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The 20 Best Moments in Poker from 2006-2016: #5-1
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 we tried anyway.
In lieu of our traditional 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 also know technically 11 years is more than decade. But let’s throw caution to the wind, shall we?
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.
5. Isildur1 Happens
If there's a single player who captured the imagination of the poker world more than any other it's Viktor 'Isildur1' Blom.
His mysterious and anonymous rise up the stakes during the latter half of 2009 was as scintillating as anything seen before or since. The full story is well worth a read but, in broad strokes, he ran up a small deposit into $1.7m over a year or so of playing on smaller European sites.
He then took his bankroll, plopped it down on Full Tilt Poker under the nickname 'Isildur1' and sat with the game's best players for days (+ months) on end at the highest stakes possible.
He turned that $1.7m into close to $6m against the likes of Phil Ivey, Patrik Antonius and Tom Dwan, peaking with an epic, week-long run against durrrr that dented Dwan's bankroll for $4m.
Shortly after it came crashing down in an infamous session where he lost $4.2m to Brian Hastings. It was later revealed Hastings had shared hand histories with Brian Townsend and Cole South that had given him an unfair advantage.
It was a mind-boggling, heart-pumping few months of action we still can't believe happened. And if it doesn't get turned into a Movie of the Week at some point, it's a shame.
Even crazier? Blom has continued to swing almost as wildly for most of the 2010s, too.
4. Vicky Coren Wins 2nd EPT title
The groundbreaking, industry transforming European Poker Tour has officially come to its end after 13 Seasons, 115 Main Events and over a decade of memorable, amazing poker moments.
Legends have been made, careers have been launched and millions upon millions of euros have been taken home by thousands of the game's best (and worst) players.
Only one player has won a European Poker Tour Main Event twice - Vicky Coren Mitchell.
Original Late Night Poker 'groupie.' Author. TV personality. Quiz Show Host. Part 'crook and gambler.' Coren Mitchell wears a lot of hats but 'full-time poker pro' has never really been one. Which only makes her accomplishment all the more impressive.
And as the EPT has now been retired, no one can catch her. That seems fitting for a singular figure who carried the torch for the game in the UK and around Europe for much of the past decade.
3. Jamie Gold Wins $12m in 2006 Main Event
As we've tried to capture before, the 2006 WSOP Main Event was a singular poker sideshow of epic proportions not seen before or since. We were there in the flesh and we still can't believe it happened the way it did.
Watching Jamie Gold 'top-top' his way - boisterously, aggressively, haphazardly - to the biggest prize in poker history is something we'll never forget. Or see again.
It. was. crazy. And regardless of what happened afterwards, it will always stand as a high-water mark for the poker boom at its most ramshackle, unchained best.
2. Full Tilt Poker Players Get Repaid
Can one of poker's "best" moments of the past decade really be the (almost complete)reconciliation of it's worst?
We went back and forth on that for a while but, in the end, having hundreds of thousands of poker players get millions of dollars collectively stolen from them in the worst poker scandal in history returned is a good thing. A great and amazing thing, really.
That it was facilitated by one of the giants of the poker industry makes it even more significant.
It took a very long time. And it's still, in fact, being settled as the 'final' payments to players were just released a month or so ago.
Black Friday was an absolute debacle for poker in every aspect but if there's anything good to come out of it it's that poker players (and the game itself) clearly aren't the guilty parties.
1. Chip Reese Wins First $50,000 Poker Players Championship
There were “bigger” moments, more “talked about” moments and certainly more “consequential” moments for the global game of poker over the past 11 years.
None, retrospectively, seem more satisfying about the ultimate justice meted out by the game than Chip Reese winning the first-ever $50k Poker Player's Championship at the 2006 World Series of Poker.
We were just poker rookies ourselves then but the aura around Reese was one we'll never forget. Universally considered the best all around poker player at the time, Reese was respected even more for his unflagging 'gamblers honor' and loyal character.
He was taken far too soon but that Reese won the first-ever $50k test of "all-around" poker ability before he passed - and the trophy is named after him to this day - is maybe the most fitting match between player and reward we've ever seen.