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 into the dark side of things too, start with our 20 Worst Moments list here.
10. We Got durrrr'ed
Yep. It's a total cheat to lump some (if not all) of our favorite Tom 'durrrr' Dwan moments into one listing. Electrifying. But, really - if we singled them out one by one it might take up half (or more) of the entire Top 20. Few, if any, poker players lit up the game like Dwan did in the late-2000s/early 2010s. His every live appearance was appointment railing as was every nosebleed session on Rail Heaven.
His oversized reputation and legion of fanboys got under the attention-craving Phil Hellmuth's skin so much at the NBC HU Championship he memorably asked if durrrr would even be around in 5 years. That's some special stuff. But from every HSP pot someone got durrrr'ed in to his epic clashes with Isildur online to his first durrrr Challenge with Patrik Antonius, every durrrr moment was kind of a best poker moment.
One that might stand above the rest? When durrrr almost bankrupted the high-stakes economy in 2010 with his bracelet bets and unheralded Kiwi Simon Watt saved everybody's bacon. As far as vibes in the Amazon Room go that might have been the most buzz it's seen in the past decade -- Main Events included.
9. US Online Poker Legalized (Sorta)
It's was legitimately hard to decide if the return of online poker to the US after Black Friday - aka 'legal' online poker - should go on the Best or Worst Moments list. It hasn't really amounted to much so far. It hasn't led to any more than the first 3 states joining the market (although that might change in 2017). And it definitely hasn't got the US closer to rejoining the international player pool. But still. We hope.
Has it made up for the devastating effects of Black Friday or put the US into the discussion as one of the more progressive poker nations on Earth? No way. But when Ultimate Poker dealt the first legal hands of online poker in the United States on April 30, 2013, it felt like a watershed moment. And the hope for a healthy, globalized online poker market that includes the US is still there because of it. We'll cling to that moment with white knuckles for as long as we can.
8. Ivey Crushes 2009 WSOP, Makes Nov. 9
2009 Phil Ivey was boss. Poker is never more scintillating than when its stars are at their peak and 2009 Phil Ivey was, maybe, the best we've ever seen him. The consensus pick for the "best overall poker player in the world" at the time, every move the reclusive Ivey made on or off the table in those days was gobbled up by the hungry poker hordes.
Ivey delivered the ultimate buffet for his adoring poker fans when he came into the 2009 World Series of Poker and dominated like we haven't seen since. He ran deep in event after event after event. He won two bracelets, cashed six times and final tabled four times. The last event he final tabled was the biggest, where he made the Nov. 9 and finished 7th.
He was also rumored to have close to $10m on the table in bracelet side bets. It was peak Ivey every day on poker's biggest stage, and if you were lucky enough to be in the Amazon Room you felt it reverberating off the walls. If it had ended in a Main Event title, it might have just brought the whole Rio to the ground.
7. Annette_15 Wins 2007 WSOPE Main Event at 18
2007 Obrestad a phenom in many ways. It's hard to remember but back in 2007 the "online vs. live" debate was still a living, breathing thing. Old school "live" pros thought the "online kids" had no 'feel' or 'people skills' for the demands of live poker. 100-hand-an-hour online grinders thought the live dinosaurs were out of touch and overmatched in an evolving, math-based revolution of the game.
And then there was Annette Obrestad. Her prodigious online talents - including winning an entire 180-player tournament without looking at her hole cards - had established her as one of the top poker talents of any generation. But how would her skills survive in the male-dominated, dog-eat-dog world of live poker? Just fine, thank you.
Playing her first-ever WSOP at just 18 - the first year the WSOP expanded into Europe - Obrestad simply ripped through the field (including Theo Jorgensen and John Tabatabai at the final table) to become the first Female - and youngest winner - of any WSOP Main Event. The mainstream coverage it received in the UK might have superseded any poker had received beforehand and it certainly was a watershed moment for both young and female players.
6. High Stakes Poker Sets the Bar; Booth Bluffs Ivey
When High Stakes Poker premiered on the Game Show Network on January 16, 2006, no one suspected it might redefine poker on TV forever. It did. From the announcers (AJ Benza, Gabe Kaplan, Kara Scott) to the old-school legends (Doyle, DNegs, Ivey) to the new schoolers (Mercier, Galfond, Dwan) to the businessmen (Bob Safai, Jerry Buss, Mike Baxter, Guy) it was a high-wire poker act week-to-week you couldn't look away from.
Poker After Dark, The Big Game, Million Dollar Cash Game ... all very fun and watchable poker shows. But there was nothing quite like HSP. The high-water mark? Brad Booth in a pirate shirt bluffing Phil Ivey off kings with $1m on the table is a contender. But there were truly so many it's hard to pick just one. Check out a few below; remind us of your favorite in the comments.