2015 Year In Review: Tournament Recap
A Look Back At The Biggest Poker Tournaments Of The Year
The new year is here and we are just days away from high-stakes, exciting poker action with the 2016 tournament circuit set to heat-up following the holidays. In the calm before the storm we pause and look back at the last year in poker, remembering the events that shaped 2015 and made it one of the most thrilling years in tournament poker history.
2015 began in earnest for the tournament poker world with the start of the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. Things kicked off with the $100,000 buy-in super high roller at the Atlantis Casino and Resort in the Bahamas. This year the tournament drew a record field of 66 entries to build a total prize pool of $6.4 million dollars. In the end Steve O’Dwyer came out on top, earning the $1,872,580 first-place prize for the biggest score of his career. Kevin Shulz outlasted a field of 816 players in the PCA $10,300 main event to win $1,491,580 and the first European Poker Tour main event title of the year.
The World Series of Poker Circuit made the news in January when a prelim at their Choctaw stop drew the tour’s largest ever field of 4,053 entries for a $365 buy-in no-limit hold’em event. Ray Henson defeated Poker Hall of Famer T.J. Cloutier heads-up to win $197,588 and write his name in the history books.
As January wound down the poker world took the long trek down under to Melbourne, Australia for the Aussie Millions. Hometown hero Manny Stavropoulos emerged victorious in the main event, winning $1,385,500 AUD after outlasting a field of 648 entries.
The series also played host to two massive super high roller events. Phil Ivey won the $250,000 buy-in event for the third time in four years, topping a field of 25 players this time to win $2,205,000 AUD. Malaysia’s Richard Yong took down the $100,000 buy-in event for $1,870,000 AUD.
As the big tournament action returned stateside it was Anthony Zinno who took down the 2015 World Poker Tour L.A. Poker Classic $10,000 no-limit hold’em main event, topping a field of 538 players to win his second WPT main event of the year, having taken down the Fallsview Poker Classic just weeks earlier.
With these back-to-back wins on that tour he became only the third player ever to win three WPT titles and took a big lead in the Card Player Player of the Year race. This was far from the last time Zinno would wind up in the winners circle in 2015.
The WPT kept rolling through California, with it’s next major stop being at the Bay 101 in San Jose. Taylor Paur emerged victorious in the WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star main event, earning $1,214,200 for beating the field of 708 entries.
On the other side of the world the European Poker Tour was approaching the climax of it’s 11th season. First came the inaugural EPT Malta, highlighted by a €5,300 no-limit hold’em main event that drew 895 players. France’s Jean Montury was the last player standing in that event, capturing his first EPT title and the €687,400 first-place prize.
The tour then closed it’s season with the EPT Grand Final in Monte Carlo. Poker legend Erik Seidel won the €100,000 super high roller for €2,015,000 while young Spanish poker pro Adrian Mateos Diaz beat out 564 entries to win €1,082,000 in the tour’s ultimate main event.
With summer fast approaching the World Poker Tour closed out it’s 13th season with the $15,000 WPT Championship main event at the Borgata in Atlantic City. A total of 239 entries were made in the event and in the end Brooklyn poker pro Asher Conniff was the victor, earning $973,683 for the win.
The WPT and EPT wrapped their seasons up just in time for what is always the marquee tournament series of the year, the World Series of Poker. The 2015 WSOP hosted 68 events, each awarding a gold bracelet. It’s impossible to cover each and every winner, but the six-week poker throwdown at the Rio did of course have some highlights.
Of course their were numerous big names to take down bracelets this summer, including
double winners Max Pescatori ($1,500 razz and $10,000 stud eight-or-better) and Brian hastings ($1,500 ten-game mix and $10,000 stud), Tuan Le ($10,000 triple draw deuce-to-seven lowball), Shaun Deeb ($10,000 pot-limit hold’em), Daniel Alaei ($10,000 Omaha eight-or-better), Jeff Madsen ($3,000 pot-limit Omaha eight-or-better), Jason Mercier ($5,000 six-max no-limit hold’em), Byron Kaverman ($10,000 six-max no-limit hold’em), Eli Elezra ($1,500 stud) and Kevin MacPhee ($5,000 turbo no-limit hold’em).
All-time bracelet leader Phil Hellmuth won his 14th WSOP title by taking down the $10,000 razz championship. He now is four bracelet wins ahead of Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan and Phil Ivey, who are his nearest competition.
This year’s WSOP featured three high roller events. The $50,000 Poker Players Championship, which added Badugi and no-limit single draw deuce-to-seven lowball for the first time to become a ten-game mix, was won by Mike Gorodinsky for nearly $1.3 million. The $111,111 One Drop High Roller event raised over $750,000 for charity and paid eventual champion and 2010 main event winner Jonathan Duhamel just shy of $4 million when he topped the field 135 entries.
The final high roller event of the series was the inaugural $25,000 pot-limit Omaha event won by none other than Anthony Zinno, who scored his first gold bracelet and $1,122,196. With that he took a stranglehold on the Player of the Year race, a lead which he never relinquished until securing the title at year’s end.
As always the centerpiece of the summer and the entire year as far as tournament poker was the WSOP main event. This year there were 6,420 entrants, building a prize pool of $60,348,000. American poker pro Joseph McKeehen dominated the final table, converting a huge chip lead heading into the November Nine into his first bracelet, the $7,683,346 first-place prize and the title of 2015 world champion.
Outside of the Series the biggest event of the summer was the $500,000 Super High Roller Bowl. 43 players posted the half-million buy-in but in the end the last player remaining was Brian Rast, who won $7,525,000 after defeating Scott Seiver heads-up for the title.
Loni Harwood won the World Series of Poker Circuit’s season-ending National Championship event, capturing her second bracelet and $341,599 in early August.
The final month of summer has been increasingly bust as far as the tournament scene goes, with the highlight of the month being the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open series. This year Omar Zazay came out on top in the $5,250 main event, winning $1 million dollars in the $5 million-guaranteed main event. Jason Mercier took down the $25,000 high roller on the same day to win $652,800 and his third title of the year.
As the weather began to cool things were still plenty hot on the tournament trail. The EPT Barcelona €5,300 no-limit hold’em main event was the largest event ever in the tour’s history, with 1,694 entries in total. In the end John Juanda walked away as the champion with $1,186,208.
Stateside the WPT Borgata Poker Open main event also drew a huge turnout. A total of 1,027 entries in the $3,500 main event made it one of the biggest in the tour’s history. David Paredes emerged victorious with his first WPT title and the $723,227 first-place prize.
In October the World Series of Poker Europe took place in Germany for the first time ever. Jonathan Duhamel came out on top in the €25,600 no-limit hold’em high roller event to win his third career WSOP gold bracelet and the $610,084 first-place prize. The €10,450 no-limit hold’em main event drew 313 players, with Kevin MacPhee hoisting his second bracelet in the end. For the win the American poker pro earned $972,845.
Steve O’Dwyer bookended the year with another win in a super high roller. Having started with a title run at the PCA in January, he ended the year by taking down the EPT Prague €50,000 event for $816,666. The main event of that festival built a 1,044-player field, with 51-year-old Hossein Ensan coming out on top in the end.
The last big push of 2015 came at the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic at Bellagio in Las Vegas. Kevin Eyster beat a field of 639 entries in the $10,400 main event to win $1,587,382 and his second WPT title, while Fedor Holz ermerged victorious in the year’s final six-figure buy-in event: the WPT Alpha8 Las Vegas $100,000 super high roller. For the win the German pro earned $1,589,219 just days before Christmas.
With that the various tours wound down for the holidays. The first major events of 2016 are now only days away, kicking off with the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure yet again. Make sure to stay tuned to CardPlayer.com throughout the year as we bring you coverage and results from the biggest poker tournaments around the world.
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