We've been spending a lot of time these last few weeks looking back and marveling at the 10-year history of PokerStars, online poker's biggest site. Part of that time has been occupied leafing through the nifty PokerStars 10th Anniversary e-magazine in which the story of the site's first decade is told in words and pictures (some of which move!).
Among the many items one finds in the e-magazine are milestone moments regarding the number of players simultaneously playing on PokerStars. In 2002, staff were excited when 100 players were playing at once. Then in November 2003 came another big day when 10,000 had logged on.
"The whole office erupted into rounds of applause," says then-Poker Room Manager Lee Jones, recalling the moment the total hit 10,000. "It seemed unreal that so many people were playing online at once."
That might have seemed unreal at the time. But soon 10,000 players playing at once would seem like small change. Really.
In February 2006, PokerStars became the first online poker site to have 100,000 players playing at once. By December 2007, PokerStars would crack the 150,000-player mark, and the following year the site would become the first to host more than 200,000 simultaneous players.
In December 2008, it was noted that more than 250,000 were logged in at once. Then in early September 2009, a record 307,016 were seen playing on 42,814 virtual tables. And in February 2011, a whopping 508,097 were on PokerStars at the same time!
As the site continued to grow, PokerStars began hosting "world record" tournies featuring largest-ever fields in online poker history -- or all of poker, for that matter.
On December 28, 2008, a record 35,000 entered an $11 buy-in tourney. Then on July 19, 2009, an event with a $1 buy-in saw 65,000 participate. Actually that was the second time the old record was broken on that Sunday, as 59,128 played the Sunday Million as well.
Then on December 27, 2009, the record was shattered once more as 149,196 participated in another $1 buy-in event.
It only seemed fitting to mark the 10th anniversary with another run at the record. With a $250,000 guaranteed prize pool and a cap at 200,000 players for the $1 tournament, an overlay was going to be part of the deal. 12,150 players would divide up the loot, with $50,000 of it going to the player managing to outlast the massive mob and emerge as victor (barring any final table deals).
That would add up to an ROI of 4,999,900%. Not a bad day, no sir.
Once registration opened and spots began to fill, it quickly became clear the old record was in danger. It was on Saturday that the number of entrants passed the previous high, and by mid-morning on Sunday -- about three-and-a-half hours before the first hands were dealt -- that the number of players registered reached the 200,000 cap.
Soon after the tourney began, Joe Stapleton and Nick Wealthall invited Gaz Deaves, an adjudicator from the Guinness Book of World Records, to appear as a guest on PokerStars Radio. As they awaited Deaves' appearance, Wealthall wondered if perhaps the judge would have to count each player individually, marking his progress with a sip of Guinness for each.
Whether or not that was the case, Deaves did come on the show to confirm the event had indeed established a new world record for the largest-ever online poker tournament. And thereafter in Prague -- where the PokerStars folks are gearing up for the upcoming EPT event -- glasses were raised.
From 200,000 to 20,000
The tournament's fast structure -- 2,000-chip stacks to start, five-minute levels, with antes kicking in after 20 minutes -- ensured players wouldn't have to play until PokerStars' 20th anniversary celebration to settle things.
5,000 were eliminated within five minutes. After 18 minutes, 25,000 had run out of chips. The first break came just 25 minutes into the event (mid-level 5), by which time 160,493 remained.
Shortly before the one-hour mark the field had been perfectly halved with 100,000 on the rail and another 100,000 still with chips. Just a few minutes later they were already down to 75,000, and by the 73-minute mark just 50,000 remained.
After exactly two hours, 20,000 remained. Of those, 25 players had accumulated more than 100,000 chips, with bazuzu620 holding the most with a little over 133,000.
From 20,000 to 200
The money bubble burst just prior to the two-and-a-half-hour mark, and about 10 minutes later 10,000 were left. maksfray led with more than 262,000 chips, one of 18 players with more than 200k.
By the three-hour mark they were down to 5,000, with Grzala_PL on top with close to 550,000. A little over an hour later they were down to 1,000, with arknight87 leading with more than 2.4 million, pelocho71 closing in on 2.2 million, and more than 40 others with 1 million chips or more.
Still, with exactly 400 million chips in play, there were just a few more all-ins left to go.
As the field shrunk to 500 players mark, just one representative of Team PokerStars remained from the many who'd help break the record, Kevin "WizardofAhhs" Thurman of Team PokerStars Online.
Thurman soon lost nearly all of his chips, however, when his Q♠Q♣ failed to hold in a preflop all-in versus KayJay83's A♥Q♥. He'd double up his short stack a few times to survive a little longer, but Thurman's run good finally ran out when his pocket threes failed to hold versus sasodiits' A♦[10s], sending the WizardOfAhhs out in 380th place for $27.00.
From 200 to 20
They were just a few minutes beyond the five-hour mark when the field shrunk to 200 players, gathered around 20 ten-handed tables.
At that point the average chip stack was exactly 2 million, with the blinds at 80,000/160,000 (Level 53). By then mrgardem was ahead of everyone with more than 5.7 million, with sokulok1991 and mr_wickedown also in the 5-million chip club.
By the time they'd gotten down to 100 players, it took eight digits' worth of chips to find a spot at the top of the counts.
At that moment RaZoFaZoR was the one with the most chips with 16,857,836, followed by fenners (14.14m), kerkel1 (13.2m), _Bonumm_ (12.0m) and King-1-Z (10.73m).
The tourney had been running a little over six hours and 15 minutes when the field was trimmed to 20, with Kaitz20 on top with a massive 54.2 million-chip stack, King-2-Z next with 42.4 million, and kerkel1, RaZoFaZoR, and Bjoomhjaer all above 30 million.
From 20 to 8
Just two 10-handed tables remained. By now those eliminated were earning hundreds of dollars for their $1 investment. But all continued to eye that $50,000 first prize.
The two tables were whittled down to short-handed play as the following players successively hit the rail one table shy of the last one: Mivoxx (20th, $700), Jenek084 (19th, $700), f1live7 (18th, $850), kezzer-ste (17th, $850), Pokerklemi (16th, $1.050), manutdsam123 (15th, $1,050), kerkel1 (14th, $1,250), mellonuts (13th, $1,250), and Buenobueno (12th, $1,500).
With just 11 left, hand-for-hand play commenced. Soon there was action on both tables that saw a total of three players eliminated on the same hand, meaning only eight would be left by the time the final table started.
Over on one table, both Guzzi46 and Garin4o were all in before the flop against King-2-Z. Guzzi46 held K♣Q♣, Garin4o A♥Q♥, and King-2-Z A♦K♦. The board ran out nine-high, eliminating Guzzi46 in 11th ($1,500) and Garin4o in 10th ($2,250).
Meanwhile, herbert68 was all in on the other table with K♦Q♦ against sokoluk1991's A♦T♣. The board ran out Q♠A♠J♥8♥K♥, leaving herbert68 with two pair but sokoluk1991 with a straight, knocking out herbert68 in ninth ($3,000).
The final table -- with just eight players left -- was set.
Seat 1: empty
Seat 2: tristan2287 -- 27,865,420
Seat 3: King-2-Z -- 93,317,380
Seat 4: Bjoornkjaer -- 19,212,334
Seat 5: Kaitz20 -- 97,323,991
Seat 6: sokoluk1991 -- 71,305,235
Seat 7: pumata13 -- 464,488
Seat 8: RaZorFaZoR -- 55,661,354
Seat 9: empty
Seat 10: casasola10 -- 34,849,798
Super big stacks all around. And super big blinds, too -- 2,000,000/4,000,000 -- which meant the fast-paced action would continue. And how. In fact, it would take just 10 minutes for the final eight to be reduced to just three.
pumata13 actually was down to less than an ante (500,000), and was soon all in with A♥J♦ against both tristan2287 and casasola10. A flop of T♥A♠5♣ encouraged a bet from tristan2287, forcing a fold from casasola10 and revealing he held T♣5♦ for bottom two pair against pumata13's top pair of aces. The turn then brought the 5♠, giving tristan2287 a full house, and after the J♥ river pumata13 was out in eighth.
Shortly after the blinds had already moved to 2.5m/5m when Bjoornkjaer open-shoved from the small blind for 11,337,334 and Kaitz20 called from the big blind. Bjoornkjaer held Q♦6♠ and Kaitz20 9♦2♠, and the 9♣T♣4♣ brought the latter a pair of nines. The turn was the A♦ and river the 3♦, and Bjoornkjaer was eliminated in seventh.
Kaitz20 then opened for 15 million from early position (a 3x raise), and it folded to casasola10 who reraised all in for a little more -- to 16,599,798 -- from the small blind. tristan2287 folded the big blind, and Kaitz20 quickly called, showing J♠J♣ to casasola10's 9♦9♠. The five community cards came 3♦K♥3♠Q♣8♥, and casasola10 was gone in sixth.
The blinds moved to 3m/6m, and sokoluk1991 min-raised to 12 million from the small blind. RaZorFaZoR then shoved for 41,964,622, and sokoluk1991 called. RaZorFaZoR had picked up a monster in Q♦Q♠, but unfortunately for him sokoluk1991 had drawn A♦A♣. The board ran out 8♦2♦5♣J♣2♠, and they were down to four.
That's when tristan2287 opened with an all-in raise for 7,204,920 from UTG and got two callers -- Kaitz20 (small blind) and sokoluk1991 (big blind). Both checked down the J♠4♠Q♦3♦Q♣ board, and when Kaitz20 tabled 9♠4♦ for two pair the others mucked, with tristan2287 knocked out in fourth.
At that point the remaining trio hastily agreed to pause the craziness and talk about a possible deal. sokoluk1991 had the chip lead with about 174.3 million, Kaitz20 was next with 165.4 million, and King-2-Z had the "short" stack with almost 60.2 million.
It took a few minutes, but the players eventually agreed to terms with $35,258.83 going to sokoluk1991, $34,000 to Kaitz20, and $25,741.17 for King-2-Z, leaving $5,000 on the table for which to play.
Cards back in the air, it took about two minutes for the next elimination to occur.
With the blinds up to 4m/8m, sokoluk1991 made it 16 million to go from the small blind, and King-2-Z pushed all in for 59,192,380 from the big blind. sokoluk1991 called, showing Q♣J♠ and needing to hit versus King-2-Z's A♣T♥.
sokoluk1991 would hit, the flop coming 4♦3♥Q♦ to pair his queen. The turn was the 3♦ and river the 9♣, and King-2-Z took third.
Heads up began with those 400 million chips divided thusly: sokoluk1991 243,579,037, Kaitz20 156,420,963. The pair would play but 11 hands, with Kaitz20 seizing the lead momentarily but soon relinquishing it back.
On the final hand, coming just over seven hours after the first hands of the record-setting event were dealt, the blinds were 5m/10m. Kaitz20 opened by pushing all in for 119,433,852 from the button, and sokoluk1991 called. Kaitz20 held an ace with A♣9♦, but sokoluk1991's ace was better as he had A♠Q♦.
The flop came Q♥J♠6♦, increasing sokoluk1991's lead, and the 7♠ on the turn made the T♣ river no matter. Take a look (although you can barely see the community cards behind those mountains of chips):
Congratulations to sokoluk1991 of Russia for taking down the world's biggest online poker tournament ever, earning just over $40,000 for a little over seven hours' work!
Oh, and one dollar.
PokerStars 10th Anniversary World Record Tournament results (*reflects three-way deal):
1st: sokoluk1991 (Russia) -- $40,258.83*
2nd: Kaitz20 (Estonia) -- $34,000*
3rd: King-2-Z (United Kingdom) -- $25,741.17*
4th: tristan2287 (Spain) -- $10,000
5th: RaZorFaZoR (Germany) -- $8,000
6th: casasola10 (Costa Rica) -- $6,500
7th: Bjoornkjaer (Denmark) -- $5,250
8th: pumata13 (Bulgaria) -- $4,000
9th: herbert68 (Germany) -- $3,000
10th: Garin4o (Ukraine) -- $2,250
For more reports on PokerStars 10th Anniversary celebration, click here.