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The Poker Year in Review

by Card Player News Team |  Published: Feb 01, 2012



The Grosvenor UK Poker Tour struggled to compete in the live poker market, which resulted in cutting back stops on both the main tour and the Summer Series.

PartyGaming and bwin shareholders vote through all resolutions approving the merger of the two companies, which would become known under one name, digital entertainment plc.

Online gambling site bought web domain for US$100,000. The price was lower than expected due to restrictive laws on advertising gambling in Australia.
Canadian domain,, became the most valuable .ca domain on the Internet when it sold for more than $400,000. In January it was rumoured that the site was anonymously bought by a well-known poker player who already owns a large poker affiliate.

bwin announced the launch of the first real money iPhone application for poker, available at the time only to Apple users in the UK and Austria. While Microgaming announced it would launch a real money mobile poker app on the rival Android platform later in the year.

Federated Sports and Gaming partnered with the Palms Casino Resort to introduce a new professional poker league. Annie Duke was announced as the commissioner of said league, and was set to work alongside Jeffrey Pollack, former President and Commissioner of the World Series of Poker, and Michael Brodsky, David Goldberg and Jeffrey Grosman. The league, which would later become known as the Epic Poker League, was open only to the top 200 players in the world, determined by a ranking system.

PokerStars officially confirmed one of the poker world’s worst-kept secrets, high-stakes superstar “Isildur1” and 20-year-old Swede Viktor Blom were one and the same. The first few weeks of being a member of Team PokerStars Pro saw Blom struggle to gain any consistency in online profit.


Lucien Cohen and his mascot plastic rat made Martin Jacobson runner-up for the second time in an EPT when the Frenchman topped an 891-strong field to take the €888,000 top prize at the Deauville stop of the European Poker Tour.

A spokesperson for Dublin-based company Pocket Kings, service provider to Full Tilt Poker, revealed the intention to add 100 jobs to its payroll to bring the total to 800. A bright future was expected.

In Netanya, Israel, a 28 year-old man was charged with murder over a poker debt. Meir Krafit was alleged to have shot Yossi Turjeman with a nine-millimeter handgun in the victim’s own home over an accumulated poker debt.

British poker player Marcus Bebb Jones lost his appeal against extradition to the U.S. over the alleged murder of his wife in 1997. Bebb-Jones, who once shot himself in the head in a suicide attempt, faces a life sentence or execution if convicted of the murder in the U.S..

Italy opened up its online poker cash games to players in the market. Operators offering online cash games faced a tax on gross profits of 20 percent and the maximum allowable buy-in was initially set at €250 with a maximum stake of €1,000 per session.

French regulatory authority of online games, ARJEL, suspended French home games on PokerStars in order to ensure compliance with French law.

The Daily Telegraph broke the news that British bookmaker Ladbrokes was in talks with Israeli gaming operator Playtech, owner of the iPoker network. Playtech’s relationship with William Hill would prove to be a stumbling block as William Hill secured an interim injunction against Playtech to prevent it from making “significant amendments” to the joint venture project between the two companies.

The Bad Beat Jackpot was astoundingly won twice in 24 hours on the Microgaming Poker Network.

The FTOPS XIX main event set the record for the largest prize pool in the site’s history, $8,687,400. A deal was made threehanded which saw eventual runner-up Blair “blur5f6” Hinkle earn $1.1 million while the winner, “GIAMPP”, received just under $900,000.

Michael Tureniec was crowned king of the PokerStars European Poker Tour Copenhagen main event earning his first EPT title.

Gus Hansen started 2011 just as he did 2010 — winning more than $2 million on the virtual felt. He had most of his success in online pot-limit Omaha cap games.


The Cypriot government cabinet approved a draft bill banning online gaming including poker. Persons or companies found guilty of breaching the incoming law would be libel for a fine of up to €170,000 and/or five years in jail.

Frenchman Davidi Kitai took down the World Poker Tour Celebrity Invitational at the Commerce Casino in L.A.. Kitai bested 482 players including heads-up opponent Almira Skripchenko to receive $100,000 for first place.

Erik Seidel was back in the news this time for taking the title of 2011 NBC National Heads Up Poker Champion. The eight-time WSOP bracelet winner added $750,000 to his winnings. Seidel had finished runner-up in this event in 2010.

Praz Bansi won his second Grosvenor UK Poker Tour title at the GUKPT London £1,500 main event. Bansi topped a field of 245 to take home £101,020.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board said OK to a relationship between Caesars Entertainment, owner of the World Series of Poker brand, with subsidiaries of 888 Holdings LLC. The deal would be the first of its kind for a Nevada license but was yet to be approved by the Nevada Gaming Commission.

The European Union published a Green Paper on online gambling, which served as a draft law and a basis for discussing the options for future regulation across EU markets.
Victor Ramdin claimed his first major tournament title since 2006 when he took down The Big Event for $500,000.

The Dutch Government confirmed it was opening up and regulating the online gaming market including poker.

Gus Hansen brought his 2011 earnings to $4.4 million, winning $1 million in a week across a slew of pot-limit Omaha and limit deuce-to-seven triple draw sessions on Full Tilt Poker.

Wynn Resorts announced its entry into a “strategic relationship” with PokerStars. The statement said that following the passage of federal legislation “the parties will jointly operate a regulated, US online poker site under”.

Vladimir Geshkenbein is crowned the European Poker Tour Snowfest champion.
Full Tilt Poker entered into a partnership with Fertitta Interactive, an entity established and co-owned by Station Casinos’ founders.


The anticipated merger of bwin Interactive Holdings and Party Gaming plc was finally official. The new company, digital entertainment plc, began trading on the London Stock Exchange as ‘BPTY’. A few days later however,’s shares slumped by 16 percent with the news of a proposed regime in Germany, which would see private companies free to bid on seven national betting licenses.

Big news broke when U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York indicted the founders of PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, Absolute Poker and UB and seized their websites in an attempt to crack down on online gaming. The U.S. Department of Justice released a press release about the indictment, naming 11 site representatives as defendants for allegedly violating the terms of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006. Restraining orders were issued against 76 different bank accounts and payment processors.

Full Tilt Poker issued a statement explaining that while it did not agree with the actions taken by the Department of Justice, it had decided to suspend all U.S. players from real money games. PokerStars followed suit.

Full Tilt Poker officially made the move to and decided to continue as planned with the Full Tilt Online Poker Series (FTOPS).

PokerStars moved to and continued plans for its Spring Chamionship of Online Poker (SCOOP).

Full Tilt and PokerStars players within America were restricted from withdrawing but were told all funds were safe and secure. Both sites then reacquired their respective dot-com sites in an effort to return player funds.

Absolute Poker and UB issued a statement of the indictment emphasizing that player balance refunds were its top priority.

Niall Smyth beat Surinder Sunar heads up to become the hero of the 2011 Irish Open. Smyth collected €550,000 for his victory over the 615-strong field and another €100,000 for being the last PaddyPowerPoker qualifier remaining. Smyth’s fairytale story began with a €20 bet on a horse in the English Grand National. The horse won and Smyth transferred the money, €200, from his account to his Paddy Power Poker account where he used it to win a seat into the €3,500 buy in event.

PokerStars made players aware that cash outs were available 11 days after the site was shut down in American cyberspace. The site also tweaked its Spring Championship of Online Poker schedule to accommodate European players, and slashed the guarantees, dropping the total from $45 million to $25 million.

Ira Rubin, a man who allegedly acted as a payment processor was accused of illegal gambling, money laundering, and wire fraud and became the fourth arrest made following the indictment of 11 owners and representatives of major online poker sites. Rubin allegedly tricked banks into accepting funds by disguising payments. The three others arrested were Chad Elie, John Campos, and Bradley Franzen. All three were released on bail.

May digital entertainment plc revealed a 33 percent increase in new daily sign ups for poker in the two weeks immediately after the U.S. government crackdown on three major poker sites. There was a decline in poker revenue of 14 percent however in the first quarter of 2011 to €54 million from €62.8 million a year earlier.

Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier won the European Poker Tour Grand Final €25,000 High Roller to earn €525,000 and his second High Roller title.

English poker club, Dusk till Dawn broke its own record for hosting the largest number of players in a poker tournament in the UK with 1,564 taking part in a €60 buy in event.

Rupert Elder was crowned king of the European Poker Tour San Remo and received €930,000. The Brit prevented Max Heinzelmann from taking down his first EPT title — this was the second time this had happened to the German in three weeks. Both he and Martin Jacobson incredibly achieved two second-place finishes in one season.

The World Series of Poker announced extensive coverage on ESPN including live unedited hole cards on a 30-minute delay.

Nevada-based International Game Technology (IGT) announced that it had launched a cash offer to purchase Swedish-based Entraction Holding AB for about $115 million. The Entraction Board of Directors recommended the offer to its shareholders.

Forbes reported that federal prosecutors filed for supplemental forfeiture of five homes connected to Ray Bitar and Chad Elie, two of the 11 indicted by the Department of Justice on Black Friday. Four California homes were connected to Bitar, one of the founders of Full Tilt Poker.

The Onyx Cup, sponsored by Full Tilt Poker, was cancelled.

Rumours emerged that Doyle Brunson was leaving his online poker site, DoylesRoom. Sponsored pro, Steve Gross, confirmed to Card Player that the legend was leaving the online business because of the potential legal ramifications but may return once the legalities regarding online poker are sorted out.

Another month, another win for Erik Seidel. The American pro earned $1,092,000 for his victory in the World Poker Tour $100,000 Super High Roller bringing his 2011 winnings to $5.4 million.

Poker phenom Scott Seiver took home the 2011 $25,000 World Poker Tour Championship title plus $1,618,344.

Sami Kelopuro won the 2011 Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP) $10,300 main event for a payday of $504,000 after a five-way deal at the final table.

Phil Ivey publicly criticised Full Tilt Poker and filed a lawsuit claiming $150 million in damages. As the company denied Ivey’s request to pursue other professional opportunities in poker, Ivey was seeking more than $150 million for “injunctive relief, declaratory relief and damages”. Ivey said he would not play in the 2011 World Series of Poker.


Tiltware, the company that provides software for Full Tilt, issued a statement saying that Ivey’s lawsuit was all about one player, himself, and was an effort to “further enrich himself at the expense of others”. The statement said this could thwart pending deals with several parties that would return players’ money and that Ivey had been invited to help the company in their efforts to do so, including paying back a debt to the site, which he declined to do.

Jake Cody won the first open event of the summer, the WSOP $25,000 no-limit hold’em heads-up championship, claiming $851,192, his first bracelet, and indeed poker’s triple crown.

Other notable first-time WSOP bracelet winners included Allen Bari (in a $5,000 no-limit hold’em event), Englishman Matt Perrins (in his very first no-limit deuce-to-seven draw lowball event), Darren Woods (in the $2,500 six-max limit hold’em tournament), Fabrice Soulier (in the $10,000 H.O.R.S.E. championship), Matt Jarvis ($5,000 sixhanded no-limit hold’em), Ben Lamb ($10,000 pot-limit Omaha Championship), and Andre Akkari ($1,500 no-limit hold’em tournament).

Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier joined Jake Cody on the triple crown list when he took down his first bracelet in the $10,000 seven-card stud championship. It was the first time the French phenom played stud in a live tournament.

Jason Mercier won his second gold WSOP bracelet in the $5,000 six-max event for a payday of $619,575.

John Juanda defeated Phil Hellmuth heads up in the $10,000 2-7 draw lowball world championship to deny the Poker Brat his 12th gold bracelet and earn his fifth. Juanda took home $367,170 while Hellmuth received $226,909.

Eric Rodawig beat Phil Hellmuth in another ultimate battle for the bracelets in the $10,000 seven-card stud eight-or-better event.

After numerous amendments, Assembly Bill 258, which gives the Nevada Gaming Commission the authority to adopt regulations for Internet poker, was signed into law by Governor Brian Sandoval.

President of Poland, Bronislaw Komorowski signed an amendment to an upcoming law which would ban online poker.

Spider-Man star Tobey Maguire was named in a lawsuit for connections to an illegal underground poker game featuring numerous Hollywood stars that ran between 2006 and 2009. digital entertainment began the process of selling the Ongame poker network. The company described the network as a “surplus asset”.

Full Tilt Poker’s entire online operation was suspended by the Alderney Gambling Control Commission.

Reports emerged that Full Tilt had signed an agreement with a group of European investors but no names were announced.

Phil Ivey’s attorney David Chesnoff stated that Ivey was withdrawing his lawsuit as he believed Full Tilt was “taking steps to see that the players are paid”.


Phil Hellmuth again came close to winning his 12th WSOP bracelet but, again, fell one short to Brian Rast in the $50,000 players’ championship (Players compete in eight games (limit hold ‘em, Omaha high-low split eight-or-better, razz , seven-card stud, stud high-low split eight-or-better, no-limit hold ‘em, pot-limit Omaha and 2-7 triple draw lowball) and the field comprised 128 of the world’s best players. Rast collected $1,720,328 for his victory and Phil Hellmuth would have to make do with $1,063,034.
Online poker rooms across Europe saw a bounce in key player metrics since Full Tilt was ordered to shut down by the Alderney Gambling Control Commission.

Ladbrokes reported player acquisition up 100 percent while PokerStars mopped up over 60 percent of players who migrated from Full Tilt according to analyst Daniel Stewart & Co.
French online gambling regulator ARJEL added to Full Tilt’s woes when it suspended its French license and shut down its .fr site. According to the ruling Full Tilt was given notice to prove it had sufficient funds to pay players in France but was unable to do so.
The WSOP main event was whittled down to nine from 6,865. BoyleSports priced up the November Nine:

Eoghan O’Dea — 9/2
Martin Staszko — 9/2
Phil Collins — 11/2
Ben Lamb — 11/2
Matt Giannetti — 15/2
Anton Makievskyi — 9/1
Pius Heinz — 9/1
Sam Holden — 10/1
1Badi Bounahra — 14/1 saw its business to consumer (B2C) poker revenue rebound strongly after several quarters of decline with revenue up 58 percent in the second quarter of 2011 to US$13 million from US$8 million a year earlier.

The company said this was, “due to the success of the Poker 6 platform”.
bwin poker launched its Android mobile devices app to join its iPhone poker platform which has been available since January.


Luca Pagano celebrated his first major tournament takedown on home soil with a win in the San Remo leg of the Italian Poker Tour. The victory scored him €210,000 as he left 425 crushed souls in his wake.

Portuguese online poker prodigy Jose ‘Girah’ Macedo was dropped as a pro after being confronted about and admitting to defrauding players in a Skype strategy discussion group.

Fintan Gavin won £61,500 at the PokerStars UK & Ireland Poker Tour (UKIPT) Edinburgh by beating 518 players over three days at the Corn Exchange.

In the U.S, the first ever Epic Poker League main event was won by Chino Rheem.

Rheem defeated two of the hottest players on the tournament circuit three handed in Jason Mercier and Erik Seidel and was rewarded with a cool $1 million for his efforts. He now has $5.6 million in career earnings, though Rheem himself has admitted that his bankroll is closer to zero.

Poker pro Phil Hellmuth was named in Bleacher Report’s list of the “50 Most Punchable Faces in Pro Sports.”

Amber Lee wrote about the 11-time World Series of Poker champion: Hellmuth’s “childish temper tantrums are legendary, and he’s become the poster child for how not to behave after a loss.”

Playtech, the publicly owned parent of the iPoker network, announced a drop in poker revenue of 33 percent between the first half of 2011 and the first half of 2010 from €15.8 million to €10.7 million (a drop of 25 percent excluding the impact of the closure of the French offshore market). digital entertainment plc, the recently merged online gaming operator, saw poker revenue fall 11 percent in the first half of 2011 to £104.9 million from £116.5 million in the first half of 2010.

Net poker revenue at Ladbrokes Plc, one of Europe’s largest bookmakers, fell 30.8 percent in the first half of 2011 to £7.4 million from £10.7 million in the first half of 2010.

It’s fierce rival, the publicly quoted online British bookmaker, meanwhile announced first half net poker revenues up 11 percent to £11.8 million from £10.6 million a year earlier.


September was a big month for poker sponsorships, a market which had received a battering all through the year.

Christophe Gross, at 29-years-old, is a modest tournament winner with around €90,000 in live earnings. However the player known as “Crazy Sheep” online became the poster boy for praline chocolates to a hip, young target group who like to make purchases online.

Swedish poker pros Michael Tureniec and Anton Wigg signed sponsorship deals with Svenska Spel, the Swedish online gaming operator.

Bodog announced its latest signing, poker hostess Amanda Leatherman. The ex-cheerleader now joins Tatjana Pasalic and poker pro Evelyn Ng in representing Team Bodog in both live and online events.

The four professional poker players behind The Hendon Mob; Barny Boatman, Ross Boatman, Joe Beevers, and Ram Vaswani signed an exclusive contract with Genting Poker
Dutchman Joeri Zandvliet topped a 718-strong field at the UKIPT Dublin main event receiving €83,500 for his win which he added to his £63,200 first place prize from UKIPT Manchester in 2010.

Mike “Timex” McDonald won the Epic Poker League $20,000 main event finishing off an elite 97-player field at Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas early to take home $782,410 in prize money.

The Entraction Poker Network said that it would no longer offer online poker to citizens of Canada, Russia, Norway, Israel and Turkey, in an effort to comply with each country’s various gaming laws.

The German state of Schleswig-Holstein passed legislation to legalize and regulate online poker from January 1, 2012.

The U.S. Department of Justice accused Full Tilt Poker’s board members Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson, and Rafe Furst of working with CEO Ray Bitar to defraud poker players out of more than $440 million over the past four years.

Manhattan’s U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement that “Full Tilt was not a legitimate poker company, but a global Ponzi scheme,” while “insiders lined their own pockets with funds picked from the pockets of their most loyal customers while blithely lying to both players and the public alike about the safety and security of the money deposited with the company.”

Things got worse for the company when it had its license to operate revoked by regulator, the Alderney Gambling Control Commission.


Julian Thew won his third Grosvenor UK Poker Tour (GUKPT) title topping a field of 145 for a payday of £42,740.

A total of 691 players entered the EPT London main event, with German pro Benny Spindler left holding the trophy alongside the £750,000 first-place prize.

The World Series of Poker Europe got underway in Cannes and it was a move (from London) which suited barman Guillaume Humbert down to the ground. The Swiss man took down the first of seven bracelet events, the €2,500 sixhanded no-limit hold’em tournament, for a payday of €215,999 ($288,899).

Steve Billirakis earned his second gold bracelet and €147,171 ($202,587) in the €5,000 pot-limit Omaha championship while Australian Andrew Hinrichsen took down event no.2, a €1,090 no-limit hold’em event for €148,030 ($202,386) top prize.

Michael Mizrachi topped a field of 125 to take home the first-place prize of €336,008 plus his second gold bracelet (in two years) in the €10,400 buy-in no-limit hold’em split format tournament.

The €1,620 buy-in sixhanded pot-limit Omaha tournament attracted 339 players and was won by Philippe Boucher, a Quebec-born Canadian living in Vegas, who lifted €124,584 for his victory.

In the main event New Yorker Elio Fox triumphed over a record field of 592 in the €10,000 buy-in main event to take home the title, his first bracelet, and the top prize of €1.4 million ($1,927,310).

Russian student Andrey Pateychuk emerged unscathed from a tough field of 831 to become champion of the European Poker Tour San Remo Season 8. Pateychuk, who first came to the poker world’s attention by finishing 15th in this year’s World Series of Poker main event, takes down his first title and, due to a deal made heads up, €680,000 for first place.

Barry Greenstein and Linda Johnson were voted into the Poker Hall of Fame as the 2011 class. Both were also nominated in 2009 and 2010.

In business 888 Holdings, owner and operator of 888 Poker, saw business to consumer (B2C) poker revenue up 120 percent to US$18 million in the third quarter of 2011 from just $8 million in the same period of 2010 while up to 180 staff at Full Tilt’s Dublin-based subsidiary, Pocket Kings, were made redundant Sportingbet Plc, the online gaming operator which owns saw its full year (to end July 2011) gross poker revenue drop 18.5 percent to £17.7 million from £21.7 million last year.


It was time for the big one! In front of a packed Penn & Teller Theater at the Rio in Las Vegas, Nevada, 22 year-old poker professional Pius Heinz took home $8.7 million and the most coveted title of the tournament year, after a back-and-forth duel with runner-up Martin Staszko.

Heinz, from Cologne, Germany, outlasted more than 6,800 players in July, six on Sunday, and two on Tuesday to capture the $10,000 World Series of Poker no-limit hold’em championship.

Raul Mestre of Spain became the new International Federation of Poker World Champion after he topped the 130-strong field in London yesterday beating Victoria Coren heads up in the $500,000 freeroll to take down the $250,000 first prize.

The Irish Winter Festival came to a close with John Keown taking down the €1,000 + €100 main event, the Irish Masters, for a tidy payday of €100,000. The three-day event drew 395 players to the Burlington Hotel in Dublin.

Adrien Allain has been crowned the champion of the World Poker Tour Amneville after topping a field of 379 for a nice payday of €310,633.

Sam Trickett won the Partouche Poker Tour and took home €1,000,000 while Scott Clements won the Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza Randy “nanonoko” Lew won the Asia Pacific Poker Tour Macau main event, and Mohamed Ali Houssam won the World Poker Tour Marrakech main event.

Betfair Poker has signed German poker pro Hans Martin Vogl. The former sports bettor at the betting exchange came to prominence when he reached the Betfair Asian Poker Tour final table in 2006 and won $58,000 before making the final table of the Aussie Millions main event in 2007 where he cashed for $400,000 for his fifth place finish..

UK poker pro Jake Cody signed a sponsorship deal with online site PKR. The 22-year-old is the youngest “triple crown” winner with European Poker Tour, World Poker Tour, and World Series of Poker titles under his belt along with over $3 million in lifetime earnings.

The Wall Street Journal reported that an attorney for Groupe Bernard Tapie said the French investor reached an agreement with the Department of Justice that could lead to the acquisition of Full Tilt Poker for $80 million.

Phil Ivey, widely considered poker’s best player, returned to the live tournament scene, months after the online poker site he represented was accused of financial crimes. He entered the Asian Pacific Poker Tour Macau main event to little fanfare but didn’t cash.
Dutch poker player Lex “RasZi” Velduis beat Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier in their Mixed Martial Art-style fight in Marbella, Spain. The Dutchman took just four minutes to end the bout with two swift roundhouse kicks to the Frenchman’s head.


Facebook was reportedly in talks with several online gambling operators with a view to “open[ing] its platform to real-money gambling in the UK,” The social media company was thought to be speaking with PokerStars and teamed up with software developer Hettema & Bergsten to offer a new webcam-based online poker experience. The face-to-face game, Aces Hangout, is still in development on the Google+ social media platform Google+ Hangouts, and could be tested in heads up mode by signing up for a test account.

Andrey Pateychuk, the omnipresent Russian scored again, this time at the World Poker Tour Prague. Pateychuk added $630,263 to his winnings which had been bolstered in the last five months with first place at the European Poker Tour San Remo for $937,530 and 15th in the World Series of Poker main event for $478,174.

Two-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Jesper Hougaard from Denmark signed a sponsorship deal with Bet24. Well-known by his online moniker “Kipster”, Hougaard has also won the Sunday Million twice and has over $2 million in live winnings to his name.
The champion of the 2011 Grosvenor UK Poker Tour Grand Final was Fabian Quoss. The German took down the £2,500 buy-in main event and received £138,750 from the £487,500 prize pool for topping a field of 195 including final table opponents Jake Cody and James Mitchell. ♠