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POKER STORY

Poker 2010: the year in review

It’s been an action-packed year made especially memorable for something of a British breakthrough, but so much has else has happened both on and off the felt. Here’s our recap of the last 12 months in poker

January

The year began with a spate of young winners, initiated by 19-year-old Harrison Gimbel’s PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event victory. Just a few weeks later Rochdale’s Jake Cody took down the EPT Deauville for €847,000, the 21-year-old coming through a field that contained 13 former EPT Champions.

The Aussie Millions title stayed in Australia as PartyPoker online qualifier Tyron Krost, aged a positively ancient 23, claimed the title and AUD $2 million prize money after seeing off a final table that included fellow young-gun Annette Obrestad.

Elsewhere, the somewhat older and louder Tony G signed a sponsorship deal with PartyPoker.

February

February opened with the launch of new website Victory Poker and it was Swedish pro Anton Wigg who emerged victorious at the EPT Copenhagen. It took nearly four hours of cautious heads-up play to find a winner, but eventually Wigg triumphed over Italy’s Francesco De Vivo to take home 3.7 million Danish kroner.

Meanwhile, the Chinese Ministry of Public Security announced a six-month crackdown on online gambling in the country. A statement outlined their intention to "concentrate on investigating major and important cases of online gambling, knock out domestic and foreign groups that organise online gambling, and severely punish the criminal elements".

March

March was a month full of tournaments, with the focus very much on mainland Europe. The EPT Berlin was won by Kevin MacPhee, but the American’s success was overshadowed by a robbery at the casino where armed men stole cash from the tournament desk.

In nearby Austria, a less dramatic EPT Snowfest was won by Allan Baekke, the Danish player’s pocket sevens defeating Russell Carson's K-J to seal victory. The Unibet Open Budapest ended with Dutchman Anthon-Pieter Wink taking home the €172,500 first prize.

The continental connections didn’t end there as Hungarian Andras Koroknai triumphed at the LA Poker Classic, scooping a tidy $1.78 million. Closer to home, Cuong Tran took down the GUKPT London.

April

April featured a couple of notable British successes that began with Englishman James Mitchell securing the spoils at the Irish Open, the 20-year-old coming through a 707-strong field that included Dan Harrington and Neil Channing. That became a domestic double a few weeks later when Liv Boeree catapulted herself into poker stardom with victory at the EPT San Remo.

At the end of the month, Nicolas Chouity knocked out six of his seven final table opponents on route to winning the EPT Grand Final. The Lebanese pro had a huge chip lead going into the latter stages and eased his way to a €1.7 million victory.

May

The eagerly-anticipated World Series of Poker 2010 took its bow in May, with the first five events taking place during the month. Michael Mizrachi was the biggest winner as ‘The Grinder’ took down the $50,000 Players Championship for $1.55 million. Praz Bansi signalled the beginning of a successful British series by claiming the bracelet in the $1,500 No Limit Hold’em event.

Away from the tables, Norwegian poker prodigy Annette Obrestad agreed a deal to become Full Tilt’s latest sponsored pro, while the Cereus Network were left red-faced after it was revealed that software encryption problems were allowing some players to see the hole cards of others, a flaw that was soon rectified.

June

June saw the continuation of the WSOP, with 49 events taking place during the month including the tournament of champions. That was won by Huck Seed, while big-name bracelet winners included Phil Ivey, Men Nguyen and Sammy Farha. There was sustained British success too as James Dempsey won a Pot Limit Hold’em event, Richard Ashby triumphed in seven-card stud and Steve Jelinek secured victory in the Pot Limit Omaha Hi-Low Split-8 or Better.

There was an achievement of a different kind for Phil Laak as the ‘Unabomber’ smashed the world record for the longest continuous poker game by playing for 115 hours straight. The American donated half of his $6,766 profit to the Camp Sunshine children’s charity.

July

The WSOP also showed its charitable side in July with the $5,000 Ante Up for Africa tournament. A field of 83 entrants took to the felt and an all-American top eight was headed by towering Full Tilt pro Phil Gordon. The Main Event was also in full swing, with 12 days of play reducing the 7,319 entrants to a final nine. That final table was to be completed in November and was headed by Canadian chip leader Jonathan Duhamel, with a resurgent Michael Mizrachi the biggest name still involved.

In the online world, French players filled up PokerStars’ cash game tables but refused to actually play any hands in protest against a new 7.5% rake.

August

It was tournament time again in August with the EPT, GUKPT, UKIPT and Unibet Open all vying for attention. Norwegian PokerStars qualifier Kevin Stani turned the nut straight to take down the EPT Tallinn, while fellow Scandinavian Henri Ojala came out on top at the Unibet Open Prague, the Finn winning €157,000 for his efforts.

Back in Blighty, Neil ‘Bad Beat’ Channing ended a string of second places with victory at the GUKPT Luton, Nick Abou Risk came through a field of 401 to triumph at the UKIPT Edinburgh and Peter Higgins prevailed at the Irish Classic Poker Festival.

Towards the end of the month Daniel ‘jungleman12’ Cates accepted Tom Dwan’s Durrrr Challenge and soon raced into a $692,000 lead.

September

The headline act for September was the World Series of Poker Europe. Five bracelets were on offer and the opening Hold’em event produced a popular winner as Phil Laak claimed his first bracelet, while Gus Hansen also broke his duck in the heads-up event. In between there were also wins for Australian Jeff Lisandro and unknown PKR staffer Scott Shelley.

A total of 346 players took their chance in the Main Event, including the likes of Phil Ivey and Chris Ferguson. It was, however, a lesser-known name in the form of Britain’s James Bord who triumphed, coming out on top against Italian Fabrizio Baldassari.

Away from the Empire there was yet more for the UK to cheer as young guns Toby Lewis and Sam Trickett took down the EPT Villamoura and the PartyPoker World Open respectively.

October

The eyes of the poker world had been focused firmly on London during September and that spilled over into October with the conclusion of the EPT London. It was Scotland’s David Vamplew who found himself £900,000 better off after a hard-fought win over John Juanda. The pattern of young EPT winners continued with the success of German Michael Eiler at the Vienna leg of the tour, the 20-year-old having qualified via an online satellite.

Away from the tournament tables, London again captured the headlines with the opening of the Fox Poker Club on Shaftesbury Avenue. The new venue kicked off with a month-long London Calling poker festival, sponsored by PKR.

November

The onset of November of course meant the re-emergence of the November Nine, the remaining competitors from July’s WSOP Main Event. Michael Mizrachi was the neutral’s choice but the American could only manage fifth as Jonathan Duhamel and John Racener made it to heads-up play. Duhamel started the heads-up battle as he had begun the final table – as chip leader – and needed just 90 minutes to secure the biggest prize in poker [see report p28-29].

Meanwhile, the American mid-term elections produced mixed results for those hoping for online gambling law reform in the States. Leading pro-gambling politician Barney Frank was re-elected to the House of Representatives but lost his position as chairman of the Financial Services Committee to the Republicans.

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