The Year In Review: 2013 Tournament Poker World

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It’s hard for most to imagine what the tournament poker world looked like only ten years ago. Back before the advent of the World Poker Tour, major high buy-in tournaments (re: $5,000 or more) were quite rare. Outside of the World Series of Poker, there was only a handful that made the grade. Fast forward to 2013 and it seems as if there was a major tournament every week!

Over the past year there have been several highlights in the tournament poker world. January kicked off with Dimitar Danchev taking down the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in the Bahamas for the largest score of his tournament career and Vanessa Selbst winning the $25,000 High Roller Event. While some of the best poker players were in the sun, other notables were in Las Vegas for the rebirth of the NBC Heads-Up Poker Championship (after a one year hiatus). In the end, Mike Matusow stopped Phil Hellmuth from winning his second NHUPC title and took down $750,000.

February saw the conclusion of the Aussie Millions that featured a quirky ending. After playing for 15 hours at the final table, Joseph Cabret, Mervin Chan and Patrik Antonius were still on the felt when officials decided to give them a break. When the tournament resumed later in the day, it took only one and a half hours for Chan to take the title over Cabret. In other tournaments, Andy Hwang took down the first WPT stop for 2013 at the Borgata in Atlantic City, Matt Giannetti emerged as the champion at the WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open in Florida and Remi Castaignon won the European Poker Tour stop in his home country of Deauville, France.

In March, Paul Volpe went on a memorable run. He finished second at the WPT L. A. Poker Classic to Paul Klann at the very start of the month and then went on to finish third at the Bay 101 Shooting Star. Those two finishes pushed him into contention for the WPT Player of the Year race, but he eventually fell short to Matt Salsberg. In Great Britain, Ruben Visser took down his first major championship in winning the EPT London title.

April saw the debut of the latest innovation from the WSOP. The WSOP Asia/Pacific (APAC) held its inaugural bracelet events at the Crown Casino in Melbourne, Australia and, from the start, it was historic. Phil Ivey would take his ninth bracelet and Daniel Negreanu began what would be a spectacular 2013 season in taking down the WSOP APAC Championship Event. Back in the United States, Kevin Eyster ended up as the champion of the WPT Seminole Hard Rock Showdown and Blair Hinkle became the first player to ever win the same Main Event twice in taking his second WSOP Circuit Main Event in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

There was a flurry of tournaments through the month of May as the major tournament circuits ended their seasons prior to the start of the WSOP. On the WPT, Mike Linster would win the WPT bestbet Jacksonville Open, Amir Babakhani earned the title at the WPT Canadian Spring Championship and David “Chino” Rheem bested Erick Lindgren and the field in winning the WPT World Championship. The EPT Grand Final saw arguably the best final table of the year in Jake Cody, Johnny Lodden, Noah Schwartz, Jason Mercier, Grant Levy and Negreanu, but it was Steve O’Dwyer who defeated Andrew Pantling to eventually take down the crown.

The summertime return of the WSOP, naturally, provided many highlights. Ben Chen defeated the largest non-Championship Event field ever (6343 players) to win the “Millionaire Maker;” Mike Matusow won his fourth bracelet; six years following his run to the WSOP Player of the Year award, Tom Schneider won two bracelets to become the most-unlikely four-time WSOP bracelet winner in history; Anthony Gregg captured the “One Drop High Roller” title and Matthew Ashton prevailed in the Poker Players’ Championship. And this was all before the Championship Event had even put one card in the air!

July brought the Championship Event and a welcome sight on the tables. After stating that he wouldn’t be taking part in the WSOP tournaments, the legendary Doyle Brunson dipped his toes back in the WSOP pool by taking part in the Poker Players’ Championship and then the $10,000 Championship Event. He played excellent poker through the early minefields and was able to cash in the event in 409th place, becoming the first person to cash in the Championship Event in all five decades of its existence.

After two weeks of battle, the 2013 “November Nine” were determined when poker professional J. C. Tran knocked off former World Champion Carlos Mortensen to set the final table. Tran was the chip leader upon the suspension of play, joined by Amir Lehavot, Marc McLauglin, Jay Farber, Ryan Riess, Sylvain Loosli, Michiel Brummelhuis, Mark Newhouse and David Benefield. As everyone walked off with $733,224 (the ninth place payday), the nine men bid adieu until November in poker’s greatest championship.

A normally sedate August was blown up by what would prove to be a huge tournament. Taking advantage of the lull in tournament poker, the Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood, FL, held a $10 million guaranteed event that naturally woke the professional poker world out of its doldrums. The tournament eventually drew 2384 entries and blasted past the guarantee with its $11.92 million prize pool. The Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open was eventually won by Blair Hinkle, who took home slightly more than $1.7 million for the victory.

The major poker tours kicked back into action in September, with the WPT entering its Season XII schedule and the EPT its Season Ten slate. Jordan Cristos won the WPT Legends of Poker; Tom Middleton took the EPT Barcelona championship; and Anthony Zinno defeated Vanessa Selbst for the WPT Borgata Poker Open crown.

October was dominated by the arrival of the WSOP Europe. Negreanu was looking to seal his WSOP POY championship (after his WSOP APAC Championship Event win and excellent effort in Las Vegas), which he did in taking down the High Roller championship. In the Championship Event, Adrian Mateos etched his name into the record books in defeating two outstanding opponents, Fabrice Soulier and Dominik Nitsche, for the title.

Despite the success of the European and Australian WSOP events, Caesars Entertainment and WSOP officials decided following the WSOP-E that, instead of going to both locations in 2014, they would alternate years; in 2014, the WSOP APAC will be contested, meaning the WSOP-E will not return until 2015.

If the calendar says November, then it must be time to determine poker’s next World Champion. Over two days of play, the “November Nine” worked their way down to eventual champion Ryan Riess, who defeated upstart amateur Jay Farber to take the crown. Riess’ performance was steady throughout the final table and he proved himself to be a worthy champion but, save for a turn of a few cards, Farber would have taken the title with his outstanding effort.

The WPT was busy during November also. Daniel Brits won the WPT Emperors Palace Poker Classic in South Africa and, following the introduction of its new high roller series (WPT Alpha8), Philipp Gruissem took two titles, the Alpha8 London and St. Kitts championships. Jared Jaffee took home the WPT bestbet Jacksonville Fall Poker Scramble Main Event and WPT “Raw Deal” host Tony Dunst earned the WPT Caribbean championship.

2013 wrapped up with another blast of activity. Derrick Rosenbarger (Montreal) and Dan Smith (Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic) won WPT events on North American soil as Julian Thomas (Prague) and Masato Yokosawa (Korea) won international stops. Julian Track would win the EPT Prague over what was a record field (1007 entries) for the event. As the year closed, Daniel Negreanu would capture two of the three major Player of the Year awards (Bluff Magazine and CardPlayer Magazine), while Ole Schemion won the Global Poker Index POY.

2014 should prove to have just as many events around the globe (if not more) and should provide the poker world with plenty to talk about over the coming year!

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