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2014 Poker Year in Review

by Card Player News Team |  Published: Jan 07, 2015


This year was a wild one for gambling in America. There were ups and downs, successes and disappointments, but the thing to take away from it all is that gambling is a resilient industry, and it’s never out, even after placing some bets that don’t pay off as planned.

No Legislative Moves Paves Way For Exciting 2015

In 2014, there were no additional states to authorize online poker, though, there were efforts in Pennsylvania and California. The latter, with more than 37 million residents, is expected to okay the activity in 2015, according to most experts close to the situation in Sacramento.

The deal with the Golden State is that there are competing groups who have had a hard time coming to a consensus over language in the legislation. It boils down to a wrestling match to see who can position themselves for market share once the industry takes off. A compromise looks promising, as tribal groups (California has the nation’s largest tribal casino industry) and card rooms, as well as out-of-state interests looking to be involved with the supplier side of the business, made real progress in finding common ground that can provide a foundation for online poker revenues to finally start materializing. There is just too much money in a California web poker market for groups to wait another year.

According to Morgan Stanley, California is likely the only state that will authorize poker in 2015. The financial services firm said this year that it anticipates the U.S. I-gaming market to be worth $5.2 billion in 2020.

Online Industry Sees Big Moves, Lackluster Revenues

This summer, Amaya Gaming Group acquired the parent company of PokerStars and Full Tilt for $4.9 billion. It was a major acquisition, as the deal with Amaya will give PokerStars a better chance of re-entry into the American market after leaving in the wake of the Black Friday indictments of April 2011. There was speculation that PokerStars could have debuted in New Jersey in the fall, but, according to one New Jersey lawmaker, the politics of Gov. Chris Christie have delayed that indefinitely.

Under Amaya, PokerStars and Full Tilt are now involved in casino games other than poker. PokerStars announced in November that it is getting into sports betting. Wagering on sporting events is something the Garden State has been pursuing, but the court battle between the state and the major American sports leagues is still ongoing. Sports betting could help New Jersey’s online gambling market, which has underwhelmed in the first year. One operator, Ultimate Gaming, decided to pull out of the Garden State market, and then it did the same just weeks later in the Silver State.

In Nevada and New Jersey, as well as Delaware, online gaming revenues have reached their respective plateaus. The bad news is that the plateaus are much lower than insiders had predicted. Unfortunately, no real progress was made in 2014 with regards to any of those three states entering into a compact to share player pools, which is considered a must-have for the U.S. industry.

This year marked the emergence of Sheldon Adelson as online poker’s number one opponent. The Las Vegas casino boss, who thinks online gaming should be banned because it’s immoral and hurts brick-and-mortar casinos, has been pushing a nationwide prohibition on web-betting. Adelson’s efforts will likely only amount to slowing the spread of regulated online poker in America, but it still hurts the cause.

Brick-and-Mortar Industry Strong, Despite Atlantic City

Much attention has been given to the fact that Atlantic City lost a handful of casinos in 2014 due to closures. Revenues have continued their downward trend since 2006. Though, Atlantic City’s losses have provided other states in the region with successful gambling industries.

In early November, voters in Massachusetts rejected a proposal that would have repealed the 2011 law in the Bay State that authorized three brick-and-mortar casinos and one slots-only parlor. The defeat of the repeal effort was a huge sigh of relief for MGM Resorts International, Wynn Resorts, and Penn National Gaming, all of which have been awarded licenses to build properties in Massachusetts.

Thanks to pressure from powerful people, including the city’s mayor, in November, Philadelphia acquired its second casino license. The project is a joint venture between two regional operators.

In Maryland, Baltimore’s Horseshoe casino opened in late summer as part of that state’s expanded gambling efforts that took place in 2013. MGM Resorts made progress on its casino at National Harbor, which could open in 2016.

In October, the American Gaming Association released data that showed the casino industry in the United States (tribal and commercial) now has annual gaming revenue of roughly $67 billion and it’s still growing. This year has shown that the casino industry has been successful in reaching new markets to protect itself against losing streaks in aging ones and the sluggish start to online casino gaming.

New Stars Rise On The Tournament Circuit in 2014


As it has for a decade, the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure kicked off the year on the international poker tournament circuit. The first major tournament of 2014 was the $100,000 buy-in super high roller at the Atlantis Casino and Resort in the Bahamas. A total of 56 entries were in this massive re-entry event, with German high roller specialist Fabian Quoss emerging victorious with his third career title and $1,629,940.

Poland’s Dominik Panka topped the field of 1,031 in the PCA $10,300 main event to win $1.4 million and take an early lead in the CardPlayer Player of the Year race. Panka defeated Mike “Timex” McDonald heads-up for the title just days after McDonald had finished eighth in the super high roller. McDonald earned $1,064,865 for second place.

Just weeks later McDonald continued his incredible run at the 2014 Aussie Millions. He finished runner-up in the $100,000 AUD super high roller for $1.5 million AUD ($1,343,250 USD), but was far from done down under. Just days later, he finished third in the $250,000 AUD super high roller for $1.9 million AUD ($1,697,460 USD). In less than a month’s time, McDonald tallied three seven-figure scores, bringing his year-to-date earnings to $4,322,895 just weeks into February.

McDonald wasn’t the only PCA top performer to find more success in the wake of his Caribbean windfall. Just two weeks after winning the main event in the Bahamas, Dominik Panka won the 2014 European Poker Tour Deauville €10,300 no-limit hold’em high roller, earning another $371,498.

As the big tournament action returned stateside, it was Britain’s Chris Moorman who took down the 2014 World Poker Tour L.A. Poker Classic $10,000 no-limit hold’em main event, topping a field of 534 players to win his first major live title and the first-place prize of $1,015,460. Hot on the heels of that event was the WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star $7,500 no-limit hold’em main event, won by James Carroll for $1,256,550.


The action of the live tournament circuit was heating up just like the weather as winter turned to spring. In a year full of exciting tournament results, few could be said to be more thrilling than Vicky Coren Mitchell’s historic win in the 2014 EPT Sanremo main event. Nearly eight years after taking down the 2006 EPT London , Vicky Coren Mitchell topped a field of 556 entries to become the first ever two-time EPT main event champion, earning €476,100 for her groundbreaking win.

Up next on the increasingly international tournament circuit was the PokerStars European Poker Tour Grand Final in Monte Carlo. As in previous years, this series hosted a number of gigantic events, including the €100,000 super high roller event, won by none other than America’s Daniel Colman. The 23 year old, who went on to win four titles this year in eight final table appearances, topped an elite field of 62 entries to win €1,539,300. Little did the poker world know at the time what an incredible year the young heads-up sit-n-go specialist would go on to have in the months that were to follow.

With summer fast approaching, the World Poker Tour closed out its 12th season with the $15,000 WPT Championship main event, held for the first time at the Borgata in Atlantic City. A total of 328 players turned out to battle for the $5 million guaranteed prize pool and, in the end, it was tournament professional Keven Stammen who emerged victorious, earning $1,350,000 for the biggest win of his career.

The World Series of Poker Circuit also wrapped its season in preparation for the summer with Dominik Nitsche topping a field of 126 players to win the $1 million guaranteed WSOP National Championship. The German pro scored $352,800 for the win.


With the largest tours having wrapped their seasons, the poker world again turned its focus to the centerpiece of the entire year: the World Series of Poker. The 2014 edition of the biggest festival in the game kicked off with a bang when Vanessa Selbst took down the kickoff event, the $25,000 mixed-max no-limit hold’em. For the win, the 29-year-old pro earned $871,148 and also became the first female player to win three open-field WSOP bracelets.

Of course there were numerous big names to take down bracelets this summer, including Ted Forrest ($1,500 razz), Brock Parker ($10,000 Omaha eight-or-better), Paul Volpe ($10,000 deuce-to-seven lowball), Doug Polk ($1,000 no-limit hold’em turbo), Kevin Eyster ($5,000 six-handed no-limit hold’em), Calvin Anderson ($1,500 seven-card stud eight-or-better), Joe Cada ($10,000 six-max no-limit hold’em), and Dan Kelly ($1,500 limit hold’em).

Two players whose summers stood out were Brandon Shack-Harris and George Danzer. Shack-Harris won his first bracelet in a $1,000 pot-limit Omaha event and then came runner-up in the $10,000 razz championship. Later in the series, he finished third in the $1,500 limit hold’em and then came runner-up in the $50,000 Poker Players Championship, losing to eventual champion John Hennigan. Danzer began his run at the Rio with a fifth-place finish in the $10,000 triple draw deuce-to-seven lowball championship for $70,308, and then a week later going on to win his first gold bracelet in the $10,000 razz championship for another $294,792. The following week he notched two more cashes, finishing 39th in the $2,500 Omaha / stud eight-or-better and ninth in the $10,000 six-max no-limit hold’em championship event. Just days later, he won the $10,000 stud eight-or-better championship for his second bracelet of the year.

As the series began to approach its climax, Phil Ivey joined Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan with 10 gold bracelets by winning the $1,500 eight-game mix event. With the win Ivey, who is widely regarded by his peers as the best all-around player alive, joined the aforementioned Hall of Famers in a tie for second on the all-time bracelet count behind Phil Hellmuth.

The $1 million buy-in Big One For One Drop returned in 2014, drawing 42 entrants this time around. Just months after winning the EPT Grand Final super high roller, Daniel Colman emerged victorious in this gigantic event, defeating Daniel Negreanu heads-up to win the second largest payout awarded in the history of tournament poker: $15,306,668. Colman, who had also made the semi-finals of the $10,000 heads-up no-limit hold’em championship at the Series, drew a lot of attention for his refusal to do interviews with TV and print media after the win. Despite his media silence, this was far from the last time the poker world would hear from Colman in 2014.

The centerpiece of not just the summer but the entire year in tournament poker is still the WSOP main event. This year’s event featured a first-place payout guarantee of $10 million for the first time. In the end there were 6,683 entrants, the fifth largest turnout in the history of the main event. Sweden’s Martin Jacobson came into the final table as the second shortest stack, but fought his way all the way to the top to become the first Swedish main event champion. The 27-year-old earned his first bracelet and the previously mentioned $10 million first-place prize for the win.


As August wound down, Daniel Colman began the next phase of his incredible year by finishing runner-up in the €50,000 super high roller at the EPT Barcelona festival, losing heads-up to friend and mentor Olivier Busquet. Just two weeks after that score, Colman emerged victorious in the gigantic $10 million guaranteed Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open main event, topping a field of 1,499 players in the $5,300 buy-in event to win $1,446,710. This latest win brought Colman’s year-to-date earnings to more than $21 million, enough to see him surpass Phil Ivey on the all-time career earnings list. Incredibly, Colman was still not done with his domination of 2014.

In late September, Darren Elias topped a huge field of 1,226 entries in the WPT Borgata Poker Open $3,500 buy-in main event to win $843,744 and his first WPT title. In early November, Elias became the first player to win back-to-back WPT titles when he took down the WPT Caribbean title at the Casino Royale St. Maarten.

The 2014 World Series of Poker Asia-Pacific saw George Danzer continue his winning ways in smaller field mixed events, this time taking down the $5,000 AUD eight-game mix event to win his third bracelet of the year and secure the WSOP Player of the Year title. Mike Leah, who had already won three titles and made six final tables, emerged victorious in the $25,000 AUD high roller event. For the win, the Canadian pro earned his first bracelet and $527,500. American Scott Davies took down the main event, taking home $744,781 after defeating the 329-player field.

Roughly a month had passed since Daniel Colman had won a major tournament title, so on Oct. 8th, he won his fourth title of the year by taking down the World Poker Tour Alpha8 £60,000 super high roller for another £600,000 ($964,539). Less than a month later, he notched his eighth final table finish by placing seventh in the $500,000 HKD ($64,500) super high roller at the Asia Championship of Poker in Macau. With that $373,972 score his year-to-date earnings soared to more than $22.3 million.

It was undeniably one of the most exciting years on the tournament circuit in the history of poker, with several new stars establishing themselves in dominant fashion. If 2015 can produce storylines that are half as stirring as this year’s, it will be an incredible feat. ♠

Clickable Poker Personalities This Year

Poker players are constantly featured in the news, but it’s not always because of a tournament score or because they dominated in the cash games. Sometimes a player makes headlines for completely different reasons, occasionally for an accomplishment off the felt, but often because they just couldn’t stay out of trouble.

Here’s a look at the poker personalities who got more than their fair share of clicks in 2014:

Trouble With The Law

Although no criminal charges have been handed down, Phil Ivey dominated the news cycle with his ongoing legal battle with two casinos for edge-sorting cards in high-stakes baccarat games. Ivey won more than $21 million by using a technique that the casinos claim is cheating, but Ivey’s camp maintains is all skill.

Of course, there were plenty of poker players who found themselves in legal hot water in 2014. After the feds broke up an illegal high-stakes gambling ring in New York, poker players such as Vadim Trincher, Illya Trincher, Justin Smith, Edwin Ting, John Hanson, Bill Edler, Abe Mosseri, Peter Feldman and Molly “The Poker Princess” Bloom all received various sentences ranging from probation to hard jail time.

In July, German player Ali Tekintamgac, who was caught receiving signals from members of the media about his opponent’s hole cards, plead guilty to cheating and was sentenced to three years in prison.

During that summer, Macau high-stakes regular Paul Phua was arrested in Las Vegas along with seven others for operating an illegal gambling business out of Caesars Palace. The group was allegedly gambling on this summer’s World Cup.

Getting Mainstream Publicity

Former WSOP main event runner-up Jesse Sylvia extended his 15 minutes of fame in January when he was featured on MTV’s True Life: I’m A New Millionaire. In February, former poker pro Ernie Scherer was profiled on 48 Hours for the 2009 murder of his parents after he tried to recoup cash to pay off some gambling debts.

In March, cash game pro Garrett Adelstein became the second poker player to be cast in the popular game show Survivor, joining Jean-Robert Bellande. Adelstein didn’t last quite as long as Bellande, as he was the second player to be voted off the television program.

Phil Hellmuth crossed over to the non-poker world in August when Carl’s Jr. began airing commercials depicting the poker brat chomping down on a large burger. It was Hellmuth’s second major commercial campaign, following his run for Milwaukee’s Best Light in 2008.

Hollywood Comes Calling

Many people felt that things couldn’t get worse after the 2013 poker film Runner, Runner, but in 2014 Hollywood gave us Gutshot Straight, proving them wrong. The film, which stars Steven Seagal, received dismal reviews and scored just a 4/10 from Internet Movie Database users.

The aforementioned Bloom, who hosted home poker games for some of Hollywood’s elite such as Tobey Maguire, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Alex Rodriguez, received probation for her part in the New York indictments. But her memoir has since been tapped to be adapted into a screenplay by Oscar winner Aaron Sorkin.

They Did What?

Jerry Yang, the 2007 WSOP main event winner, apparently fell on hard times and was forced to give up his bracelet for failure to pay taxes. The bracelet was then bought by someone at an IRS auction, who then put it up for sale on eBay.

His lawsuits for allegedly cheating didn’t deter Phil Ivey from entertaining other business opportunities. In October, the Nevada Department of Health gave the ten-time bracelet winner preliminary approval to operate a marijuana dispensary in Las Vegas.

In September, Ben Affleck had to refute claims that he was a degenerate gambler, after it was reported that he was banned from the Hard Rock in Las Vegas for counting cards during a blackjack session. According to the report, Affleck was obvious with his play, drastically varying his bet sizes and refusing to stop when confronted by casino officials.

The Poker World Says Goodbye

Unfortunately, the poker world lost many players too soon this year. In April, legendary stud player and bracelet winner Danny Robison passed away.

During the WSOP, 29-year-old German pro Johannes Strassmann died in a drowning accident while visiting friends in Slovenia. Just a few days later, longtime actor turned poker personality Chad Brown lost his battle with liposarcoma, a rare form of cancer. The WSOP was able to award the 52-year-old with an honorary bracelet, which he received just hours before passing.

Other notable poker players who passed away this year included the always hilarious Tony Korfman, the oldest player in WSOP history Jack Ury, cash-game regular Mehmet Hassan, Irish tournament organizer Liam Flood, and popular poker dealer Joe “Elvis” Levine.

Finally Some Good News

In March, the poker world was given a cash injection, as the Department of Justice began to return player funds initially seized during Black Friday. Perhaps no player was more relieved than Blair Hinkle, who had a reported $1 million stuck on the site for over three years.

This year’s two Poker Hall of Fame inductees were none other than longtime tournament director Jack McClelland and Canadian poker pro Daniel Negreanu. McClelland was an integral part of the poker boom and Negreanu was a first-ballot inductee because of his accomplishments on the felt and his contributions to the growth of the game. ♠

Season II of the Card Player Poker Tour Pays Out Nearly $4.5 Million

From Los Angeles to Dublin, nearly $4.5 million in main event money was doled out to players on the Card Player Poker Tour as it checked off destination stops throughout 2014.

When the final card was peeled off the deck at Hollywood Park Casino in Inglewood, California on Oct. 26 to mark the end of Season II, nine players had cashed out for six-figure paydays over the course of the season, with Ireland’s Patrick Clarke leading the way. Clarke picked up $276,380 for taking down the Paddy Power Irish Open in April, making him the second-highest earner in the tour’s history. Only Card Player’s own Allyn Shulman has earned more, with $310,059 brought in over two seasons.

The second-largest payout awarded came not from a main event win, but from the Bicycle Casino’s Mega-Millions event in which Frank Ghezel snapped-up $192,202. Other big winners included former online pro Amit Makhija, who chopped for second place and $135,980 during the Bicycle main event and young Florida pro Sean Winter, who ended the season with $106,560 after finishing fourth in the Palm Beach Kennel Club main event and winning the bestbet Jacksonville spring main event for $84,000.

Harvey Vandeven locked up the spot as the first winner of the season when he won the bestbet main event for $76,598. John McNulty followed with a $68,191 payday after winning the Palm Beach Kennel Club main event. Ronnie Pease added his name to the mix of winners when he bested the field at Foxwoods for $91,347, and Erkut Yilmaz soon followed with a $42,665 score at Atlantis. Austin Lewis took home $183,025 after winning the Choctaw main event and, as the season was beginning to wind down, Chance Kornuth bested a field over international waters on the CPPT cruise to add $18,000 to his lifetime earnings. Finally, Shan Jing and Tigran Manukyan ended the season with $135, 981 and $30,005 main event wins at the Bicycle Casino and Hollywood Park Casino respectively.

In all, the tour made ten stops over the course of the year, hitting bestbet Jacksonville and Palm Beach Kennel Club in Florida, The Bicycle Casino and Hollywood Park Casino in California, Atlantis Casino Resort Spa in Reno, Nevada, Foxwoods Resort Casino in the Northeast and Choctaw Resort Casino in Oklahoma. Two international stops took place aboard Card Player Cruises Allure of the Seas in the Western Caribbean and Dublin for the Paddy Power Irish Open.

Season III will begin in late January at Foxwoods. Other stops that will take place during Season III include Atlantis Casino Resort Spa, Choctaw, and two international stops – one in St. Maarten and another aboard the Oasis of the Seas Cruise ship, both in the Caribbean. For more information about the CPPT, visit ♠