With female players rocking the WSOP, Greg Merson putting on an inspiring performance in the Main Event and mainstream star Georges "Rush" St-Pierre signing with an online poker site there was plenty of poker greatness in 2012.
So much greatness, in fact, that we are counting down the top 25 Best Moments in Poker.
10. Greg Merson Goes Back-to-Back, Wins Main Event
Greg Merson might not be the most glamorous champion in the history of the Main Event but he just might be one of the best.
Let’s take a look at Merson’s achievements this year:
Primarily a cash-game player, Merson recorded a WSOP for the ages with four cashes, three final tables, two bracelets in back-to-back events and, oh yeah, a Main Event victory for $8.5 million. It was enough to narrowly edge WSOPE ME winner Phil Hellmuth for Player of the Year.
Merson is no joke. Known as Gregy20723 online, he was a successful poker player long before this year’s WSOP. It's obvious Merson is popular within the poker community as hundreds of fans showed up to cheer him on.
His dominating performance at a riveting final table proved once again that poker is a skill game. What’s more, his openness about his addiction-riddled past has been both interesting and inspirational to the mainstream media.
At a final table that was initially devoid of compelling characters, Merson was the stone-cold Nuts. All in all, a fantastic winner for poker’s biggest prize.
9. Rettenmaier Wins Back-to-Back WPT titles
Marvin Rettenmaier killed it.
“Mad” Marvin Rettenmaier became the first player to win back-to-back WPT titles in the history of the tour this year.
The German kicked off his incredible run by outlasting a tough-as-nails, 152-player field at the WPT World Championship.
Rettenmaier beat a final table that included Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi and Nick Schulman to secure the first-place prize of $1.1 million
Rettenmaier then went on to win the very next WPT – the Merit Cyprus Classic – for $287,784 less than three months later.
Amazingly Rettenmaier also found time to cash six times at the WSOP in between WPT titles and bagged the the high roller title at EPT Prague for €365k in December. Not a bad year for the Mad German.
8. Micro-Stakes Grinder Maratik Wins WCOOP ME for $1 Million
A graph to write home about.
Not every great poker story features Phil Hellmuth or Phil Ivey winning millions.
Sometimes it’s a Russian micro-stakes player who speaks very little English but has a huge heart.
Marat “Maratik” Sharafutdinov went on an unprecedented run this year that saw him win $1 million in the PokerStars WCOOP Main Event.
Amazingly Maratik qualified for the $5,200 buy-in WCOOP on just 40 Frequent Player Points.
Maratik even outlasted noted grinders Ryan "TheCart3r" Carter and Mike "munchenHB" Telker to snag online poker's biggest title.
One of the funniest moments occurred when Maratik was negotiating a deal with the three remaining players.
Maratik very simply said “I WONT MILLION” in broken English in the chatbox. The saying quickly gained popularity in the forums and became somewhat of a meme in the poker world.
He got the million too.
7. Women Dominate, Selbst Leads Charge
In a league of her own.
2012 was quite simply an incredible year for female poker players.
The last few years at the WSOP there has been a surprisingly lack of female players making huge scores but that all changed this summer.
Vanessa Selbst, Jackie Glazer, Amanda Musumeci, Cherish Andrews, Allyn Jaffrey Shulman and Xuan Liu highlighted an impressive year for female players that included numerous final tables, several runner-up finishes and two WSOP bracelet victories.
Yale graduate Selbst was perhaps the most impressive of all, however.
This year Selbst won an LAPC side event for $140k, cashed five times at the WSOP, made two final tables, made a deep run in the Main Event and became the first woman since 2008 to win an open WSOP event.
The last woman to win a bracelet in 2008? That would be Selbst. Talk about playing on another level.
The future appears to be very bright for female poker players.
6. PokerStars signs Rafa, 888poker signs GSP
Rafa! Rafa! Rafa!
International sports superstars Rafael Nadal and Georges “Rush” St-Pierre shocked the world by signing major endorsement deals with online poker sites in 2012.
There has been plenty of celebrity endorsers for poker rooms over the years but none approach the caliber of Nadal and St-Pierre.
Nadal, easily one of the most well-known tennis players in the world, was rumored to have signed with PokerStars in early 2012 but due to ongoing law changes in the Spanish market the online poker site kept the deal under wraps until summer.
The tennis star has been featured in a few ads but made his debut playing on PokerStars in the Spanish Championship of Online Poker in November.
Meanwhile St-Pierre, one of the best pound-for-pound MMA fighters in the world, signed with 888poker and immediately appeared in a number of ads for the brand. St-Pierre also played the WSOP and despite not sticking around for long, certainly had an impact on poker fans.
If St-Pierre and Nadal mark the start of a trend, we could see more huge names signing deals with online poker sites in 2013.
More of the 25 Best Moments in Poker in 2012: