The year that wasAmidst all the fears that the poker bubble would finally burst in 2009, the year actually turned out to be something of a cracker. Gambling takes a brief look at some of the most memorable moments
His native Toronto may still have been in the icy grip of winter, but over in the sunnier climes of Paradise Island, Canadian Poorya Nazari got his year off to a scorcher by taking down $3 million at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure.
That win secured his place as the first poker millionaire of the new year and Nazari was soon joined by Aussie Millions champion Stewart Scott and WPT Southern Poker Classic winner Allen Carter in a month that proved predictions of an economic downturn crippling poker were well wide of the mark.
On the legal front, January also saw the first of a series of landmark rulings in the US as Pennsylvania courts struck a blow against the country?s existing gambling legislation by deeming poker a game of skill.
February saw the World Poker Tour make its now-customary trip to the Commerce Casino for the LA Poker Classic, where Andrew ?Cornel? Cimpan was the big winner.
Cimpan picked up a cool $1.6 million in the main event after besting a final table which included World Series bracelet winners Chris Karagulleyan and Chris ?Jesus? Ferguson. The stop also saw the emergence of highly talented online player Vivek Rajkumar in the live arena after the young pro took down the heads-up side event.
In the month?s other news, internet prodigy Tom ?durrrr? Dwan confirmed Patrik Antonius as his first opponent in a $1.5 million online challenge, Barney Frank announced his plans to reform the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act and Theo Jorgensen beat fellow Dane Gus Hansen in the boxing ring.
It was ladies? month in March as two of poker?s femme fatales secured six-figure cashes in live poker events. First, German ?ShootingStar? Sandra Naujoks exploded onto the scene by taking down the EPT Dortmund in her own backyard, becoming only the second woman after England?s Vicky Coren to land a tour title.
Back in the US, meanwhile, Vanessa Rousso celebrated signing a new endorsement deal with GoDaddy.com by finishing runner-up at the 2009 NBC Heads-Up Poker Championship after she lost out to 1996 WSOP Main Event winner Huck Seed.
After a sensational run to the final which saw her defeat poker luminaries Doyle Brunson, Scotty Nguyen and Daniel Negreanu, Rousso fell just short of the title against the experienced Seed, but her runner-up finish was still good for $250,000.
The World Poker Tour again took centre stage in April as the climax of their seventh season, the WPT World Championships, was taken down by Yevgeniy Timoshenko.
The baby-faced assassin turned in a composed performance to defeat Ran Azor heads-up and capture over $2 million in prize money on a tough final table which also included highly-rated youngsters Christian Harder and Shannon Shorr, poker legend Scotty Nguyen and flying Frenchman Bertrand ?ElkY? Grospellier.
The last of these players, ?ElkY?, ultimately crashed out in third place, but the result proved enough to land him the WPT Player of the Year title ahead of John Phan.
Meanwhile, on the European circuit, Constant Rijkenberg?s celebrations for winning the EPT San Remo were cut short when it emerged that the Dutchman had inadvertently sold off 163% of his ?1,508,000 pay-day to various backers. D?oh!
May saw the finale of the EPT?s fifth season unfold in Monte Carlo as Dutchman Pieter de Korver completed a Lazarus-like comeback to defeat American hope Matthew Woodward in the Grand Final.
The EPT curtain-closer also saw a resurgent Vanessa Rousso continue her recent run of form by netting a career-best ?570,000 after defeating Randy Dorfman in the ?25,000 buy-in High Roller side event.
Of course, the month of May also saw weeks of fevered anticipation melt away as the 40th annual World Series of Poker descended on the Rio in Vegas. There, Russian Vitaly Lunkin got proceedings spectacularly underway after besting Isaac Haxton in the commemorative $40,000 anniversary event.
For fans of bad TV, May also saw UltimateBet pro Annie Duke lose out to Joan Rivers in the Celebrity Apprentice final.
With the nation still in the grip of WSOP fever, all eyes fell on the Rio in June, where a Series dominated by the pros threw up all manner of big-name bracelet winners.
Among them was none other than Phil Ivey, who returned to the felt with a sense of vigour not witnessed since his all-conquering treble-bracelet year in 2002 to capture his sixth and seventh career titles, while Jeff Lisandro also completed one of the most unprecedented feats in modern poker by notching a Stud bracelet treble.
Other undoubted highlights included British pro Roland De Wolfe capturing the $5,000 PLO Hi/Lo event, with the bracelet ensuring that he became only the second person to capture poker?s coveted triple-crown of EPT, WPT and WSOP titles.
The make-up of poker?s elite was discovered in July as the surviving members of the WSOP Main Event were confirmed as the November Nine who would return to contest the bracelet later in the year.
The marquee name among them was Phil Ivey, who built on his successful summer by reaching the final table seventh in chips. Among the players joining him were British hope James Akenhead, a potential youngest-ever champion in Joe Cada and the runaway chip leader Darvin Moon.
However, despite his Herculean efforts in making the November final, Ivey was unable to overhaul Jeff Lisandro in the race for Player of the Year title, with the Italian?s three bracelets securing him the 2009 honour regardless of the final table result.
July was also a month that brought poker legislation to the fore, as the Poker Players Alliance launched National Poker Week to promote the game and the Moscow EPT was forced to relocate due to Russia?s clamp-down on gambling.
With so much live action over the previous three months, it was time for things to start heating up on the virtual felt in August as all manner of drama unfolded online.
Perhaps the biggest story of the month was the arrival of mysterious Scandinavian player ?martonas? at the highest stakes games on Full Tilt. The player rapidly went on a heater that saw him become the first player to clean out Tom Dwan and accrued some $2.6 million in winnings before things turned sour.
A costly switch to the PLO tables saw ?martonas? rapidly relieved of his profits as a reloaded Dwan, Ilari ?Ziigmund? Sahamies and the two Dang brothers, Hac and Di, took it in turns to take chunks out of him. The brutal downswing saw ?martonas? pushed back into the red despite his stellar start to the month and he promptly disappeared from Tilt.
With the EPT and WPT having kicked-off their new seasons, pit-stops in Barcelona and Las Vegas saw two more Americans etched into the annals of tour history.
First up, online pro Carter Phillips put on a big-stack master class at the EPT Barcelona to see-off the challenge of British veteran Marc Goodwin and capture the ?850,000 first prize, and he was soon joined on winners? row by Prahlad Friedmam, who was crowned WPT?s latest Legend of Poker.
September also saw the gambling world mourn the passing of Las Vegas casino mogul Bob Stupak, who sadly lost his battle with leukaemia. Stupak was a keen poker player himself and his death prompted plenty of personal tributes from the high-stakes community.
Before thoughts could drift to November?s final table in Vegas, there was still the small matter of four bracelet events to be contested back home at the World Series of Poker Europe.
Britain?s JP Kelly, Canadian Erik Cajelais and Finn Jani Vilmunen all notched wins in the smaller buy-in events before the big guns came out of hiding to contest the £10,000 buy-in Main Event.
An incredibly strong starting field was eventually whittled down to a final table that included Daniel Negreanu, Jason Mercier, Praz Bansi and November Niners James Akenhead and Antoine Saout, but in the end it was a player with an altogether different connection to the Vegas finale who took top honours.
Barry Shulman ? father of WSOP finalist Jeff Shulman ? ultimately defeated Negreanu heads-up to claim the title and £801,603 first prize in what was the biggest tournament ever held in the UK ? until the EPT London smashed that record just a week later.
With all the pre-game speculation and anxiety finally subsiding, the November Nine took to Vegas to battle it out for poker?s ultimate achievement and a life-changing first prize of $8.5 million.
There, an action-packed final table saw the early departures of fan favourites Phil Ivey and James Akenhead before Darvin Moon?s monster chip-stack managed to propel him to a heads-up finale against young gun Joseph Cada.
Despite Moon coming into the final table as chip leader, it was Cada who held a 2-to-1 chip advantage at the start of heads-up play, and though the lead swung back and forth, the Michigan-based pro was eventually able to seal the deal when his pocket nines held up against his opponent?s queen-jack.
The win ensured that 21-year-old Cada became the youngest ever Main Event champion, eclipsing the record set by Peter Eastgate the previous year, and ushering in the reign of another poker prodigy at the game?s summit.