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2009 was another banner year for both live and online poker.  Online poker tournaments reached new heights while setting multiple Guinness World Records for both attendance and prize pools. On the live scene, the WSOP once again proved to be the most exciting tournament circuit around, including Phil Ivey’s Main Event final table appearance. Finally, high-stakes online cash games exploded, reaching new levels that no one could have predicted.

Taking the term “hu4rollz” to a whole new level, Tom “Durrrr” Dwan issued a heads-up challenge to the world, which was eagerly accepted by Patrik Antonius.  The main stipulations of the “Durrrr Challenge” were $200/$400 blinds NL or Pot-Limit Omaha, a minimum of 4 tables at a time, and 50,000 total hands must be played.  To sweeten the pot, Durrrr put up $1,500,000 of his own money vs. only $500,000 of his competitors.  The challenge started early in the year but was quickly put on hold due to a lot of action happening at even higher stakes, most notably $500/$1000 blinds. So far the challenge is certainly going Dwan’s way, as he is up more than $900,000 at the half-way mark.

The poker world was introduced to many fresh faces in 2009 including Dwan, Brian “Stinger88” Hastings, “Martonas”, and the enigmatic “Isildur1”. While a few of these names may sound familiar to those in online circles, they came to the forefront of the poker world the past few months.  While Hastings and Dwan have been around for a while (despite both being in their early 20’s) it was Isildur1 who created a huge stir on FullTilt in the final few months of 2009.

Things started off innocent enough between Isildur1 and Dwan as the two began battling over a large amount of tables at high-stakes. However, what soon happened shocked everyone. In an incredibly short period of time the two played over 50,000 hands against one another, with Isildur1 taking more than $5,500,000 from Dwan’s bankroll. Unfortunately for Isildur1 he then ran into a buzz saw in Brian Hastings who took nearly $4,000 from him in under 10,000 hands. In the span of just a few weeks Isildur1 had won $5,000,000 and then subsequently lost $7,000,000 to Hastings, Patrik Antonius, Phil Ivey, and Brian Townsend collectively.

Overall Ivey and Antonius ruled the online poker world in 2009, with Antonius winning nearly $9,000,000 and Ivey winning over $6,000,000. Some of the bigger losers included Dwan, LarsLuzak, Gus Hansen, and David Benyamine.

2009 was definitely the year of the professional on the live scene.  In past years the WSOP has been taken over by amateurs who have won the series’ biggest events. This year, a slew of well known live and online professionals were able to make their presence felt at nearly every final table.  Things got off to a great start when Vitaly Lunkin and Isaac “Ike” Haxton found themselves heads-up at the $40,000 buy-in NL Hold’em Championship. Two of the world’s more respected players battled it out for a $1,891,012 first place prize which ultimately went to Lunkin.  Lunkin was just getting warmed up, as he made the final table in the $50,000 HORSE event later in the series, taking 4th place and nearly $420,000.

Other notable professionals winning bracelets were Steve Sung, Jason Mercier, Daniel Alaei, J.C. Tran, and Roland De Wolfe. Three players were fortunate enough to win multiple events, including Brock “tsoprano” Parker who out-dueled Daniel Negreanu heads-up to win the $2,500 Limit Short-Handed event. Jeff Lisandro, primarily a stud specialist, proved he might just be the best in the world at all stud variations. Lisandro won three events including the $1,500 Seven Card Stud, $10,000 World Championship Stud 8b, and the $2,500 Razz tournament.  A piece of advice, if you see Lisandro sitting in a Stud game, run!

Someone who strikes fear in every player no matter the game is Phil Ivey.  Widely considered the best poker player in the world, Ivey did plenty to cement his place at the top. Starting with the 2009 WSOP Ivey was able to win his 6th and 7th bracelet, taking down both the $2,500 2-7 Triple Ball and Omaha/Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo events. It is rumored Ivey had millions of dollars riding on both tournaments, stemming from prop bets with other professionals. While Ivey could have been satisfied with two bracelets, he was still looking for the ultimate title, Main Event Champion.

The 2009 World Series of Poker Main Event started on July 3rd with 6,494 entrants spread across 4 days of poker. Eventually the tournament dwindled down to a final nine, which was put on hold until November. The “November Nine” had a few recognizable faces, most notably Phil Ivey.  Joining Ivey were other known professional Jeff Shulman (editor of CardPlayer Magazine), FullTilt sponsored professional James Akenhead, and Joe Cada.  Ivey busted in 7th place when his AK lost to AQ all-in PF. Heads-up play came down to amateur (and professional logger) Darvin Moon and Joe Cada.  The final table, which was promoted as being “live”, was in fact tape delayed, leading to more questions about why the WSOP has made the decision to delay it four full months.

After the dust settled Cada was able to beat out Moon, becoming the youngest player to ever win the Main Event.  Peter Eastgate, the 2008 Main Event champion, was also 21 at the time of his win, but is 3 weeks older than Cada. Cada took home $8,547,042 for his victory while Moon had to “settle” for $5,182,928.  This was the 2nd biggest Main Event in WSOP history and helped wrap up a huge year for live poker tournaments.

2009 was a great year for poker, here’s hoping 2010 and beyond can build of its success.  Best of wishes to all reading and have a happy and safe New Year!