2006: Five Million Players, Five Billion Hands and the Sunday Million
January marked the second year of the PCA at the Atlantis Resort and Casino. 724 players played in the Main Event, which was won by Canadian and PokerStars qualifier Steve Paul-Ambrose. Paul-Ambrose took home $1,388,600 for his win - the first PCA prize over $1 million.
PokerStars also rolled out the first ‘battleship poker’ tournament, in which players competed heads-up online, but they played live on laptop computers placed back-to-back. 32 players put up $1,000 each, with Michael Banducci ultimately winning the first prize.
Sunday Highlights and VIP Club go Live
Also during January, PokerStars began ‘rebroadcasting’ the final table of the flagship Sunday tournament, sometimes with commentary by the eventual winner. Initially hole cards were only exposed for players who explicitly gave permission to show them. Sometime later, the terms and conditions for tournaments were changed so that PokerStars had permission to expose all hole cards for final table replays. Ever since then, such final table replays have exposed all hole cards.
January also marked the opening of the PokerStars VIP Club. Players could now use points earned at the tables to purchase electronics, tickets and much more.
In February, PokerStars had 100,000 players on the site simultaneously. It was only in November of 2003 that the site had 10,000 players on simultaneously.
The Sunday Million is Born
In March, the weekly $215 flagship No Limit Hold’em tournament was officially rebranded the ‘Sunday Million’, with a $1 million guarantee. The first Sunday Million had a prize pool of $1,178,600 and was won by ‘aaaaaaa’ from the US.
The EPT Grand Final in Monte Carlo had 298 entrants for a total prize pool of €2,801,200. It was won by Jeff Williams, a 19-year-old American college student. Williams took home €900,000.
Five Billion Hands and Counting
In May, PokerStars dealt hand number 5,000,000,000 to player ‘MaraJade’, who won $57,000 for being at the right table at the right time. And in July, PokerStars ran the largest satellite in World Series of Poker* history, awarding 255 seats to the $10,000 Main Event. This was larger than the total number of entrants in the 1993 WSOP Main Event.
Ultimately, over 1,600 PokerStars players would qualify for the Main Event, making up over 18% of the record 8,773-player field. Incredibly, three PokerStars qualifiers made the final table of that event, taking away more than $6 million among them.
In August, PokerStars put out a major software upgrade, including resizable tables, selectable table themes, and new game options such as HORSE. Finally, in September, the World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) broke another record, with 18 events totaling over $18 million in prize money. The Main Event, with a $2,500+$100 buy-in, had 2,510 participants and was won by ‘area23JC’. As part of a final table deal, he won $670,194; the original published first prize was over $1.1 million.
*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.