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2011 Tournament Poker Year in Review -- January To June

A Look At Some of the Biggest Tournaments From The First Half of 2011

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Despite the troubled global economy and the negative impact of poker’s Black Friday, 58 players cashed for a total of more than a million dollars in Player of the Year qualified poker tournaments in 2011. That is an increase of 23.4% over last year’s 47 poker-made millionaires. This just goes to show that tournament poker here to stay, and it is still growing around the world even as mitigating factors threaten to stymie its progress.

With more events popping up around the country and the globe, there was a lot of poker played in 2011. Here is a look back at some of the biggest events on the tournament circuit.

January

Eugene Katchalov The PokerStars Caribbean Adventure kicked the year off in a big way, with more than fifty events running from January 5-16. Incredibly, three of these events awarded seven-figure paydays, starting with the first ever $100,000 buy-in tournament in history. The Super High Roller event attracted 38 players, but the last man standing was Eugene Katchalov, who took home $1.5 million for the win after defeating Daniel Negreanu heads-up.

Will Molson also captured a huge score when he won the $25,000 High Roller event, defeating 150 opponents to win the $1,072,850 first prize. Almost unbelievably, this was the third straight year that Molson made it heads-up in this exact event, but the first that he was able to prevail for the title.

The $10,300 PCA Main Event drew 1,560 entrants, building a $15.1 million prize pool. Galen Hall defeated a tough final table on ESPN’s first-ever delayed live stream of a final table to earn the title and $2.3 million first place prize.

Erik Seidel On the other side of the world, the massive events kept coming. The Aussie Millions also awarded three seven-figure first prizes, with two six-figure buy-ins including the first and only $250,000 buy-in Super High Roller, eventually won by Erik Seidel for $2,489,747.

The runner-up was Sam Trickett, who only days earlier had won the $100,000 buy-in for $1,525,000, with Seidel incredibly finishing third. With both having top three finishes in both events, Trickett and Seidel cashed for more than $3 million each at the Aussie Millions.

While high roller madness continued, Australian local David Gorr went about the business of topping the 721-player Aussie Millions Main Event for $1,992,532.

February

Gregory Brooks February played host to a number of big events, with Sam Barnhart winning the WSOP Circuit Tunica and Michael Tureniec taking down the European Poker Tour Copenhagen main event. The largest event of the month was the World Poker Tour L.A. Poker Classic Main Event, which drew 681 players to build a $6,537,600 prize pool. In the end, Gregory Brooks topped Vivek Rajkumar heads-up to take home the $1.6 million first place prize and his first WPT title.

March

Erik Seidel continued his fiery-hot start to 2011 with a win at the NBC National Heads Up Poker Championship, earning $750,000 and improving on his runner-up finish the previous year.

Victor Ramdin won his first major title since 2006 when he took down The Big Event $5,000 Main Event at the Bicycle Casino for $500,000.

April

Ben Wilinofsky topped 773 entrants in the European Poker Tour Berlin main even to earn €825,000 early in the month.

Stateside, the North American Poker Tour completed its final stop at the Mohegan Sun casino just days before April 15th. The events of poker’s Black Friday led PokerStars, who sponsored and ran the tour, to cancel the American facing NAPT, but not before an incredible feat was accomplished by two of tournament poker’s biggest stars.

Vanessa Selbst Incredibly, both Vanessa Selbst and Jason Mercier defended their 2010 NAPT Mohegan Sun titles in 2011. Selbst backed up her main event from the previous year by once again taking down the $5,000 main event, this time topping 387 players for $450,000. Mercier had won the $10,000 High Roller bounty shootout the previous year, and repeated the feat in 2011 for $246,600.

May

The EPT San Remo title went to Rupert Elder, who earned €930,000 for topping the 937 player field.

Later in the month, Ivan Freitez topped a 683 player field in the EPT Grand Final main event for €1.5 million. At the same series, Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier incredibly won back-to-back high buy-in events, first the €25,000 High Roller for €525,000 and then the €10,000 turbo high roller for €153,000 only days later.

It had been over a month since he last made a final table, so naturally Erik Seidel had to make another massive score. This time he earned $1,092,000 for his victory in the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic $100,000 Super High Roller at the Bellagio, bringing his 2011 winnings to $5.4 million.

Scott Seiver As May came to a close, so did the ninth season of the WPT. Scott Seiver won the tour’s prestigious season-ending $25,000 buy-in WPT Championship for $1,618,344, topping a field of 220 players. Seiver defeated a tough final table that included PCA champion Galen Hall, who eventually finished third.

June

The World Series of Poker dominated the poker world in the month of June with a total of 57 events preceding the Main Event. In total, these preliminary events awarded $127,468,010 in prize money that was gathered from 68,807 tournament entries. These preliminary bracelet events gave birth to many interesting stories, and here are the highlights.

Bertrand 'ElkY' Grospellier Two players completed poker’s ‘triple crown’ by winning a WPT event, an EPT event and eventually their first WSOP bracelets. The first was Britain’s Jake Cody, who completed the trio when he took down the $25,000 Heads-Up event for $851,192. The second player to join the prestigious group of triple crown winners was Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier, who won the $10,000 Seven Card Stud Championship for $331,639.

The last year that the WSOP did not see a player win multiple bracelets was 1999. Brian Rast kept the new-millennium’s streak of multiple-bracelet winner’s alive in for the eleventh year in a row by winning a $1,500 pot-limit hold’em event and the $50,000 Poker Players Championship. Rast earned $1.7 million for that second title, defeating Phil Hellmuth heads-up for the huge payday and the prestigious title.

Phil Hellmuth Hellmuth was a story in his own right this summer. The all-time bracelet leader has won 11 WSOP tournaments over his career, all in some variation of hold’em. This year he got heads-up for a bracelet in 3 different games, each in a championship event. Unfortunately, he finished second every time. He lost to John Juanda in the $10,000 deuce-to-seven no-limit lowball championship. Then he lost to Eric Rodawig in the $10,000 seven-card stud eight-or-better championship. Perhaps most devastating was the $50,000 Poker Player’s Championship, in which Hellmuth relinquished a massive chip lead to Brian Rast, who went from all-in with ace-high and a short-stack to the champion in the matter of half an hour. Despite coming so close and falling short, Hellmuth still managed to have his largest ever earnings at the WSOP this year with roughly $1.6 million.

Hellmuth was tangled in a battle with Ben Lamb for the player of the series as the Main Event approached. Lamb had an incredible June, finishing runner-up in a $3,000 pot-limit Omaha event, earning $259,918. He followed that score up by winning the $10,000 pot-limit Omaha championship only one week later, banking $814,436. He also made deep runs in two of the other largest events at the WSOP, finishing 12th in the $10,000 no-limit hold’em six-max event and eighth in the $50,000 Poker Players Championship.

With the WSOP prelims in the books, the poker world prepared for the biggest event of the year: the WSOP Main Event. Check back tomorrow for part two of the Tournament Poker Year in Review, which will cover the Main Event through the conclusion of the year.