PokerStars 10th Anniversary review: Making world champions
Back in 2001, when PokerStars first opened its doors for business, few would have imagined this young pretender would take over the online poker world. If I could get inside the heads of those who launched the company, I bet that even they still have a sense of wonder, as well as immense pride in what has been achieved. Of course, deep-thinking business analysis and forecasts so complicated I don't even want to begin thinking about them would have indicated at launch that, all being well, aspirations of becoming the best online poker provider in the world were entirely realistic. Getting there took a momentous amount of work in developing a superior product, but critically it also meant putting the players first. Since launch day, nothing at PokerStars has ever been done without the best interests of our players in mind.
That said, as things began back in 2001, I don't think anyone would have predicted the seismic impact PokerStars would have on the live poker scene. Sure, there may have been early plans to run live PokerStars events, just as there were fledgling thoughts about running online qualifiers to events like the WSOP. While those initial WSOP qualifiers seemed to run smoothly, the poker world was about to change: one of our online qualifiers won the 2003 WSOP Main Event.
That, of course, was Chris Moneymaker, who famously got into the $10,000 championship thanks to an $89 qualifier online at PokerStars. That small investment netted the accountant from Tennessee $2.5 million after he beat Sam Farha heads-up. Since that day--Friday, May 23, 2003--the poker landscape changed. It was, as so many now say, the flame that lit the online poker firework. It went boom.
Suddenly people around the world looked at Moneymaker's achievement and thought: "I can do that." It's a phrase that crops up time and time again when I ask our players at the WSOP what inspired them to play.
Let's not forget that the WSOP had already been going 30-odd years with early winners including great names like Doyle Brunson in 1976 and 1977, Tom McEvoy in 1983, Phil Helmuth in 1989 and the legendary Stu Ungar in 1980, 1981 and 1997. But while entry numbers had consistently been rising, Moneymaker's victory sent them rocketing.
In the years that followed, PokerStars would proudly see its players repeating Moneymaker's victory. In 2004, Greg Raymer won $5 million, and then in 2005 it was Australian chiropractor Joe Hachem who took the crown and $7.5 million.
Here, Moneymaker, Raymer and Hachem recalled their victories in a video shot ahead of the 2008 final table...
That year, 2008, it was Peter Eastgate from Denmark who won $9,152,416 in a final that included Dennis Phillips, Ivan Demidov and Ylon Schwartz.
In 2009 Joe Cada won the main event for $8,546,435. He beat Darvin Moon heads-up in a fascinating final table that saw Phil Ivey eliminated in seventh place.
And finally, Team PokerStars Pro Jonathan Duhamel won in 2010 for $8,944,310. He's still reigning world champion - a title he will hold until next week when a new winner is crowned. Duhamel beat John Racener heads-up to lift the title, and he's been winning big in PokerStars colours ever since.
So, with all that in mind, it's fair to say PokerStars and its players have been dominating the World Series of Poker, just as they have the online poker world. Who would have predicted that back in 2001?
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This review article is part of a daily series we will be publishing throughout November to celebrate PokerStars' 10th Anniversary. See the website for our huge celebration promotions.