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Poker News | World Poker News

Looking Back at the World of Poker in 2009 - Part I

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As 2010 ushers itself in without delay, it behooves the poker community to look back at the previous year. While all poker players assess the year-end status of their bankrolls, accomplishments or lack thereof, and goals for the new year, it is important to take a few moments to recall the events that shaped the poker world in 2009. Each year holds its own significance in the growth and maturity of poker, and as the game continues to grow beyond the wildest dreams of those who played the game decades ago, the events of 2009 are signs by which to predict the future of the game.

The year that passed was filled with exciting tournaments like the World Series of Poker Main Event final table that included Phil Ivey, drama like the UIGEA regulations nearly going into effect except for a last-minute pardon of sorts by the financial powers-that-be in the U.S. government, and endings like the final resolution of the UltimateBet scandal that was finally - and mostly - put to rest. There was history made by PokerStars with its world record-setting tournament in late December, and there were mistakes made by the WSOP staff when players were shut out of the final day of the Main Event due to space restrictions. A mystery player named Isildur1 came out of nowhere to shock the online poker world with high stakes play, and Annie Duke came within a stone’s throw of winning Donald Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice television show for charity, losing only to trash-talking Joan Rivers.

Those were only a few examples. We’ll try to remember and recap all of the exciting news from the world of poker here.

Live Tournament Poker

The World Poker Tour, specifically parent company WPT Enterprises, experienced the most upheaval in 2009, as it underwent significant changes that resulted in the sale of its assets to a PartyGaming subsidiary. The year began with the WPT venturing beyond U.S. soil to host its first ever tournament in Venice, Italy, which was followed by the Spanish Championship in Barcelona Spain; a tournament in Bratislava, Slovakia; the Mediterranean island of Cyprus; and finally Marrakech, Morocco. The pairing of the WPT with online poker sites to broaden its reach turned into successful tournaments at each location.

Meanwhile, WPT closed out its seventh season with the following champions: Allen Carter in Biloxi, Cornel Cimpan at the LAPC, Freddy Deeb at the WPT Invitational in Los Angeles, Steve Brecher at Bay 101, Vadim Trincher at Foxwoods, and Yevgeniy Timoshenko at the WPT World Championship at Bellagio in Las Vegas. After a few months off, Season 8 began and brought the poker world more winners: Alex Gomes at the Bellagio Cup, Prahlad Friedman at the Legends of Poker, Olivier Busquet at Borgata, Tommy Vedes at Bellagio’s Festa al Lago, Cornel Cimpan (second title of the year) at Foxwoods, and Daniel Alaei at the Bellagio’s Five Diamond.

But the WPTE was experiencing a roller coaster of a year behind the scenes. Many months of low stock prices and a threat from Nasdaq of delisting the public company from its ranks, WPTE complied with requirements and brought stock prices back up to more than $1 per share. But it was in the fall months that the excitement began when a bid for the company’s assets was announced, though Gamynia was soon outbid by PartyGaming subsidiary Peerless Media Ltd. Though a late third bid came in from Mandalay Media for $35 million, WPTE voted to stay with PartyGaming and sold its assets for $12.3 million. The sale was complete in November, at which time the company’s name was changed to Ante 4.

The biggest live poker fiesta of the year was, as is always, the World Series of Poker. The 40th annual series was bigger and better than before, bringing record numbers of players to the 57-tournament festivities. Interesting new additions were made, such as the first Dream Team Poker event and the public’s invitation to participate in the new Poker Hall of Fame process, while the WSOP handed out bracelets to new names as well as seasoned pros. Jeffrey Lisandro took down an amazing three bracelets and captured the 2009 Player of the Year honors, while Phil Ivey grabbed two bracelets and a seat at the Main Event final table. Recognizable names who took down preliminary event victories included Nick Schulman, Roland de Wolfe, James Van Alstyne, and Jason Mercier, and David Bach won the prestigious $50K HORSE tournament.

The WSOP Main Event final table made a splash with Ivey as one of its participants and amateur Darvin Moon as its chip leader, and the November Nine final table was the most well attended of the two years. Every player had a sizable cheering section for the ESPN cameras, and when it came down to the last two players - Moon and Joe Cada - the heads-up battle was a solid one that found Cada on top and becoming the youngest player to ever win the Main Event, taking that title away from 2008 champion Peter Eastgate. Cada showed himself to be mature beyond his years in the days and months ahead, not only representing poker in the press and on mainstream television shows like Late Night with David Letterman, but taking his role of ambassador all the way to Washington, D.C. to lobby for online poker rights.

For all of its excitement, the 2009 WSOP also had its low points, such as the rejection of nearly 1,000 players on the last day of the Main Event as those players exceeded capacity for Harrahs. Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack apologized profusely for the lack of preparation for such last-minute entrants, but the players were denied entry, and it became a serious bone of contention for weeks to come. In the end, the WSOP Players Advisory Council vowed to remedy the situation for 2010, though it remains a blemish on the memory of the 2009 series. Another negative in the eyes of many at the 2009 WSOP was the choice by ESPN to air only no-limit hold’em events, ignoring the $50K HORSE and other significant tournaments that fans would have liked to have seen on television.

However, the WSOP also made many positive changes in 2009 that made players, fans, and media take note, including more options for tournament players like the $40K NLHE special and the $1,000 NLHE option, as well as the honoring of each champion via a bracelet ceremony at which his or her national anthem was played for the Amazon Room to hear. The new and improved penalty tracking system seemed to work well for the tournament staff, and the ability to utilize more space in the convention center at the Rio allowed more players to participate in the tournaments. Many players also hailed the deeper stacked structure that officials put into place for the 2009 events.

And just after the WSOP came the third installment of WSOP Europe, highlighted by a new international non-bracelet called the Caesars Cup that saw Team Europe defeat Team America, both all-star teams featuring some of the biggest names in poker. The bracelet events of the series were won by the following players: JP Kelly took Event 1, Erik Cajelais won Event 2, Jani Vilmunen took down Event 3, and industry veteran Barry Shulman defeated Daniel Negreanu to win the WSOP Europe Main Event.

Live tournaments also thrived courtesy of the many PokerStars tours around the globe, most prominently the ever-popular European Poker Tour (EPT). The beginning of the year saw it wrap its fifth season of tournaments with Poorya Nazari winning $3 million in the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, followed by Moritz Kranich taking the EPT Deauville title, Jens Kyllonen winning in Copenhagen, Sandra Naujoks taking the title at Dortmund and becoming only the second female EPT winner ever, Constant Rijkenberg scoring at San Remo, and Pieter de Korver claiming €2.3 million for victory at the Grand Final in Monte Carlo. The EPT then began Season 6 with a new stop on the tour in Kyiv, where Max Lykov  won the tournament, and the remainder of 2009 saw the following champions: Carter Phillips in Barcelona, Aaron Gustavson in London, Christophe Benzimra in Warsaw, Antonio Matias in Vilamoura, and Jan Skampa in Prague.

The PokerStars Asia Pacific Poker Tour (APPT) hosted its third season, which started with Dermot Blain winning the Macau stop, Simon Watt claiming victory in Auckland, Dong-bin Han winning in Cebu, and Aaron Benton winning the Grand Final in Sydney. The Latin American Poker Tour (LAPT) was also in full swing throughout the year, as it finished its second season with Fabian Ortiz winning in Chile, Rory Cox winning the Mexico event, Karl Hevroy taking down the Uruguay tournament, and Dominik Nitsche winning the finale in Argentina. The LAPT’s Season 3 then got underway in November with Amer Sulaiman claiming victory in Costa Rica. And the Australia New Zealand Poker Tour (ANZPT) launched with Karl Krautschneider winning its inaugural event in Adelaide, Paren Arzoomanian in the winner’s circle in Sydney, Chris Levick taking it down in Melbourne, and Danny Chevalier winning the season ender in Queenstown. PokerStars also took on other tours, such as the Russian Poker Tour, Italian Poker Tour, UK & Ireland Poker Tour, and Czech-Slovak Poker Tour.

Other poker tournaments dotted the live poker landscape throughout the year. Some of the highlights included Stewart Scott winning the Aussie Millions, Marc Naalden winning the PokerNews Cup Alpine, Christer Johannson in the winner’s seat at the Irish Poker Open, Con Tsapkounis taking down the PokerNews Cup Australia, and Brandon Hall winning the Aruba Poker Classic.

*Editor's note - due to the length of this article and the wealth of news involved in reviewing 2009 poker around the world, it is now in two parts, Part II.

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