This Sunday the 7th Anniversary Sunday Million is taking place. It's going to be an epic affair with its $7,000,000 guaranteed prize pool drawing in tens of thousands of players from around the world. There's $1,000,000 guaranteed for first place but if other Sunday Million special editions are anything to go by then you can expect that number to grow, and keep on growing all the way through its three hour late registration.
This week we've been catching up with some previous winners to hear their stories of life at PokerStars after their win or how bonding over boxing turned into back-to-back Sunday Million and Sunday Warm-Up wins.
Jesper 'KipsterDK' Hougaard may have been the first double Sunday Million winner but he's certainly not the only player to have done so. In 2011 British player Kevin 'KevSteele' Steele won twice in a matter of months.
'It's a great comp. The first time I won it was actually the first time I'd ever played it. I'd not played on PokerStars for a few months, but was in the mood for a big game on the night. Winning it means I now have a big enough bank roll to play it whenever I want,' said Steele.
Yes, winning the best part of $130k will tend to do that, but just to make sure maybe it's wise to win a second one. You know, just to make sure you can freeroll yourself into the Sunday Million for the next 26 years or so (according to the shaky mathematics of the PokerStars Blog).
Steele followed up his July win with a larger $168,838.99 in the November of 2011 beating among others Jamie 'Sir_Ellwood' Ellwood (4th, $110,000).
'When I made the second final table I knew I could win it, but that I'd need a bit of luck. I had a bigger stack than last time which helped me a lot. I had a couple of bad beats but because of my stack it didn't knock me out of the comp... Winning it the first time was the best though. Just getting into the top few hundred was great because I'd made the money! Once I got to 57 players left I was bragging on Facebook about being in the top 57. It was 7.30am when I won, I should have been knackered* but was wide awake and couldn't sleep,' said Steele.
*British euphemism for being really tired or worn out.
Steele still works full time but still squeezes in plenty of time to play; 'It's over a year since I won the Sunday Million so I must be due to win it again soon.'
Having won it at first time of trying it's understandable that Steele thinks doing the triple could be that easy. For most it's a lot more of a dedicated grind. Just look at Kevin 'iacog4' Iacofano.
The American, who since relocated to London, won the Sunday Million at the end of 2012 having made it heads-up for the second time, but there's a lot more background to it than that.
'The Sunday Million has been the tournament I've always looked forward to since I started playing on PokerStars. Winning the tournament was probably my number one online poker goal, so in addition to making it a great calendar year financially, it checked off the top goal I had as an online poker player. To put it in perspective, I've probably played this tournament 45 Sundays a year and can't really remember ever reaching the top 200. One huge attitude adjustment it has given me is the realization that you just never know when it could be your time in the Sunday Million, so be ready for it, take some risks and enjoy it when the opportunity comes along to make a deep run,' Iacofano told the PokerStars Blog.
'The first final three deal in April was a great accomplishment and in some sense I felt I had won making six figures and top two of more than 7,000 people, but then once I didn't end number one, I did have an incomplete feeling.'
Grinding to victory
Given the years of Sunday Million campaigning it's little surprise that when Iacofano did actually take it down that he had problems believing that he'd actually won.
'Since the Sunday Million ended around 8:00 in the morning and I had been playing since probably 13:00 the day before, I barely mustered a victory dance before I feel asleep. When I woke up around 14:00, I thought it had all been a dream. I had to turn my computer back on and saw some messages and tweets reminding me it was a reality. That's when it actually sunk in. I knew it wasn't a dream and I had accomplished my biggest goal in online poker,' he said.
Goal achieved, $197,052.26 banked. It's fair to say that's two birds with one stone. Iacofano has since clocked up past the $1,500,000 in tournament winnings on PokerStars. He's also an accomplished live poker player with more than $670,000 in live winnings, a large chunk of which came from two EPT final tables (£120,000, 6th at EPT London, $183,580, 4th at EPT Copenhagen).
Advice for playing the Sunday Million
We asked Kevin to pass on some hints and tips:
'My advice to someone in the Sunday Million is, "Don't try to win the tournament with 3,000 people left.". Make it a goal to reach the money. At that point, the difference between the first person to cash and the next 1,000 people isn't that much, so don't be afraid to take some risks then. Ultimately, the tournament is about survival. There will be times when you are uncomfortable with your stack and the blinds and antes are going up, but don't panic. There will be a time to just stay alive and a time to attack. Focus on the tournament and you will figure out when each comes,' said Iacofano.
Given his Sunday Million successes of 2012 you'd be wise to heed his words, as you would listening to Michael 'RichieRichZH' Friedrich's. He pocketed the second largest ever 1st place prize when he collected $1,141,510.31 in the 4th Anniversary Sunday Million (no deal was made at the final table!).
'My best advice is to be patient and try to add chips in smaller pots with not a lot risk involved. Also avoid coin flips if you can, especially when you are average or well above average stacked if it means playing for all or almost all your chips,' said Friedrich.
Friedrich is an independent investor, a work that can transfer nicely over to the poker table.
'I always wanted to win a big tourney online, who doesn't? I started playing online in 2007 and tried to play as much as possible on top of my self-employed investor work. It was overwhelming winning it, especially when we playing for almost $400,000 heads-up for an invested $215! It's crazy looking back at it,' said Friedrich.
Friedrich may well have invested most of his winnings in a more conventional manner but he's certainly not waved goodbye to the poker world. The Swiss has pulled in more than $220,000 in live tournaments, which includes a €25,000 High Roller final table appearance at the EPT Grand Final. Just last month Friedrich won the $109 Sunday Kick-off to book another $30,944.
That urge to win can only be sated so long and another mammoth Sunday Million is coming along in just a couple of days.
Find out more about the 7th Anniversary Sunday Million and its $7,000,000 guarantee (as well as how to satellite in) by clicking here.
Rick Dacey is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.