Before Poker Central and PokerGO, no poker entity had given high-stakes players the chance to compete in a full live poker series dedicated to high buy-in tournaments. Executives knew that the interest was there, as they saw players buy in to events like the Super High Roller Bowl in big numbers.
Tournament organizers also felt confident in the interest from poker fans. By putting the events on PokerGO for livestreaming, and making subscriptions affordable, the series had the potential to become an exclusive and unique event on the poker landscape.
In the summer of 2017, poker fans had just watched the World Series of Poker Main Event action play down to the final table. And Poker Central had announced that fan-favorite TV show Poker After Dark would return, having been in limbo since 2011. With all eyes on poker in mid-July 2017, Poker Central and ARIA Casino announced a new venture: Poker Masters.
Over the course of one week, Poker Masters would offer five high roller tournaments at the poker room at Aria Las Vegas. Each of the first four tournaments would require a $50,000 buy-in, allow one reentry per player, and play out over the course of two days. The series would then culminate in a $100,000 buy-in freezeout (no reentries) finale that would play out over three days.
A perk for the players was the opportunity to play rake-free poker. By registering for any or all of the first four events on time, they would avoid paying any rake. And if they played all tournaments, they could avoid rake in the finale.
Fans would be able to watch the action with a PokerGO subscription. There would be a 30-second shot clock to ensure consistent action, and they could see it all play out on the live poker stream.
Finally, there was an unusual prize awaiting the overall series champion. In the same vein as golf’s Augusta National awarding the final champion the green jacket, the player with the highest earnings across the Poker Masters series would win the Poker Masters Purple Jacket™. Poker Central employed fashion designer Waraire Boswell, who was known to design fashion for everyone from Will Smith to LeBron James and from Ellen DeGeneres to Pharell Williams. It was and continues to be the most unique championship bonus in poker.
The inaugural year was such a success that the series grew rapidly. From five events in 2017, Poker Masters then offered seven tournaments in 2018 and ten in 2019.
The first year also started with an agreement with NBC Sports to broadcast the Poker Masters series. That led Poker Central to talks with NBC Sports Group, which resulted in a multi-year agreement for NBC Sports Network to broadcast Poker Masters on linear and digital platforms. NBC also added the US Poker Open and Super High Roller Bowl to the agreement, starting in 2018.
That deal was supposed to go through 2020, but the pandemic forced an abrupt end to the partnership, as live poker was on hold for the indefinite future. The Poker Masters went online with partypoker and expanded greatly, not only to offer 30 tournaments online in 2020 but to also run a Poker Masters Online Pot Limit Omaha series of 16 events.
When Poker Central – then PokerGO – resumed live play at the PokerGO Studio at Aria Las Vegas in 2021, Poker Masters became a mixture of poker variants, with even an 8-Game Mix added to PLO and NLHE events. It ultimately reverted back to No Limit Texas Hold’em only in 2023, though that was only because the PokerGO Tour (PGT) had expanded the annual high-stakes tournament offerings to include more Omaha and mixed game action.
Let’s take a look at the history of Poker Masters by year.
There is no doubt that the Poker Masters series will continue in 2024. The series has been an ongoing success for PokerGO and the PGT.
PokerGO will likely announce the 2024 Poker Masters schedule in the first half of the year.
In homage to the original intent of the series, the 2023 Poker Masters reverted back to a schedule of all No Limit Hold’em tournaments. They started at the $10,000 buy-in level and increased to $25,000 buy-ins by Event 7 and finished with a $50,000 buy-in finale.
The action started in mid-September with Lithuanian player Vladas Tamasauskas cashing in his first Poker Masters events, actually winning two of the first three events of the series. Darren Elias jumped in to win Event 2, and David “Chino” Rheem grabbed Event 4. Andrew Lichtenberger, Orpen Kisacikoglu, Nick Schulman, Stephen Chidwick, and Justin Bonomo each won an event as well, but Jonathan Jaffe won the Main Event. Out of 42 entries and a total prize pool of $2.1 million, Jaffe won it for $756,000.
However, when PokerGO tallied the points from the series, Chidwick beat out Tamasauskas for the Purple Jacket, as Chidwick had a total of four final tables, including the one victory, pulling together $1,109,000 in winnings.
The mixture of events that comprised the 2022 Poker Masters brought the best in the game to play in ten tournaments, six with $10,000 buy-ins, three with $25,000 price tags, and a Main Event with a $50,000 buy-in.
Poker players left their masks and hand sanitizer bottles at home – well, many of them did – and came out in sizable numbers to compete in the Poker Masters at the PokerGO Studio on the Las Vegas Strip. Event 1 brought in 85 entries, and Jeremy Ausmus collected $204,000 for the win.
The list of winners in 2022 was a diverse one, featuring wins from Ethan Yau, Ronald Keijzer, Adam Hendrix, Nick Guagenti, Martin Zamani, Andrew Lichtenberger, Tony Bloom, and Sean Winter. Strongman Jason Koon emerged as the Main Event winner, taking home an ominous $666,000 from the $1,85 million prize pool.
The points race was tight in 2022, with no double winners and Sean Winter barely slipping into the Purple Jacket with a few more points than Jason Koon. Winter had two final tables and the one win for a total of $777,000 in earnings.
The action was back, live and in person, in Las Vegas. As the poker world attempted to resume some sense of normalcy after the worst of the pandemic appeared to have passed, players were excited to be back at physical poker tables. They were uncharacteristically sociable and chock-full of lockdown tales.
The live 2021 Poker Masters schedule offered 12 events, the first seven with $10,000 buy-ins, the next three with $25,000 buy-ins, then a $50,000 followed by a $100,000 Main Event.
Shannon Shorr kicked things off with an Event 1 win, and Sean Perry, Adam Hendrix, and Brock Wilson followed in the next tournaments. Daniel Negreanu captured a NLHE victory, just months after winning a PGT PokerGO Gup event that broke an extended streak without a win. Maxx Coleman won the 8-Game Mix event, and the next titles went to Stephen Chidwick, Chris Brewer, Miles Rampel, and Mikita Bodyakovsky.
Aussie poker crusher Michael Addamo then stepped in. He won Event 11 for $680,000 and then the Poker Masters Main Event for $1.16 million. Addamo dominated the points leaderboard for the series, earning double the points of second-place Nick Petrangelo. Addamo’s two victories and $1.84M in winnings earned him a coveted Purple Jacket.
Poker players around the world were quarantined and locked in for as much online poker as they could handle. PokerGO wanted to give it to them. The partnership with partypoker to provide the Poker Masters Online series was a hit, so they scheduled another one. This series was all Pot Limit Omaha, sixteen events spanning just one week.
Several players took multiple wins in the series: Jens Kyllonen won three, Bengt Sonnert and Andreas Nemeth each took two, and Jesper Hougaard grabbed two wins as well. But it was Eelis Parssinen of Finland who won one of the tournaments but made six final tables, giving him the only Poker Masters PLO Purple Jacket to ever be awarded.
As soon as the world shut down due to the rapid spread of Covid-19, the team at PokerGO knew they could be in for a rough year. Live poker shut down for an undetermined amount of time, so they immediately contacted partypoker to see about putting some of the most popular PokerGO Tour series online. By mid-April, the first Poker Masters Online began with 30 events on the schedule.
The winners of the series spanned the globe, from Greece to Australia, Italy to Switzerland, and Canada to the United States – albeit many of them had to play from countries wherein they could access the global partypoker site. Well-known high-stakes players like Alex Foxen, Mike Watson, Michael Addamo, Dan Smith, Steve O’Dwyer, and Jason Koon won titles, with Linus Loeliger taking down the $50,000 buy-in NLHE Main Event. He won more than $1 million from the field of 77 entries and prize pool of $3.85 million.
But it was Alexandros Kolonias of Greece who won two events, made five final tables, and cashed in 11 tournaments to win $1,266,296 and win the Purple Jacket championship bonus.
The series was a hit, and players looked forward to it each year. The 2019 Poker Masters spread its wings to offer 10 events and included some non-NLHE poker action, though it lowered its Main Event from $100,000 in past years to just $50,000 for the buy-in.
Starting on November 4 that year, the first event showed the series’ popularity with 97 entries and a $970,000 prize pool. Isaac Baron won that, and Ryan Laplante won his first Poker Masters title in Event 2. Jonathan Depa, Jared Bleznick, Julien Martini, Kristen Foxen, Kahle Burns, and Sergi Reixach also won titles. Sam Soverel won a $25K PLO event and then took down the Main Event.
In total, Soverel collected nearly $1.4 million for his two wins and seven final tables, earning nearly double the points of Kahle Burns. Soverel proudly got fitted for his Purple Jacket.
The inaugural Poker Masters had gone so well with its five events that Poker Central executives expanded it for the second year. There were seven events instead of five, and the buy-ins offered a wider range, starting at $10,000 and working up to the $100,000 finale.
David Peters collected the first title in the $10,000 NLHE event, and Brandon Adams won the second, followed by Keith Lehr and Isaac Haxton. Ali Imsirovic won Events 5 and 6, but Peters came back to win the Main Event.
The points leaderboard was very close, with Ali Imsirovic beating Peters by just ten points overall. For the two wins and three final tables, Imsirovic won the Purple Jacket to go with his $1,288,600 in winnings.
The first-ever Poker Masters took place in September with five tournaments in the lineup. There were three $50,000 buy-ins and one $100,000 buy-in grand finale. The first four events offered one reentry each, but the Main Event was a freezeout.
Event 1 brought in 51 entries for a $2.55 million prize pool, from which Nick Schulman took home $918,000. From 50 entries in Event 2, Steffen Sontheimer of Germany won $900,000 out of the $2.5 million prize pool. Bryn Kenney and Brandon Adams won the next two events. Event 5 delivered 36 players to the tables and a $3.6 million prize pool for the top six players. Sontheimer won that one, too.
Sontheimer won two events and final tabled all five of them. He collected $2,733,000 in cash and won the inaugural Purple Jacket grand prize.
|Year||Events||Main Event||Main Event Winner||Purple Jacket Winner|
|2023||10||$50K NLHE||Jonathan Jaffe||Steven Chidwick (1 win, 4 final tables)|
|2022||10||$50K NLHE||Jason Koon||Sean Winter (1 win, 2 final tables)|
|2021||12||$100K NLHE||Michael Addamo||Michael Addamo (2 wins, 2 final tables)|
|2020||16||$50K PLO||Isaac Haxton||Eelis Parssinen (1 win, 6 final tables)|
|2020||30||$50K NLHE||Linus Loeliger||Alexandros Kolonias (2 wins, 5 final tables)|
|2019||10||$50K NLHE||Sam Soverel||Sam Soverel (2 wins, 7 final tables)|
|2018||7||$100K NLHE||David Peters||Ali Imsirovic (2 wins, 3 final tables)|
|2017||5||$100K NLHE||Steffen Sontheimer||Steffen Sontheimer (2 wins, 5 final tables)|