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The 20 Worst Moments in Poker in 2014: #10-6
You know what they say: Into every poker year a little grand jury indictment, prop-bet stiffing and gross media exaggeration must fall.
OK; no one says that.
In a lot of respects, 2014 was another banner year for poker. Attendance was up at major events around the globe. Dan Colman won $22(!) million in tournaments, large and small. The Battle of Malta went off like a rocket.
We'll save talk of all good that stuff for our "Best Poker Moments of 2014" series, though. This is where we delve into the darker side of poker in 2014.
10. Ultimate Poker Shut Downs/NJ Traffic Flatlines
When legal online poker returned to New Jersey (and Nevada and Delaware) last year, US poker fans celebrated near and far.
We even went so far as to declare it the #1 Best Moment in Poker in 2013. It wasn't much, at least in terms of population bases, but it was a start.
Online poker was back in the US, for real, and it looked like only a matter of time before more states came on board, intrastate player pools would be consolidated and a new, booming online poker economy would blossom.
Fast forward to a year later and, well ... things don't look too much different than they did last year.
Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey are still the only states with legal online poker, although California seems on the brink.
Along the way Ultimate Poker, the first poker site to hit the market in Nevada, has shut down operations. Online poker traffic in New Jersey has been stagnant although an uptick in December has brought some hope.
WSOP.com has shown flashes of potential, and it's still just a matter of time until legalized US online poker returns in full force, but it's been a frustrating year watching things stall out.
9. Vicky Coren Mitchell Resigns from Team Pro Over Casino Games
She's the first player to win two European Poker Tour main event titles. She's the host of a prominent, high-brow game show in England.
She's a writer, presenter and was one of the most universally respected PokerStars pro for over seven years. And now she's not part of it anymore.
Vicky Coren Mitchell surprised a lot of people last month when she announced she had terminated her endorsement contract with PokerStars after it introduced casino games into its client.
One of Team PokerStars pro's longest-standing representatives - and one of its best links to the mainstream - Coren says she didn't have a beef with the business decision or the company itself per se but just couldn't personally continue on given her position on addictive gambling:
"This is no criticism of PokerStars itself: business is business, they are providing a new service that people want, and I know they intend to abide by some key principles of responsible gaming. It’s not anti-casino either; I spend a lot of time in casinos, and I have been known to indulge in live table gaming.
"But I cannot professionally and publicly endorse it, even passively by silence with my name still over the shop. Poker is the game I love, poker is what I signed up to promote."
While some hailed Coren as a hero of sorts - perhaps misplacing their anger at recent rake and VIP changes - it's not likely to have a huge ripple effect on the poker economy. And her stance does seem a bit hypocritical to some.
But the end result is it's still a shame one of poker's leading proponents is another layer removed from the game.
8. Newhouse Busts Ninth in the Main Event. Again.
Fan of Newhouse or not, this is hard to watch:
7. Aviation Club Raided, Shut Down in Paris
The Aviation Club de France is a casino in central Paris that opened in 1907. 1907!
It's been an iconic spot for poker in Europe, the location of some great and memorable WPT and French poker events and its the de facto home for many great players in French poker history including Bruno Fitoussi.
In September it was raided by police and shut down. Twelve people were taken into custody and charged, at least as we understand it, for allegedly hiring black market labor.
Guilty or innocent we're not sure, but anytime a landmark for poker anymore gets shut down it's a bad moment for the game.
We always wanted to play there, too.
6. Players Locked in Card Room at RPT Ukraine
In early February the Russian Poker Tour attempted to host a poker event at the Imperial Poker Club in the Ukrainian city of Kiev.
Also in early February, though, the city of Kiev was in the midst of intense rioting and civil unrest that led to hundreds of people killed or wounded.
As late as Feb. 16 the RPT posted a note online saying conditions were safe enough for the tournament to start and for players to make their way to Kiev/the casino.
Shortly after conditions detoriated so much that players who had arrived were actually locked inside the casino for their own safety before eventually being evacuated.
On Feb. 19 the RPT issued an apology on its website but, given the obvious safety risks that quickly materialized, it seems pretty clear the event should have been called off long before any cards hit the air.
Poker players need to take responsibility for their own attendance but let's think less about dollars and more about safety in 2015, yeah?