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Online tournaments are rebounding nicely since Black Friday shook up the poker world back in April. For awhile tournaments had seen attendance decline steadily before leveling out.  Events such as the Party $200k, Bodog $100k, and even the PokerStars500 had been straddling their guarantees, often falling short of their respective marks.  However, that all changed yesterday as an obvious uptick in online attendance boosted nearly every Sunday major easily past their guarantees.  A lot of factors could go into this sudden change in momentum. Perhaps the publicity of the World Series of Poker Main Event getting underway bolstered entries.  It could also be that players are getting more comfortable with their bankrolls online after an uneventful month since FullTilt’s license being revoked.  Either way, both poker sites and players had to be happy to see full events and even bigger prize pools yesterday.

One tournament that has failed to hit its guarantee for what seems like years now is the $150 Bodog $100,000 Guaranteed.  That changed this past weekend as 727 players entered the $150+$12 event creating a nice $109,050 prize pool. For a tournament that has been paying overlay for years this is surely a sign that more American players are starting to come back to the market.  The tournament has routinely been around 600 entrants so a more than 100 player boost is nothing to sneeze at.  Taking full advantage of the bigger prize pool was “barcs69”, a highly-ranked online tournament pro.   In the past barcs69 has played a lot on FullTilt, PokerStars, and Absolute Poker but the Australian-based pro seems to have made the transition to US-friendly sites.  He previous won the $80k Sniper on AP, $35k Rebuy on Titan, and $30k Super Wednesday on Party Poker.

Bodog Sunday $100k Guaranteed
727 Entrants; $109,050 prize pool

1. barcs69 $25,735
2. I M A King $14,830
3. Tsmizzle26 $9,923
4. CannaKid23 $7,633
5. Jerms13 $6,215
6. dpatt420 $4,907
7. led55 $3,598
8. j_treehorn $2,399
9. D0ES0N $1,417

The Party Poker Sunday $200k also saw a boost in entries, but it may not be for the same reason as other events. For the second straight week the world’s 2nd largest poker network has done away with tournament fees.  Instead of a $200+$15 Sunday major, the $215 $200k added more than $17,000 to the prize pool by not charging a tournament fee.  This unprecedented approach has certainly led to more site traffic, but one has to wonder if it will translate to more cash game and casino players.  The 10-player final table had its share of professionals and amateurs.  The tournament ultimately came down to “MrTEe1981” and “nutzu4poker” who decided to chop the remaining $81,000 in the middle.  The deal left each player with just over $40,000.  Neither player had a notable score to their name on Party in the recent past making the $40,000 cash a welcome sight to both.

A final note, with the FullTilt Sunday majors not currently running, the $200k on Party has now become the 4th biggest online event of the week coming in just behind the three majors on PokerStars.

Party Poker Sunday $200k Guaranteed
1,140 Entrants; $245,100 prize pool
*2-way chop

1. MrTEe1981 $40,666
2. nutzu4poker $40,216
3. tfastrack $17,769
4. soumi7 $14,093
5. solidjam $11,642
6. juergen $9,191
7. krosby11 $6,985
8. Smegmasvzw $4,656
9. everest988 $3,553
10. verderber23 $2,451

While the iPoker $200k has failed to keep up with the Party Poker $200k, it has still been able to creep past its guarantee lately. Headlined by Titan Poker, the iPoker Network was once the biggest online network in the world.  However, once the UIGEA hit in 2006 they decided to pull out of the US Market and fell back to the middle of the pack traffic-wise.  However, back near the top, Titan and the rest of its skins are battling hard with the likes of Party Poker for that number two spot behind PokerStars.  The final table of the $200k had a very strong player in “WaTeRFaLLiNGx” who was surrounded by competitors with much less experience.  The top-100 ranked online professional has won the Sunday500 on PokerStars, $100k Rebuy on Titan, $60k on FullTilt, and has won the $109r multiple times on Stars.  While he brought easily the best resume of anyone involved he was unable to gain much traction as he fell in 5th place for just $10,140.

The tournament eventually went to “scrooch025”, a midstakes grinder who has seen success on a multitude of poker sites. He had won the $55 re-buy on Stars for nearly $15,000, but had yet to win anything as substantial as the $42,588 that accompanied the Titan $200k title.  His win came at the expense of “binbetak” who, while falling in second place, still took home a nice $22,308 payday.

Titan Poker Sunday $200k Guaranteed
1,014 Entrants; $202,800 prize pool

1. scrooch025 $42,588
2. binbetak $22,308
3. dsavo9 $16,224
4. yitiaosiyu $12,168
5. WaTeRFaLLiNGx $10,140
6. OnfireHaas $8,112
7. EasyMoney101 $6,084
8. PUPAA $4,056
9. lauchon33 $2,839
10. lizard1001 $2,028

Following the trend of the day the Merge Network’s weekly $100,000 Guaranteed also saw an increase in entries.  However, they did break the 900 player barrier and the tournament was still unable to surpass its guarantee. With more than $7,000 in overlay there was some nice value for the 923 players involved.  Merge is one of just a few sites to still cater to American players, and as such there was quite the American feel at the final table.  Third place finisher Michell “wallyworld12” Wallberg hails from Florida and seems to have made the Merge Network his home since April 15th.  The $6,500 he earned on Sunday was the biggest score of his career, besting a $4,857 cash on PokerStars earlier in 2011.  Another player who is used to success on PokerStars was fifth place finisher “33LarryLegend” who use to dominate midstakes tournaments on PokerStars before being forced away from the site. He has a handful of five-figure cashes to his name including a win in the $35k Turbo on Stars for $12,163 earlier this year.

The tournament came down to “agaveguy” and “rodimebet” who battled it out for a difference of $8,000 between first and second place. In the end it was agaveguy who took down the Merge $100k title and a nice $20,000 payday.

Merge Poker Sunday $100k Guaranteed
923 Entrants; $100,000 prize pool

1. agaveguy $20,000
2. rcdimebet $12,000
3. wallyworld12 $6,500
4. BAAAKSH $5,000
5. 33LarryLegend $4,250
6. yosemitebear $3,500
7. BigFlush19 $2,750
8. Hardcoded $2,250
9. aelian $1,750

The three-headed monster that is the $500k Warm-Up, Sunday Million, and $250k Sunday500 continues to dwarf the online poker tournament scene.  Without FullTilt nipping at their heels these events are the clear cut 1-2-3 each and every Sunday.  PokerStars has also been about to gain about a quarter of players who were left without a home once FullTilt was shut down by their gaming commission.  Since then these events have grown even larger and are approaching pre-Black Friday numbers.  What was a crushing blow for sites like Party and iPoker in 2006 as well as FullTilt and Cereus in 2011, has twice been turned into a positive for PokerStars.

The Sunday Warm-Up has firmly planted itself as the week’s second biggest online event, trailing only the Sunday Million which also runs on PokerStars.  The early starting $200+$15 tournament attracted more than 3,100 players yesterday creating a massive $635,000 prize pool.  Before Black Friday this event had anywhere from 4000-4500 entrants so while there has been a noticeable drop-off it still remains the 2nd biggest online poker tournament each week.   Taking home the Sunday Warm-Up crown was Englishman “jc_bluej” who earned nearly $100,000 for his win.  This was the second Warm-Up win of his career, the first coming back in 2007 for more than $93,000. It is not often someone can final table the same Sunday major multiple times let alone win it.

PokerStars Sunday Warm-Up $500k Guaranteed
3,175 entrants; $635,000 prize pool

1. jc_bluej $99,695
2. detee $74,295
3. JcostUmoney $52,387
4. Jan Heitmann $36,512
5. POED1 $26,987
6. Ronzie99 $20,637
7. utvekklo2 $14,287
8. 777RENGEN777 $7,937
9. Lionel466 $5,080

While the Warm-Up continues to be the 2nd biggest event each week it seems to have no chance of ever reaching the Sunday Million. Online poker’s biggest event for the past 3-4 years is now the only weekly event that ever crosses the $1,000,000 prize pool mark.  While the event carries a $1M guarantee it has been cruising past that mark lately with more than 6,000 players entering the Million.  This past weekend was no exception as 6,182 players paid the $200+$15 buy-in to give themselves a chance at a near $200,000 first place prize.  Unfortunately for those watching the final table they were greeted with an all too familiar occurrence, the Sunday Million chip-chop. This week the chop fell between the final five players who decided to eliminate the variance and lock up their payouts based on chip counts.  While there was still $20,000 in the middle to play for there just isn’t the same feel as when hundreds of thousands are on the line with just a turn of the card.

The deal left “aricontre”, the chipleader at the time, with a guarantee of $165,227.  However, while he held the chiplead he was unable to scoop the remaining $20k which ultimately went to “kevsteele” who took down the Million and earned $128,792.  The small-stakes player had never even hit a 4-figure score before Sunday, once again proving that anyone can win the week’s biggest tournament.

PokerStars Sunday $1,000,000 Guaranteed
6,182 Entrants; $1,236,400 prize pool
*5-way chop

1. kevsteele $128,792
2. manuelmendes $109,523
3. aricontre $165,227
4. pyszalek $77,936
5. hvete $64,517
6. Renatoart $39,564
7. DavoDam $27,200
8. r0xer88 $14,836
9. Drawzee $9,582

The final major event of the day on PokerStars was the quarter-million guaranteed Sunday500.  The $500+$30 tournament is one of the most highly contested each week as the higher buy-in tends to weed out a lot of amateurs. The tournament has been hurt a bit lately as a lot of the professional players are taking time to relax in Las Vegas during the 2011 World Series of Poker. However, as just the Main Event remains, players should return to the Sunday500 next week.  Still, with more than 600 players in the field the Warm-Up flew past the $300,000 prize pool mark creating a nice $57,469 top prize.  That award would go to “limbolambon” who defeated a strong final table including runner-up “bigoots” on his way to the win. The $57k score was the biggest of his career on PokerStars and marked the first win in a major tournament for the high-stakes grinder.  Bigoots, who won the Million last year for nearly $250,000, took second place and $41,378.

PokerStars Sunday500 $250k Guaranteed
613 Entrants; $306,500 prize pool

1. limbolambon $57,469
2. bigoots $41,378
3. Biffmeister $30,650
4. Roma-Tilt $22,988
5. NaskoXX $16,091
6. antonionel $13,026
7. filthyfish $9,961
8. huiiiiiiiii $6,896
9. bEatNick”OG” $4,322