The PokerStars Boomswitch
PokerStars seems to have a remarkable talent for picking winners. On Nov. 8, Pius Heinz became the fourth straight PokerStars-sponsored player to win the World Series of Poker Main Event, following Jonathan Duhamel, Joe Cada and Peter Eastgate into the record books. Not only that, PokerStars recruited Chris Moneymaker, Greg Raymer and Joe Hachem to endorse the site after winning world championships of their own from 2003 through 2005.
Heinz was the only member of the 2011 November Nine to sign on with PokerStars. He joined the team on Nov. 4, and won the tournament four days later. Coincidence? Not if history has anything to say about it.
Let's take a look at the world champions that have donned the PokerStars logo over the past decade.
Chris Moneymaker wasn't wearing PokerStars gear when he won the WSOP Main Event in 2003, but he earned his seat to the tournament through a $39 satellite on PokerStars and parlayed that into a $2.5 million payday. It was then that the poker world changed forever.
Moneymaker's victory sparked a tidal wave of interest in poker all over the world. The "Moneymaker effect" spurred poker amateurs to try their hand online at PokerStars and helped the site grow into the leading poker room that it is today. He was among the first members of Team PokerStars and is now one of the game's most identifiable ambassadors.
Like Moneymaker, Greg Raymer was one of the original members of Team PokerStars Pro after his WSOP Main Event title in 2004. Before becoming a household name at the poker table, Raymer was a full-time patent attorney whose wife let him use $1,000 as a poker bankroll. He then went on the rush of a lifetime that included winning a seat into poker's most prestigious tournament via a PokerStars qualifier. A short time later, he defeated current PokerStars Team Pro David Williams heads-up to win the coveted WSOP Main Event bracelet and $5 million. PokerStars then signed Raymer to its pro team as the "Fossilman."
PokerStars secured the "triple crown" in 2005 when it signed 2005 WSOP Main Event champ Joe Hachem. It was the third straight year that PokerStars had locked up a world champion. The relationship had extra meaning for PokerStars because Hachem was the firstAussie to win the title and his instant fame helped the game's popularity expand Down Under.
"This entire experience has been a dream come true for me," Hachem told the PokerStars Blog after joining the team. "To join Chris Moneymaker and Greg Raymer is a real honor. I hope that my association with PokerStars.com will encourage others out there to pursue their goals in life, whatever they might be. It sure worked out for me."
After a two-year hiatus (we'll call it a glitch in the matrix), 2008 WSOP Main Event champion Peter Eastgate joined the Team PokerStars just in time for the 2009 World Championship of Online Poker. Eastgate was the first player to win the WSOP while wearing the PokerStars logo. 2008 WSOP Main Event runner-up Ivan Demidov also signed a deal with PokerStars in 2009 and is still a member of the team to this day.
"Ever since you saw the two sit down face-to-face for the epic World Series battle, you somehow knew they would end up in the elite Team Pro stable," said PokerStars Blog writer Brad Willis. "It was just a matter of when it would happen."
PokerStars snagged Joe Cada before the November Nine returned to Las Vegas for the finale. Due to a new WSOP rule that prohibited more than three players wearing logos of any one individual site at a televised final table, PokerStars was relying on Cada, Eric Buchman and Kevin Schaffel to keep the train moving.
Sure enough, Cada broke Eastgate's record as the youngest winner of the WSOP Main Event (previously held by Phil Hellmuth for two decades). The Team PokerStars stable was becoming crowded with WSOP champions of all ages, and a winning trend was materializing.
Another year, another champion at PokerStars. Jonathan Duhamel won his WSOP Main Event seat online at PokerStars and ultimately claimed the $9 million prize while wearing the PokerStars red spade. Two months later, he officially joined Team PokerStars as a sponsored pro.
"It's a dream come true," Duhamel told the PokerStars Blog.
Duhamel's victory made him the first world champion from Canada and he was immediately a national hero. Team PokerStars pro Daniel Negreanu was Canada's shining poker star prior to 2010, but Quebec's Duhamel was on top of the poker world for at least one year.
22-year-old Pius Heinz was seventh in chips going into the 2011 WSOP Main Event final table, but PokerStars had a sense that the German player was special. He joined Team PokerStars just two days before the November Nine reconvened in Las Vegas, and was the last player standing on Tuesday after a marathon heads-up match against Martin Staszko.
Heinz became the first German player to win the WSOP Main Event and, like Hachem and Duhamel before him, gained instant celebrity in his native country. He was a longshot to win, but we're discovering every year that nobody wearing the PokerStars logo can be counted out at the World Series of Poker Main Event.