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The 20 Best Moments in Poker from 2006-2016: #15-11
Is it audacious - perhaps even a little bit unhinged - to condense 11 years (4,105 days) of poker moments across the globe into just 20 "best" and "worst?"
Absolutely. But why not, right?
Instead of our annual Best and Worst Moments of the Year series we’ve aimed a little wider this year with a stab at the 20 Best/Worst Moments of the 'Decade.'
We know 11 years is more than decade. But let’s throw mathematical accuracy to the wind and go for it anyway.
Thoughts, feelings and feedback about events we've missed/overestimated are welcome in the comments. If you're more into the dark side of things, start with our 20 Worst Moments list here.
15. REG Gets Real
They say that poker is a zero sum game and for every winner there has to be a loser. From a purely cut-and-dry perspective, that's true.
But what that winner does with his or her money can have ramifications well beyond just a nice commission for a luxury car salesman.
Poker has a long tradition of charitable giving - well back to the pre-online poker days - and you will likely not find a more generous cross-section of people in any industry.
From Jen Harman's annual SPCA fundraiser to Daniel Negreanu's contributions to St Jude's Hospital to Dan Smith matching $175k in charitable donations this year, poker players of all bankroll levels give and give and give - and rarely ask for praise in return.
The founding of the Phil Gruissem/Liv Boeree/Igor Kurganov-driven REG Charity might be the height of poker's charitable evolution as it's both a) perpetual and b) uses poker's greatest talent to generate the most money and put it too most effective use.
That's a big step in poker's evolution and something we need to continue to celebrate.
14. The First Big One for One Drop
With big buy-in events happening with regularity around the world these days a $1m buy-in tournament doesn't sound all that incredible anymore.
Back in 2012, though, it was a huge deal. And the first Big One for One Drop spearheaded by Guy Laliberte was pretty thrilling.
The pros were champing at the bit to get in months in advance. Rich businessmen weren't tired of getting run over by pros and asking for an invitation-only event instead. And the massive prize pool turned the all-time money winners list on its head.
Antonio Esfandiari, of course, won it and the largest prize ($18m) ever in poker. Sam Trickett got $10m for second. Phil Hellmuth came fourth (!) for $2.6m.
It was a grand spectacle to say the least; follow-ups since haven't quite lived up to the original. That $5.3m also went to providing those in need with fresh water was a wonderful outcome, too.
13. Rise of the Mid-Level Buy-Ins
While increasingly huge buy-ins were the trend in the mid-late 2000s, by the mid 2010s the poker economy had almost reversed itself. En vogue these days are much more modest buy-ins accessible to punters of virtually any bankroll size.
The first-ever WSOP Colossus in 2012 was the first bracelet event under $1,000 buy-in. The guarantee was $5m and 22,372 players bought in to break the record for largest live poker tournament ever.
Colossus II (with a $7m guarantee) did similar, as did the Millionaire Makers. The 888Live Series and Unibet Open circuit are breaking records at virtually every stop. Dusk Til Dawn and partypoker crush with GBP 500 tournaments on the regular.
The Battle of Malta, of course, has broken its own record for attendance every year of its existence.
You can still find plenty of big buy-ins and their usual suspects around but the true momentum in the poker industry lies in the low buy-ins.
It's only going to grow with India and China coming into the fold. It's poker for the people and that's a healthy sign for the next decade.
12. The Rise of Twitch/Live Streaming
Speaking of poker for the people ... It doesn't get more grassroots than a guy with a webcam and a few open online poker tables streaming from his basement to a group of friends and eager learners.
That's what Twitch.tv has wrought and its dramatic rise in popularity has shown there are still uncharted poker markets out there to be reached.
Jason Somerville is, of course, the king of the medium but cohorts like Parker "tonkaaaaP" Talbot and Jamie Staples have likewise built up extensive followings.
Big guns like Lex Veldhuis, Dutch Boyd, Doug Polk, Jeff Gross and Bill Perkins have also jumped on board and reshaped what you can expect to see on a stream. Perkins' amazing PokerStars Championship package giveaways sets a whole new bar.
Meanwhile, feature and final-table live streams from poker events around the world have also become the norm and opened up a whole new level of accessibility for poker fans locally and internationally.
It's a far cry from old episodes of the WPT playing on a corner TV at the sports bar and it might just lead poker back to the masses in the coming years.
11. Every Day at Rail Heaven
For those who worked office jobs in the late 2000s it doesn't take much more than those two words to bring back some incredible memories of an entirely different time and place in poker.
For those who missed it ... well, it's kind of hard to capture just what it felt like to log in to the old Full Tilt Poker client on a Tuesday afternoon and see million-dollar bankrolls on the table.
The epic sessions between Tom 'durrrr' Dwan and Viktor 'Isildur1' Blom (and ultimately Blom-Brian Hastings) in Nov. 2009 might have been its ultimate peak but watching Ivey, Antonius, Sahamies & Hansen and an amazing crop of young guns (Phil Galfond, The Dang brothers, Jungleman) pick apart the many accounts of Guy Laliberte at astonishing limits daily was, well, virtually unbelievable.
How much of that was 'real' money changing hands we might not ever now. But on the surface it was thrilling to watch, regardless. We could pick out 100 different moments that stand out but that Rail Heaven existed at all seems like a dream we can't quite believe actually happened.