The 25 Best Moments in Poker in 2012: 5-1

Phil Hellmuth
Best or worst? Your choice.

No more messing around. In one of the most memorable years in the history of poker we’re counting down the top five most earth-shattering moments of 2012.

To see how we got here check out our last 25 Best Moments in Poker 2012 piece.

Or, for the cynic in all of us we’ve also compiled our 25 Worst Moments in Poker 2012.

Without further ado here are the top five unabashed best moments in poker in 2012 with Phil Ivey’s amazing resurgence, Grinder dominance, Hellmuth uniting titles and more.

5. Ivey Dominates 2012 WSOP

Phil Ivey
Ivey! Ivey! Ivey!
 

Phil Ivey made up for lost time at the 2012 WSOP by going on a rampage for the history books.

You might remember Ivey skipped the entire 2011 WSOP due to ongoing issues with Full Tilt Poker. He returned to the poker circuit in early 2012 and his numbers at the WSOP this year pretty much speak for themselves:

June 6, 2012

  • 118th place in Event 14 $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em for $5,295
  • Seventh place in Event 15 $5,000 Seven-Card Stud Hi Lo for $34,595

June 8, 2012

  • Second place in Event 17 $10,000 Pot-Limit Hold’em for $275,559

June 11, 2012

  • Third place in Event 24 $5,000 Omaha Hi-Lo for $136,046

June 16, 2012

  • Fifth place in Event 32 $10,000 H.O.R.S.E. for $99,739

June 18, 2012

  • Eighth place in Event 35 $2,500 Mixed Hold’em for $21,699

July 4, 2012

  • 208th place in Event 59 $1,000 No-Limit Hold’em for $3,119

For a nearly two-week span in the middle of the summer Phil Ivey would bust out of a final table, enter another event and make the final table of that tournament.

In total Ivey made five final tables and won over half a million at the WSOP alone. The sick thing is that Ivey probably considers the series a bit of bust because he didn’t actually win a bracelet.

4. Michael Mizrachi Wins Second $50k Players Championship

Michael Mizrachi
Grinders need love too.
 

This one tends to get lost in the shuffle but the fact Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi won arguably the toughest tournament in the world for a second time in 2012 is astonishing.

We’re talking about the $50,000 buy-in Players Championship at the WSOP. There are now tournaments with bigger buy-ins but the Players Championship is still considered by many to be the truest test of a poker player’s mettle.

It’s true that Mizrachi didn’t have to get by huge fields either time that he won (116 in 2010 and 108 this year) but he still had to outlast nearly every big name in poker.

This time around Mizrachi beat a final table that included Luke Schwartz and Andy Bloch to claim the first-place prize of $1.4 million.

If that’s not enough to impress you, reflect on the fact that, since 2010, Michael Mizrachi has made 10 WSOP final tables, won three WSOP bracelets, finished third in the 2012 WPT World Championship and fifth at the 2010 WSOP Main Event.

In total, Mizrachi has won a staggering $7,097,995 playing tournaments since 2010. How does this guy not have a major online poker site sponsorship deal again?

3. ONE DROP Amazes, Esfandiari Wins Record $18 Million

Antonio Esfandiari
Antonio Esfandiari's greatest magic trick.
 

For years poker tournament buy-ins have been escalating but we may have finally reached the peak in 2012.

Antonio Esfandiari outlasted 48 players to win the first-ever $1 million buy-in tournament for $18,346,673 at the WSOP this summer.

The BIG ONE for ONE DROP, which was the brainchild of Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte, created a massive $42 million-prize pool.

The final table wasn’t bad either with poker pros Esfandiari, Sam Trickett and Phil Hellmuth competing with businessmen David Einhorn and Laliberte.

Although Esfandiari later admitted he had less than 100% of himself in the event, he rocketed to the top of the official all-time tournament earnings list with over $23 million.

More importantly the event raised $10 million for charity including $5.3 million for the ONE DROP initiative, which helps provide safe water in impoverished countries.

2. Hellmuth Wins Two Bracelets Including WSOPE ME

Phil Hellmuth
Oh great, now he won't shut up until 2022
 

Phil Hellmuth has claimed he’s the best No-Limit Hold’em tournament player in the world for years but he may have just proven it in 2012.

The Poker Brat cashed 10 times at the WSOP and WSOPE this year, made four final tables and won two bracelets including the WSOPE Main Event.

Back in 2009-10 Hellmuth seemed to be bordering on irrelevancy and many had him pegged as a one-trick pony that could only succeed in No-Limit Hold’em.

Hellmuth responded in 2011 by finishing runner-up in three non-Hold’em events but it was in 2012 that he made perhaps his greatest argument that he can keep up with the young guns in the game.

First Hellmuth won his first non-Hold’em bracelet in the $2,500 Razz event in Las Vegas. Then at the WSOPE Main Event in Cannes, Hellmuth outlasted 420 players to win $1.3 million and become the only poker player in history to win both North American and European WSOP Main Event titles.

You can mock Hellmuth's methods all you want but his results are much more difficult to challenge.

No matter what happens in the poker world, it appears Hellmuth isn’t going anywhere any time soon.

1. PokerStars/Full Tilt Deal

Stars Full Tilt chop
Is this real life?
 

You had to know this one was coming.

PokerStars' landmark settlement with DOJ to acquire Full Tilt Poker’s assets will likely have ramifications on the poker industry for years to come.

It’s been a rough couple years for Full Tilt Poker players, with numerous rumors about deals being made, until finally PokerStars played the part of white knight and successfully took over and repaid non-U.S. players.

Unfortunately U.S. players are still waiting for their funds from the Department of Justice, but that certainly isn’t the fault of PokerStars who shipped $547 million to the U.S. government.

Now that the smoke has cleared, it remains to be seen whether PokerStars/Full Tilt Poker will be allowed back in the U.S.

Regardless of what happens the landscape of the poker industry has been drastically altered.

A few years ago it seemed inconceivable that bitter rivals PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker would be owned by the same company. As of 2012, it’s a reality.

More of the 25 Best Moments in Poker in 2012:

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PayDatMan 2012-12-31 14:29:51

besides hundreds of thousands? yeah...

cypher 2012-12-31 14:28:03

Phil Ivey didn't actually win anything at the WSOP.

Hank 2012-12-30 09:35:59

Fair dues to Hellmuth, Can't stand the man really but owning both of the Main Event titles will likely never be matched. Very impressive record over the last few years. Now, if only he could do something about his personality he might make for someone to root for.

Grant 2012-12-29 22:45:49

Some guy is holding Antonio's bare foot in that picture. Super creepy.

flips 2012-12-29 22:23:59

But Phil Hellmuth had the sickest run of all time@1