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Home / Features / 2019 PokerStars Year in Review

Last updated Friday 3 December 2021.

PokerStars is celebrating its 20th Anniversary: 20 years as the best known and most trusted online poker site. Here at PokerStars Blog, we are looking back year-by-year on those two decades, noting the landmarks and remembering all the remarkable moments, fitting them into the wider landscape of poker’s sensational development.

Today we return to 2019…

It’s the last day of 2019. Like most of creation, here at PokerStars Blog we are checking the rearview one last time before driving forward into 2020. And marveling, a little, at what a wild ride the last year has been.

If we squint and look hard we can see way back in January when the PokerStars Players No-Limit Hold’em Championship which more than lived up to the hype. Easier to spot is the scene here in December we watched a player make some more history by winning a second EPT Main Event title at EPT Prague. In between there were many more highlights, including watching one of our own make the World Series of Poker Main Event final table!

Let’s enjoy a long scroll together as we travel back through the last 12 months and relive another fantastic year at the tables.

Click the headlines below to read the original stories.


Free-rolling Ramon Colillas turns Platinum Pass into $5.1 million at PSPC — The inaugural PokerStars Players No-Limit Hold’em Championship drew 1,039 entries and featured a jaw-dropping¬†$26,455,500 prize pool. More than 300 who played had won Platinum Passes to cover the $25,000 entry fee, and from that group the Spaniard¬†Ramon Colillas¬†emerged to win the event and $5.1 million first prize. And later in the month we enjoyed getting to know more about Ramon in “PSPC champion Ram√≥n Colillas, engineer of a dream.”

Ramon Colillas: The most celebrated man in poker

Sam Greenwood dominates $100K PCA Super High Roller final table in $1.77M victory — In other 2019 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure news,¬†Sam Greenwood¬†topped a 61-entry field in the $100K SHR to kick off his year in seven-figure style.

Introducing 6+ Hold‚Äôem on PokerStars — Seems like 6+ has been around longer than a year on PokerStars, but it was in mid-January that the “short deck” hold’em variant made its debut.

Martin Zamani defeats ‚Äúend boss‚ÄĚ Dominik Nitsche for $25K PCA High Roller title and $895,110 — He’d never even won a tournament before, then Martin Zamani¬†topped crushers like Nitsche, Muehloecker, Kitai, and Sam Greenwood to win the High Roller at PCA.

Chino Rheem casts all aside to win 2019 PCA and $1.5 million — Punctuating a thrilling week-and-a-half in the Bahamas,¬†David “Chino” Rheem topped 865 entries to win the last PCA Main Event.

David “Chino” Rheem: King of the PCA

All you need to know about the new $109 Sunday Million — A tournament staple at PokerStars since 2006, the Milly went half-price to kick off 2019.

In Maria we trust: Konnikova talks poker and more at the World Economic Forum — Bestselling author and PokerStars Ambassador¬†Maria Konnikova went to Switzerland to talk to some of the world’s biggest influencers about trust, deception, and the psychology of the con.

Maria Konnikova has spent a lot of time contemplating cons


Turbo Series 2019 in Review — The two-week, 114-tournament Turbo Series on PokerStars took up the first half of February, awarding over $32.7 million in prizes. Justin Bonomo won the High Roller, while Robin Ylitalo took down the Main.

Robin “robinho” Ylitalo took down the Turbo Series Main

Ram√≥n Colillas joins Team PokerStars Pro: ‚ÄúI have fulfilled another dream‚ÄĚ — Shortly after his life-changing PSPC victory, Ram√≥n Collilas became the newest member of the red spade brigade.

5-Card Fiction: Paul Newman surprisingly turns over four jacks in ‚ÄúThe Sting‚ÄĚ — We debuted a new series on PokerStars Blog devoted to exploring poker hands in books, movies, and other fictional realms, kicking it off with the iconic poker scene from The Sting. (You owe me fifteen grand, pal.)

Record breaking Carnaval Series wraps up — Over in Europe, more than 34,500 players spent part of February enjoying the Carnaval Series on PokerStars, together winning over ‚ā¨11.2 million in cash prizes.

Battle Royale: Life at the top of Fortnite and poker — The Blog took a deep dive into the many connections and overlaps between Fortnite and poker, considering the cases of top performers Bonomo, Niklas “Lena900” √Östedt, Team Online member Lex Veldhuis in relation to that of Fortnight champ Tyler “Ninja” Blevins.

Learning how to be the last one standing in Fortnite & poker (PokerStars Blog – Carlo Cruz/Red Bull Content Pool)


VR and Augmented Reality: The future of video games draws closer — Perhaps you’re not yet familiar with PokerStars VR, the free-to-play virtual reality version of your favorite poker room. In March we reported on VR and the future of video games — and where PokerStars VR fits into that future.

Seeing is believing: PokerStars VR

PokerStars celebrates International Women‚Äôs Day with short film ‚ÄúRaising the Stakes ‚Äď The Women of Poker‚ÄĚ — Check out the 15-minute film looking at the personal experiences of women both on the tables and in the workplace. Among the players featured are Maria Ho, Liv Boeree, Celina Lin, and Fatima Moreira De Melo.

Free Solo: The hardest climb in poker — The Blog took a look at what the Oscar-winning documentary can teach poker players about visualization, over-preparation, and working through fear, with help from poker mindset coach Elliot Roe.

Second Steps: Strategy tips for Scrabble — Another new series on the PokerStars Blog this year, one aiming to help poker players become better at other games, in this case, Scrabble.

EPT Sochi Main won by Gilboa, Iskandarov wins High Roller — The European Poker Tour returned to Russia in March, where Uri Gilboa claimed the EPT Sochi Main Event title and Rushad Iskandarov won the High Roller. Click here for all the results from another exciting Sochi series.

Rhymes with Balboa: EPT Sochi champion Uri Gilboa

Danny de Vos wins inaugural Lex Live — After sharing the announcement in February, the first ever LEX LIVE event took place at the end of March in Namur, Belgium and it was a resounding success. Danny de Vos won the Main, while hundreds of other members of Lex Veldhuis’ Twitch community won a fantastic weekend with their card-playing friends (and a lot of great memories, too).


Lex Veldhuis wins GPI Streamer of the Year — Speaking of Lex — and of winning — April kicked off with Veldhuis picking up some well deserved hardware at the Global Poker Awards.

‘Amazing, amazing!’ Kalidou Sow joins Team PokerStars — We first got to know the Frenchman Kalidou Sow when he kept winning every PokerStars tournament he entered, including the EPT Prague Main Event, and in April he became one of us. Further reading: “Sow good: the rise and rise of Kalidou Sow.”

Kalidou Sow joined the red spade brigade

APPT Korea: Cheung wins Main, Takahashi wins High Roller, Soyza wins SHR — PokerStars returned to Seoul in April for APPT Korea, where Sparrow Cheung won the Main Event, Keiji Takahashi took down the High Roller, and Michael Soyza won the Super High Roller.

Sparrow Cheung, APPT Korea Main Event champ

wangli0402 wins Sunday Million 13th Anniversary — With 61,342 entries, the special anniversary Sunday Million easily cracked the $10 million guarantee as the prize pool topped $12.2M. Wang “wangli0402” Li of China took the top prize of $611,944.97 following a five-way deal. Read an interview with the winner here, and also check out our overview of the first 13 years of the Milly.


Who are the new PokerStars poker streamers? — The roster of PokerStars Twitch streamers grew markedly at the start of May, expanding from four to 12. Joining Arlie Shaban (arlieshaban), James Mackenzie (OP_Poker), Nick Walsh (OP_Poker), and Eva Reberc (OP_Poker) were Mason Pye (PyeFacePoker),¬†Georgina James (GJReggie),¬†Tom Hayward (Pleb_method),¬†Alberto P√©rez (Catof_Poker),¬†Guillermo Inclan (PokerStarsSpain),¬†Steve Enriquez (PokerStarsSpain),¬†Benjamin Bruneteaux (PokerStarsFrance), and¬†Julien Brecard (PokerStarsFrance).

The PokerStars Twitch streamers

EPT Monte-Carlo: Loeser wins Main, Pollak wins High Roller, Aido wins SHR¬†— Starting in late April and playing out during the first days of May was the PokerStars and Monte-Carlo¬ģCasino EPT, where Manig Loeser won an exciting Main Event, Benjamin Pollak claimed the High Roller title, and Sergio Aido won the Super High Roller. Click here for all the results from Monaco.

Manig Loeser: the big winner at EPT Monte-Carlo

What you saw, and may have missed, in Monaco — Having returned home, unpacked its bags, and gotten settled once more behind the laptop, PokerStars Blog recounted the sights and sounds and general merrymaking it witnessed happening along the Mediterranean.

Sam Greenwood’s TV Guide — He’s not just a thoughtful poker player. Sam Greenwood is also thoughtful about what makes great television, too. We know Greenwood pretty much always knows what hands are worth playing. Now click and read what he says is worth watching.

Happy wedding day, Mr. and Mrs. Negreanu! — Kid Poker became an honest man in May. Read all about Daniel Negreanu‘s¬†nuptials.

Stepping into ‚ÄúThe Grid‚ÄĚ with Jennifer Shahade — Another PokerStars Ambassador started a new podcast in the spring called “The Grid,” and it quickly became a favorite of PokerStars Blog. Read about Jennifer Shahade‘s ‚Äú13 x 13 episode journey through every possible no-limit hold‚Äôem hand, 169 hands in total, from aces to seven-deuce offsuit.‚ÄĚ

Jennifer Shahade, here playing one of the 169

Thanks for everything, Daniel Negreanu —¬†There was more Negreanu news in May, as one of the game’s greatest ambassadors ended his 12-year tenure as a Team PokerStars Pro.

‚ÄúTankanza‚ÄĚ on back-to-back $1M+ SCOOP wins — As usual, the Spring Championship of Online Poker played out in May, and it ended in a familiar way as well this time, although there was nothing usual about that. That’s because Gianluca “Tankanza” Esperanza did the unthinkable and topped a tough 662-entry field to win the $10K SCOOP “High” Main Event for the second straight year! (No shinola.)

Make it a double-SCOOP for Gianluca “Tankanza” Speranza


Vicent Bosca on his million-dollar year — Whether playing live or online, Vicent Bosca was crushing in 2019. He chatted with PokerStars Blog about his hot run.

Talking ‚ÄúPoker & Pop Culture‚ÄĚ in Las Vegas — June was the month your humble scribbler published Poker & Pop Culture: Telling the Story of America’s Favorite Card Game. During the World Series of Poker I was in Las Vegas to promote the book, and shared a bit about that experience here.

Talking about “Poker & Pop Culture” at the UNLV Center for Gaming Research

Jeopardy James at the WSOP — This was the year¬†James Holzhauer¬†captured the world’s attention by winning 32 straight times on¬†Jeopardy! Soon after the Las Vegas resident showed up at the WSOP.


WSOP 2019: How I survived the Vegas earthquake¬†— PokerStars Blog’s Howard Swains was back in Las Vegas for the WSOP Main Event, and while there was a lot that was remarkable (and outright nutty) at this year’s Main, no one could have predicted a rare Vegas earthquake would make the highlights of one of the Day 1 flights. Swains explains.

50 Years, 50 WSOP Nuggets — To mark a half-century worth of highlights from the World Series of Poker, a list of WSOP-related trivia, including several items even the most ardent poker fans might not know.

‚ÄėGG The Rec‚Äô riding the WSOP wave yet again — As the WSOP unfolded, we at PokerStars were getting increasingly excited by the prospects of one of our own, Senior Manager of Player Relations, Engagement and Communities Garry Gates, making a deep run. And we’re not talkin’ “deep” like the last 200 or 100 or even 50 (all pretty darn impressive in a 8,569-player tournament). We’re talkin’ final table deep. In this post, Swains caught up with GG on dinner break of Day 5 when there were still more than 250 players left and Gates had a big stack. In other words, before everything got really¬†wacky.

Wait, what… that’s Garry!

Ensan, Gates top two at WSOP Main Event final — Good golly, GG made the final nine. And with chips!

WSOP: Gates unafraid as five left in hunt for $10m — You gotta be kidding me. Five left, and Garry is still in?!?

Thrilling ride ends in fourth for Garry Gates — Fourth place for $3 million. Just incredible! For further reading on both this story and the next one down, see “Gates, Moneymaker, and how poker brings us together.”

Garry Gates’s rail, jubilant even as the party ends

Chris Moneymaker selected for the Poker Hall of Fame — When the 2019 Poker Hall of Fame vote came around, the PokerStars Blog made known its preference. Sure enough, after picking up some “First 50” awards in Las Vegas, Chris Moneymaker was inducted into the Hall.¬†‚ÄúI‚Äôm very honored‚Ķ very happy,‚ÄĚ he said upon learning the news. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs great for my kids ‚ÄĒ it‚Äôll be a cool thing for them to see when they grow up.‚ÄĚ

The one and only Chris Moneymaker

Hossein Ensan: King of the WSOP — We’d known and were fans of the amiable German Hossein Ensan for a long while here at PokerStars Blog, dating back to even before his win in the EPT Prague Main Event in 2015. He is a most worthy player to reign as WSOP Main Event champion for the next year.

World Champion: Hossein Ensan


Opinion: Fortnite‚Äôs Moneymaker moment? It‚Äôs complicated — We still had Moneymaker’s story on the brain when a 16-year-old from New York won $3 million playing Fortnite.

Best poker interviews of all time — PokerStars Ambassador Liv Boeree interviewed Bryn Kenney at the Triton Million not long before Kenney chopped the event to become the all-time winningest tournament poker player. It was a great conversation, and it got us thinking.

PokerStars announces PSPC 2020 — August meant the EPT returned to Barcelona, and this year that trip began with a huge announcement. The PSPC was coming back! The 2020 PokerStars Players No-Limit Hold’em Championship will happen in Barcelona August 20-24, 2020, a ‚ā¨22,500 buy-in event.

Barcelona bound: The PSPC is back!

And it was in Barcelona that the first five Platinum Passes (covering entry fees and travel packages) were won by Clement Eloy, Adrian Vi√Īuela, Daryl Inglis, Christoph Walkenhorst, and Danielle Summer.

The first five 2020 PSPC winners


Closing the book on the PCA — There was a significant sidebar to the 2020 PSPC announcement story, namely, that after 16 years the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure was no more. The last 15 of those years the PCA was at the Atlantis on Paradise Island, and PokerStars Blog was there every January to cover it. To mark the end of an era, Brad Willis shared some memories.

Goodnight from the Bahamas

EPT Barcelona: Brandstrom beats Czuczor to top biggest Main Event ever — The Main Event was enormous, drawing a record 1,988 entries to create a ‚ā¨9,641,800 prize pool (!). Sweden’s Simon Brandstrom won it after chopping with Hungary’s Marton Czuczor (who also took second at EPT Prague in 2016), with both players taking away more than $1.2M.


EPT Barcelona: Hunichen wins ‚ā¨10,000 High Roller after chop with ReichensteinChris “Big Huni” Hunichen claimed the High Roller trophy after besting a 540-entry field. Click here for all the stories and features from Barcelona, and click here for all the results from another record-breaking series in Spain.

A big win for “Big Huni”

WCOOP 2019: Shaun Deeb discusses capturing 7th title¬†— As EPT Barcelona ended the¬†World Championship of Online Poker¬†began, and the WCOOP had hardly started before¬†Shaun Deeb won yet another title. (He’d win another, too, before it was over.)

WCOOP 2019: Naoya ‚Äúnkeyno‚ÄĚ Kihara breaks through with $1K Razz win — Former Team Pro and friend of the Blog Naoya Kihara talked to us about finally (finally!) winning a WCOOP. (And he’d win another, too!)

Moneymaker Tour goes global for PSPC 2020 — It went so well last year, they brought it back (with a lot more international stops) — and with Platinum Passes to 2020 PSPC!

Moneymaker… on the road again!

Al Alvarez: A celebration of poker‚Äôs poet — Poker lost perhaps its greatest scribe in September when Al Alvarez passed at 90. The Blog considered his many contributions to poker lore, including the great book The Biggest Game in Town.

Chat poker launches on Twitch — Yet another neat innovation by PokerStars involving Twitch viewers collectively playing a hand versus a table of live opponents.

WCOOP 2019: ‚ÄúBigBlindBets‚ÄĚ wraps up Main Event, ends record-breaking series — There were 2,236 entries and an $11.18 million prize pool in the WCOOP Main “High” ($5,200 buy-in), and Fraser “BigBlindBets” Russell topped them all to win a whopping $1,665,962.04 — and then talked to PokerStars Blog about it.

The final hand (the flush came for BigBlindBets)


McCague‚Äôs Main Event victory ends brilliant LEX LIVE festival — It wasn’t just a one-off! LEX LIVE 2 took place in early October at Aspers Casino in London where there was tons of fun and Platinum Passes won. Kyle McCague took down the Main. Click the headline to read about his win as well as more features from the event.

LEX LIVE 2: Electric Boogaloo

Dario Sammartino keeps his “appointment with history” — Hossein Ensan earned the headlines worldwide and Garry Gates grabbed a lot of our attention here at PokerStars Blog, but runner-up finisher Dario Sammartino‘s WSOP Main Event was quite a story as well, and in October he shared about that and more with the Blog.

Dario Sammartino was looking sharp for pretty much all of 2019

Vamos! Vamos! Brazilian Paulo Milani becomes first double Platinum Pass winner — We can’t share all the Platinum Pass winner stories here in our year-end recap, but we couldn’t resist drawing attention to Milani, the first player to win entry into both the 2019 and 2020 PSPCs.

Two for two: Paulo Milani won another Platinum Pass

Out of Position at Run It Up Reno — Some “old school” blogging from Jason “Spaceman” Kirk who took a turn at the tables at Run It Up Reno IX.

Drew Gonzalez wins Platinum Pass in Run It Up Reno IX $175 Moneymaker Tour eventDrew Gonzalez was one of dozens of players who won Platinum Passes to the 2020 PSPC during the final months of 2019.


PokerStars launches in Pennsylvania — After eight-and-a-half years, PokerStars returned to the Keystone State, and the new PokerStars PA site was a hit right away. The first PACOOP was announced shortly thereafter.

Hello, Pennsylvania!

Updated: Negreanu denied WSOP POY glory after admin error reveals Campbell was winner — You probably heard about this one, an after-the-fact realization of a data-entry snafu meant Daniel Negreanu did not win his third WSOP Player of the Year title as the WSOP had announced. Rather, Robert Campbell was the winner, with Shaun Deeb taking runner-up amid much controversy.

Robert Campbell: Fan of double-checking your work

Vacation victory: Garry Gates captures first WSOP Circuit ring in Aruba — Garry snuck back onto the Blog again before the year was out thanks to capturing still more WSOP-related glory.

Goodbye to Gentleman John — Poker legend, all-around nice guy, and 2005 PCA Main Event champion John Gale passed in November at age 65. Brad Willis shared some fond memories of the much-loved UK pro.


10 best poker movies to stream during the holidays — Both The Cincinnati Kid and Rounders have become newly available to stream on Netflix, which got us searching for other stream-able (and stream-worthy) titles to recommend.

Peru‚Äôs Sebastian Gavi√Īo wins Platinum Pass as Akkari‚Äôs Road To PSPC breaks all South American records — Chris Moneymaker and Lex Veldhuis weren’t the only red spade sporters hosting tournaments where players were winning their way to PSPC 2020. Andre Akkari joined the fun, too, and in early December Sebastian Gavi√Īo won a PP at Akkari‚Äôs Road To PSPC Main Event in S√£o Paulo.

Sebastian Gavi√Īo got his!

Scott Baumstein wins Moneymaker‚Äôs Road to PSPC ‚Äď Seminole, Platinum PassScott Baumstein began 2019 by finishing fourth in the original PSPC in the Bahamas for $1.657 million. He ended it by winning a Platinum Pass and entry into the 2020 PSPC in Barcelona after taking down the 464-entry Moneymaker‚Äôs Road to PSPC ‚Äď Seminole Main Event. The Blog enjoyed the trip and recommends you check out the brand new Guitar Hotel at the Seminole Hard Rock.

Scott Baumstein rocking a Platinum Pass

Brilliant Mikalai Pobal rewrites the record books and wins elusive second EPT title — EPT Prague helped round out the PokerStars tournament schedule, and the Blog was there to Czech it all out (see what we did there?). Adrian Mateos won a ‚ā¨10K to kick things off (surprise, surprise), and 2012 EPT Barcelona Main Event Mikalai Pobal ended it by taking down the Main, becoming the second player ever to win two Mains after Vicky Coren. Also, blog fave Tsugunari Toma won two ‚ā¨10K events, including the High Roller. Click here for all the results from Prague.

Mikalai Pobal: Two-time champion!

Thanks to all who have spent time this year with us here at PokerStars Blog. Happy New Year! And best wishes to everyone as we roar into the ’20s.

Previous Years in Review:

2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005

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