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.
15. Countless Mainstream Media Attacks on Poker
What’s wrong with playing a card game on the Internet? According to multiple mainstream media outlets and gaming mogul Sheldon Adelson: Everything. More like poker farce. At this point there have been so many blatant attacks on online poker that it would be nice if the anti-online poker groups at least got their facts straight.
Newsweek published one of the most blatant anti-online poker pieces ever in 2014 with a magazine cover that featured a sad-looking child holding a tablet with a royal flush on the screen and a title that read, “Poker Face.” The feature article argued that online gambling is a major concern for parents in the USA now that the “floodgates” were open (that would be New Jersey, Nevada and… Delaware). The article ignored the many security functions utilized by modern online poker sites in an effort to sensationalize the story.
Meanwhile Sheldon Adelson has been spewing the same nonsensical anti-online poker rhetoric for years. Even with online poker in the USA slowly being legalized and accepted as a form of generating tax revenue for beleaguered states these articles show no signs of slowing down. The heavily regulated online poker industry of 2016 is a far cry from the wild-west of 2003. It’s beyond time for mainstream media to understand that.
14. The Rise of Bully Culture in Online Poker Forums
Poker forums played a major role in the online poker boom and over the years have provided tons of value to poker players. Players have formed life-long friendships, devoured free poker strategy or even found people to sell their action. There is a dark side to online forums, however. As with any online community the veil of anonymity lets users insult each other with no threat of repercussion. Toxicity can dominate.
The mob mentality is very real on some of the biggest online poker forums and there have been many cases where the community has turned on some of its former heroes. It’s unpleasant, to say the least.
One of the lowest moments for poker forum culture came in 2008 when poker personality Brandi Hawbaker committed suicide. As an attractive young female poker pro Hawbaker was one of the most popular topics of discussion on the forums. Many had her pegged as a grifter or a con artist but her threads (in which she occasionally posted) had thousands of views. Many of the comments were not kind. It was an incredibly tragic end to her story and a reminder to think before you type something on the Internet. Obviously this is not a unique issue to online poker but it’s definitely a problem that many, many people can personally attest to.
13. Cheaters Prosper in Rare Cases on EPT
You know who ruins poker for everyone? Cheaters. There have been several incidents over the course of the last 10 years where that have collectively been a black eye for the poker industry.
Two of the most brazen attempts to game the system were Venezuelan Ivan Freitez’ audacious angle shoot in 2011 and EPT San Remo winner Constant Rijkenberg overselling his action in 2013. Freitez’ infamous play took place in the 2011 EPT Grand Final. He had the unlikely fortune of hitting a full house with 6-5 on a 5-3-K-5-6 board. Meanwhile Eugene Yanayt had K-Q and value-bet the river. Freitez announced raise but threw in a call. He then mumbled “No, sorry. I meant call.” The TD is called over because Freitez has allegedly been doing this for quite some time. “No English,” he feebly explained. Eventually Yanayt falls into the trap and makes the call. Of course Freitez goes on to win the tournament for €1.5m.
Meanwhile Constant Rijkenberg’s crime was simpler: He oversold his action, meaning he won EPT San Remo for €1.5m and actually owed people money because of it. For years following to oversell your action became known as the “Rijkenberg." These are just two cases of cheating in poker; there are obviously many, but a reminder there are still plenty of scumbags out there.
12. Brian Hastings Ends Isildur1’s Historic High-Stakes Run
Let's get this out of the way right away: This was not a worst moment for Brian Hastings. For just about everyone else, however, seeing Hastings destroy Viktor “Isildur1” Blom for $4.2m was the end of an era.
Blom’s incredible rise in online poker was like something from a movie script. Isildur1, unidentified pre-2011, burst onto the high-stakes scene in Sept. 2009 by battling the best poker players in the world. Including Phil Ivey, Patrik Antonius, and Tom Dwan. The young Swede played all hours of the day and was a huge winner of $6m by Nov. 15. Some of the biggest pots in online poker history happened during this time. But it all ended Dec. 8 when Hastings crushed Isildur1 for $4.2m.
It was later revealed that Hastings, Brian “sbrugby” Townsend and Cole South shared information to beat Isildur1, which led to Townsend getting his red pro status suspended by Full Tilt. Would the Isildur1 ride have come to an end anyways? Most likely yes. Regardless it was an unpleasant way for one of the most memorable hot streaks in the history of poker to come to an end.
11. EPT Safety Concerns in Berlin/Barcelona
The European Poker Tour was a rousing success in the poker world but it hasn’t been without a few bumps along the way. Safety is paramount at a poker event but two events featured chilling incidents. The first came in 2010 when the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Berlin was raided during EPT Berlin.
Armed men wearing black ski jackets and masks burst into the casino and eventually stole an undisclosed amount of cash. Action was obviously paused during the robbery but play resumed approximately 90 minutes after the incident. Some players, such as eventual winner Kevin MacPhee questioned whether it was wise to continue with the tournament after such a harrowing incident.
The other significant incident came in 2013 when Jens “Jeans86” Kyllonen had an incredibly scary incident where it appeared someone attempted to break into his room and hack his laptop. It’s a very long story, which Kyllonen recounted in a TwoPlusTwo forum thread called “My Unbelievable EPT Barcelona Story. Hotel Rooms in Arts Barcelona Broken into to Plant Trojans”. PokerStars would eventually come around to help Kyllonen but the casino didn’t really have his back, which was horrifying.