The 20 Best Moments in Poker in 2015: #20-16

Aaron Paul 14 2015 WSOP2
That was cool.

As is now tradition PokerListings is wrapping the year with a look back at some of the best and worst moments.

Depending on your viewpoint in the poker hierarchy, of course, some of these moments will clearly mean more or less to you.

But it's a big poker world out there and no matter which angle you have on it there are always plenty of amazing things to look back on after 12 months of high-impact poker.

These are a few of them. Satisfy your dark side with the 20 Worst Moments in Poker in 2016 here.

20. Aaron Paul Plays the Main Event

Aaron Paul 1 WSOP 3
Fun while it lasted.

It was pretty exciting when actor Aaron Paul – aka Jesse Pinkman of Breaking Bad – was just a lurker at the 2014 WSOP Main Event.

When he actually sat down and played this year? You could feel the electricity level rise a notch in the Amazon Room.

Sure, celebrity players have always played the Main Event. Ray Romano, Brad Garrett, Kevin Pollak, Jason Alexander, Roberto Luongo and Paul Pierce are just a few of the regulars.

But not since Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Tobey Maguire has such an of-the-moment star forked over $10,000 to take a stab at poker immortality. The low-key Paul was super cool about it, too, downplaying his celebrity and focusing in on the game and table around him. 

He busted pretty quickly (he flopped a set against a flopped flush and didn't get away) but however briefly it was fun to have him in the fold. Here's hoping he gives it another go in 2016.

19. Adrian Mateos Wins EPT Grand Final

WSOP Bracelet Winner Adrian Mateos 2013 WSOP EuropeEV0725K NLH High RollerFinal TableGiron8JG3774

We've pushed the ultra-talented, ultra-humble Mateos for our Rising Star each of the past two years but few people seem to have taken notice just how much he’s accomplished in such a short career. At just 21 years old Mateos has already won:

  • Estrellas Poker Tour Main Event for €103,053
  • World Series of Poker Europe Main Event for €1m
  • Two side events at EPT Deauville this past February
  • The EPT Grand Final in April for €1,082,000

If you're counting that includes two of the biggest events you can win in the game. Oh, and he just came fourth in the €25k One-Day High Roller at EPT Prague last week.

Mateos is second (!) overall on Spain’s All-Time money list behind only the legend (and deserved Hall of Famer) Carlos Mortensen.

This kid is really, really good at poker. And continues to put his best foot forward. One day he’ll get his due. And we hope it’s soon

18. Woods/Pham/Hellmuth Surprise at WSOP

James Woods 3

Even after 46 years the World Series of Poker never ceases to surprise. Just a few of the unexpected poker gems to materialize this year:

Christian Pham, who’d never played a hand of 2-7 in his life, accidentally registered for Event #15, the $1,500 2-7 No-Limit Draw Lowball, and realized it was the wrong event too late to withdraw. Then he won it.

Hollywood icon James Woods, who’s played the WSOP for many years, made his first final table this year. And he was as excited about it as you would hope. In fact Woods had his best WSOP ever this year and, with his unbridled enthusiasm for the game, continues to be one of poker's best ambassadors.

Phil Hellmuth won his 14th career WSOP bracelet this year and, whether you think that qualifies as a "surprise" or not in a world of 3,000-player tournaments and math geniuses occupying four seats at every table, Hellmuth continuing to win bracelets is almost nothing short of astounding.

17. Humans Beat Claudico


They say it’s inevitable – even for an incomplete information game like No-Limit Texas Hold’em – that machines will eventually be able to beat us all at poker. For 2015, at least, we held them off for one more year.

The most sophisticated NLHE AI ever created, Claudico, made its debut this year in a challenge against four of the best heads-up players in the world. The results say the humans won resoundingly – up around $700k in total over 80,000 hands – although the math (and the programmers) like to suggest it was more of a "statistical tie."

Either way Doug Polk, Bjorn Li, Dong Kim and Jason Les kept poker Skynet at bay. So kudos to them. Here’s hoping we can Edward Furlong this thing for a little while longer.

16. WSOP Changes Main Event Payouts to 1,000 places

2015 WSOP Day 1c Field2

A more-gigantic sum for the winner or more players going home with money in their pockets?

It's an age-old debate how to share the wealth in poker tournaments and in a move toward greater egalitarianism the WSOP decided this year to extend its Main Event payouts from about 668 to 1,000 places.

Top prize was knocked down from $10m to $7.6m but based on the 6,420 players who still bought in it didn't seem to effect anyone's plans to play. Instead more players left with extra cash and, the WSOP hopes, a desire to come reinvest it in the poker economy.

Is the "WSOP experience" and a better shot at a payout enough to keep poker fans coming back for the granddaddy of all poker tournaments? We hope so. And we'll see if that re-distribution brings an even bigger field in 2016.

The 22,374-player, $565 buy-in $5m Colossus was also pretty cool, even if the winner's payout left a few underwhelmed.

More in this series:

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