Sunday Million Anniversary: 16 Years of the Milly, a Timeline

March 15, 2022inPoker

The Sunday Million on PokerStars continues to go from strength to strength, even as it approaches its 16th anniversary. Since 2006, this tournament has been a permanent fixture on online poker players’ schedules, the frequent focus of the Sunday grind, and for much of the tournament’s existence, PokerStars has also been marking the Sunday Million’s birthday with a special anniversary tournament.

It always means huge guarantees and a massive field for one special Sunday in March.

This year is no different, and the anniversary event, which takes place
on Sunday, March 20th this year, has a guarantee of $10 million. That’s 10 times the regular guarantee — and it is certain to attract an enormous field and pay an enormous first prize.

Read all about it: Coming soon: $10m Guaranteed Sunday Million

The buy-in will be $215, the same level that many players still associate with this most feted tournament. But, of course, there are plenty of satellites to help you get in on the cheap.

Play will on Sunday, March 20 at 13:05 ET, with late registration (and the option to re-enter up to five times) available for a full day. That’s right: you can enter or re-enter the tournament up until the start of Day 2.

For many online poker players, a big score or victory in the Sunday Million has provided a career highlight. The tournament has given us a lot of memorable moments as well, and you can scroll down for a complete timeline of the Sunday Million.

Before that, let’s go through the Sunday Million timeline, right from where it first began…

March 5, 2006 – “aaaaaaaa” is the first SM winner

PokerStars had been up and running about four-and-a-half years when the first Sunday Million took place, with 5,893 players joining the $215 buy-in event to build a prize pool of $1,178,600. The first player to win a Sunday Million had a username that also comes first in an alphabetically-arranged list of winners — “aaaaaaaa”, who after just over eight hours of play won the last hand to claim a $173,843.50 first prize.

June 25, 2006 – the SM gets its name

The first few big Sunday tournaments weren’t technically called the “Sunday Million.” That label didn’t appear in the PokerStars lobby until late June 2006 for a $1,050 buy-in version of the event, won by “FlopSpanker” who took away a $262,151.50 first prize. Occasionally during the first couple of years of the SM, the buy-in was boosted to either $530 or $1,050, the last time being late 2008.

March 11, 2007 – 1st anniversary, 1st 10,000-plus field

PokerStars marked the first year of Sunday Millions with an anniversary event, upping the guarantee to $1.5 million. The field for the first SM anniversary event was 10,508 strong, pushing the prize pool up over $2.1 million — another first for the SM to crack $2 million. Of the more than 1,300 cashers, winner “Zeddor” seized the largest prize of $271,106.40.

May 24, 2009 – Jesper “KipsterDK” Hougaard becomes first two-time Sunday Million winner

Jesper "KipsterDK" Hougaard

Jesper “KipsterDK” Hougaard

In 2008, Danish pro Jesper Hougaard became the first poker player to win bracelets at both the World Series of Poker and at the World Series of Poker Europe, accomplishing the feat by winning no-limit hold’em events in Vegas and then again in London that same year.

Soon after that Hougaard earned another landmark double when, while playing as “KipsterDK” on PokerStars, he became the first player to win the Sunday Million twice — initially in late April 2008, then again in May 2009. “I had experience being in the situation,” Hougaard told PokerStars Blog afterwards while describing reaching the Sunday Million final table a second time. And that experience paid off in a big way.

One of Hougaard’s successes came during a period where the Sunday Million was experimenting with a monthly $530 buy-in event, meaning a slightly smaller field. In the years since, the “two-timer” club has swelled to 20 players, including those who have won twice at the $215 price point, and at the $109. One player also won a $2,100 Special Edition and a $215 buy-in event. One other player has gone even better and won it three times. See below.

July 2008-April 2011 – The Sunday More-Than-a-Million

Throughout its history the SM has always featured at least a seven-figure guarantee, though for a time the guarantee was upped to $1.5 million, and was even $2 million and $2.5 million on occasion. Those increased guarantees helped create record-breaking fields for the Sunday Million, such as on January 10, 2010 when 19,377 played to create a $3,875,400 prize pool, with ”OX45AL” winning a then-record first prize of $550,011.29.

February 21, 2010 – 36,000-plus play, $7.2 million prize pool

The first really big SM event came in the week that PokerStars dealt its 40 billionth hand. It was also roughly the 4th anniversary of the Sunday Million and the tournament sported a $4 million guarantee. But when 36,169 participated the prize pool rose to a whopping $7,233,800. The appropriately-named “RichieRichZH” won that one, earning a first-ever seven-figure SM first prize of $1,141,510.31. There have been five more $1m+ first prize wins in the Sunday Million.

March 6, 2011 – 5th Anniversary draws 59,128

Those records lasted a year, then came the Sunday Million 5th Anniversary event that drew 59,128 players (!) to create a $11,825,600 prize pool (!!). A big nine-way chop in the end meant the biggest cash prize of $844,209.87 went to third-place finisher “wrzr123”. Meanwhile winner Luke “Bdbeatslayer” Vrabel earned both a $671K payday and a Lamborghini Gallardo for his effort.

November 6, 2011 – Steele completes rapid double

Winning the Sunday Million has always been an exceptionally difficult proposition, and, as mentioned, winning it twice is something only 19 players have ever done. But one of them, Kevin “kevsteele” Steele of the UK, won two Sunday Million titles in the space of four months. He first took down the Milly on July 17, 2011, winning $129K and then won it again on November 6 the same year, for $168,839. It was the quickest ever two-time victory, and remained so for eight years. See below for full list of multiple champions.

December 18, 2011 – The largest online poker tournament ever

To mark the 10th anniversary of PokerStars going online, a special edition of the Sunday Million arrived with an eye-popping $10 million guarantee. All-time marks were established not just for the Sunday Million, but for all of online poker, with 62,116 players participating to build a $12,432,200 prize pool. That made it the largest online poker tournament in history, establishing records that wouldn’t be broken for nearly seven years.

Of that field, 7,682 players cashed (a figure closer to the total entrants for a typical SM), and ”First-Eagle” soared to victory to claim a $1,146,574.65 first prize following a three-way chop at the final table.

Sunday Million 10th Anniversary final table

From 62,116 to 9: The final table of the Sunday Million 10th Anniversary event

March 20, 2016 – “a.urli” tops 55K to win SM 10th Anniversary

Subsequent Sunday Million anniversaries were marked by gradually increasing guarantees matching the year being celebrated — e.g., the 6th anniversary had a $6M guarantee, the 7th a $7M one, and so on. Thus when the 10th anniversary arrived in 2016, a $10 million guarantee helped attract a 55,059-player field that actually built an $11 million prize pool. From that big crowd “a.urli” emerged as the champion to take home $970K after a four-way chop.

February 2 & April 22, 2018 – the SM Anniversary runs it twice

Two years ago for the 12th anniversary PokerStars decided to “run it twice” after an initial staging of the event featured another record in the form of a big $1.2 million overlay. After Luis “Hulk9950” Felipe topped a 43,795-entry field to win the first one, “Daenarys T” was the best out of 56,310 to win “Take 2” for which the prize pool was more than $11.26 million.

December 16, 2018 – Artem “veeea” Vezhenkov wins the Sunday Million for a third time

Artem "veeea" Vezhenkov

Artem “veeea” Vezhenkov

Russian player Artem Vezhenkov, better known as “veeea” online, first won the Sunday Million in November 2015, then won it again to join the two-timer club in July 2017.

Then near the end of 2018 he made himself a club all of his own by winning the SM a third time, a feat that he alone has accomplished. In those three tournaments, Vezhenhov bested fields totaling 16,715 players to earn three first-prizes adding up to $491,700.

He remains the only three-time champion.

January 27, 2019 – SM buy-in change

After nearly 13 years, the buy-in for the Sunday Million was changed from $215 to $109, a move made in order to make the tournament more accessible for players. The famous $1 million guaranteed remained, of course, and in the weeks since the fields averaged around 12,000 entries (about twice the typical field sizes of the SM).

April 15, 2019 – wangli0402 wins 13th Anniversary SM for China
The 13th Anniversary event was not the biggest nor the most celebrated, but its winner should be given special notice. Wang “wangli0402” Li became the first player from China to win the Sunday Million, representing a trend for poker in the Far East that should be relished by all poker players across the world.

Li picked up $611,944.97 for the win, after a five-way chop, with Greece’s “t4rz4n_21” taking the most. There were 61,342 entries, including 15,413 re-entries, but Li outlasted them all. “In China, we don’t have many options for playing poker, and PokerStars is a very important platform for Chinese players,” he told PokerStars Blog. “I hope that PokerStars will continue getting better and better here.”

April 21, 2019 – Lucky_Jew_17 first to win 2x$109s
The dust was still settling on “wangli0402″‘s anniversary win when a new modern mark was being set by a Russian player known as “Lucky_Jew_17”. Field sizes had grown hugely since the SM buy-in dropped to $109, making players even more the hostages of fortune. But Lucky_Jew_17, who had won a first SM title on March 3, 2019, won a second on April 21, only a matter of six weeks later. Lucky_Jew_17 banked $117,222.79 and $114,039.34 for these two incredible victories, and beat Kevin “kevsteele” Steele’s mark for the most rapid double.

Alex “AAAArthur” Brito spun a $4 satellite into $1.1M by winning the Sunday Million 14th Anniversary edition (photo by @Juh.fotografias)

March 22, 2020 – Anniversary event hits new heights
Everybody knew the 14th Anniversary Sunday Million would be enormous. PokerStars put a $12.5 million guarantee on it, with a guaranteed $1 million first prize, ensuring it would be the biggest ever held on the site. As so often happens when so much is promised, the reality becomes even bigger and better.

By the time registration closed, there had been 93,016 entries (inc. 32,118 re-entries), comfortably setting a new record. That put $18,602,300 in the prize pool, which was also a new high mark, and initially allocated $1,509, 390.01 for the eventual champion.

By the time only four players were left, they decided to chop it up and leave $50,000 to play for. Brazil’s Alex “AAAArthur” Brito, who had the most chips when they did the deal, went on to win it and banked $1,192,802 — at the time, the biggest prize ever awarded in the Sunday Million.

October 11, 2020 – Still gambling after all these years
The player known on PokerStars as “Gambler4444” was one of the first Germans to make the move over to Austria to play online poker, which we heard all about when we interviewed him in 2015. By then, he was already a Sunday Million champ, a SCOOP winner and had just picked up a Super Tuesday title. More than eight years after his first SM win, which came in July 2012, Gambler4444 won a second, in October 2020. It represents the longest time between wins of all double champions, and shows a player of rare consistency and durability.

Winner of the Sunday Million Anniversary in 2021 Vanessa Kade

Kade claims biggest of them all – March 21, 2021
The world was an uncertain place in March 2021, still gripped by a pandemic that showed little sign of ending. There was plenty going on in the life of Vanessa Kade too. The Canadian player had been hitting the poker headlines after taking a stand against sexism in poker, culminating in an ugly war of words on social media and some costly, controversial decisions made by an online poker site with whom Kade had previously worked.

The 15th Anniversary Sunday Million tournament came at a very good time, particularly for Kade, who managed to compose her thoughts and play the best poker of her life. She needed to. The field was a Sunday Million record of 69,876 entries (including 21,111 re-entries) and there was a prize pool of $13,975,200.

Playing as “Niffler”, Kade won the whole thing. She earned $1,514,920, the highest payout anyone has ever picked up in the Sunday Million.

We spoke to Kade about her win, right after it had happened, and again a year later, as she prepares to defend her title.

Another year, another anniversary – March 20, 2022

What’s going to happen this time around?


Russia’s Artem “veeea” Vezhenkov is still the only player to have won the Sunday Million three times. Those victories are as follows:

2018-12-16 ($215) – $141,494.47
2017-07-09 ($215) – $166,530.76
2015-11-15 ($215) – $183,675.00


Listed in chronological order, by date of second win. Buy-in in brackets.

Jesper “KipsterDK” Hougaard (Denmark)
2009-05-24 ($215) – $225,000.00
2008-04-27 ($530) – $149,861.00

Juan “vietcong01” Maceiras (Spain)
2010-01-24 ($215) – $255,954.00
2007-07-08 ($215) – $192,352.20

diegoaiz (Argentina)
2011-04-10 ($215) – $243,396.43
2008-08-31 ($215) – $184,500.00

Kevin “kevsteele” Steele (UK)
2011-11-06 ($215) – $168,838.99
2011-07-17 ($215) – $128,792.58

twirlpro (Hungary)
2013-12-15 ($215) – $213,479.97
2008-11-30 ($215) – $196,024.50

Thomas “WhatArunAA” James (Canada)
2013-12-29 ($215) – $208,372.90
2007-11-04 ($215) – $184,006.48

Rob “robtinnion” Tinnion (UK)
2015-02-08 ($215) – $200,136.96
2014-08-31 ($215) – $213,994.70

Mantas “bagoch” Bagočius (Lithuania)
2015-07-12 ($215) – $168,883.15
2012-10-14 ($215) – $196,791.00

Guilherme “VinceVegaMFR” Cheveau (Brazil)
2015-07-26 ($215) – $153,111.48
2014-02-09 ($215) – $161,879.69

Luis “Turko_man” Rodriguez (Finland)
2016-04-10 ($215) – $183,708.88
2009-06-07 ($215) – $225,000.00

DaGoddfather (Canada)
2016-05-01 ($215) – $168,945.98
2011-08-21 ($215) – $163,877.79

Lonnie “thx4urm0n3y” Hallett (Canada)
2017-08-06 ($215) – $168,000.23
2017-02-19 ($215) – $145,747.41

power2prut (UK)
2017-09-17 ($2,100 SE) – $373,744.14
2007-03-18 ($215) – $196,384.80

Paul “pvas2” Van Nunes (UK)
2017-11-26 ($215) – $138,335.49
2010-08-22 ($215) – $233,943.87

TY4Stacks2 (Sweden)
2018-03-11 ($215) – $147,116.00
2011-08-07 ($215) – $185,384.15

Renan “Internett93o” Bruschi (Brazil)
2018-12-23 ($215) – $141,123.79
2015-12-27 ($215) – $354,187.08

Lucky_Jew_17 (Russia)
2019-04-21 ($109) – $114,039.34
2019-03-03 ($109) – $117,222.79

Clark “snake8484” Hamagami (Canada)
2020-05-31 ($109) – $153,743.98
2013-08-11 ($215) – $175,782.23

Gambler4444 (Austria)
2020-10-11 ($109) – $107,028.70
2012-07-01 ($215) – $158,932.88

João “lo-fi dream” Leão (Brazil)
2020-02-16 ($109) – $108,822.40
2022-02-20 ($109) – $108,490.49

This article was first published in March 2021 and has been updated with more recent information.



PokerStars staff

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