The adage has it that "March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb." With a flurry of activity in the online world, March 2007 was indeed filled with turmoil and surprises, but disproving the proverb, the end of the month only saw more frenetic activity.
Early in March we saw a concrete example of what hundreds of thousands of American citizens were going through regarding the decision of NETeller to stop fund transfers for U.S. citizens. Isaac Haxton, who had finished as the runner-up to Ryan Daut at the WPT PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in January, informed the poker world that a majority of his second-place prize money was being held by NETeller.
As you may recall, NETeller froze the accounts of all Americans due to the arrest of its founders early in 2007. Haxton, who earned over $800,000 for his efforts in the Bahamas, considered many avenues to reclaim his funds and also demonstrated the variance that top players in the poker world have to deal with.
As the NETeller situation continued to play out, online poker seemed poised to make headway as a legitimate venture in Europe. The European Union cracked down on Italy due to its 2006 laws that precluded foreign companies from competing for bettors and poker players.
The European Free Trade Act has a section stating that all member nations are to allow online gaming and poker. When the EU's highest court ruled that Italy was in violation of this clause, many in the poker world were hopeful that other countries with state-run monopolies, such as France and Germany, would soon see their operations challenged as well.
The World Champion of Poker, Jamie Gold, also spoke out during the month regarding the pitfalls of success from his WSOP victory in 2006. He stated that he could have been a better ambassador for the game of poker and commented on the lawsuit that resulted from his $12 million victory.
The tournament poker world also had several surprises in a month of action. Unknowns Adam Weinraub and Zachary Hyman took championships in the WPT Invitational and the Wynn Classic, respectively, but the most surprising tournament success was that of actress Shannon Elizabeth.
Following in the footsteps of another actress who has had success in poker, Jennifer Tilly, Elizabeth was granted a spot in the National Heads-Up Poker Championship. She stunned those in attendance by defeating 2006 WSOP Player of the Year Jeff Madsen, Barry Greenstein, Rene Angelil and Humberto Brenes before being beaten by eventual champion Paul Wasicka.
Elizabeth's amazing showing proved that she definitely had been working on her poker skills.
As the month came to a close, there seemed to be a return of sorts to the status quo in the tournament world. Ted Forrest denied Joanne "J. J." Liu the privilege of becoming the first woman to win a WPT open event when he bested her at the Bay 101 Shooting Star event and, as the month came to a close and poker prepared for the upcoming World Series of Poker, poker professional J.C. Tran took out J.C. Alvarado in Reno at the World Poker Challenge.
But March went out nothing like a lamb, with the poker world anticipating major upcoming titles on the European Poker Tour and the WPT. There was also the World Series lurking around the corner, but many other news issues would come to the forefront of the poker world in April and throughout the year. We'll look at those in the next installment of the 2007 Year in Review.