The year 2009 started off with a bang in the Bahamas. During the tail end of the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure at Atlantis on Paradise Island, a confident Tom "durrrr" Dwan issued a challenge to any opponent-if you can beat him over 50,000 hands, then he will pay you $500,000 on 3-to-1 odds. Patrik Antonius was the first pro to accept the "durrrr Challenge" in a highly anticipated match up on Full Tilt Poker. The result was an over-hyped and disappointing event where Antonius and durrrr failed to reach 50,000 hands as they played sporadically over the last ten months. The "durrrr Challenge" ended up a bust.
Attendance and prize pool records were smashed at the 2009 WCOOP on PokerStars. Yevgeniy "Jovial Gent" Timoshenko won the Main Event for a $1.7 million score-a gigantic payday for an online tournament. French superstar Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier continued his magnificent run and won two bracelets during the WCOOP. However, it was Dan "djk123" Kelly, a student at Villanova University, who captured everyone's attention. The twenty-year old advanced to three final tables, won two bracelets, and collected almost $1 million at the WCOOP.
Terrence Chan's hat trick or trifecta on PokerStars garnered the Canadian pro some attention this year. Chan won three championship online limit hold'em tournaments on PokerStars including two in the same day. Quite the feat, eh?
The legal battle in poker continued in state courtrooms across the country. Kentucky became a hotspot after the seizure of poker domain names for some of the major players in the online poker industry such as Full Tilt and PokerStars. The Kentucky Supreme Court has yet to file a ruling.
Just as the deadline to enforce the UIEGA was approaching, lobbyists pushed for a 12-month delay and almost got what they wanted. Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve decided that a 6-month delay was sufficient to clarify the laws and clear up any vagaries with regard to a few definitions such as "unlawful internet gambling." Meanwhile, it's still safe to play online poker and withdraw funds without any problems from law enforcement types.
Among the bigger stories at the nose bleed tables were the appearance of two unknown Swedish players by the name of Martonas and Isildur1. There's a rumor that the two are neighbors, while others hypothesized they are the same person. The bottom line is that both players challenged the best players at the game at the highest stakes. One of the contributing factors to the lack of zest in the "durrrr Challenge" was that Antonius and durrrr were more interested in taking down the Swedes than playing against each other.
Martonas faded in and out of obscurity fairly quickly, while Isidlur1 made the biggest waves after beating durrrr for $5 million in one weekend. He was up over $8 million in a short time period before losing it all back to different pros including a recent overnight loss of $4 million to Brian Hastings.
Overall for 2009, the biggest winners on Full Tilt Poker in particular games are: Isildur1 (+$2.4 million at no-limit hold 'em), Phil Ivey (+$5.9 million at pot-limit Omaha), Patrick Antonius (+$6.7 million at no-limit and pot-limit Omaha mixed games), and Patrik Antonius (+2.5 million at HORSE. The biggest losers at particular games in 2009 include: Martonas (-$1.9 million at no-limit), durrrr (-$6.5 million at pot-limit Omaha), LarsLuzak (-$3 million at no-limit and pot-limit Omaha mixed games), and David Benyamine (-$1.8 million at HORSE).
Poker fans will remember 2009 as the year when the high stakes action intensified for an elite group of players who could afford to play at the nosebleed tables while the rest of the huddled masses watched in awe. Million dollar pots are the norm these days. I wonder what sort of intriguing action 2010 will bring?
Paul 'Dr. Pauly' McGuire is the author of the upcoming book 'Lost Vegas'. You can read his poker blog, Tao of Poker, over at www.taopoker.com.