Since poker exploded at the turn of the century, the world has seen an ever-increasing number of online and live tournaments available for everyone to participate in. Whether you like live super deep stack $10K’s or online hyper turbo tournaments for a few bucks, you can be sure that you’ll find a tournament that’s just right for you.
However, some players are never content with the variety that poker already presents and so are always on the hunt for something special. For some reason, they seem compelled to play poker in the freezing cold, at the bottom of the sea or just naked. This list sums up the top eight most interesting tournaments ever played…to-date, that is.
8. Ironman Challenge
In August, 2012, Delaware Park hosted a record-breaking tournament called the Ironman Challenge. The catch was that the tournament had no breaks at all. The only time players took a break was when tournament officials stopped the game to bring new chips into the game.
Each of the 192 players who attended the event put up $600 which generated a prize pool of over $100,000. After 36 hours, 34 minutes and 41 seconds of non-stop play, Peter Konas from the Czech Republic walked away with the win and the $27,160 first place prize.
The event was long enough to make its way to the Guinness World Record book as the longest, non-stop tournament ever played. In fact, this was not the first time this was attempted at Delaware Park. In 2011, the same tournament was held, but it lasted only 32 hours. That wasn‘t long enough to make it into the record books because Guinness criteria requires at least 36 hours of continuous play to qualify.
7. Strip Poker Invitational
In 2004, the first and only Strip Poker Invitational was held in Los Angeles. With Carmen Electra as the host, six other girls, including Erica Schoenberg, Felicia Tang and Hetet Carolyn, showed up to play strip poker for a first place prize of $50,000. While I’m not sure about their true motivation for putting this together, I’m guessing the creators of the show were not aware of the existence of the internet at that point and thought that strip poker would be something that would impress viewers.
Equal parts sexy and bad at poker, the girls did their best although it’s not clear why the commentator was there except to provide equal parts useless and clueless commentary. They really should have brought in Norman Chad to commentate and thrown Phil Hellmuth into the game. Now that would have been something worth watching.
6. Fish & Chips Showdown
In 2011, PokerStars had an original idea for a tournament that was introduced at the PCA. This time, not only did players have to play poker, they also needed to catch some fish to compete for first place.
The $2,300 buy-in event determined the champion by a ratio of 1:3 fishing to 2:3 poker and was eventually won by a minor league baseball pitcher, Wade Townsend, from Austin, Texas. Townsend won the poker tournament and came in third in the fishing challenge which was enough for the overall win.
Fun fact: Dana Weeks, a mother-of-two from British Columbia, Canada, won the fishing part of the tournament after reeling in a massive barracuda.
5. Paddy Power April’s Fool Joke
In 2006, Paddy Power tried to pull off an April Fool’s joke by announcing an all-naked tournament. What they didn’t expect to happen, though, did and pervs from all over the UK started calling in and asking about where they could register for this tournament. Once they realized that people were really taking the tourney seriously, they decided to hold the event after all.
Almost 200 people from 12 countries showed up to play at Cafe Royal in the center of London. Each player started by wearing five items of clothing which were gradually lost as the tournament went along. Eventually, everyone was just sitting naked, covering themselves with a towel apiece.
From the huge field of mostly naked guys, John Young, a 32 year-old freelance writer, emerged to take the title of King-of-Pervs and the first place prize of £10,000. Paddy Power finished off the tournament with a nice gesture by donating an additional £10,000 for cancer research in exchange for John dropping his pants at his victory celebration.
4. Swimming with the Fishes
The top four games on this list are part of the same tour that took place in 2006. The Extreme Poker Challenge featured single table tournaments in the weirdest places imaginable.
What later gave rise to a flurry of underwater games around the world was the game held thirty feet underwater in the country of Saint Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean.
Phil Laak, Kenna James and Juha Helppi, along with an online qualifier, strapped on scuba gear and played underwater until one of them remained. In addition to losing all-ins, players could also get knocked out if their air supply ran out. Dodging sea creatures railing the table, Juha Helppi came out on top and became the first underwater champion.
3. Coolest Freezout Tournament Ever
Well, it was actually a re-buy tournament… On March 27, 2006, six players with chips and a poker table descended upon the ice shelf in Kemi, Finland. Among them were 2002 WSOP ME Champion, Varkonyi, Peter Larsson, Ulrik Jensen, Rene Christensen, Daniel Stein and the winner of the last Extreme Poker Challenge, Juha Helppi.
The game was played in temperatures reaching -10 degrees Fahrenheit and, even though players were dressed appropriately at first, they could only re-buy in exchange for their coat which meant that they had to continue playing in a t-shirt.
After 90 minutes of play, it was down to Robert Varkonyi, who couldn’t avoid a re-buy and was running around the table in his t-shirt to keep warm, and Juha Helppi, who still had all his clothes on. Despite being at a disadvantage by trying to avoid freezing to death, Varkonyi managed to beat Helppi and earn the title of “The Guy Who Won a Tournament on an Ice Shelf”.
2. Suspended Over the Pacific
Another crazy idea put forth by the Extreme Poker Challenge was to play a tournament while suspended on a platform 90 meters (98 yards) above the Pacific Ocean outside of Sydney.
It was promised that whenever a player got knocked out, he would be pushed over the edge, but from the video below it seems like they were gradually lowered down instead.
Eventually, the only one who did not have to go down on a rope was Sydney resident, Hugo Asenjo, who won the tournament after easily beating five other contenders.
1. 10,000 Feet above Las Vegas
Perhaps the most interesting tournament took place in Las Vegas (another product of the Extreme Poker Challenge). Phil Laak, Nick Grudzien, Jamie Glasser, Fraser Linkletter and Patrick Neary boarded a plane that took them 10,000 feet up in the air where they played No limit Hold’em and each player that got knocked out had to jump out of the plane with a parachute.
After fifteen minutes, online qualifier, Patrick Neary, was the first to get knocked out and pushed out of the plane. Soon after, Nick Grudzien eliminated Phil Laak, who was seemingly more than happy to take the plunge. After that Nick Grudzien made quick work of the remaining players and was the only competitor who didn’t have to jump out of the plane.