Usually in this column, we take a look at the most important events in the past seven days of poker, both in terms of casino action and online play. Well, since we’ve reached the point that the year is just about over and the new one is about to begin, we thought we’d switch it up. As a result, here are the top stories from the last 12 months in the world of poker.
Live Casino Stoppage
It is impossible to recap the year in real money poker without talking about the massive impact that social distancing and lockdowns have had on the poker world. Quite simply, it made live poker with people all sitting in the same room at the same table next to impossible.
Obviously, the idea of social distancing is a difficult one to practice at a live poker table. As a result, many poker rooms remain closed, and some have been shuttered completely. Luckily, the online option— as we’re about to talk about—flourished to pick up the slack.
Online Poker Boom
There was a time when online poker seemed dead in the water following the introduction of the UIGEA. But in the strange year of 2020, online poker turned out to be a savior. It allowed poker action to continue without people needing to congregate together in the same location.
As a result, records were broken in terms of poker handle just about everywhere. Some hardcore players who had never tried the online sphere found no other recourse but to try it out. And many of those players found that, once they got over their fears of relying on technology, they enjoyed the convenience of it.
One interesting sidelight from the interest in online poker was the use of Bitcoin in this format. As the digital coins boomed in value, many online gambling sites had to scramble to meet the demand of the players to be paid in it. In all regards, 2020 was one for the books for online poker enthusiasts, and the momentum isn’t likely to slow down anytime soon.
When the word that the World Series of Poker—which is usually held in the spring—would be postponed, it was no big surprise. Most events scheduled for that time had already suffered that same fate. But it was a pleasant surprise when an online version of the WSOP, the most prestigious of all poker tournaments, was announced. It took place in the late summer with both international and US flights handing out a plethora of bracelets, and they even crowned an online Main Event winner in Bulgaria’s Stoyan Madanzhiev.
The international Main Event was captured by Argentina’s Damian Salas. The so-called “domestic” final table will produce a winner this coming week. That winner will face Salas, with both already having pocketed in excess of $1.5 million for their efforts, in a head-to-head duel with another $1 million on the line.
The Grudge Match of the Century
If you’re a poker fan and you don’t know about the feud between Daniel Negreanu and Doug Polk, you either possess property under a rock somewhere or you don’t use social media. In short, the two have been sniping at each other for years about a variety of issues surrounding the poker world, all without meeting very often in actual poker action. 2020 gave them the chance to rectify that, and their head-to-head matchup has been an entertaining diversion for poker fans missing the normal tournament action.
It wasn’t easy, as the pair beefed back and forth about the format. Months passed between when Polk’s challenge was accepted by Negreanu and when the cards were dealt and these two actually went at it. After an initial in-person session, the two have been conducting the battle online for the past several weeks.
The good news is that the two combatants have kept it surprisingly civil, even going so far as to subtly complement each other for their play. And the play has been enjoyable throughout, even if Polk, the heavy favorite due to his familiarity with heads-up, multi-hand play, has held a solid lead most of the way. As of right now, with nearly half of the 25,000 scheduled hands having been played, Polk’s lead is a sturdy, if not insurmountable, $696,000.
An Old Friend Returns, Another Says Farewell
For fans of televised poker who remembered the poker boom times of the early 2000s, 2020 was a bit of a mixed blessing. On the positive side, there was the return of High Stakes Poker. For those who may have forgotten, HSP was a stalwart on cable that captured the essence of high-stakes cash games rather than tournament play.
You might have thought 2020 would be an odd year for it to make a comeback. But the new show, streaming on GGPoker each week, proved to be the perfect tonic for those missing the interplay between charismatic pros playing for monster stakes. And the good news is that the show, in its new incarnation, really matches the feel of the original without seeming like a needles rehash.
Sadly, another stalwart of that TV era, and one of the greatest ambassadors for poker in general, passed away. The great Mike Sexton died at age 72 in September. 2020 was a rough year in many aspects for poker, as resilient as it was, and you could make a good argument that the loss of Sexton was the biggest blow of all. And that wraps up the biggest poker happenings in 2020! We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the latest news right here on the site.