The tournament reporting crew at PL.com never rests and we thought the average Jerry Yang's role as poker ambassador was basically nonexistent. After winning the 2007 WSOP Main Event Yang took on a new nickname - The Shadow - and it seemed to fit, as Yang would go months without being seen.
It seemed that although Yang became a World Champion he had no dreams of being the world's best poker player. We saw Yang at several events that took place in California but he busted out early in those events. Perhaps Yang was smart to realize he got lucky to win the 2007 WSOP Main Event and had no intention of donating it all back, or maybe he just didn't have that much interest in a professional poker-playing career.
Either way, Jerry Yang was one of the most invisible WSOP champions in recent memory and many are waiting with bated breath for the crowning of the 2008 champ, although they'll have to wait until November!
4. David Chiu Mounts the Comeback of a Lifetime
Gus Hansen appeared destined to win the 2008 WPT World Championship event. The aggressive Dane knocked out every player at the final table (with some fantastic suck-outs, one might add) except for David Chiu and entered the final table with a 6-1 chip lead. Most of the spectators agreed it might be easier just to give the money straight to Hansen.
In a dramatic turn of events Chiu absolutely refused to go down without a fight and started consistently winning small pots. Finally, after hours of tactical play, Chiu managed to pull ahead of Hansen. In the final hand Hansen finally got it in good, perhaps for the first time at the final table, with two pair versus a top pair. Chiu managed to spike an ace on the river and the championship was his.
The greatest comeback of all time? We'll leave that for you to decide, but it was a masterful performance by David Chiu.
3. Ivey, Griffin and Seidel Make WPT history
Although the World Poker Tour had a mixed year (of which, more later), it did have some fascinating winners.
Up until this year Phil Ivey had made countless final tables at the WPT but had never won. Well, Ivey silenced all the critics by winning the 2008 L.A. Poker Classic at the Commerce. It was a skilled final table that included Phil Hellmuth and Nam Le, but no one could stop Ivey. He banked $1,596,100 for his victory and his place in the WPT record books.
Erik Seidel is one of those players who's been involved with poker for so many years that people were starting to forget he was there. He reminded everybody just how good he was in '07/'08. Seidel finished off the 2007 WSOP with a bracelet victory and then proceeded to place second in the Aussie Millions for $879,028 in early 2008.
The best was yet to come, however, and in April Seidel used his tactical game to dominate the final table of the WPT Foxwoods Poker Classic. Seidel took home $967,390 and is already up to nearly $2 million in tournament winnings for 2008.
There are three major poker series/tours - the WSOP, the WPT and the EPT. Up until January 2008 no player had won an event in all three. It was in January that Gavin Griffin did the unthinkable and pulled off a victory at the WPT Borgata Winter Open. With previous victories at the WSOP (in 2004) the EPT Grand Final (2007), the WPT victory was the only one left for Griffin.
In the end Griffin survived some tough heads-up competition from David Tran and managed to emerge the victor at Borgata.
It could be quite a while before we see another player win the "Triple Crown" of poker and it was truly a landmark poker moment.
2. WPT Gears Down, EPT Gears Up
It was a disappointing year for the WPT. Tournament attendance seemed to be down across the board and the quarterly financial statements from the WPT were more depressing than the crowd at the Gold Coast slots at 4 a.m.
Poker on TV, in general, seems to be a bad bet these days and with High Stakes Poker recently not getting renewed there could be even more trouble afoot for the WPT. The WPT has already released a much slimmer schedule for the '08/'09 season, and it remains to be seen what the future holds for the organization.
On the other hand, the European Poker Tour is getting more popular by the minute. The EPT Grand Final drew 842 entrants and easily eclipsed the WPT World Championship's 545 players.
What's more, the future is bright for the EPT. With poker starting to take hold in places like Italy and Spain there's no telling just how big some of the future fields might be.
1. Annette Obrestad Wins WSOPE
You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who better represents the future of poker than Annette Obrestad. Young? Check. European? Yes sir. Female? Indeed.
Annette Obrestad was just 18 years old when she won the very first World Series of Poker Europe Main Event.
Seeing a young girl outlast a field that included players like Erick Lindgren, Annie Duke and Patrik Antonius and put on a fearless final-table performance was a bit surreal. Obrestad is the opposite of the old stereotype of lowlifes in a dingy bar playing cards, but perhaps it's time the game grew up.
There seem to be three largely untapped markets in the poker industry and they are Europe, Asia and the female demographic. If more growth is going to happen in the game it's likely it will happen in those areas.
Years from now people may look back and see Obrestad's victory in London as one of the most pivotal moments of the game's history. Only time will tell.