Online tournaments looked to build off of last week’s success that saw nearly every major event surpass their guarantees.  The only tournament on the docket that continues to fall short is the $100,000 guaranteed on the Merge Network.  Home to rooms such as Carbon, Lock, and RPM Poker, the Merge Network is one of just a few poker rooms still allowing American players.  Along with Bodog and Cake Poker, the Merge Network has continued to fly the American Online Poker flag since the April 15th crackdown by the US Government.

Back in 2006 there were many sites that avoided the wrath of US lawmakers by pulling out of the American market once the UIGEA was passed.  Titan Poker, the flagship room of the iPoker Network, was just one of many different rooms to close their doors to US-based players five years ago.  For a while one of the biggest poker networks in the world was struggling but ever since April 15th they have seen an increase in traffic in both their cash games and tournaments. One great example of this is their biggest weekly event, a $200,000 guaranteed on Sundays.  The $200+$15 buy-in tournament had been struggling to surpass its guarantee but the past few weeks that has all changed.  This past weekend a total of 1,068 players entered the event creating a nice $213,600 prize pool with $44,856 slated for the winner.  The final table was full of unknown players looking to hit a career-best score including eventual champion “nsc49” whose best score heading into the final table was a $4,967 cash back in 2010.   His win came at the expense of “1Srslyfu” who had a very similar resume to his heads-up counterpart.

Titan Poker Sunday $200k Guaranteed
1,068 Entrants; $213,600 prize pool

1. nsc49 $44,856
2. 1Srslyfu $23,496
3. kokynho7 $17,088
4. bustosoon29 $12,816
5. TheEmperor12 $10,680
6. NOWhereLimited $8,544
7. Momantai444 $6,408
8. BaluOnTilT2 $4,272
9. achula $2,990
10. WarrenW $2,136

The Party Poker Sunday $200k is currently going through one of the biggest boosts for an event in recent memory.  Ever since Party started their “no fee” tournament promotion the $200k has seen a large increase in attendance.  Instead of taking $15 of the $215 prize pool, Party Poker is allowing the entire $215 to go into the pot which has added value to the event and attracted about 200-300 more players each weekend.  This past Sunday saw the rise in entrants continue as 1,278 players entered the $200k creating a massive $274,770 prize pool.  The final table was a strong one with Marc “slighlife87” Macdonnell, “philivey_501”, and Marcos “sketch1967” Sketch leading the way.  With approximately $60,000 slated for the winner it was no surprise to see a chip-chop be agreed upon once heads-up play began.  After the highly-ranked Sketch was eliminated in 3rd place Macdonnell and philivey_501 decided to divide the prize pool based on chip counts.  The deal left Macdonnell with nearly $50,000 in prize money, easily the biggest score of his career.  The major win makes up for a major disappointment for Macdonnell who finished 3rd in the Titan $200k just three months ago. Runner-up philivey_501 was no stranger to final table success having won the Brawl on FullTilt back in 2009 for $81,782.  His $41,228 score was the 2nd biggest cash of a strong career that also includes a 3rd place finish in FTOPS Event #13 back in 2009.

PartyPoker Sunday $200k Guaranteed
1,278 Entrants; $274,770 prize pool
*2-way chop

1. sluglife87 $49,446
2. philivey_501 $41,229
3. sketch1967 $19,921
4. xbuckhunterx $15,799
5. Priitb $13,052
6. WC2011 $10,304
7. Hanssel $7,831
8. gripsed_com $5,221
9. andyhin22 $3,984
10. CanITapThat $2,748

As mentioned earlier the Merge $100,000 just cannot seem to get past its guarantee.  While the event has grown from 600-700 entrants to consistently 900-950 it still is falling short of the 1,000 needed in the $100+$9 event.  As one of just a handful of networks still open to American players the Merge $100k is a must-play for any US-based online tournament player.  With more than $5,500 in overlay this week there was still plenty of extra value for the 944 players on hand.  Eight-place finisher “AllAboutThe” is an American who has moved his play from PokerStars and FullTilt to Lock Poker and Bodog.  His $2,250 cash for his final table appearance yesterday pales in comparison to other scores on his resume that includes a win in the $40k on FullTilt and a 4th place finish in the $200k Double Deuce for $17,880.  Finishing a few spots better was “PeanutButterAndJAM” who earned $4,250 once he busted in 5th place.  Again, this score falls quite low on a resume that includes wins in the 50-50, $33 KO, and $28k all on FullTilt. However, his highest score came on PokerStars where he finished 2nd in the $11 re-buy for more than $13,000 earlier this year.  Eventual winner “wiinday” appears to be another player who is new to the Merge Network.  With just a handful of tournaments under his belt he was able to take down the $100k crown and earn a $20,000 check in the process.

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

1. wiinday $20,000
2. Chipsster $12,000
3. HenrikX1 $6,500
4. Maureen405 $5,000
5. PeanutButterAndJAM $4,250
6. illini21 $3,500
7. poisonousnut $2,750
8. AllAboutThe $2,250
9. KPAC00TKA $1,750
10. littlewing27 $1,500

With FullTilt still mired in controversy the majority of online play has been concentrated at one site, PokerStars.  There is no end in sight for those wanting to play on FullTilt as news breaking today from a hearing with their Gaming Commission seems to mean even more delays until play will resume at the world’s second biggest poker site.  While FTP is hurting PokerStars is thriving.  The world’s biggest internet card room has been crushing lately and this weekend was no exception.  Not only did all of their major events hit their guarantees but PokerStars also introduced a new dealing software on Sunday as well.  A faster dealing mechanism as been put in place which no longer leaves players waiting an agonizing few seconds on the turn and river. Instead cards are instantly dealt making bad beats much more palatable.  A big day on Stars kicked off with the $200+$15 Sunday Warm-Up that attracted nearly 3,300 early risers.  The day’s first major has firmly planted itself as the 2nd biggest event each Sunday since the closing of FullTilt.  With a $659,000 prize pool there was more than $103,000 up for grabs for the final table winner.  Taking home that honor was “specht1988” who easily earned the biggest payday of his career.  The midstakes grinder had never won a major event before and until yesterday had made just one final table, a 9th place finish in the Second Chance back in March.   The $103,463 cash got specht1988 into the black for his career on PokerStars.  Runner-up “Finspb812”  was also inexperienced at the major final table level although he had won a $109 event earlier this year for $4,982.

PokerStars Sunday Warm-Up $500k Guaranteed
3,295 Entrants; $659,000 prize pool

1. specht1988 $103,463
2. Finspb812 $77,103
3. Blue Streak6 $54,368
4. Student 407 $37,893
5. ThrowMaNickl $28,008
6. KidCardiff6 $21,418
7. yurasov1990 $14,828
8. Faxe07 $8,238
9. RuudGullit $5,272

The PokerStars Sunday Million might have lost $500,000 on its guarantee post-Black Friday but that has not stopped it from easily being the week’s largest online poker event.  This weekend more than 6,300 players ponied up the $200+$15 buy-in creating a first place prize that was bigger than nearly all the other majors total prize pool.  With hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line at the final table the last three players decided to cut some of the variance and take a chip-chop.  There was still $20,000 to play for during three-handed play but unfortunately a lot of the suspense left the final table after the chop.  All three of the final contestants took home more than $132,000 including winner “all in 2526” who earned $153,839 for a hard day’s work.  The six-figure cash was easily the biggest score of his career. Runner-up “tollgate” earned just $2 less than the winner which is quite the consolation for not being named the Sunday Million champion.  Third-place finisher “Janosch” was easily one of the lesser experienced players entering the final table. He had to be quite happy to take a chip-chop during three handed play to guarantee himself $132,244.

Next week the Million will be challenged by a special PokerStars Red Spade Open event which is a $55 buy-in with a $1,000,000 Guarantee. The tournament will have a $200,000 first-place prize and kicks off at 15:00 PokerStars time.  To find out more about this event just navigate to the Special Tab in the Tournament Lobby.

PokerStars Sunday $1M Guaranteed
6,383 Entrants; $1,276,600 prize pool
*3-way chop

1. all in 2526 $153,839
2. tollgate $153,837
3. Janosch $132,244
4. sjaak2afhaak $70,213
5. Illbill87 $53,617
6. wizowizo $40,851
7. ilona_iuby $28,085
8. piratepeaty $15,319
9. Polymathes $9,894

The best final table of the day went to the Sunday500.  The higher buy-in event tends to weed out more of the amateur players leaving just those with big bankrolls to enter the $500+$30 tournament.  There were many great players on hand including 6th place finisher Tomi “elmerixx” Brouk.  The top-250 ranked MTT pro is no stranger to success online having won the $300k on Party as well as an ECOOP Event on Titan last year.  His 6th place finish for $15,272 just barely cracked his top-10 scores.  Finishing one spot worse was Jack “jackwellwood” Ellwood who earend a $11,592 payday.  The former winner of the FTOPS Main Event in 2010, Ellwood is one of the most decorated tournament players of all time.  He also nearly won the SCOOP $2,100 event last year for $206,720 and later that year finished 5th in the $5,200 WCOOP Main Event for a massive $509,976 payday.  Taking home the Sunday500 title was “elchwarrior” who earned the biggest check of his PokerStars career.  The lowstakes grinder took a step up buy-in wise and it paid off big.  His previous best score came in the $109 re-buy where he finished 3rd for $35,623 back in 2010.

PokerStars Sunday500 $250k Guaranteed
736 Entrants; $368,000 prize pool

1. elchwarrior $66,608
2. Bläry`s $47,840
3. mbojko $35,880
4. Schappuscha $26,864
5. coroco75 $18,952
6. elmerixx $15,272
7. jackellwood $11,592
8. pAtcAsh83 $8,133
9. rkruok $4,710