Trying to pinpoint the top 10 poker tournament moments of 2013 was a much stiffer task than I thought it would be. When I was first given the idea to write this piece I assumed the top 10 would just leap out at me, but instead close to 30 different tournament highlights were longing for my attention.
In the end I hacked and gnawed until moments of brilliance lay all over the cutting room floor. They included Mohsin Charania’s victory against all the odds at the World Poker Tour (WPT) Grand Prix de Paris; Blair Hinkle and his huge win at the $10m guarantee in Florida; and Steve O’Dwyer finally bagging a major title on one of the toughest final tables you will see anywhere in the tournament world after winning the European Poker Tour (EPT) Grand Final in Monte Carlo.
In the end I am happy with my mix of events that I have chosen based on brilliance, nostalgia, record-breaking feats and just pure old-fashioned emotion.
10. Barny Boatman Wins Event #49: $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em – World Series of Poker
People take life for granted. It’s human nature. But everyone in love with the game of poker should make time for the pioneers of the game. The people who have made it possible to turn a pipe dream into a wonderful opportunity to travel the world and play a game for a living.
The work that Barny Boatman, and the Hendon Mob, has done to sensationalize the game of poker, and in turn attract sponsors and investors into the game, should never be under estimated.
They were the first ‘real’ characters to emerge from the dark corners of the poker rooms and vault themselves onto the world of television, and perhaps that’s why many people – neutrals included – are saying that Barny Boatman’s WSOP bracelet winning rail was one of the greatest they have ever seen.
It had laughter, it had singing, it has tears and most importantly of all – after 13-years of trying – it had a WSOP bracelet slung over Barny Boatman’s arm by none other than his loving brother, best friend and fellow Hendon Mobster Ross Boatman.
9. Mike Matusow Wins the NBC National Heads Up Championship
There are two forms of old school categories. The legends of the game that will always be revered for one reason or another, and a second batch of players who the current crop of youngsters would define as ‘past it’ and a bunch of ‘has beens’.
Before the NBC National Heads Up Championship took place Mike ‘The Mouth’ Matusow would have probably had his arse parked in the latter group. There were many dissenters when The Mouth was chosen to be amongst the 64 entrants, and yet people forget that it’s the likes of The Mouth, that has helped create a huge footprint for televised poker.
When you have a televised poker show…Matusow should be the first player you add to that list.
In the end, the old timer went all the way, defeating another old-timer, Phil Hellmuth, in the final to take the honors after Michael Mizrachi, Viktor Blom, Barry Greenstein, John Hennigan and Scott Seiver lay in his wake.
Matusow would move on from that win to capture his fourth WSOP bracelet and top $9m in live tournament earnings.
8. Ryan Riess Captures The $10,000 WSOP Main Event
It’s difficult not to have a top 10 list of this kind and not include the most prestigious, talked about, watched and financially abundant poker tournament in the world.
Step forward and take your place in number eighth on my list Ryan Riess, although I have no doubt the 23-year old would think he should be number one, after all he thinks he is the best player in the world.
Riess didn’t win many fans amongst the poker playing community for the way he approached the game during the final table, with the likes of Scott Seiver and Paul Volpe openly criticizing his play on Twitter.
But when you win over $8m spondoolies, after defeating the largest field in the 2013 live tournament calendar then who the hell cares?
7.Vanessa Selbst Wins the PCA High Roller
Whether she likes it or not, Vanessa Selbst is THE role model to every single female poker player searching for credibility in his heavily male dominated environment.
The way that she just grabs the world’s best poker players by the short and curlies, and throws them against the wall, is testament to her determination and ability, and in 2013 she became the most successful female poker player in the history of the game.
The $1.4m that Selbst won in the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) High Roller, pushed her ahead of Kathy Liebert at the top of the female all time money charts with over $8m in earnings.
6. Daniel Negreanu Wins the A$10,000 WSOP Asia Pacific (WSOP-APAC) Main Event
After seven successful seasons in Europe the WSOP decided that 2013 would be the year to expand their brand to other parts of the globe.
The inaugural WSOP-APAC event was held in the Crown Casino in Melbourne and it was an amazing success.
Phil Ivey walked away with his ninth WSOP bracelet, on a final table that saw Daniel Negreanu finishing in fourth place, and Kid Poker would go a few places deeper when he took the main event title for a smidgen over $1m just a few days later.
It was the first major tournament that Negreanu had won since 2008, and as you will see, it wouldn’t be his last.
5. Jakub Michalak Wins the International Stadiums Poker Tour (ISPT)
The inaugural ISPT event had detractors lining all the way down Wembley way waiting to kick the founder, Prosper Masquelier, in the balls. Yet when all was said and done, it turned out to be one of the most interesting and exciting experiments the world of poker had ever seen.
Not only was it the first-ever poker competition to be held in a stadium, but it also broke records for the wrong reasons, as the Dusk till Dawn (DTD) owner Rob Yong had to shell out a €589,000 overlay, after promising €1m for the winner when him and his team joined the party late in the day.
Despite that loss of earnings, Yong’s intervention saved the event from combusting under the terrible marketing strategies of Masquelier and his gang, and the first prize went to Jakub Michalak who took over half a million dollars after cutting a deal at the final table.
4. Erick Lindgren Wins the $5,000 NLHE 6-Max WSOP Event
Erick Lindgren is one of the bad boys of poker.
A former Full Tilt Poker (FTP) Pro who earned millions of dollars through the faulty enterprise before blowing the lot – and more – on a gambling habit that had consumed his life.
At the beginning of the year Lindgren booked himself in rehab in a bid to get better, and promised to pay back the money that he owed to those that had trusted him and had received a kick in the dangly bits for their troubles.
Forget your personal opinion of this man for a moment, and instead consider the determination and emotional intensity that must have been present as the former darling of poker made his way through the $5k six max field on his way to glory.
The winning shots said it all for me. Usually, reserved for a barrage of close friends and family. The shots contained just one person – his wife – someone who knows him better than most, and has stood by him through an addiction that most of us have felt the spindly claws of on more than one occasion.
3. Kenneth Lind Wins the WSOP Seniors Event
Kenneth Lind’s victory reminds us of the vastness of the world of poker.
We love the game so much because it opens its arms to anyone and everyone irrespective of age, gender, color, creed or disability.
Lind’s victory is a stark reminder of the importance of having a dream, but even more importantly, taking action that takes you by the hand and pulls you towards that dream.
It was nothing but a bucket list goal for Lind to play in a WSOP event. His wife reminding him that he would be pushing up daisy’s if he didn’t pull his finger out and quick.
Lind took his wife’s advice and entered the $1,000 Seniors event and is now $634,809 the richer, comfortably retired and minus one on his bucket list.
A true inspiration for everyone.
2. Philipp Gruissem Wins Back-to-Back Alpha8 Titles
When people talk about the very best poker players in the world, it’s all too easy to allow your autopilot to answer the question. Yet if you really did think about this in some depth, then Philipp Gruissem would have to be in your thoughts.
Since starting to rack up live tournament cashes in 2009, Gruissem has won close to $8m in the Super High Roller format that has emerged from the poker circus to stand alone as the elite tier of what now looks like a distinct three-tier class structure in poker.
The WPT recognized this elitism and created the WPT Alpha8, a series of $100,000 buy-in events played out against some of the most amazing backdrops in the world, with some of the best players, the biggest prizes – and all in front of the TV cameras.
Gruissem’s back-to-back victories in Alpha8 events in London and St. Kitts not only netted him well over $2m in prize money (making that $4.6m for the year), but also did so whilst playing against the very best players in the world.
1. Daniel Negreanu Wins the €25,600 NLHE High Roller Event at the World Series of Poker Europe (WSOPE)
When the WSOP action moved onto the closing stages in Paris, it was the UK mixed game specialist, Matthew Ashton, who held the WSOP Player of the Year (POY) lead with Daniel Negreanu sat in second.
When Ashton cashed in 63rd place in the first event of that series – an event Negreanu decided to skip – the odds on him becoming the latest WSOP POY reduced considerably. A further cash – 9th in Event #5 – meant that Negreanu had a lot of work to do if he was going to find the points needed to become the first player to win two WSOP POY awards.
Whilst all of this was going on there was one man who never doubted for a second that he would accomplish this feat – Daniel Negreanu.
Kid Poker finished 25th in the main event and knew if he could make a charge at the High Roller title his dream could be realized.
Negreanu not only went on to win the High Roller event, to make history by winning the WSOP POY award, but at the time of writing he currently ranks number one in the Global Poker Index (GPI), a fitting ending to a year that has seen the return to form of one of the greatest live tournament poker players the world has ever seen.
Have your say. What are your top tournament moments of 2013?