By any standard, by any metric, in any way of looking at it, 2015 was a PokerStars year no one will ever forget.
It was a year that saw living legends like Neymar Jr and Cristiano Ronaldo join the PokerStars fold. It was the year Jason Somerville and Jaime Staples blazed the PokerStars trail into the Twitch community. PokerStars’ live tourneys broke records at almost every stop. Spin & Go tournaments made more new millionaires than we could count. Team Pro Daniel Negreanu nearly made the biggest final table in the world. At times, it was hard to keep up with it all. We did, of course. This was the year the PokerStars Blog celebrated ten years of covering all things PokerStars, and we weren’t about to let up.
It’s been a wild ride in 2015, and we’d have had no reason to do it if not for you, the loyal PokerStars Blog readers. Hundreds of thousands of you visited our little place on the internet millions of times. Every time you show up, it gives us more reason to find the best stories and tell them here. So, from all of us: thank you.
We’re already geared up for what looks to be an amazing 2016. If you want to keep up with us all the time, be sure to follow us on Twitter at our @PokerStarsBlog account.
In the meantime, here are our top stories from 2015.
Happy New Year, everyone.
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POKERSTARS SIGNS NEW TEAM PROS FROM INDIA AND JAPAN–It had been a long time since PokerStars added some new names to its list of Team Pros, but 2015 began with just that as Aditya Agarwal and Kosei Ichinose joined the ranks of the red spade brigade.
STEVE O’DWYER WINS PCA SUPER HIGH ROLLER–In what would would eventually be seen as the first of two bookends on 2015, superstar Steve O’Dwyer went to the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure and won the Super High Roller for more than $1.8 million.
JOSH KAY TAKES DOWN LAPT BAHAMAS–The LAPT decided in 2015 to turn its attention to the Caribbean. Showing up there made the first LAPT event of the year a massive one. Josh Kay won it for more than $367,000.
SPIN & GO TURNS OUT FIRST $1 MILLION JACKPOT WINNER–In what would turn out to be a year where million-dollar jackpots got handed out like candy, the first one of 2015 was still a big surprise for one handyman. While he was the first, he wouldn’t be the last. The floodgates on the big jackpots opened soon after that.
PCA HIGH ROLLER AWARDS TITLE TO FIRST-TIME WINNER–While we’ve gotten used to winners with familiar names, the 2015 PCA High Roller event crowned Ilkin Garibl, a first-time champion.
KEVIN SCHULZ WINS 2015 PCA MAIN EVENT–The PCA capped off its 2015 festival in style–and quickly–with a six-hour final table and a brand new champion, Kevin Schulz, who won nearly $1.5 million.
RAPINDER CHEEMA CLAIMS UKIPT LONDON TITLE–“I’m a bit drained. I need to work on my stamina!” Rapinder Cheema said, but it was worth it nonetheless to become 2015’s first UKIPT title winner. His London victory earned him £78,825.
AUSSIE MILLIONS KNIGHTS MANNY STAVROPOULOUS–“Aussie, Aussie, Aussie… Oi! Oi! Oi!” It wouldn’t be the beginning of the year without a new Aussie Millions champion. This year, it went to Melbourne’s own Manny Stavropoulos.
THEO JORGENSEN WINS TCOOP HIGH ROLLER–As TCOOP rolled toward the Main Event, Team PokerStars Pro Theo Jorgensen made hay while the sun shined, high rolling his way to a High Roller title for nearly $200,000.
ANTHONY APICIELLA WINS FPS DEAUVILLE–When the European Poker Tour headed to Deauville, it gave the France Poker Series a chance to do the same. That brought Anthony Apicella to town to win a €197,000 first prize.
TCOOP MAIN EVENT PAYS OUT $400K TO CHAMP–The Turbo Championship of Online Poker may be fast, but that doesn’t make the payouts any smaller. The 2015 Main Event champion Nikki_Hefner pulled in $396,516 for the $700 Main Event buy-in.
PHIL IVEY WINS THIRD $250K BOUTIQUE CHALLENGE–Some people are just made to be super high rollers. Phil Ivey is one of those people. In February, he went to the Aussie Millions and won not his first, not his second, but his THIRD $250,000 Boutique Challenge.
POKERSTARS WINS ONLINE POKER OPERATOR AWARD…AGAIN–It may sound repetitive, but the International Gaming Awards knows quality when it sees it. In 2015, the organization named PokerStars the best online operator for the third year in a row.
JOSIP SIMUNIC WINS EPT DEAUVILLE HIGH ROLLER–The EPT Deauville €10,000 High Roller pulled in 128 entries. When it was done, Austria’s Josip Simunic had defeated them all for the trophy and €309,170 first prize.
OGNYAN DIMOV OVERCOMES MOUNTAIN TO TAKE EPT DEAUVILLE MAIN EVENT–After starting a final table against an opponent who held more than 40% of the chips in play, Ognyan Dimov did what few thought he could and came back to win the EPT Deauville Main Event for €543,700.
BRITISH POKER AWARDS HONORS CODY, NEGREANU, STONE–Not only did PokerStars win awards, so did the likes of Daniel Negreanu, Jake Cody, and Toby Stone who all took honors at the British Poker Awards. Later in the month, Negreanu, Vanessa Selbst, and the PokerStars Blog all won at the American Poker Awards.
JASON SOMERVILLE JOINS TEAM POKERSTARS PRO–In one of the biggest pieces of news from the year, Twitch streaming superstar Jason Somerville put a red spade on his arm and set off on 70 straight days of live streaming.
WIMMER BECOMES AUSTRIA’S FIRST EUREKA CHAMPION–Although it had sent hundreds of players to the Eureka Poker Tour, Austria didn’t have a champion of its own until Raphel Wimmer traveled to Rozvadov and took down the Main Event.
ALACHE WINS SECOND LAPT TITLE–Oscar Alache had already won an LAPT event before, so when he made the final table in Chile with Nacho Barbero, it was a battle to see which one could repeat as champion. This time, it was Alache’s turn to become a two-time LAPT winner.
YUGUANG LI FILLS HIS MACAU POKER CUP…TWICE–Yuguang Li believed in himself, and then he made everyone else believe, too, after winning the Macau Poker Cup Red Dragon event. “I always thought I would win,” Li said. He followed up the massive achievement by winning the High Roller just days later.
SUNDAY MILLION CELEBRATES NINTH ANNIVERSARY–To celebrate nine years of being the world’s biggest weekly tournament, the Sunday Million guaranteed nine million bucks in the prize pool. The final table ended up cutting a seven-way deal that paid huge money to the top two players, BRAYDEN93 and kelly_koulis.
NICKI VESTERGARD WINS ESTRELLAS MADRID–The Estrellas Poker Tour made its way to Madrid in March and drew a field of nearly 600 players. Topping them all was Denmark’s Nicki Vestergard who took the €106,400 first prize.
TEAM PRO ONLINE SIGNS UP LIAY5–For Liliya ‘Liay5’ Novikova, the idea of being a member of Team Pro Online had always been a dream. She would’ve played anonymously for her entire life, but this year she got the chance to put a red spade on her arm.
YUIKO MATSUKAWA JOINS POKERSTARS–Yuiko Matsukawa, a famed Japanese model, decided in March that she would spread the gospel of PokerStars, joining up as a brand ambassador.
JIM PSAROS WINS FINAL ANZPT SYDNEY–In what would end up being the last ANZPT Sydney event ever, Jim Psaros took the title and $183,000 first prize.
GEORGIOS ZISIMOPOULOS CONQUERS IPT MALTA–After announcing himself earlier on tour as a side event aficionado, former Athens economics student Georgios Zisimopoulos won IPT Malta and €142,205.
POKERSTARS CREW PICKS UP GLOBAL POKER INDEX AWARDS–The Global Poker Index held its European Awards in Malta and honored the likes of Liv Boeree, Marc Convey, and other PokerStars luminaries.
DAVID PETERS BINKS MALTA HIGH ROLLER FOR HALF A MILLION–As the first EPT Malta festival drew to a close, David Peters picked up the High Roller title for nearly €600,000.
MONTURY WINS EPT MALTA MAIN EVENT MARATHON–It took most of the night and a brutal heads-up battle, but Jean Montury won it in the early morning hours to capture the EPT Malta title. “It was very, very hard to win,” Montury said. “I did a good job. I’m so happy, but very tired…I am very proud to be a winner of an EPT and I hope I will win more tournaments and do it again.”
PSYCHOPOL WINS MICROMILLIONS PLAYER OF THE SERIES–The tenth running of the MicroMillions festival wrapped up as BgsaPnaples turned a $22 buy-in into a first prize of $110,743. Meanwhile, PsychoPol won the overall Player of the Series.
POKERSTARS LAUNCHES NATURAL BORN POKER PLAYER–For anyone who ever wanted to test their real life skills as a test of poker ability, in April, PokerStars launched an innovative series of high-tech computer simulations to put you through the paces.
PLAY-ALONG GAME HITS APP STORES–Continuing on the theme of innovation, PokerStars also launched its new Poker Play-Along app to let you play along with poker broadcasts as they happen.
JAIME STAPLES SIGNS ON WITH POKERSTARS–As if having one big Twitch star wasn’t enough, PokerStars signed up the extremely popular Jaime Staples as a new Friend of PokerStars. By the end of the year, he would become a member of Team Online.
MO MONEY FOR JASON MO AT APPT SEOUL–In April, the Asia Pacific Poker Tour traveled to Seoul, Korea where America’s Jason Mo won the Main Event title.
MITTEN-LAURENCE, £160 QUALIFIER, WINS UKIPT NOTTINGHAM–There is a good reason PokerStars runs all the online satellites, and Sam Mitten-Laurence was proof. After qualifying online for UKIPT Nottingham, Mitten-Laurence won the Main Event, turning his £160 satellite entry into £110,000.
POKERSTARS BLOG TURNS TEN YEARS OLD–After ten years of reporting from the sidelines of the greatest poker events, the people of the PokerStars Blog celebrated a decade on the internet with a week-long series of retrospectives and behind-the-scenes articles.
SEBASTIAN SUPPER TAKES DOWN FPS MONACO MAIN EVENT–As the EPT Grand Final cranked up in Monaco, Sebastian Supper won the early money, conquering the France Poker Series Main Event for €177,000.
POKERSTARS SIGNS NEYMAR JR–In what would prove to be one of the top stories of the year for PokerStars, Neymar Jr signed on as one of its top brand ambassadors.
CHARLIE CARRELL WINS A MILLION IN GRAND FINAL HIGH ROLLER–Charlie Carrell’s sartorial choices make it certain you’ll never miss him as he passes on the street. His poker talent in the EPT Grand Final High Roller made it sure no one would miss him there either. He won the Grand Final High Roller for €1.1 million.
ADRIAN MATEOS WINS EPT GRAND FINAL FOR SPAIN–At long last, Spain got itself an EPT Main Event champion. Adrian Mateos broke the 11-year-spell with his €1,082,000 victory in the EPT Grand Final Main Event.
SHAKEEB KAZEMIPUR WINS LAPT PANAMA–After failing to advance several times in Day 1A of the LAPT Panama Main Event Shakeeb Kazemipur bought into Day 1B and rode that chip stack all the way to the title. “Never surrender,” he told his rail after winning $180,112.
ELKY BREAKS RECORD WITH TWITCH STREAM–In a year where it was all Twitch all the time, Team Pro ElkY broke Twitch’s poker record in May by banking $80,000 in one sitting of streaming.
JASON MERCIER, MUSTAPHA KANIT SHINE AS SCOOP PAYS OUT $75 MILLION–Jason Mercier was an unstoppable force in this year’s Spring Championship of Online Poker. Racking up three titles and two more final tables, Mercier took Player of the Series Honors with ease. Meanwhile, to close out the $75 million bonanza, Mustapha ‘lasagnaaammm’ Kanit, won the high buy-in Main Event for more than $1.3 million.
CRISTIANO RONALDO JOINS POKERSTARS–As if adding Neymar Jr to the PokerStars pitch wasn’t enough, the world’s biggest online poker site signed Cristiano Ronaldo to its stable of brand ambassadors.
TOM HOLKE WINS INAUGURAL EUREKA HAMBURG EVENT–In late May, the Eureka Poker Tour traveled to Hamburg, Germany for the first time. There, Tom Holke picked up the win while decked out in his country’s colors.
YAT WEI CHANG BESTS APPT MACAU FIELD–Beating a field of 493 players, APPT Macau champion Yat Wei Chang declared his final table victory part of “a lucky day.” It earned him some big money and a seat to the Asia Championship of Poker Main Event.
POKERSTARS YOUTUBE CHANNEL HITS 50 MILLION VIEWS–While we’re always much happier to hang out at PokerStars.tv, we also recognize there are people who spend their time on YouTube. That’s why it was a little more than gratifying when the PokerStars YouTube channel hit 50 million views.
JASON MERCIER WINS THIRD WSOP BRACELET–Proving for a third time he has world champion blood, Jason Mercier came off a hot Spring Championship of Online Poker to win his third WSOP bracelet, this time taking down Event 32 at the WSOP, a $5,000 no-limit hold’em 6-max event, beating 549 players to a first prize of $633,357.
ISIDORO BARRENA BATTLES TO UKIPT MARBELLA WIN–No one has ever been able to say exactly how Marbella fits into the UK & Ireland Poker Tour, but it’s always one of the circuit’s favorite stops. This year, Spain’s Isidoro Barreña took the title for €150,800.
DANIEL NEGREANU JUST MISSES NOVEMBER NINE–In one of the most electrifying moments of the poker year, Daniel Negreanu got within a couple of seats of making the World Series of Poker Main Event final table. It was a sight to behold.
CLAUDIO MOYA WINS AT LAPT PERU–At 51 years old, Claudio Moya wasn’t what we have come to expect from poker champions, but that didn’t stop him from winning LAPT Peru and laughing all the way to the bank with his $135,876.
FELIPE RAMOS SIGNS ON AS FRIEND OF POKERSTARS–Both PokerStars and the PokerStars Blog have had a great many friends over the years, but none was so nice to sign up as our longtime supporter Felipe Ramos.
NEYMAR JR BRINGS STAR POWER TO CELEBRITY HOME GAME–There are home games, there are celebrity home games, and then there are celebrity home games where Neymar Jr shows up. This was one of the latter.
ALLESANDRO ADINOLFO WINS ON IPT–When the Italian Poker Tour traveled to St. Vincent in August, Italian Alessandro Adinolfo beat a field of 390 players to win the Main Event for a first prize of €80,000.
AARON LIM BECOMES FIRST TWO-TIME APPT CHAMP–When the APPT landed in Manila, it made history as Aaron Lim became the first player in APPT history to win two Main Event titles.
PIERRICK TALLON SKEWERS UKIPT BRISTOL–It wasn’t quite a wire-to-wire win, but it was close, as Belgium’s Perrick Tallon headed to UKIPT Bristol and won the Main Event for £53,000.
STEVE O’DWYER WINS ON NEYMAR’S TURF–Though he hadn’t even intended on playing, Steve O’Dwyer sat down in Neymar Jr’s charity home game in Barcelona, and because he is Steve O’Dwyer…he won.
JASON MERCIER WINS SHRPO HIGH ROLLER–Speaking of people who are known to just show up and win, see Exhibit #2, Jason Mercier, who went to his local casino for a high roller and won a half million bucks.
MARIO LOPEZ WINS RECORD-BREAKING ESPT BARCELONA–When the EPT kicked off Season 12 in Barcelona, it brought the Estrellas Poker Tour along for the ride. The result was a record field of 3,292 entries and a €408,000 win for Mario Lopez.
SYLVAIN LOOSLI BINKS BARCELONA SUPER HIGH ROLLER–Although he was facing a ridiculously tough Dzmitry Urbanovich, Sylvain Loosli held on for €1,224,000 victory in the EPT Barcelona Super High Roller.
MUSTAPHA KANIT DESTROYS BARCELONA HIGH ROLLER–Mustapha Kanit (remember him from May’s SCOOP Main Event victory?) proved he wasn’t finished in 2015 by heading to Barcelona and winning the High Roller for €738,759.
LEGEND JOHN JUANDA WINS EPT BARCELONA MAIN EVENT–On the same year he would be inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame, John Juanda cemented his legendary status with a win in the EPT Barcelona Main Event.
POKERSTARS ADDS TWO NEW PROS IN ASIA–After several months of no new signings, Team Pro picked up two new members in the form of Chen-An Lin from Taiwan and Yaxi Zhu from China.
JASON SOMERVILLE CRUSHES TWITCH RECORD–If you ever wondered how many people would watch one guy play poker online, Jason Somerville answered that for you: 27,000.
MARIO LOPEZ WINS (AGAIN) ON LAPT–This was Mario Lopez’s year. Fresh off winning the Estrellas Poker Tour Main Event, Mario Lopez went to Uruguay to win another LAPT title.
DREAM TEAM COLLECTION AWARDS $1 MILLION FIRST PRIZE–It wasn’t pure poker, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t fun to watch when the Dream Team Collection All-In Shootout ended with solik1968 winning a million bucks.
MYSTERY MAN WINS WCOOP MAIN EVENT, SHAUN DEEB TAKES PLAYER OF THE SERIES–We’re never surprised when the likes of Shaun Deeb wins a major Player of the Series title like he did in this year’s World Championship of Online Poker, but it’s a little more rare to have a mystery man win the WCOOP Main Event. Regardless, that was what happened when this guy took down the Main Event title for $1.3 million.
POKERSTARS GETS NEW JERSEY, USA LICENSE–At long last, PokerStars received its first license to operate in the United States. Stay tuned for more details on that in the coming year.
DAN STACEY WINS UKIPT ISLE OF MAN–It was time for the annual PokerStars home game, aka UKIPT Isle of Man. This year, the title went to Dan Stacey.
COMMON CENTS KICK OFF HOSTS BIGGEST POKERSTARS TOURNEY IN HISTORY–In October, PokerStars kicked off its new micro-buy-in series and ended up breaking its record for the biggest PokerStars tourney ever, one eventually won by Austria’s DaDumon.
POKERSTARS CELEBRATES 10 YEARS ON ISLE OF MAN–To celebrate a decade of calling Isle of Man home, PokerStars put on a ridiculously cool 3D display on the front of its tourney venue during the UKIPT Isle of Man.
LIN SHI WINS FINAL ANZPT EVENT–The final ANZPT event in history happened in Melbourne and crowned Lin Shi as its champion.
SPIN & GO ANNIVERSARY GOES BONKERS–It was supposed to be a simple anniversary to celebrate the PokerStars Spin & Go events. It went nuts and started awarding million-dollar jackpots all over the place. By the time it was done there were more millionaires than you could count on one hand.
TIMEX WINDS UP ANOTHER BIG VICTORY IN MALTA–Mike McDonald made sure nobody forgot his name in 2015. In Malta, he took down the €25,000 High Roller for nearly half a million.
NATE CHAUSKIN CLAIMS IPT MALTA TITLE–Nate Chauskin called his shot before ever reaching IPT Malta, saying he was going to win. He showed up and did just that, winning €149,560.
BYRON KAVERMAN REFUSES TO LOSE MALTA HIGH ROLLER–Refusing to ever acknowledge he might be beaten, Byron Kaverman clawed his way to victory at the EPT Malta High Roller for €480,300.
NIALL FARRELL TRIUMPHS AT EPT MALTA MAIN EVENT–In a lightning-fast final table, smilin’ Niall Farrell dispatched the remaining EPT Malta in six hours for the €534,330 first prize.
ELKY JOINS TEAM LIQUID–He may be known as a master poker player, but before that, ElkY was a gaming rock star. In November of this year, he took his rightful spot on Team Liquid where he will again bridge the gap between poker and pro gaming.
APPT YEAR CLOSES WITH JIMMY ZHOU WINNING ACOP–To close out the year on the Asia Pacific Poker Tour, Chinese American overcame New Zealand’s Thomas Ward in a back-and-forth heads up match for the HK$5,885,000 (~$792,000) title. Meanwhile, Andy Andrejevic won the ACOP Super High Roller for HK$8,725,000 (~US$1,125,000) and Alan King Lun Lau won Asia Player of the Year.
DAVID GOMEZ GRABS UKIPT EDINBURGH CHAMPIONSHIP–Spaniard David Gomez made himself right at home in Scotland, beating out Angelina Rich heads-up for the £49,660 title.
SPIN & GO MAKES ANOTHER MILLIONAIRE–Just because October was over didn’t mean the millionaire-making had to end. Canadian player Koovoon hit the $1 million jackpot in a $100 Spin & Go to become the seventh millionaire inside of a month.
YURI MARTINS NERDS UP THE LAPT GRAND FINAL–To close out the Latin America Poker Tour Year, Yuri “theNERDguy” Martins headed to São Paulo and beat a 426-entry field for R$652,509.
JAVIER ROJAS CLOSES EUREKA YEAR IN STYLE–When the Eureka Poker Tour showed up in Prague, 1,893 players showed up with it for the €1,000 Main Event. Javier Rojas beat the field for €311,000.
STEVE O’DWYER MAKES HISTORY WITH SECOND SUPER HIGH ROLLER WIN–Steve O’Dwyer does about a million things right, but the one thing he does the rightest is win Super High Rollers. Putting the second book-end on his year, O’Dwyer won the EPT Prague Super High Roller for €746,543.
KENNETH SMARON SNAGS PRAGUE HIGH ROLLER WIN–As the EPT Prague stop drew to a close, American Kenneth Smaron took down the High Roller for €595,500.
HOSSEIN ENSAN WINS EPT PRAGUE MAIN EVENT–In one of the best final tables in recent memory, 51-year-old Hossein Ensan, just a couple years into playing, made his third Main Event final table in 16 months and won the title for €754,510.
POKERSTARS LAUNCHES BETSTARS BRAND–Like to put up a little sports wager from time to time? PokerStars’ new brand, BetStars now has you covered.
GERMANY WINS WORLD CUP OF POKER–After 32 games in four weeks of play, Germany triumphed over Kazakhstan for the 2015 World Cup of Poker title.
POKERSTARS HOSTS $5 MILLION SUNDAY MILLION–To close out its Christmas Festival, PokerStars threw a super duper Sunday Million celebration with a prize pool that ended up being worth more than $6.2 million. After a seven-way deal Brazil’s Internett93o took it down for $354,187.
And that was the year that was 2015. Thank you for taking the time to enjoy it all with us.
Now, let’s go see what 2016 has in store for us.
Happy New Year, folks.
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Brad Willis is the PokerStars Head of Blogging.