2012 PokerStars Year in Review
What happened in 2012? What didn't happen?
PokerStars players won millions upon millions of dollars in online poker's biggest tournament series. A Team PokerStars Pro won a WSOP bracelet. Another Team Pro won a WCOOP bracelet. Tennis legend Rafa Nadal joined PokerStars. Online poker legend Isaac Haxton joined Team Online. PokerStars Mobile spread around the globe. For yet another year, PokerStars made it clear why it is the biggest online poker site in the world.
We have covered it all here on the PokerStars Blog--the highs, the lows, and everything in between. It's been a pleasure for all of us who make it our business to cover PokerStars' biggest news.
We cannot let this year end without thanking you, PokerStars Blog readers and PokerStars players. You have made this year at PokerStars an amazing thing to watch, and we can't wait to write about what you do in 2013.
Happy New Year, everyone.
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TEAM PROS TOP BLUFF PLAYER OF THE YEAR--When the Bluff Player of the Year Awards came out, Team PokerStars Pros Eugene Katchalov and ElkY sat in the first and second positions--no surprise as the two have traveled the world together crushing the poker games and turning themselves into trained athletes at the same time.
VIKTOR BLOM WINS PCA SUPER HIGH ROLLER--Though he had never hinted at winning a major event in his life, Viktor Blom trounced the field at the second PCA $100,000 Super High Roller Event.
AMATEUR JOHN DIBELLA WINS 2012 PCA MAIN EVENT--For the first time in many years, an amateur took down the main event of the PCA. The honor and $1.77 million went to stocks trader John Dibella.
PERU WINS WORLD CUP OF POKER VIII--After a hard-fought battle on the shores of Paradise Island, Peru claimed the very first World Cup of Poker title for South America.
BILOKUR WINS PCA HIGH ROLLER, DUHAMEL FINISHES RUNNER UP--It was a great day for Alex Bilokur who won the $1.1 million first prize, but an even better festival for Jonathan Duhamel who topped that number with his overall PCA winnings of $1.2 million.
POKERSTARS RUNS FIRST TURBO CHAMPIONSHIP OF ONLINE POKER--For the first time in its history, PokerStars hosted the TCOOP, a series of turbo tournaments with championship money behind them. It boasted more than $16 million in combined prize pools and awarded David "Betudontbet" Emmons $382,855 for his first place victory. "Mongy" won Player of the Series. The festival kicks off again January 17.
POKERSTARS LAUNCHES "WE ARE POKER" CAMPAIGN--PokerStars has always run television ads, but never like the ones it launched in January of this year. Here's an example below.
DANNY MCDONAGH MAKES AUSTRALIA HALL OF FAME--Everyone knew it would happen some year. The year 2012 turned out to be the one where poker's everyman, Danny McDonagh, made the Australia Poker Hall of Fame.
POKERSTARS DEALS 75 BILLIONTH HAND--It was a pot so big it had to have two winners! In what would end up being a massive year for hand-dealing, PokerStars took another step down the Road to 100 Billion with the dealing of the 75 billionth hand. There were some some big milestone prizes along the way. As we wrote at the time, "'edroqui07,' who started the hand with $35.92, ended it with $42,810 more, while 'acer2831,' who started the hand with just $22.36 at the table, finished up with $34,600. Everyone else at the six-handed $1-$2 limit hold'em table won at least $16,970."
POKERSTARS AWARDED BELGIUM POKER LICENSE--In February, www.pokerstars.be became one of the first online poker sites in Belgium to be officially granted a license under the Casino de Namur A+ license.
POKERSTARS.EU OPENS FOR BUSINESS--In a move that made the online experience much better for a lot of EU nations, PokerStars opened up PokerStars.eu.
POKERSTARS MOBILE HITS THE UK--The public begged for it, and near the beginning of this year, PokerStars delivered, launching its Mobile app for the UK before letting the sensation spread like wildfire all over the world.
VADZIM KURSEVICH WINS EPT DEAUVILLE--It was a marathon finale on France's north coast that included Team PokerStars Pro Luca Pagano at the final table, but when it was done, Vadzim Kursevich won it all, including the €875,000 first prize.
EMMETT MULLIN WINS UKIPT GALWAY--At first confused as English, Mullin made his fellow Irishmen proud with his €100,000 victory in Galway.
DANIELE NESTOLA WINS LAPT SEASON 4 GRAND FINAL--The Sao Paulo Grand Final pitted a Daniel vs a Daniele...Negreanu versus Nestola. Though Kid Poker ran it deep, the the man from Germany ended up taking it down.
MICKY PETERSEN WINS EPT COPENHAGEN--Copenhagen maintained its reputation for long final tables, and Team Online's Micky Petersen earned a reputation as a guy who can take down an EPT main event.
NICKY TAO JIN WINS MACAU POKER CUP--Until February, Nicky Tao Jin was only known for his online exploits. That changed when he took down the main event of the Macau Poker Cup.
MAX LYKOV WINS SUNDAY 500--You may think the Team Pros spend all their time jetting around the world, but you'll find most of them grinding the Sunday majors whenever they can, just like Max Lykov did in March when he won the Sunday 500.
IPT NOVA GORICA WINNER NETS €140,000--Slovakian Anton Karasinsky traveled to Nova Gorica and made his name on the series winners' roster with a first place finish and €140,000 payday.
POKERSTARS LAUNCHES EVERYTHING POKER--Over the years, a lot of people came to assume that everybody knew everything about poker. PokerStars knows there are still a lot of people out there who want to learn. Hence, the web site EverythingPoker.com.
BLOGGERS WIN TOP HONORS--Since there's been a PokerStars Blog there has been a World Blogger Championship of Online Poker. In March, the WBCOOP festival awarded its winners.
ANDREW KIM WINS APPT SEOUL--It took knocking off American powerhouse Vincent Rubianes, but Andrew Kim did it and took down the APPT title in Seoul.
HAXTON DINGS BLOM IN SUPERSTAR SHOWDOWN--Before Viktor Blom left Team Pro, he staged a few last SuperStar Showdown matches which gave future Team Online member Ike Haxton a chance to win a little more money.
POKERSTARS LAUNCHES ZOOM POKER--March marked the debut of Zoom, PokerStars' fast-paced, quick-fold poker option.
FREDERIK JENSEN WINS EPT MADRID--After taking second in the Aussie Millions, Frederik Jensen was looking to place one spot better. That he did in Madrid with a first place finish and €495,000 cash.
EMOTIONAL FINAL FOR LAPT CHILE WINNER--Just a few days after losing his best friend in a car wreck, Aliro Diaz won the main event.
ZABALETA1 WINS FIRST MICROMILLIONS MAIN EVENT--Though it seems like an institution at PokerStars now, it was only last March when PokerStars kicked off the very first MicroMillions series, a festival of low buy-in events with big payoffs. The main event went to Zabaleta1. Team Pro Marcin Horecki won Player of the Series.
HUNTLY TAKES DOWN ANZPT SYDNEY--It wasn't a short flight to Sydney for Scotsman Gordon Huntly, but it was worth it after he took down the ANZPT main event there.
TEENAGER NOTCHES FRENCH POKER SERIES EVENT--Enough with the crotchety old men winning tournaments. This France Poker Series Snowfest main event win went to 18-year-old Veronika Pavlikova who beat out nearly 300 people for the title.
GODLIKEROY JOINS TEAM ONLINE--With a look to the South Pacific, Team Online picked up Roy "GodlikeRoy" Bhasin as its latest member.
WRANG WRANGLES EPT CAMPIONE WIN--As the people of Denmark continued to run rampant over the EPT season, Jannick Wrang made it three in a row for the Danes with a win in Campione.
MIGUEL ANGEL RODRIGUEZ TRIUMPHS OVER ESPT VALENCIA--It took five days of action and a three-way deal to make it happen, but Miguel Angel Rodríguez won the ESPT Valencia main event for €76,000.
BLOM BEATS HAXTON IN $1 MILLION MATCH--The Viktor Blom era was about to come to an end, but before it did, he beat future Team Online member Isaac Haxton in a million-dollar Super Star Showdown battle.
FILIPOVIC WINS EUREKA CROATIA--The Golden Sun Casino hosted 178 players for its Eureka event, and when it was over Alija Filipovic had won it all for more than €40,000.
SUPERNOVAS HIT TORONTO--There are a lot of reasons to go big in the PokerStars VIP Club, but these spur-of-the-moment parties are among the best.
ROBERT BAGULEY STAGES UPSET AT UKIPT NOTTINGHAM--In Nottingham, the UKIPT pulled in nearly 1,700 players, and a 60-year-old retired landlord from Leicestershire took it down for £210,400.
POKERSTARS BLOG CELEBRATES SEVENTH ANNIVERSARY--In April, the PokerStars Blog lit the seventh candle on its birthday cake.
DAVID KITAI GRABS TRIPLE CROWN AT EPT BERLIN--There are just a handful of people who have worn poker's Triple Crown. David Kitai became the latest when he won EPT Berlin.
JUSTIN BONOMO WINS MONACAO SUPER HIGH ROLLER--Justin Bonomo had long been an international poker superstar, but when he won the €100,000 buy-in EPT Monaco Super High Roller, he cemented his spot among poker's elite.
EPT GRAND FINAL TITLE GOES TO MOHSIN CHARANIA--While there were many storylines in play at the EPT Grand Final, the storybook ending went to Mohsin Charania, who won it all for €1,350,000.
DO RISES TO VICTORY IN CEBU--The scene was the Shangri-La Mactan Resort and Waterfront Hotel. The event was the APPT Cebu. The winner was Vietnam's Hoang Anh Do.
IGOR KURGANOV WINS EPT GRAND FINAL HIGH ROLLER--The month may have changed, but the EPT Grand Final continued, finishing up its Season 8-ending festival with the EPT Grand Final High Roller, won by Igor Kurganov for more than €1 million.
NEGREANU GOES DOWN IN LIMIT HOLD'EM CHALLENGE--Almost all the big events you see these days are no-limit hold'em, but in May 2012, Daniel Negreanu hosted rUaBot in a $75,000 limit hold'em challenge. It didn't end well for Negreanu.
POKERSTARS DEALS 80 BILLIONTH HAND--It didn't take but just a few months for PokerStars to deal another five billion hands. The big 80 billion milestone went to Spain's funex700.
CARLSSON NABS ANZPT PERTH--Down in Perth, Australia, the man known as "skillz" showed his stuff for a win worth more than $78,000.
BISCARDI WINS IPT GRAND FINAL--The Italian Poker Tour Grand Final headed to Sanremo where PokerStars qualifier Davide Biscardi won €200,000.
PABLO ROJAS GOES BIG ON ESPT--The party island of Ibiza hosted the Estrellas Poker Tour where Pablo Rojas partied the hardest with a €40,800 win.
RICHARD EVANS PICKS UP UKIPT DUBLIN TITLE--He had to come all the way back from less than two big blinds, but Welshman Richard Evans made it happen for €75,000 at UKIPT Dublin.
SCOOP BREAKS RECORDS--The Spring Championship of Online Poker became the biggest festival in online poker history and crowned phenom Shaun Deeb as Player of the Series. The festival boasted dozens of champions, including Viktor "Isildur1" Blom who won two titles in one week.
POKERSTARS NAMED GREAT PLACE TO WORK--Those of us who have been around the company for a long time know it well, but in May, The Great Place to Work® Institute made it official by naming PokerStars one of the UK's Best Workplaces.
FONSECA BESTS GUILLEN FOR LAPT TITLE--In Punta del Este, Uruguay, Team PokerStars Pro Angel Guillen made it heads up with Marcelo Fonseca but couldn't seal the deal and was forced to watch Fonseca walk away with the title and $144,240.
VENNERI WINS IPT CAMPIONE--The field in Campione reached 224 players, and Antonio Venneri managed to keep the title at home with a €130,000 win.
POKERSTARS EARNS SPAIN GAMING LICENSE--PokerStars has worked very hard in recent years to earn licenses in eligible districts. In June, PokerStars announced it had received its gaming license in Spain. Soon, PokerStars and Casino Gran Madrid will open a live poker room together.
ZOGRAFOV TAKES TOP BILLING IN BULGARIA--Bulgarian Petar Zografov overcame a six-to-one heads-up deficit to claim the Eureka Bulgaria title, trophy, and €48,745.
CELINA LIN WINS SECOND RED DRAGON--Team PokerStars Pro Celina Lin shocked Macau by winning an unprecedented second Macau Poker Cup Red Dragon title.
RAFA NADAL JOINS POKERSTARS--In one of the biggest pieces of PokerStars news from all of 2012, the world's biggest online poker company signed tennis legend Rafa Nadal to its stable of ambassadors.
VANESSA SELBST EARNS SECOND WSOP BRACELET--At the start of the 2012 World Series of Poker, no woman had won an open-event WSOP tournament since 2008...when Vanessa Selbst won her first bracelet. Within a few weeks, a woman had picked up a bracelet. That woman was, of course, Vanessa Selbst.
POKERSTARS PICKS UP BSOP--The Brazil Series of Poker had been around for a while, but in July 2012 it became a PokerStars-sponsored series.
SOYDELGLOBO WINS MICROMILLIONS II MAIN EVENT--The MicroMillions returned in July for another round. Team Online's Andre Coimbra played every event, but the big money and big win went to Argentina's SoyDelGlobo. He won $157,218 in the $27 main event.
VICKY COREN INTERVIEWS RAFA NADAL--Rafa Nadal has been big news in 2012 for a lot of reasons. Not many journalists got to sit down with him one-on-one. Team PokerStars Pro Vicky Coren made the most of her opportunity.
DAVE ALLAN SHOVELS OUT WIN AT QUEENSTOWN SNOWFEST--Though he was thoroughly sick at the final table, Dave Allan managed to persevere and win the APPT Queenstown Snowfest main event.
URTEAGA TAKES ESPT TITLE IN SAN SEBASTIAN--In the 269-strong field, Spaniard Borja Gonzalez Urteaga didn't just win the €65,000 first prize. He also stopped Alejandro Piñeiro Barcelo from winning a second ESPT title.
POKERSTARS SETTLES WITH DOJ--In what was probably the biggest news of the year, PokerStars settled with the U.S. Department of Justice.
SUPERNOVA BINKS IPT TITLE--The final table of IPT Sanremo came down to a battle of Supernovas. Italian Alessandro Meoni beat out 375 players at the Casino Municipale for the €166,000 lion's share of the €727,500 prize pool.
FLAT NOISE TOPS HELP RAFA COMP--The dawn of tennis legend Rafa Nadal's relationship with PokerStars meant a lot of fun competitions, including the Help Rafa campaign. The winner, Flat Noise, won a €5,300 EPT seat for his efforts.
EPT CONCIERGE COMES TO EUROPE'S BIGGEST TOUR--The EPT has given its players a lot of things, but in August it revealed something brand new: a concierge service that takes care of players' needs--from toothbrushes to concert tickets.
DAWARSAW FEATURED IN DOCUMENTARY--Team Online is full of characters, but this one was enough of a character to have a short film made about him.
POKERSTARS FORMS EUROPEAN PLAYERS COUNCIL--In an effort to give players even more of a voice about the poker events in Europe, PokerStars put together a panel of players from around the world to discuss the top issues in European poker.
PSLIVE SPRINGS TO LIFE--In an effort to streamline its registration process, PokerStars and the EPT introduced the PSLive registration system.
RAMDIN TAKES MISSION OF HOPE--Victor Ramdin is likely the most hands-on charity contributor on all of Team PokerStars Pro. This trip and the article about it showed why.
POKERSTARS DEALS 85 BILLIONTH HAND--The Road to 100 Billion got five billion hands shorter as PokerStars dealt its 85 billionth hand and handed out some big prizes in the process.
SABATO WINS ESPT BARCELONA GRAND FINAL--Amid the pomp and circumstance of the first EPT Season 9 event, Italian player Lorenzo "bovediroma" Sabato won the Estrellas Poker Tour Grand Final for €200,000 and dashed the hopes of a home champion on Spanish soil.
WORLD CUP OF POKER IX SETS FINAL TEAMS--Though its winner won't be determined until the live final at the 2013 PCA, in August, the ninth running of the World Cup of Poker set its teams for the live final.
SAM RAZAVI OWNS APPT MELBOURNE--The APPT made its first trip to Melbourne, Australia, and when it did, it paved the way for the UK's Sam Razavi to continue a white-hot year of poker. He won the whole thing for more than $326,000.
CHRIS FERGUSON TOPS UKIPT NEWCASTLE--Chris Ferguson--no,not that one--was a 23-year-old who went into the final table second in chips but managed to finish first for £87,640.
CHEN CROWNED CHAMPION OF MACAU POKER CUP CHAMPIONSHIP--It took outlasting a marathon final table, but Rui Chen did it to win the Macau Poker Cup Championship for HK$1,108,500.
POKERSTARS RAKES IT IN AT BRITISH POKER AWARDS--It's not uncommon for PokerStars to do well at awards ceremonies, but its showing at the British Poker Awards was uncommonly good.
TEAM ONLINE ADDS TWO MEMBERS--There aren't a great many coveted spots on Team PokerStars Online,and it's rare to see new members, but in August, Team Online added Naoya 'nkeyno' Kihara and Caio 'pessagno' Pessagno to its ranks.
WCOOP CROWNS UNLIKELY CHAMPION--The 2012 World Championship of Online Poker was one that saw Jason Mercier win his second bracelet, Olivier Busquet win the WCOOP high roller, and young Dan Kelly pick up his record fourth WCOOP bracelet. That all said, when it came time to crown the main event champion, everyone looked to an FPP qualifier named maratik.
RAFA RUNS A BLUFF--It was all in good fun, but watching tennis legend Rafa Nadal learn to bluff was serious business as he tried to convince people he was, in fact, just some guy named Tony.
LEO FERNANDEZ GRABS NEW LAPT TITLE--In September, the LAPT went to Panama for the first time. That's where Argentinian Team Pro Leo Fernandez won his first LAPT title.
VIP CLUB GOES PARTYING IN LONDON--PokerStars wanted to show off a beta version of its new software, and it wanted to do so in style with its VIPs. You know what happens next: party.
EUREKA LATIVA CHAMP WINS, CATCHES ANOTHER PLANE--If anyone wondered why Valtteri Merikallio was playing in a hurry, it was because he had a plane to catch. He missed it but went on to win the event for €68,800, enough to book a new flight with a bit of cash to spare.
ISAAC HAXTON JOINS TEAM ONLINE--In its biggest signing of the year--and probably its history--Team PokerStars Online signed phenom Isaac Haxton to its stable of online wunderkinds.
HOCKIN CROWNED KING AT ANZPT MELBOURNE--If the APPT was going to Melbourne, by golly, the ANZPT was going to go, too. Paul Hockin made it his event with the $101,275 win.
RAYMOND WU TOPS ACOP DEEPSTACK CHAMPIONSHIP--It may have only been the kickoff side event of the Asia Championship of Poker, but that didn't stop Team PokerStars Pro Raymond Wu from giving it his all and taking it down.
BOOM GOES BOOM--It was just a fun little promotion aimed at highlighting the PokerStars BOOM replayer, but that didn't stop a bunch of people from cashing in very big on it.
FULL TILT POKER RE-OPENS--While it wasn't officially PokerStars news, it was a moment many online poker players had been waiting for: the re-launch of Full Tilt Poker.
DANIEL CATES WINS ALL-STAR SHOWDOWN--The idea was ambitious: pit some of the top heads-up online players in the world against each other for gigantic money and see what happens. What happened was Daniel Cates won the whole darn shooting match for $550,000.
ROSSITER PREVAILS IN ACOP WARM-UP--As if the Asia Championship of Poker wasn't big enough, it also hosted a big money warm-up event that went to winner Jeff Rossiter.
UKIPT ONLINE KNIGHTS FIRST CHAMPION--For the first time in its history, the UK & Ireland Poker Tour held almost all of a tournament online before bringing the final table players together to determine the champion live. The result was a championship for Wojtek Barzantny who won £77,126. As if that weren't enough, Barzantny immediately played UKIPT Bristol and won that, too!
ALL-IN BLIND FOR APPT MACAU TITLE--It was a moment that stunned even seasoned tournament reporters. The final two players of APPT Macau chose to end it all after a marathon heads-up session by simply moving in blind. The result was a victory for Xing Zhou.
JORDAN SCOTT PICKS UP LAPT GRAND FINAL TITLE--In a final table that featured Team PokerStars Pro Jose "Nacho" Barbero going for his third LAPT title, the title eventually went to Jordan Scott.
BONAVENA JUST MISSES IPT TITLE--It looked as though Italian superstar Salvatore Bonavena would win his first Italian Poker Tour title, but the honor ended up going to Riccardo D'Antoni.
FRANCE POKER SERIES WINNER POCKETS €150,000--If anyone needed any indication the France Poker Series was the real deal, they only had to look to the PokerStars qualifier who won a boatload of cash in November's event in Paris.
POKERSTARS GETS CUSTOMER SERVICE RECOGNITION--If there's one thing PokerStars puts above everything else, it's making sure the player comes first. That's why2 it was no surprise when PokerStars was recognized in November for its exemplary customer service record.
GEOFF SMITH SPEEDS TO VICTORY--In what was touted as the fastest ANZPT final table in history, Geoff Smith won the Auckland main event.
RAFA POKER FACE COMP NAMES ITS WINNER--All it took to win a day with Rafa Nadal was to submit the best photo of your poker face. This was the winner.
POKERSTARS DEALS 90 BILLIONTH HAND--The dealing of PokerStars 90 billionth hand marked the moment: only ten billion hands until we hit the end of the Road to 100 Billion. Ten billion may seem like a lot, but mark our words...it will happen before the end of the 2013 WSOP.
VIP CLUB ANNOUNCES CHANGES FOR 2013--At a party in Amsterdam, the VIP Club announced its big changes for the coming year, including the addition of a new level, ChromeStar.
DREAM DAYS GO WELL WITH RAFA--The winners of the "Dream Day" promo got to spend a whole day with the tennis legend. Needless to say, they had a good time.
BIGGEST EUREKA EVENT FINDS ITS CHAMPION--More than 660 people showed up for the Eureka Prague event (no doubt due to its proximity to EPT Prague). When it was over, Menikos Panagiotou had won more than €130,000.
JONATHAN ROSS GETS HIS POKER ON--Famed TV star Jonathan Ross held a special charity tournament for all the UK television viewers to see. He didn't do so well, but Team Pro's Vicky Coren did.
RAFA LEARNS THE MEANING OF COOLER--After all the news all year long about Rafa, we finally got to see him play some online. It turned out to be pretty brutal.
TEAM ONLINE ADDS MYSTERY WOMAN TO RANKS--With a name like Mysters_Y, there were bound to be a lot of people out there wondering who the high-stakes woman from Russia was. Turns out it's Tatiana Barausova, the newest member of Team Online.
POKERSTARS AND CASINO GRAN MADRID ANNOUNCE LIVE ROOM--Just a couple of weeks ago, PokerStars and Casino Gran Madrid announced they would be joining forces to open PokerStars' third live poker room and its first in Spain, a perfect way to kick off the new year.
And that is the year that was.
Once again, Happy New Year from all of us at the PokerStars Blog.
Brad Willis is the PokerStars Head of Blogging