2008 PokerStars Year In Review
Every year on December 31st, we look back at the previous twelve months and think, "There is no way PokerStars will be able to outdo itself after this year." Every year, we are proven wrong.
In 2008, PokerStars broke nearly every record on the books. It topped itself in as many ways as it could. Its Team PokerStars Pro members continued to astound, winning events on the EPT, WPT, and at the World Series.
At this point, we could be tempted to proclaim that PokerStars will never have another year that is this good. However, as we have been proven wrong time and again, we think it best just to say, "Wow, what a year."
Here's a look back at what happened at PokerStars in 2008.
It was not uncommon for a winner of the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure to become a member of Team PokerStars Pro. John Gale did it. So did Steve Paul-Ambrose. It was something entirely unique to see somebody do it in reverse. In January Team PokerStars Pro Betrand "ElkY" Grospellier won $2 million in the PCA.
Dustin "Neverwin" Woolf beats out 64 players to win $48,000 in 2007 PokerStars World Championship of Battleship Poker.
At the time, he said, "I'm not cocky; I'm in the zone."
Doing well on the PokerStars Tournament Leader Board has always been a significant point of pride. Starting in January 2008, it became something worth quite a bit of money. Just ask Dustin Mele who won the PokerStars Passport. It afforded him the ability to--for nothing out of his pocket--go to ten big buy-in events around the world. For more on Dustin, read his autobigraphical post HERE.
It had to happen eventually and no one was upset to see nice-guy Mike "Timex" McDonald become the youngest person to ever win an EPT title. It happened in Dortmund, Germany and earned McDonald more than a title. He also picked up €933,600.
In past years, we saw people buy books, trips, and cars with FPPs. In February of this year, we saw an FPP first. Well-known Supernova Elite Bigjoe2003 bought a house with his Frequent Player Points.
"I grew up in a trailer park, so being able to live in a million dollar house was always a dream of mine," bigjoe2003 said. "I greatly appreciate PokerStars' help in allowing me to reach that goal."
In what will probably be the poker tournament quote of the year ("It's been nice playing with you sir, I call..."), Tim Vance won his first major event. The PokerStars qualifier from St. Louis, Missouri won €834,590.
It's a wild ride going from a freeroll on PokerStars.net to the $20,000 NBC Heads-Up Championships. That is exactly the ride Alisha Kunze got to take in February after winning a qualifier.
It's not uncommon to see a Team PokerStars Pro around a lot of money. It is less common to see one opening the world's biggest stock exchange.
That's exactly what Victor Ramdin did in March. And, in his defense, that was a long time before the market crashed, so don't go blaming him.
Michael Schulze successfully overcame Ricardo Sousa heads-up and was crowned EPT Warsaw Champion. For his efforts he won €609,782.
Just a month before, a PokerStars player turned his FPP points into a house. In March, PokerStars player blego151 decided to take a different path. He turned his points into a pretty good looking horse for his daughter.
The gift horse's honest to goodness registered name?
The race to Supernova Elite only lasted until March when George Lind III, also known as jorj95, became the first player in 2008 to earn a million VIP Player Points. Like all Supernova Elites he earned free entry into the World Championship of Online Poker main event, as well as two big buy-in live events.
Team PokerStars Pro Hevad Khan kicked off his 2008 rush with a win in the PokerStars Sunday Warm-Up for nearly $100,000. The link above takes you to a full interview he did with the PokerStars Blog after his win.
Team PokerStars Pro Hevad Khan let his rush carry him from March to April. Just a few weeks after winning the PokerStars Sunday Warm-Up, Khan took down an event at the Foxwoods Poker Classic for more than $100,000.
In April, PokerStars introduced its first SNG Tournament Leader Board. The Battle of the Planets is a weekly competition that pays out more than $3 million a year to SNG players. It will begin its first full year in 2009.
The second-to-last EPT event of the season gave way to an American PokerStars qualifier from Florida winning the title in San Remo. This was the first year the European Poker Tour had held an event in Italy. Mercier won €869,000.
Team PokerStars Pro grew a lot in 2008. The big time growth began with the introduction of Gavin Griffin and Chad Brown. Both new team members joined just in time for the EPT Grand Final, the same event Griffin had won the year before.
In an affair fitting of its Grand Final name, the season-closing EPT event in Monte Carlo drew the world's best players. Canadian Glen Chorny took down the title and the monster €2,020,000 first prize.
After many years as a successful player, writer, and broadcaster, Victoria Coren took the next logical step. She signed on with Team PokerStars Pro.
In May, the Latin America Poker Tour kicked off its first-ever event. The event in Brazil marked the beginning of a tour that would see its second season before the end of the year. Nineteen year old Julien Nuijten won the event for $228,000.
In February, PokerStars ran a trial version of what would eventually become the Turbo Takedown. The 5000 Frequent Player Point event now runs once a month with a $100,000 prize pool and guaranteed $20,000 first prize.
PokerStars, a longtime supporter of AIDS research, once again helped sponsor Life Ball, a giant fund raiser and gala for the study of an AIDS cure. PokerStars and its players gave their hard-earned money to Life Ball 2008 to the tune of more than €150,000.
In May, PokerStars once again broke new ground by opening PokerStars Macau, Macau's first live poker room. The Grand Waldo Hotel and Casino card room kicked off with space for for 160 players. It continues to offer cash games and boast of a pretty nice weekly tournament schedule. See the ribbon cutting on the event HERE.
He had to travel from Hungary to San Jose to do it, but PokerStars qualifier Valdemar Kwaysser took down the Season 1 LAPT event in Costa Rica. His efforts earned him $280,000.
May marked the five-year anniversary of Chris Moneymaker's revolutionary achievement that set the poker world on a new course. As everyone remembers, Moneymaker used a $39 satellite entry to get into the World Series of Poker and win the entire thing for $2.5 million. To celebrate the anniversary, PokerStars created Team Moneymaker--a special crew of players to go to the 2008 World Series and play for $39.
After the tragic earthquakes in China, PokerStars and its players banded together to raise money for quake relief. PokerStars matched every dollar donated by its players and gave it all to the Red Cross to aid the suffering in China.
Everybody was familiar with PokerStars old lobby and tables. At the same time, there comes a time in everybody's life when a little change is good. With that in mind, PokerStars began offering a new slick theme for its lobby.
It was only a matter of time before Daniel Negreanu did it again. He's won tournament after tournament, and he knew he would pick up his fourth bracelet eventually. He did it during the 2008 World Series. Negreanu won the $2,000 Limit Hold'em event for more than $204,000.
PokerStars' headquarters sits on the Isle of Man in the UK. In June, a police officer from the Isle found himself at the highest point in the world--with a little help from PokerStars. The link above is his story, in his own words.
Barry Greenstein already had two World Series bracelets to his name, but that wasn't enough. He tore through the Razz at the World Series and picked up his third bracelet.
Just in time for the World Series Main Event, two of Europe's top poker pros joined poker's most elite team of players. William Thorson and Marcin Horecki hit the ground running in late June.
PokerStars has long been an innovator, but in July it did something so spectacular it needed a whole new website. PokerStars launched a brand new web TV platform for video blogs, live coverage of PokerStars events, and replays of online events. You can watch at PokerStars.tv.
Alexandre Gomes, a 25-year-old lawyer from Curitiba, Brazil, had been leaving behind his profession in law and slowly but surely gravitating toward poker. He finally made the decision to join Team PokerStars in the middle of the World Series. He was the second Brazilian to join the Team (Andre Akkari was the first).
PokerStars has always been known for its huge parties, but this year's World Series party took the cake. Burlesque celebrity Dita von Teese was the star of the show for the thousands of people in attendance.
The World Series had a name for its four-month-delayed final table players: the November Nine. Two thirds of those players came straight from the PokerStars ranks. The PokerStars six left Vegas for four months with $900,000 in their pocket and a chance to play the final table in November.
The first season of the Latin American Poker Tour came to a close in Punta del Este, Uruguay. Spaniard Jose Miguel Espinar took down the final event.
PokerStars has built a great team of poker professionals. In August, it added a hockey legend to its ranks. Mats Sundin signed on with PokerStars as one of its ambassadors.
The World Championship of Online Poker gets bigger every year. 2008 was no different. PokerStars guaranteed at least $30 million in prize money over the 2 1/2 weeks of tournaments. What's more, tournament organizers added new events this year, including some big high-roller events with event buy-ins as high as $10,000 and $25,000.
The Asia Pacific Poker Tour kicked off its second season in Macau. Eddie Sabat helped celebrate by taking down the event and winning $453,851.
Folks from the UK have played a lot of WCOOP events. A lot. But they had never won a WCOOP bracelet until Shane147 took down Event #1 of the 2008 WCOOP.
Everybody in American professional poker knew the name Nam Le. Now, everyone in Asia knows it after he won more than $3.7 million Hong Kong dollars in the high roller event of the APPT's second season in Macau.
Sebastian Ruthenberg was a Shooting Star from Germany before he went to Barcelona. He came out as an EPT champion, winning €1,361,000.
It's not very often one finds a $25,000 event online. When PokerStars' WCOOP ran the the heads-up event for the first time, it saw online phenom stevesbets go up against Team PokerStars Pro Betrand ElkY Grospellier. Stevesbets took it down and won more than half a million bucks.
The World Championship of Online Poker was one for the books--the record books--with nearly $40,000,000 in prize money. The biggest money went to ckingusc who picked up $1.26 million for the championship win.
The second event of the second season on the APPT saw Yoshihiro Tasaka picking up $80,155.
The three PokerStars World Series champions faced off against the PokerStars Six in a single table event for bragging rights. The first of the champions, Chris Moneymaker, took it down.
Everybody's favorite nice guy Michael Martin came tantalizingly close to winning the EPT Grand Final in March. In London, he actually took down the title.
Jason Mercier, winner of the EPT event in Italy just a few months earlier in San Remo, went to London and won the Million Pound Showdown for £516,000.
It's one thing to win a big event. It's another thing to win a big event with your hometown crowd around you. That's exactly what Daniel Cracker did at the APPT event in Auckland.
ElkY may not have won a WSOP bracelet this year. He came close to winning a WCOOP bracelet several times. That said, he won an EPT title in January. And then in October, ElkY won on the WPT. He took down the Festa al Lago event for $1.4 million after beating out a field of 368 people. He wrote about it HERE.
We talked a lot about how Hevad Khan had a great year. It got even better at the end of October when he won $1 million at the Caesars Palace Classic.
The second season of the LAPT came before the first season was even a year-old memory. American player Ryan Fee took the short flight to Costa Rica and blitzed his way through the tournament for a victory he called "easy."
After waiting for months to play the final table of the World Series, Peter Eastgate took down the Main Event bracelet. Eastgate, at 22, became the youngest ever Main Event winner. He won $9,152,416.
Van Marcus has racked up his share of big cashes on the APPT, but he had yet to achieve the title of champion. He did it in Manila.
Joao Barbosa was already a rising star on the European Poker Tour, but that wasn't enough. So, he won EPT Warsaw and €367,141.
ElkY won a couple of big titles. So did Hevad Kahn. Daniel Negreanu is not one to be outdone. So, he went home to Canada and took down the British Columbia Poker Championships for $371,000. You can read about his victory in his trip report.
PokerStars is pretty well known for sponsoring some pretty big events. It happened again in Brazil when PokerStars raced around the track with Thiago Camilo.
PokerStars has tours in almost every part of the world, but its empire has not reached capacity. Enter the Russian Poker Tour, a brand new series kicking off in 2009.
The APPT concluded a successful second season in Sydney, Australia. The title went to hometown hero Martin Rowe who won AUD $1,000,000.
In mid-December Vanessa Rousso took some time out of her day to take down the APPT TOC and win some big cash for the No Limit, No Profit Initiative, a charity set up to aid cancer research.
After a month of qualifying and battle, the PokerStars World Cup of Poker V set its live final teams. They will meet Janaury 6 in the Bahamas to determine the World Cup of Poker champion. For a look at recent World Cup news, click here.
The EPT season would go on into 2009, but the last event of the year came in December in Prague. The title went to Salvatore Bonavena who won €774,000.
For the first time, PokerStars turned the World Blogger Championship of Online Poker into a series of events. This year, Imric_est took down the championship title and will be playing at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in 2009.
PokerStars hosted World Record week and shattered just about every record it could find. From the biggest ever poker tournament, to the biggest number of players online, to the biggest Sunday Million, to the biggest Sunday Warm-Up, PokerStars broke them all.
Thank you all for a great year and your visits to the PokerStars Blog. Happy New Year. We'll see you in the Bahamas to kick off what is sure to be a fantastic 2009.