Poker is a game that attracts scandals like a man walking through Venice attracts dog shit on his shoe. So instead of focusing on that, we will concentrate on 2015’s good stuff.
Poker is a hotbed of scandals.
What about the good stuff?
Here are six of my favorite Mother Theresa stories of 2015.
#6 David Baker Outs Brian Hastings in Noel Hayes Scandal
We saw the best and the worst of Brian Hastings during the summer. He won just under a million dollars in World Series of Poker scores, a few bucks more in side bets and walked away with two bracelets. On the other hand, he was caught playing on a PokerStars account belonging to Noel Hayes, via VPN from the US.
In hindsight, it appears Hastings appearances in high stakes games on Stars under the Noel Hayes pseudonym, was no secret. However, Hastings forgot to tell multiple WSOP bracelet winner David Baker and boy did he let the world know about it.
As everyone kept quiet about Hastings deceit, Baker blew the lid on the whole affair, by repeatedly tweeting it, and adding as much information as he could on a now famous 2+2 thread about the situation.
“David Baker is a true hero,” said James Obst in an interview on the scandal.
#5 Andrew Lichtenberger Publicly Backs The Poker Players Alliance (PPA) Fight For Right to Play Online Poker in the US
I know that I am not privy to the intricate machinery involved in the Poker Player’s Alliance (PPA). But staring at it from the outside I have always been appalled by what seems to be a lack of public support from some of the games most public figures.
Granted, I went a little too far when I started quoting Martin Luther King style marches towards the capital as a way for poker celebrities and big wigs to raise the sheer ludicrousness of the fact that online poker is deemed more dangerous than owning a semi-automatic weapon, but I felt it needed saying.
So, it was great to see Andrew Lichtenberger doing something about it when in February he announced plans via Twitter to publicly back the PPA, including visits to Washington to act as a poker mouthpiece. Lichtenberger urged his fellow poker players also to lend their support while pushing his new mantra to engage the obstacles against a fully regulated online poker network, and to create win-win solutions for everyone.
#4 Jason Somerville and The Twitch Revolution
It was a big year for Jason Somerville.
He joined PokerStars as a member of Team Pro, made Twitch streaming cool, and even found time to ink a deal with DraftKings (not sure how well that’s going at present).
He ends up on my list for the impact he has had on Twitch and the good that has done for the online poker industry. During his first season of RunItUP! He streamed for 484 hours and attracted 7.2 million views. Later, he would send fans into a craze when a series of deep runs in the World Championships of Online Poker (WCOOP) resulted in over 37,000 people watching him during one final table run that ended in sixth place.
Somerville currently has over 147,000 followers, and his stream has collected more than 9 million views.
#3 Alex Millar Resigns From PokerStars in Protest Against VIP Changes
When PokerStars decided to back out of their 2015/2016 Supernova Elite promise the shit hit the proverbial fan. Players wanted blood. Dani Stern did his best to round up as many people as he could to boycott the site in a show of solidarity.
Many eyes fixed on the members of Team Online, Team Pro, and Team SportsStars. What would they do? Would they support PokerStars or the people they are hired to represent?
In the end, with the exception of a very vocal, and expected, input from Daniel Negreanu, the halls were quiet. Then, out of the shadows stepped a young man who is not often one to warm his cockles in the afterglow of the limelight.
Alex ‘Kanu7′ Millar resigned his position at Team Online in protest over his inability to dissuade PokerStars from moving ahead with their plans to change the VIP program.
Millar has values, and it seems he won’t break them, especially not for money.
#2 Bill Klein Finishes Second in One Drop High Roller And Gives All of His Money to Charity
There was only one headline that emerged from 2015 WSOP $111,111 One Drop High Roller, and it had Jonathan Duhamel’s name written all over it.
The former WSOP Main Event champion won his second WSOP bracelet and close to $4m in prize money, after topping a field of 135 entrants in a tournament boasting one of the largest prize pools of the year.
It’ highly unlikely that Duhamel would have had a big piece of that $111,111 buy-in. The same is not true of Bill Klein; the man Duhamel beat heads-up. Klein won $2,465,522. Every single penny would have been his. And he gave it all away.
Klein split the money 50/50 handing $1.2m+ to Orangewood Children’s Center and The Shea Center For Therapeutic Riding respectively. 2015 was the year for charity in poker, but nobody donated more than Klein.
#1 Alex Dreyfus and His Vision For Poker
2015 was the year that Alex Dreyfus took his one-man mission to Sportify poker to a whole new level. Interest in the Global Poker Index (GPI) rose to new heights. He held awards ceremonies and seminars in Europe and North America, bringing poker’s bigwigs together for the first time in a very long time (if ever).
Dreyfus also organised the inaugural Global Poker Masters (the World Cup of Poker); created a partnership with USA TODAY Sports Media Group, and laid out his plans to create The Global Poker League (GPL). It will be an industry first that will contain all that he has learned from a deep interest in the burgeoning world of eSports.
The Frenchman understands that innovation and action are needed to take poker to the next level. A specially designed Cube will contain the action; players will stand to play, rules will be altered to make the game flow, and fans will pay to watch the events unfold live as they do in eSports.
He is single-handedly steering poker into a brave new world, and for that reason, he is my number one.