Is condensing over a decade of poker news into 20 “worst” and “best” moments a fool’s errand?
That hasn’t stopped us from attempting it, however, as this year we’re replacing our traditional best and worst moments of the year with a massive decade-spanning list that includes many of the biggest stories in poker history.
Today we’re starting with the worst poker moments but don’t worry the best moments are right here.
Lists like this are obviously going to be subjective so we welcome your feedback in the comments. Let us know if there are any glaring misses or anything we overestimated.
10. Hille, Baumann Bubble WSOP Final Table
The 2012 WSOP Main Event final table was shaping up to be an all-time classic with two women — Elisabeth Hille and Gaëlle Baumann on the cusp of getting a spot at the biggest poker table of the year.
Instead Hille and Baumann crashed out in 11th and 10th leaving poker fans and media stunned.
Why was it such a big deal?
In its 40+ year existence the WSOP Main Event final table has featured a female poker player just once — that was Barbara Enright in 1995.
In other words: we’re due.
A female player at the final table would be a welcome change from the legions of men that have been featured on poker’s biggest stage.
We like to think Baumann or Hille would have had the opportunity to hit up the talk show circuit (a pipe dream of the N9 concept).
Perhaps it would have finally bumped female participation in the Main Event past the 5% that it’s been hovering at for years.
And if both Hille and Baumann made the final table? Forget about it. That’s the perfect storm.
Instead it’s 2016 and we’re still bitter about that infamous bubble.
9. Widespread Tanking in Tournament Poker
If there’s one key issue that tends to sap tournaments of entertainment value for spectators and enjoyment for players it’s unnecessary tanking.
You might think this issue would be resigned to seniors' tournament but it’s actually a tactic employed quite often by young players.
Now there’s no question that you want players to have adequate time to make important decisions but if a player is taking five minutes every hand then that’s a huge, huge problem.
It’s one of those rare instances in the otherwise self-focused game of poker that you have to think about the bigger picture and the community at large.
We’d like to say that tanking has gotten better as the game becomes more sophisticated but if anything it feels like it’s gotten worse.
The fact there are players who utilize tanking simply to tilt their opponents is abhorrent.
8. Rise of Poker Bots/HUDs/Seating Scripts
Perhaps the biggest fear of brand-new poker players is that they are playing unfair games.
That point is clear when you visit any casual poker site like Zynga Poker and you see bold claims of “Rigged!” “Unfair!” “Shady!”
These players are already at a disadvantage to experienced players so the idea of playing a game that’s actually unbeatable is terrifying.
That’s why it’s unfortunate that online poker has had an uptick of bots, heads-up displays, advanced seating scripts and add-ons over the last five years.
New players are flighty enough and if they get even a hint of foul play then they will take their money and run for the hills.
Now you can debate the merit of heads-up displays and seating scripts but the fact remains the new players are getting chewed up faster than ever before.
Those add-ons have led to a paradigm shift in the major online poker sites who are now adapting anonymous tables and quick-seat functions in an effort to protect the fish on their sites.
Would most players give up HUDs and seat scripts for a steady infusion of fish? The Magic 8-ball is leaning towards "yes".
7. USA Waffles on Online Poker, US Poker Pros Scatter
When the US DOJ indicted three of the top poker sites operating in the USA in 2011 they also forced thousands of online poker pros out of the country.
For the first couple years poker pros seemed to be more-or-less OK with spending a bit more time in Mexico or Canada.
Many pros felt that legal widespread poker in the USA was coming and they would be able to return to their homes and earn a living in a few years.
It didn’t shake out that way.
There have been frustrating start-and-stop movements to legalize poker in NY and California but nothing that’s stuck.
Therefore to this day, American poker players are forced out of the country when they want to play. Over the years its been taking its toll on some players.
Brian Hastings and Sorel Mizzi are among the many players who used VPNs to play global online poker sites from the USA and were subsequently banned from major sites.
Many online pros have simply given up the dream and moved on to other professions. There are others, however, who are hold out hope that “Maybe next year” when it comes to online poker.
It’s been a long five years.
6. PokerStars Backdoors End of SuperNova Elite
It’s one thing to dramatically change your business model. It’s another to essentially backdoor changes without informing your most loyal customers.
That’s why PokerStars effectively crippling SuperNova Elite in late 2015 without warning was one of the most contentious decisions in the history of the company.
PokerStars is one of the most loved sites in the history of poker and that’s why it was particularly striking when Dani Stern and other grinders organized a boycott of the site in December of 2015 after news broke about SuperNova Elite getting nixed.
It was clear the company was changing with a specific focus on recreational players and new verticals like sports betting and casino but it was a bitter pill for professionals who worked hard to achieve SuperNova Elite that year.
Simply put: PokerStars completely changed its direction while keeping its highest-volume players in the dark. Not great.