuy" Holz was the last player standing from a talented final table that included Viktor "Isildur1" Blom, Faraz "The-Toilet 0" Jaka, Elior "Crazy Elior" Sion, Yuri "theNERDguy" Martins, and Dylan "Pokerl)eviL" Hortin, who reached the final table for the second straight year. Holz was the only player who pocketed a seven-figure payday after the final six players agreed to a deal.
Colman continued his remarkable hot streak in 2014 by winning the first WPT Alpha8 event of Season 2. Colman outlasted 17 players in the £60,000 ($95,962) buy-in super high roller event held in London to notch another victory along with the £600,000 ($959,622) first-place prize.
Ivey filed suit at the High Court in London on May 7, 2013, claiming Crockfords Casino owed him £7,700,000 in winnings from playing Punto Banco in August 2012. The Genting-owned casino refused to pay Ivey his winnings, so the matter went to court. Well, a High Court in London ruled in favor of a casino when Judge John Mitting determined that Ivey's "edge sorting" technique, used to spot tiny variations in the pattern printed on the backs of the cards, constituted as cheating under civil law.
George Danzer had an amazing 2014 WSOP. The German member of Team PokerStars Pro cashed in 10 WSOP events, made five final tables, earned $867,649, and won three gold bracelets, including one at the WSOP APAC. The road was long, the days were filled with massive amounts mental focus, and the competition was tough, but it all proved to be worth it as Danzer has now won the 2014 WSOP Player of the Year title.
The 2014 WSOP Asia-Pacific AU$25,000 High Roller saw Mike Leah emerge as the last man standing to win his first gold bracelet and the AU$600,000 top prize. The win was the culmination of a great year for Leah, who previously finished runner-up to Colman in the Seminole Hard Rock Main Event. Leah amassed more than $2,100,000 in tournament winnings in 2014.
This past summer, Scott Davies notched six cashes at the 2014 WSOP, which included a fourth-place finish in the $10,000 Heads-Up No-Limit Hold’em for $111,942. Davis then traveled from his home in Canada and headed to Australia for even more bracelet-chasing action at the WSOP Asia-Pacific. It was there he topped a field of 329 players to win the 2014 WSOP Asia-Pacific Main Event for AU$850,136.
After a weeklong battle at the Grand Connaught Rooms in central London, Sebastian Pauli was crowned winner of the 11th EPT ever hosted in London. Pauli took home £499,700 after an epic finale table that turned out to be one of the most entertaining and high-level final tables in recent memory. Kevin MacPhee was the runner-up for £308,500.
Full Tilt Poker decided not to renew its sponsorship contracts with Viktor "Isildur1" Blom and Gus Hansen.
"We can confirm that Full Tilt’s sponsorship of Viktor Blom and Gus Hansen has expired," a spokesperson from Full Tilt told PokerNews. "We would like to wish Viktor and Gus all the best in their future endeavors."
It was a record turnout for the 2014 PPC Aruba World Championship $2,200 Main Event with a total of 138 entrants taking part in the poker action in beautiful Aruba. In the end, Aristoteles Neto, who qualified for the event via a $65 satellite, took down the title and $62,764 in prize money.
"I played a $65 satellite at Foxwoods into their $450 PPC Aruba qualifier and was able to win a package to come down here," Neto explained. The commercial truck driver from Boston said he plays poker, mainly cash games, four nights a week.
Neto wasn't the only player who came out on top in Aruba. John Ott, a regular at Silks Poker Room at Tampa Bay Downs, was in a tight Player of the Year race against Parry Shaw and others, and thanks to an eighth-place finish in the Main Event followed by a runner-up finish in Event #9 $350 Black Chip Bounty he was able to claim the PPC Poker Tour Season 2 Player of the Year honor.
In September, the list of 10 nominees for the 2014 Poker Hall of Fame was released, and after the 21 living Hall of Fame members and a 20-member media panel cast their votes, two finalists were selected. Daniel Negreanu and respected tournament director Jack McClelland became the 47th and 48th inductees into the Poker Hall of Fame.
“Congratulations to the newest members of the Poker Hall of Fame,” said Poker Hall of Fame governing council member Ty Stewart. “While a contrast in styles, there is a common thread between these two deserving nominees. Both live all in on poker and have devoted their full hearts to the game.”
The two beat out a list of finalists that included Bruno Fitoussi, Bob Hooks, Ted Forrest, Jennifer Harman, Humberto Brenes, Mike Matusow, Chris Bjorin, and Huck Seed.
Oct. 30 — PokerStars Announces Rake Increase
PokerStars announced some new strategic changes that include a rake increase at the end of the Battle of the Planets promotion. The room's new rake structure was implemented in two different steps between Nov. 4 and Jan. 1, 2015, whereas the Battle of the Planet promo officially ceased to exist on Saturday, Nov. 1.
Announced only few days after the introduction of a new currency exchange rate, the two changes were part of what PokerStars Head of Corporate Communications Eric Hollreiser called PokerStars' commitment "to keeping poker exciting, fresh, and relevant to new players and to loyal grinders."
The new changes did not sit well with many players in the poker community.
The 2014 WPT Caribbean Main Event at the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort and Casino Royale in St. Maarten attracted 118 entrants that created a prize pool of $366,272. It’d take four days of play, but eventually history was made when Elias, who had won the WPT Borgata Poker Open for $843,744 in September, overcame a 4-1 chip disadvantage to defeat Christophe Rosso heads up to capture the $127,680 first-place prize.
By doing so, Elias became the first player to win back-to-back WPT Main Events in the same season. The only other player to win back-to-back titles was Marvin Rettenmaier back in 2012, though he did so by winning the Season X WPT World Championship and the Season XI WPT Merit Cyprus Classic.
The 2014 Asia Championship of Poker (ACOP) at PokerStars LIVE in Macau proved to be a tremendous success. It began when Steve O’Dwyer took down the 2014 ACOP “Macau Billionaire Poker” Super High Roller for $1,800,000, and then Gabriel Le Jossec emerged victorious in the Main Event for over $800,000. Then, German pro Fabian Quoss topped a field of 83 entrants to win the 2014 ACOP “MBP” High Roller for HK$5,271,000 (approx. $670,000).
He's never won a major live poker tournament. He's second to last in chips to start the final table. He's too quiet to become the leading poker ambassador. No player from Sweden has ever won this tournament.
Those were all rumblings heard throughout the poker world about Martin Jacobson in the months leading up to the 2014 WSOP Main Event final table. When it was all said and done, though, the man from Sweden proved to be the last player standing, topping poker's greatest event to win his first WSOP gold bracelet and the massive $10,000,000 first-place prize.
Check out his winner's interview with PokerNews:
During the finale of the 2014 WSOP Main Event final table, the WSOP announced Berlin, Germany, as the 2015 location for WSOP Europe. Germany will be the third country to host the festival after England played host from 2007-2010 before the event was moved to France for 2010-2013.
There’s no denying that Colman is a controversial figure. His refusal to promote poker and blatant disregard for the media outlets have been praised by some but criticized by many. Colman seemed to stem the hate by continuing to win poker tournaments, but in November he once again made headlines for speaking out against 13-time bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth.
Hellmuth had been a guest on Brian Koppelman’s “The Moment” podcast, which in turn inspired a thread on Two Plus Two. Colman, who posts on the forum under “mrgr33n13,” decided to offer his opinion of the “Poker Brat” with some particularly harsh words, which you can read all about here.
Ultimate Gaming, which last year became the first company to launch regulated online poker in the United States, announced that it was ceasing operations in Nevada effective immediately. The company cited a challenging operating environment as the reason for its sudden closure. The story was PokerNews' No. 8 story of the year, which you can read about by clicking here.
Day 1c of the MSPT Golden Gates marked the return of Kevin "Phwap" Boudreau to tournament poker. Boudreau suffered a traumatic brain injury at the 2013 WSOP, and doctors didn't know if he would make it. Boudreau's road to recovery continues, but the poker world was happy to see him back doing what he does best. Amazingly Boudreau went on to place fourth in the tournament for $34,678, and only fell after eventual champ Reza Yazdi got lucky with pocket eights to crack Boudreau's pocket nines.
Victoria Coren Mitchell, the only player in history to win two EPT titles, announced on her blog that she will be leaving Team PokerStars Pro as a result of PokerStars.com introducing online casino games. Coren Mitchell revealed that she terminated her endorsement contract the following morning.
Coren Mitchell, who had been with PokerStars since 2007, revealed that her decision was influenced by her own personal principles.
“I can’t hang around, sleep on it, have meetings and talk myself into staying, when my gut tells me that the right thing is to walk away,” Coren Mitchell wrote. “This is no criticism of PokerStars itself: business is business, they are providing a new service that people want, and I know they intend to abide by some key principles of responsible gaming. It’s not anti-casino either; I spend a lot of time in casinos, and I have been known to indulge in live table gaming.”
The Seminole Hard Rock “Rock ‘N’ Roll Poker Open” Championship $2 Million Guaranteed Main Event attracted 601 total entries, and after six days of play, Chris Bolek emerged as the last man standing to capture the $480,200 first-place prize. It was sweet redemption for Bolek, who had finished runner-up to Ryan Van Sanford in the WPT bestbet Jacksonville Bounty Scramble in early November.
The WPT Alpha8 St. Kitts, a $100,000 buy-in event, attracted 15 entries and generated a prize pool of $1,455,000. The title went to Team PokerStars Pro and two-time WSOP gold bracelet winner Jason Mercier, who earned $727,500 and his first WPT Alpha8 trophy.
Sheldon Adelson's attempt to attach an Internet gambling ban to must-pass legislation in the lame-duck session of Congress appears to have failed. The omnibus-spending bill was introduced without inclusion of the Restoration of the American Wire Act, which seeks to amend the Wire Act to include all forms of Internet gambling rather than just sports betting.
“We have breathed a real sigh of relief that we were able to successfully keep it out of the omnibus despite a very concerted effort by Adelson to include it,” said John Pappas, executive director of the Poker Players Alliance.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Financial Markets Authority (AMF) reportedly raided Amaya’s offices in Montreal, Canada, on Dec. 11, 2014. The police operation was part of an ongoing investigation that involves also a number of other companies such as the financial services firms Canaccord Genuinity and Manulife Financial. Canadian authorities did not to share any specific details with the media.
"Yesterday’s operation is part of an AMF investigation on that company," a spokesman for the Financial Markets Authority Sylvain Théberge told Forbes. "I can't go further for the moment."
Poker Night in America was the only significant poker show to debut in the U.S. over the past 12 months. The show debuted back in June, and since then have aired 29 episodes on CBS Sports Network. In December, the show, as well as poker fans, received some good news as the network picked up the show for two more seasons, opting to move episodes to Monday nights at 10 p.m. EST.
"As for the show, you’ll be seeing some changes starting with Season 2," said PNIA's Todd Anderson in a statement. "The graphics will be undergoing a transformation. We’ll be going to a more traditional format in showing the players and their hole cards. I think it’s safe to say that the show will always be a work in progress and we’ll continue to make it better."
Stephen Graner defeated a record field of 1,107 players in the 2014 PokerStars.com EPT Season 11 Prague Main Event. Graner held a commanding lead going into the final day and he never looked back. It was the first time Graner had played an EPT event, and he more than doubled his lifetime earnings from live tournaments, which previously stood at $676,642.
The iBus Media Network was listed in the Top 10 Most Popular Podcasts of 2014 on Podbean, which hosts 723,700 podcasters on its network.
"I honestly can’t say enough about how proud we are seeing how far the podcast has come," commented PokerNews' Head of Content Matthew Parvis. "It seems like just yesterday that we began preliminary discussions about producing a quality poker podcast that could become a staple amongst poker enthusiasts. It was a tricky time to start something with great podcasts like The Circuit, The Poker Beat, and the other PokerRoad shows not being able to survive what was a tough time in the industry. I hope we can continue to serve the poker community by informing, educating, and entertaining our audience about not only the poker world, but all that the iGaming has to offer. The best is certainly yet to come."
The WPT Alpha8 Las Vegas, a $100,000 buy-in tournament, attracted 55 entrants and created a prize pool of $5,395,500. It was the largest WPT Alpha8 in history, and after three days of intense play it was respected poker pro Andrew "Lucky Chewy" Lichtenberger who emerged victorious to capture the $2,104,245 first-place prize.
The World Poker Tour Five Diamond World Poker Classic attracted 586 entrants, up considerably from the 449 the year before, and created a prize pool of $5,682,200, of which more than $1.4 million was reserved for the winner. The field was comprised of the biggest names in the game, but in the end it was Mohsin Charania who captured the title and etched his name on the WPT Champions’ Cup for a second time.
There’s no denying that Season 5 of the MSPT was a success. The tour held 21 stops, attracted 7,896 total entrants, set several state records, and saw the average number of players per stop grow from 298 to 373 year over year. Over that time, no player did better than Mike Deis, who won the Player of the Year title with 3,350 points barely edging out Kou Vang (3,150 points) and Jason Zarlenga (3,100).
"Feels great, getting some recognition for the long hours and hard work feels good," Deis told PokerNews. "Last year I watched Pat Steele and Tommy Midena tear it up. I told myself I was going to hit the MSPT scene hard and it paid off."
The 2014-2015 WSOP Circuit recently completed its last $1,675 Main Event of 2014. The headline event at Harrah’s Atlantic City attracted 460 entries and created a prize pool of $690,000. After three days of play it was the red-hot Mukul Pahuja who captured the $148,345 first-place prize, the gold championship ring, and a seat into the season-ending National Championship.
Pahuja previously accrued 3,450 points in the WPT Season XII Player of the Year race — more than anyone else in history — and amassed $1,447,742 in winnings. His five cashes and three final tables were more than enough to earn him that POY title, but one thing escaped him – a title. That changed before 2014 was out, albeit in a WSOP event.
“I’ve been feeling great about everything I’ve been doing lately,” Pahuja told WSOP officials after the win. “But a lot of things have to go well as you saw today. A lot of guys got it in really good today and it didn’t work out. There were a lot of good players at this final table, a lot of high-level play and there were some crazy swings.”
That concludes our 2014 year in review. To wrap things up, check out the two-part video feature Martin Jacobson: The Story of a True Champion: