In all the years I've been writing the PokerStars Year in Review, I have never seen a year quite like 2011. Anyone with a true love for the game has spent the past twelve months on a roller coaster ride the likes of which we had never before experienced. Like a poker game itself, this year has seen its ups and downs. Now, as we prepare to close the books on 2011, it's worth it to take a look back at the highlights from the year gone by.
In the face of what could've been a tough year, PokerStars and its players persevered and found success all over the world. Bumper live fields impressed the circuit rounders. Online players broke world records. PokerStars celebrated its tenth anniversary, and its loyal players celebrated in kind. Now we look forward to 2012, a year that already promises big live events, a brand new turbo online tournament series, and the final steps along the Road to 100 Billion.
Once again, thanks to you, the loyal PokerStars player and PokerStars Blog reader. You make our jobs fun, and you make PokerStars what it is. We wish you peace, success, and prosperity in 2012.
Happy New Year.
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ISILDUR1 BEATS TONY G IN SUPERSTAR SHOWDOWN--Just a few days before he revealed his true identity once and for all, Isildur1 sent the notorious Tony G. on his bike in the first SuperStars Showdown of 2011.
VIKTOR BLOM COPS TO HIS SECRET IDENTITY--As part of his new life as a Team PokerStars Pro, Viktor Blom announced he was, indeed, Isildur1. The big reveal happened at the 2011 PCA. Afterward, Team Pro's biggest 2011 signing spent the next year playing his SuperStar Showdowns and frequenting the nosebleed games.
KATCHALOV DEFEATS NEGREANU IN SUPER HIGH ROLLER--For the first time, the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure held a $100,000 Super High Roller event. It drew 38 of the biggest names in high-dollar poker. Team PokerStars Pro Daniel Negreanu got heads up with Eugene Katchalov. That was as far as it went for Kid Poker. Katchalov came out on top for the $1.5 million win.
JONATHAN DUHAMEL JOINS TEAM POKERSTARS PRO--In what was probably an inevitability, 2010 WSOP champion Jonathan Duhamel officially announced he was joining the ranks of Team PokerStars Pro. Duhamel almost immediately went to EPT Deauville and won the High Roller event there for $200,000.
POKERSTARS UNVEILS HOME GAMES--Always at the forefront of new innovations, PokerStars used the first month of the year to reveal one of the biggest innovations in years. PokerStars Home Games was an immediate hit among players and became even more so after it was announced Lee Jones was returning to PokerStars to head up the effort.
ITALY WINS WORLD CUP OF POKER--With as much energy as any World Cup of Poker team before it, Team Italy won its first World Cup championship at Atlantis during the 2011 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure.
GALEN HALL WINS $2.3 MILLION AT 2011 PCA--Cerebral, reserved, and a student of the game, Galen Hall staged an historic comeback at the 2011 PCA main event final table to win $2.3 million. He defeated the biggest field in PCA history, one that saw 1,560 sign up to play. Hall was the biggest star of the 2011 festival, but he was joined on the winners' podium by High Roller winner Will Molson, Ladies Event winner Kristin Bihr, and Bounty Shootout champ Andrew Chen. This year's PCA also saw Chris Moneymaker make a deep run and nearly make the final table.
BLOM DEFEATS CATES IN SUPERSTAR SHOWDOWN--Letting little time pass after beating Tony G., Viktor Blom resumed his SuperStar Showdowns and beat Daniel Cates for more than $50,000.
WBCOOP CROWNS BLOGGER CHAMPIONS--For the past five years, PokerStars celebrated its players who spent as much time writing about poker as playing it. That happened again in the World Blogger Championship of Online Poker.
LUCIEN COHEN WINS EPT DEAUVILLE--In a story for underdog lovers everywhere, Lucien Cohen astounded the field at EPT Deauville to win €880,000 and the main event championship.
OCTAVIAN VOEGELE WINS ANZPT ADELAIDE--A year after placing third at the ANZPT Adelaide main event in Season 2, Octavian Voegele returned and finished the job, taking first place and winning nearly $150,000.
LIV BOEREE WINS SUNDAY WARM-UP--No one ever accused her of being just another pretty face. Liv Boeree took care of that with her EPT San Remo win. Just in case anybody forgot, Boeree took the opportunity to win a Sunday major.
TEAM ONLINE ANNOUNCES CLASS OF 2011--The were already bright stars among PokerStars' online ranks, but in February, Team Online made it official when it named players like Dale Philip, Shane Schleger, and Andrew Brokos to the ranks of Team Online.
BLOM BEATS KATCHALOV IN SUPERSTAR SHOWDOWN--Still on his early 2011 heater, Viktor Blom took on Eugene Katchalov in the SuperStar Showdown series and beat him for more than $100,000.
GARETH WALKER WINS UKIPT NOTTINGHAM--More than 1,000 players showed up to UKIPT Nottingham, and Gareth Walker managed to outplay them all for the title and £109,000.
ALEX MANZANO WINS LAPT SAO PAULO--It was the first time the LAPT had visited Sao Paulo, and the Brazilians were looking for a chance to win their first LAPT title. Chilean Alex Manzano made sure that didn't happen when he won the record-breaking LAPT main event.
BLOM TAKES ON QUALIFIER--Viktor "Isildur1" Blom likes to spend most of his time playing against the people in the high stakes rooms. In February, he stepped down in stakes for an afternoon to give a qualifier a shot.
MICHAEL TURENIEC WINS EPT COPENHAGEN--One-time EPT main event runner-up Michael Tureniec could still taste the victory he missed in London. He settled that score with an EPT Copenhagen title.
ANDREW LI BECOMES FIRST 2011 SUPERNOVA ELITE--It seems to happen earlier every year. This year, Andrew Li broke the record for first Supernova Elite of the year by three weeks.
SUNDAY MILLION BREAKS RECORD--Though it was a record that would only last for nine months, the Sunday Million's fifth birthday broke all the event's previous records with a prize pool worth $11,825,600. Luke "Bdbeatslayer" Vrabel won the title.
CHRIS MONEYMAKER GOES DEEP AT HEADS-UP CHAMPIONSHIP--Proving once again that he's not some flash in the pan, Chris Moneymaker finishes runner-up at the NBC Heads-Up Poker Championship.
VICTOR RAMDIN WINS THE BIG EVENT--Heads up against then fellow Team PokerStars Pro Joe Hachem, PokerStars' Victor Ramdin won half a million bucks at the Bike in Los Angeles.
POKERSTARS REVEALS SUNDAY STORM--What was once known as The Sunday 1/4 Million got a new name: The Sunday Storm.
BLOM WINS ROUND 1 AGAINST NEGREANU--In the first of two SuperStar Showdown matches, Viktor Blom won $150,000 off Daniel Negreanu in fewer than 1,500 hands.
JOHNSON WINS FIRST EUREKA POKER TOUR EVENT--In March, PokerStars debuted the Eureka Poker Tour and saw its first champion Keith Johnson win €58,400.
FIGUEIREDO WINS LAPT CHILE--After Chile's devastating earthquake, the LAPT was forced to take a break from hosting events there. In 2011, the LAPT made its return for Chile's National Poker Championship.
POKERSTARS SIGNS KATCHALOV TO TEAM PRO--In a match made in heaven (and cemented at the PCA after a Super High Roller win) Team PokerStars Pro and Eugene Katchaov made it official.
GESHKENBEIN WINS EPT SNOWFEST--The EPT made its return to the Austrian Alps for one of the best poker vacations of the year. Vladimir Geshkenbein won the title.
GRANT LEVY WINS ANZPT PERTH--Already an APPT champion, Grant Levy went to Perth, Australia as a PokerStars qualifier and won the ANZPT event there.
NEGREANU GETS BLOM IN ROUND 2--After losing $150,000 to Viktor Blom in the first of two SuperStar Showdown matches, Daniel Negreanu broke Viktor Blom's winning streak and beat the young gun for $26,500.
POGO650 WINS POKERSTARS 60 BILLIONTH HAND--In a year that would see more than a few big PokerStars milestones, March saw the 60 billionth hand come out. it was worth more than $100,000 to PokerStars player Pogo650.
BLOM DROPS A FEW BLINDS TO PALMER, BUT WINS THEM BACK, AND MORE--In a highly-anticipated SuperStar Showdown match, Victor Blom played Scott Palmer in the first of two rounds. Blom lost, but only $5,245. In the next round, Blom came back to win more than $61,000.
WILINOFSKY WINS EPT BERLIN--In Season 8, the Germans would begin to dominate the EPT, but toward the end of Season 7, the EPT invaded Germany, and Canadian Ben Wilinofsky defeated Germany's Maximilian Heinzelmann for the title and €825,000 first prize.
LIN WINS MACAU MILLIONS--After battling though 1,329 people, the largest poker field in Asian history, Hung-sheng Lin won the Macau Millions in the PokerStars Macau Poker room.
SELBST WINS SECOND NAPT TITLE--In a stunning repeat performance, Team PokerStars Pro Vanessa Selbst traveled to Mohegan Sun for the NAPT (the site of her first NAPT title) and won the event again.
MERCIER MATCHES SELBST WITH BACK-TO-BACK WIN--As if to say, "Oh, yeah, I can do that, too," Team PokerStars Pro Jason Mercier followed up his 2010 NAPT Mohegan Sun victory with a second at the same venue in 2011.
KANAAN WINS ANZPT SYDNEY--In a lighting-fast final table performance, Daniel Kanaan won the ANZPT event in Sydney, Australia.
HOMETOWN BOY DOES GOOD--When the Latin American Poker Tour made the trip to Lima, Peru, local player Kemai Ferri made sure the trophy didn't leave town.
BLOM GIVES ANOTHER QUALIFIER A SHOT--After a bunch of high-profile matches, Viktor Blom gave an online qualifier a chance to win some big money. It worked out better for Blom.
TURBO TAKEDOWN RETIRES--After a great run that saw a lot of people win a lot of cool cars, the PokerStars Turbo Takedown played its last match and quietly left the PokerStars tournament schedule.
ELDER WINS EPT SAN REMO--Max Heinzelmann, fresh off his near-win at EPT Berlin, once again tried (and once again failed) to win a championship. Instead the title went to Englishman Rupert Elder for the €930,000 first prize.
ELKY WINS EPT MADRID HIGH ROLLER--Proving once again that there is simply no place in the world he can't win, Team PokerStars Pro Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier won the EPT High Roller in Madrid for more than half a million euros.
SCOOP RETURNS, KELOPURO RIDES HIGH--The Spring Championship of Online Poker came back to PokerStars and finished with more than $43 million in prize money. In total, SCOOP hosted 114 events with more than 107,000 unique players, 403,378 buy-ins, and 156 countries. Riding high among the biggest winners was Sami Kelopuro who won the big-buy-in main event, while Anders Berg grabbed Player of the Series honors.
IVAN FREITEZ WINS EPT GRAND FINAL--For the first time in its seven-season history, the EPT moved its Grand Final to Madrid, Spain. There, Ivan Freitez put on an unorthodox display to win the title and €1.5 million.
BRITO WINS EPT PLAYER OF THE YEAR--After a startling season-long performance, businessman Fernando Brito won the EPT Player of the Year award.
MERCIER WINS CHAMPION OF CHAMPIONS--As if to prove he could win any event you put him in, Jason "When Will It End" Mercier won the EPT Champion of Champions event to close EPT Season 7.
RODRIGUEZ SCORES WINS ON EUREKA POKER TOUR--Just a couple of months after finishing runner up in Prague, Antonio Rodriguez won the Eureka Poker Tour's event in Nova Gorica.
MATUSIK WINS ANZPT GOLD COAST--Chewing Gum Pete Matusik beat out a field of 245 players over four days to win the ANZPT Gold Coast main event.
UKIPT CORK GOES TO RAZAVI--Worth €71,000, the UKIPT Cork battle put Sam Razavi heads up against David O'Connor. After a two-hour man-on-man battle, Razavi came out on top.
BRENES HITS 60 IN TWO WAYS--Humberto Brenes not only turned 60 years old this year, but he also finally crossed the mark for 60 career WSOP cashes.
KATCHALOV WINS FIRST WSOP BRACELET--Proving he is more than a hold'em guru, Team PokerStars Pro Eugene Katchalov won a seven-card stud bracelet for $122,000.
MAH WINS RED DRAGON--In another stellar Red Dragon main event at the Macau Poker Cup, Kwan Mah won the title and nearly a million Hong Kong dollars.
POKERSTARS AND PLAYERS DONATE NEARLY HALF-MILLION TO JAPAN RELIEF--After the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan, PokerStars and its players donated nearly half a million dollars to the relief effort.
MONEYMAKER DEFEATS FARHA IN RE-MATCH--In a series of made-for-TV rematches, ESPN replayed a few of the heads-up matches from historic WSOP events. Among them was the Chris Moneymaker vs. Sammy Farha battle. Moneymaker, once again, emerged with the victory.
HUANG WINS ANZPT CANBERRA--After a long weekend of celebrating the Queen's birthday in Australia, Sammy Huang found a way to call himself King of Canberra.
ELKY COMPLETES TRIPLE CROWN, WINS WSOP BRACELET--ElkY needed only a WSOP bracelet to complete poker's triple crown. He got it after a WSOP 7-card-stud championship win.
BLOM TAKES CAO FOR $150,000--After a two-month layoff, Viktor Blom resumed his SuperStar showdowns to felt Rui Cao in fewer than 2,300 hands.
SINCLAIR RIDES ACES TO UKIPT NEWCASTLE WIN--Richard Sinclair became the first man from Scotland to win a UKIPT event, helped in part by getting dealt aces heads-up.
BRAZIL GETS ITS OWN POKER TOUR--After becoming one of players favorite stops on the LAPT, Brazil got its own circuit, the Brasil Poker Tour.
COSSETTE GETS ANOTHER PORSCHE--Bucking the trend of buying just one Porsche with FPP points, longtime PokerStars player Spencer Cossette bought a second Porsche.
MERCIER WINS SECOND WSOP BRACELET--Jason Mercier continued to amaze in June by winning his second WSOP bracelet.
BIG GAME RETURNS FOR SEASON 2--After a successful inaugural season, the PokerStars Big Game returned to the small screen for another season of high-stakes action.
GREENBERG WINS IN BULGARIA--Israel's Idan Greenberg took his lead at the start at the final day of the Eureka Poker Tour event in Bulgaria and used it to win the €55,000 first prize.
AKKARI WINS FIRST WSOP BRACELET--Fulfilling a career-long dream, Brazilian Team PokerStars Pro Andre Akkari won his first WSOP bracelet and $675,000.
BLOM TOPPLES TERKEN89 FOR $150,000--After winning eight of his ten previous matches, Viktor Blom notched another SuperStar Showdown win for $150,000.
LYKOV WINS WSOP BRACELET--After watching four other Team Pros win WSOP bracelets, Team PokerStars Pro Max Lykov won one of his own.
ROWSOME JOINS TEAM ONLINE--After years of being a loyal player and qualifier, Adrienne "talonchick" Rowsome joined Team PokerStars Online.
POKERSTARS DEALS 65 BILLIONTH HAND--After letting its players know the Road to 100 Billion was now paved and open for travel, PokerStars dealt its 65 billionth hand to New Zealand's "yllams."
SUNDAY CUBED GETS MAJORS SPOT--In July, PokerStars launched its newest Sunday major, the Sunday Cubed.
JP KELLY GOES DEEP IN WSOP MAIN EVENT--Though he just missed the WSOP Main Event final table in July, Team Pro JP Kelly's deep run in the WSOP Main Event was worth a lot of money and a great story. The title link will take you to Part One. You can find Part Two HERE.
BOXELL WINS APPT MELBOURNE--It was the first time the Asia Pacific Poker Tour had visited Melbourne, Australia, so it was only fitting that the title go to a future Australia Poker Hall of Famer, Leo Boxell.
PAGANO WINS IPT SAN REMO--After years of promoting poker in his home country of Italy, Team PokerStars Pro Luca Pagano won his first Italian Poker Tour event.
KAISER REIGNS AT EPT TALLINN--In the first event of EPT Season 8, 21-year-old Ronny Kaiser won the title.
DANNY MCDONAGH MAKES HALL OF FAME--Normally reserved for players, the Australian Poker Hall of Fame decided to induct its first administrator, Danny McDonagh, head of the APPT.
CANADA WINS AMERICAS CUP OF POKER--Just a year removed from winning the inaugural Americas Cup of Poker, Team Canada came back and did it again.
KOMAROMI WINS LAPT PUNTA DEL ESTE--Although the LAPT had been to Uruguay every season it existed, no one from Uruguay had ever won a title until Alex Komaromi did it in August.
PATRICK KAR KENG LEE WINS RED DRAGON--Singapore's Patrick Kar Keng Lee took down the Macau Poker Cup Red Dragon event after winning a satellite in the PokerStars Macau poker room.
FINTAN GAVIN WINS UKIPT EDINBURGH--Irishman Fintan Gavin may well have been known for his conversational abilities, but his poker prowess seemed just as strong in Edinburgh when he won the UKIPT title there.
WORLD CUP OF POKER SETS FINAL TABLE--After a series of online playoffs, the PokerStars World Cup of Poker determined its seven finalists, all of which will fight for a title at the PCA.
BODIS WINS IN CROATIA--31-year-old entrepreneur Richard Bodis beat out 254 people to win the Eureka Poker Tour event in Croatia.
SCHREINER SHIPS THE SNOWFEST--Not only did he get to go on one of the best poker vacations in the world, but Marcel Schreiner won the title in Queenstown.
MARTIN SCHLEICH WINS EPT BARCELONA--In what proved to be a record-setting main event in Barcelona, Martin Schleich triumphed over the field in Barcelona, Spain for the €850,000 first prize.
WCOOP HOSTS $47 MILLION IN EVENTS--Once again, WCOOP returned to the PokerStars world. Over the course of 62 events, WCOOP put up more than $47 million in prize pools. Among he biggest stars in the series was Joel Adam Gordon (aka 2FLY2TILT) who won the Player of the Series Award. Meanwhile, Thomas "Kallllle" Pedersen won the main event.
MICKEY PETERSEN JOINS TEAM ONLINE--In another late-year signing, PokerStars' Team Online signed up the famed Mickey "mement_mori" Petersen.
ZANDVLIET WINS SECOND UKIPT TITLE--He had already done it once before. In September, Joeri Zandvliet won another UKIPT title. This time it happened in Dublin for €83,500.
VIVIAN IM JOINS TEAM POKERSTARS PRO--After winning APPT Cebu, Vivian Im seemed destined for greatness in Asia. It only made sense that she would hook up with Team PokerStars Pro.
GOSK WINS AT IBIZA--It's always a party in Ibiza, but Grzegorz Gosk showed everyone how to party in style with his €92,000 win on the Estrellas Poker Tour.
LEE NELSON WINS IN MELBOURNE--He already had a reputation for big finishes.They didn't give him that "Final Table" nickname for nothing. In Melbourne for the ANZPT, Lee Nelson did it again with a title-winning performance.
SPINDLER WINS EPT LONDON--Benny Spindler set out to prove he could do well on his home continent, and prove it he did with a £750,000 win at EPT London. Meanwhile Philipp Gruissem won another EPT High Roller title.
JACK DRAKE WINS IN DARWIN--The ANZPT finished its third season in Darwin where Australia's Jack Drake took home the championship.
KAN WINS MPCC TITLE--In a dominant performance the likes of which tourney vets hadn't seen in some time, Raiden Kan won the Macau Poker Cup Championship.
MENENDEZ WINS LAPT COLOMBIA--For the first time in its four-season history, the LAPT traveled to Colombia where Julian Menendez took the title.
POKERSTARS LAUNCHES TIME TOURNEYS--In one of many improvements PokerStars made to its software during 2011, the company launched Time Tourneys in October and gave time-crunched players a chance to play tournaments whenever they like.
BARRY GREENSTEIN NAMED TO POKER HALL OF FAME--It was a long time coming, but team PokerStars Pro Barry Greenstein was finally voted into the Poker Hall of Fame.
PATEYCHUK WINS EPT SAN REMO--The EPT once again traveled to the always-popular San Remo stop where Andrey Pateychuk pulled off a sick runner-runner beat on Dimitar Dachev to win the title.
POKERSTARS DEALS 70 BILLIONTH HAND--As PokerStars got ready to kick off its 10th Anniversay party, it dealt its 70 billionth hand to a man from Germany. The milestone earned the winner $73,380.
POKERSTARS BLOG LOOKS AT ITS BEGINNINGS--As part of the PokerStars 10th Anniversary celebration, the PokerStars Blog looked back at how it got its start.
HEINZ JOINS TEAM PRO---Does PokerStars know how to pick'em or what? Nine guys at the final table of the WSOP Main Event and PokerStars signs just one of them....and then this happened...
PIUS HEINZ WINS WSOP MAIN EVENT--Worth more than $8 million, the WSOP Main Event first prize went to the newly-dubbed Team PokerStars Pro.
MARCUS HELLNER BECOMES POKERSTARS SPORTSTAR--As winter got ready to settle in over Europe, one of its Winter Olympics stars became part of the PokerStars family.
ANOTHER FREE PORSCHE--Just because it's been happening for years doesn't mean people aren't still buying Porsches with their FPPs. This was the latest of those stories.
POKERSTARS MACAU ANNOUNCES ACOP--As poker continues to rampage across Asia, PokerStars Macau announced that it would host the Asia Championship of Poker in November of 2012.
ZIYARD WINS FIRST EPT LOUTRAKI--Season 8 of the EPT added Loutraki, Greece to the schedule. Zimnan Ziyard won the title.
VELDHUIS KNOCKS OUT ELKY--A little sidebar between Lex Veldhuis and ElkY ended up with the Team PokerStars Pros in the ring together. It ended badly for ElkY.
LEW WINS APPT MACAU--It was his first time in Asia, his first time playing an APPT event, and his first major live win, but PokerStars Team Online's Randy Lew made it look easy when he took down APPT Macau.
STASZKO JOINS TEAM POKERSTARS PRO--Not content to have only the winner of the WSOP Main Event on the roster, Team PokerStars Pro signed runner-up Martin Staszoko to its roster, too.
POKERSTARS CELEBRATES 10TH ANNIVERSARY--After ten years of dealing billions of hands to millions of people, PokerStars threw a month-long anniversary party that was worth millions and millions of dollars. As the party rolled on, PokerStars released a 10th Anniversary magazine; broke the world record for the largest tournament with 200,000 players; awarded special milestone money for the winner of the 72 billionth hand; and hosted a giant Sunday Storm. The end of the month saw the biggest part of the celebration, a $10,000 High Roller event and the world's richest online tournament and biggest-ever Sunday Million won by Kyle "First-Eagle" Weir.
POKERSTARS INTRODUCES CORPORATE BLOG--Now it's no longer just we pro bloggers who write here on the PokerStars Blog. In December, we introduced the Corporate Blog, with words from some of the top dogs at PokerStars.
FINGER BAGS PRAGUE---To cap off the 2011 portion of the EPT's eighth season, Martin Finger became the third German to win an EPT title in Season 8.
MERCIER WINS ANOTHER $700K--To cap off another amazing year, Jason Mercier won $700,000 at the Bellagio in a $100,000 buy-in High Roller event.
SELBST CAPS A MILLION DOLLAR YEAR--Team PokerStars Pro Vanessa Selbst proved for another year that she is among the best in the game. After a final table finish at the WPT Five Diamond, Selbst secured her second-straight million-dollar year.
POKERSTARS ESTABLISHES PLAYER TRUST FUND--In its on-going effort to protect its players funds in regulated markets, PokerStars established a fully independent trustee to oversee player funds.
POKERSTARS TURBO CHAMPIONSHIP OF ONLINE POKER--After wooing the online poker world with the World Championship of Online Poker and Spring Championship of Online Poker, PokerStars announced that in 2012 it will host the Turbo Championship of Online Poker, 50 turbo events that will give players a chance to win a true online championship in record time.