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Home / Features / PokerStars Big 20 – 2009: The live poker boom hits its highest point

PokerStars is celebrating its 20th Anniversary: 20 years as the best known and most trusted online poker site. To join the celebrations 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.

In 2009, the SCOOP series was introduced, PokerStars was still very much growing in terms of player base and prize pools, and the poker boom was hitting its highest point.

This was  arguably the peak of the live poker scene. It was in 2009 that the EPT and PCA both paid out their biggest first place prizes in history. Since then, prize pools have never reached the same heights. This article follows the course of live poker’s boom and subsequent plateau.

EPT and PCA payout biggest prizes in history

Owing to factors such as the introduction of cards-up poker on television, Chris Moneymaker’s legendary victory in the 2003 WSOP, and the increase in satellites to major live events, both live and online poker had already been gaining traction for several years.

The WSOP Main Event actually peaked in 2006, with 8,773 entries and a prize pool of $82.5 million. This is still the record prize pool for any live event. The attendance figure included more than 1,600 PokerStars’ qualifiers, including hundreds of satellite winners. Jamie Gold took first place for $12 million, WCOOP’s biggest ever single payout.

Despite the WSOP declining in numbers over the following years, the European Poker Tour (EPT) and PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) continued to grow. Here’s how first prize figures look in the years running up to and following 2009. We’ll start with the PCA.

PCA first place payouts:

Poorya Nazari won $3 million in 2009’s PCA

2006 – Steve Paul-Ambrose wins for $1.3M
2007 – Ryan Daut wins for $1.5M
2008 – Betrand “ElkY” Grospellier wins for $2M
2009 – Poorya Nazari wins for $3M
2010 – Harrison Gimbel wins for $2.2M
2011 – Galen Hall wins for $2.3M
2012 – John Dibella wins for $1.75M

In 2008, the PCA recorded 1,136 entries and a prize pool of $8.5 million. In 2009, attendance reached 1,347 and the prize pool hit $12.6 million. Canadian player Poorya Nazari came first for the fairly ridiculous sum of $3 million – the biggest payout in PCA history to date.

PCA attendance figures and prize pool did continue to grow in the years that followed, reaching $14.8 million in 2010 and $15.1 million in 2011, then hovering close to $10 million for several years from 2012 – 2015. The first prize never came close to $3 million again.

Over in the EPT, the situation was similar. 2009 was without doubt the golden year for the series.

EPT Main Event first place payouts:

EPT winner Pieter de Korver

2006 – Jeff Williams wins for more than €1M
2007 – Gavin Griffin wins for €1.8M
2008 – Glen Chorny wins for €2M
2009 – Pieter de Korver wins for €2.3M
2010 – Nicolas Chouity wins for €1.7M
2011 – Ivan Freitez wins for €1.5M
2012 – Mohsin Charania wins for €1.3M

The EPT followed a similar pattern to the PCA in terms of payouts, peaking in 2009 and steadily declining thereafter. In 2016, the top prize payout dropped to below €1 million for the first time in over a decade. The EPT was also growing in overall attendance, showing a promising 18% increase in entrants across all main events in 2019. Since then, attendance numbers have also declined.

It was Pieter de Korver from the Netherlands, who went on to become a PokerStars Team Pro, who won the biggest EPT payout in history. De Korver took down the 2009 Monte Carlo Main Event for €2.3 million.


Online poker continues to boom

As attendance at live poker events continued to taper off over the years, online poker, at least, continued to boom. With the advent of a new online poker series in 2009, SCOOP marked a promising year for PokerStars. “j.thaddeus” took down the first SCOOP Main Event for nearly $1 million.

Also in 2009: more than 25 million new players signed up; PokerStars dealt their 25th billion hand; the record for the world’s biggest ever poker tournament was broken twice, with 150,000 players sitting down for the second tourney. In September, 307,016 players logged on at once and sat down at 42,800 tables

It’s fair to say that, like the live scene, online poker experienced a lot of ups in 2009. The difference is, the trend continued. By January 2010, the 40th billion hand was dealt. By June 2013, PokerStars was celebrating its 100 billionth hand.


2008 – Where future superstars cut their teeth
2007 – The changing face of the sponsored pro

2006 – How poker prize pools ballooned
2005 – Reporting on poker will never catch on…
2004 – The Year of the EPT
2003 – Chris Moneymaker wins WSOP, sparks ‘poker boom’
2002 – The year of WCOOP
2001 – Electronic poker before PokerStars

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