As the calendar rolls on and we begin a new year, let’s take a look back at the past 12 months and re-visit some of the top stories in poker in 2018.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but these 9 stories are meant to be a snapshot of what turned out to be a very eventful calendar year in the poker industry.
#9: MARIA KONNIKOVA CRUSHES; PUTS BOOK ON HOLD
Poker hit the mainstream news headlines early in 2018 when author Maria Konnikova put her writing career on hold after enjoying a remarkable run of success on the live tournament circuit.
Konnikova planned to write a book about the role of luck in life and wanted to learn how to play poker, but knew nothing about the game when she started her poker journey in 2017. She began studying poker theory and invested in training from eight-time WSOP bracelet winner Erik Seidel, and in late 2017 started playing in live tournaments.
Her first score of 2018 was a big one, as Konnikova took down first in the $1,500 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure National event, earning $84,600 and a Platinum Pass for the 2019 PokerStars Players Championship. Konnikova continued playing throughout the year, and ends 2018 with $273,057 in earnings.
That’s not too bad for someone who had never played poker in her life 18 months ago. With the book on hold for now, we can’t wait to see what Konnikova accomplishes on the felt at the PSPC and in 2019.
#8: SHORT DECK HOLD’EM HITS THE POKER MAINSTREAM
— Triton Poker (@tritonpoker) July 25, 2018
Short Deck/6-plus Hold’em has been around since at least 2015, but this year the game exploded in popularity. With the 2s through 5s removed, this new variant is played with a 36-card deck and completely different math and strategy.
The Triton High Roller Series showcased short deck poker in a series of high-stakes tournaments that brought Phil Ivey out of hiding, and saw many of poker’s biggest names travel across the globe to get a piece of the action in this high-variance game.
The 2018 Poker Masters added a short-deck event to the schedule, and the game has started popping up in Las Vegas poker rooms, at WSOP Circuit events, and online. A favorite of the high-stakes poker scene in Macau, short-deck versions of NL Hold’em and even Pot Limit Omaha have started appearing on PokerGO programming, and it appears the game may be here to stay.
#7: TRITON HIGH ROLLER CASH GAMES
Triton Poker not only gave us the Short Deck High Roller tournaments, but also a new series of high-stakes cash games that produced some of the biggest televised pots in poker history.
Tom Dwan, Phil Ivey, Jason Koon, and Mikita Badziakouski were amongst the high-stakes players mixing up with the highest rollers of the Asian poker scene, and giving us an inside look at the games that guys like Ivey and Dwan have been playing in Macau over the last few years.
We saw seven-figure pots develop several times, including a memorable hand between Dwan and Paul Phua that saw $2.35 million go in the middle! The Triton Poker YouTube channel kept us entertained throughout the year, with weekly episodes of these insane cash games at the nosebleed stakes.
#6: JOEY INGRAM’S UFC CONTENT
Joey Ingram has established himself as one of the most important personalities in the poker industry over the past five years, hosting the popular Poker Life podcast and creating content for a YouTube channel that’s essential viewing for any poker fan.
Perhaps no one could have predicted, however, what happened when Ingram decided to branch out from poker and take a shot at MMA commentary, in the aftermath of the Conor McGregor vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov main event at UFC 229. A massive brawl broke out at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas after the fight, and Ingram quickly went to work on a YouTube video investigation of the post-fight riot.
Ingram’s video quickly went viral and is up to more than 8.4 million views as we approach the beginning of 2019. The commentary introduced Ingram to the mainstream and gave us a glimpse at what could be in store for Ingram if he were to focus more time on MMA and other areas of content creation outside of poker.
#5: PARTYPOKER MILLIONS ONLINE BREAKS RECORDS
When partypoker announced it was taking a shot at running the biggest online tournament of all time, we were left to wonder if the $20 million guaranteed prize pool and $2.5 million first prize would involve a massive overlay.
With 4,367 entries into the $5,300 buy-in event, however, the final prize pool tallied $21,385,000, with the official first prize ending up at $2,729,376. Manuel ‘Sheparentao’ Ruivo and Pim ‘ForMatherRussia’ de Goede were the final two players standing, and made a deal at the final table that saw each player take home around $2.3 million.
This effort to raise the stakes in the realm of online poker tournaments was successful for partypoker, and we’re anxious to see if the MILLIONS Online goes even bigger in 2019.
#4: PHIL IVEY RETURNS TO TOURNAMENT POKER
After disappearing from the live tournament circuit for two years, one of the biggest stars in the game returned in 2018 and proved he’s still a force to be reckoned with, particularly on the high-stakes Short-Deck Hold’em scene.
Phil Ivey booked his first tournament cashes since January 2016 at the Triton Poker Super High Roller Series in Montenegro, placing first and third in two high-roller Short Deck events for a total of $2,271,472. Ivey also made regular appearances in the Triton High Roller cash games that started appearing on YouTube this year, much to the delight of fans of one of the biggest names from the original poker boom.
Ivey played a few events at the 2018 WSOP, cashing four times and bagging a six-figure score with a ninth-place finish in the $50k Players Championship for $111,447. He also entered the $1 million buy-in Big One for One Drop, finishing in 8th place after being knocked out by eventual champion Justin Bonomo.
Still one of the most intriguing figures in the game, poker fans can only hope that we see more of Ivey in 2019.
#3: JOE CADA’S 2018 WSOP
The2018 WSOP Main Event final table held even more drama than usual, with 2009 champion Joe Cada trying to pull of the unfathomable feat of winning the Main Event twice in the modern era. He came up just short, finishing in fifth place for $2,150,000, and even getting that far was one of the greatest WSOP feats we’ve ever seen.
Any doubts about Cada’s ability were put to rest this summer, as the 30-year-old racked up seven cashes, including two bracelet wins, for a total of $3,025,439 in earnings for the series. He’s now a four-time bracelet winner after posting wins in the $3k NL Shootout and $1.5k Closer events, and has to be considered a threat in any tournament at this point in his career.
Cada is the first former champion to come that close to pulling off a second Main Event win in the modern era of huge fields, and his journey to the 2018 final table was must-see television.
#2: JUSTIN BONOMO’S INSANE HEATER
Will anyone ever top the results that Justin Bonomo put up in 2018? The 33-year-old pro jumped to the top of the all-time tournament earnings list, ending the year with $43,463,089 in career earnings after an unfathomable 12-month run.
Bonomo earned $25,428,935 in 2018, and took home wins in the Super High Roller Bowl Macau (for a first prize of $4,823,077), Super High Roller Bowl IV in Las Vegas ($5,000,000), and the Big One for One Drop at the WSOP for $10,000,000. He also began the year with a seven-figure cash in January, finishing second in the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Super High Roller for $1,077,800.
Overall, Bonomo had 19 six-figure or better cashes in 2018, and we might never see a heater quite like this ever again.
#1: BEST CHRISTMAS EVER FOR JEREMY HILSERCOP
I bought my husband a trip to the WSOP in Vegas for Christmas this year. We’ve never been able to afford to go til this year. He was very surprised! @WSOP @RealKidPoker @phil_hellmuth @MagicAntonio @PhilLaak @PokerGO #poker #wsop pic.twitter.com/QTRHY4zNST
— Randi Hilsercop (@Randi_heatlifer) December 25, 2018
Our No. 1 story of 2018 came together in the final week of the year, starting with a video of a lifelong poker fan opening a dream Christmas gift from his wife.
Randi Hilsercop wrapped up the ultimate holiday poker present for her husband Jeremy, buying him a trip to the 2019 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas and an entry into a $500 tournament. Jeremy was overcome with emotion upon opening the gift, and video of the moment between the poker-loving Tennessee couple went viral on Reddit and social media.
A trip to the WSOP is something Jeremy never thought could actually happen, but it was just the beginning of this Christmas story.
Meanwhile, Team Run It Up Ambassador Arlie Shaban was trying to complete a challenge of “12 Labors” issued by PokerStars, with a $30k Platinum Pass to the PokerStars Players Championship on the line. In the final of the 12 tasks, Shaban had to convince longtime PokerStars critic Joey Ingram to accept a Platinum Pass and play in the event.
Ingram spent the week leading up to Christmas contemplating the offer, and on Christmas day accepted the Platinum Pass, on one condition: Jeremy Hilsercop also getting a Platinum Pass, along with Shaban.
I will accept your $30k Platinum Pass offer today on XMAS @PokerStars @PokerStarsLIVE if we can also get Jeremy a Platinum Pass as well. I think him & his wife @Randi_heatlifer could use the sun. @ArlieShaban wins his Platinum Pass as well. @erichollreiser
— Joey “Clause” Ingram (@Joeingram1) December 25, 2018
This incredible confluence of events now has the Hilsercops traveling to the Bahamas in January, Jeremy playing the PSPC in the biggest poker tournament of his life, and both Shaban and Ingram also in the event.
Can Jeremy cash in the tournament and earn life-changing money for the Hilsercop family? All eyes in the poker world will be on the PSPC to find out.
How was your 2018, poker-wise?
Let us know in the comments below!
For more top poker stories from 2018, check out PokerNews’ top 10 list here.