2002: The Birth of WCOOP
With the beta-testing of 2001 complete, 2002 started off with a special promotion: throughout the whole month of January, 2002, players had the opportunity to satellite into a special $215-buy-in tournament, with the then-huge guarantee of $50,000. Player ‘Moose’ from Kansas, USA, entered a $33 satellite, and went on to win both his satellite and $13,960 in that first big weekend tournament on PokerStars. He defeated 348 other players in a Limit Hold’em tournament on January 26.
PokerStars players had only been playing real money games for a month, but already people inside the company were thinking that something big was happening. Within a few months, two ideas began to take shape, and both would change the poker world forever: PokerStars would run online satellites to the World Series of Poker*, and also run the World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP).
Anders Berg and Mark Leah at the 2002 World Series of Poker
The First WSOP Satellites
In April 2002, PokerStars announced a new promotion for our frequent players. On April 20 and 27, 2002, PokerStars hosted two tournaments where the winner received an all-expenses paid trip for two to Las Vegas and a paid entry to the WSOP Main Event. These two tournaments only accepted VIP Club points (known back then as ‘FPPs’) to enter.
Unfortunately, the two winners of the PokerStars World Series Challenge, Anders ‘Donald’ Berg and Mark ‘slimmouse’ Leah, were both eliminated without winning any money. However, another frequent PokerStars player, Julian ‘baxi’ Gardner from Manchester, UK, finished in second place at World Series of Poker and won $1,100,000; at the age of 24, he was the youngest person to win $1 million in a poker tournament.
Julian Gardner at the Final Table of the World Series of Poker with eventual winner Robert Varkonyi
WCOOP Comes to Life
Later in 2002, PokerStars hosted the World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP), the Internet’s equivalent of the WSOP. In 2002, WCOOP kicked off its inaugural year with nine events. The very first event, a $109 Limit Hold’em tournament, drew 565 players. PokerStars was barely a year old and now more than 500 people were competing for the first WCOOP title. PokerStars player ‘fingaz’ claimed the first title and more than $15,000 in prize money. A few days later, Sweden’s ‘MultiMarine’ defeated a field of 238 players in the first WCOOP Main Event. The title was worth $65,450.
Late during the beta testing period in October 2001, PokerStars had set the then-world record for biggest online poker tournament - a $5,000 freeroll, which saw player ‘Kyle’ the victor out of a total of 836 entrants.
In November 2002, PokerStars ran another world record tournament, registering a then-unprecedented 1,500 players to an online event. Tournament ID #5000 was the event, which was a $3 buy-in, with $5,500 added by PokerStars to create a $10,000 prize pool. This record-setting tournament was won by ‘dexterx’ from New Zealand.
*World Series of Poker and WSOP are trademarks of Caesars License Company, LLC ("Caesars"). Caesars does not sponsor or endorse, and is not associated or affiliated with PokerStars or its products, services, promotions or tournaments.