In 2021, PokerStars held record breaking online poker series, introduced new innovations, and brought in ambassadors and partners to keep the game and brand alive and kicking.
Despite signs that it would soon return, the live circuit was very much on hold once again, aside that is from the EPT Sochi and more localized events. Online poker, then, continued to provide entertainment, both for players and for viewers who are joining ever expanding communities on Twitch.
Here we take a look at 2021, month by month, bringing back memories of the year’s best poker stories.
As the year commenced, it seemed that the poker community needed a series with a bit of extra bite. The Blowout Series took over the calendar and was held for four weeks, with $60+ million guaranteed and a $5 million guaranteed Big Blowout! tourney every Sunday.
Lots happened. Despite not winning a title, Lex Veldhuis had an incredible run, while pros such as Juanki “B4NKR0LL3R” Vecino and Niklas “Lena900” Astedt were among those to claim doubles. After a three-way deal, “arbaarba” of Lithuania came first in the final Big Blowout! event for $739,976. Fernando “fviana” Viana officially finished second, but took more from the deal, $771,416, the biggest prize of the series.
As the Blowout Series concluded, the PokerStars Blog team spotted a couple of golden moments and dug a little deeper. Jack Stanton spoke to Arlie Shaban, one of poker’s most enthusiastic Twitch streamers, about his $20k title win. Elsewhere, a lesser known player earned $166k from a completely free ticket.
You can check out the full Blowout Series review and statistical breakdown here.
With live poker still off the cards, PokerStars Blog took a more feature-heavy approach to 2021, starting with five ways to improve your poker game and followed by a detailed analysis on the history of court cards by Martin Harris. The world was still in lockdown, so we collated top tips on working from home by professional poker players and then turned our attention to ways to keep fit, stay active and pass the time.
On a slightly downbeat note, Poker In The Ears said an emotional farewell to Chris Moneymaker, who left PokerStars after 17 years with the company. To be fair, he’s done his time…
Thankfully as the end of January approached we had some exciting announcements to make, including the debut of Hank’s Home Game, a fun online home game involving celebrities, banter and charity donations. PokerStars also launched in the state of Michigan.
Mid-February saw the launch of Tetris®+ Spin N Gos. This promotional rebranding of the popular poker game had special edition leaderboards and $1.5 million in prizes. But most of all it provided a novel and nostalgic kickback to a simpler time – a time anyone brought up in the 90s will fondly remember. Howard Swains published the Tetris® factfile and glossary to celebrate.
Players in Pennsylvania and New Jersey enjoyed their own Winter Series, this time with bigger prizes than ever before. “okstaeks” won the PA Main Event for a series-high $51,505.39, and “loxonbagel” won the NJ Main Event for a handsome $21,417.99 first prize. You can find the full results for the PA and NJ Winter Series here.
As well as reporting from over in the USA, Martin Harris was busy looking at some of the best poker moments, including the most impressive hero calls and the craziest poker flops. Jack Stanton supplemented the theme with a piece on the best and worst slowrolls ever.
Meanwhile, Matthew Warburton temporarily forgot he was working for a poker blog and submerged himself in the weird and wonderful world of Diving Chess, interviewing the creator Etan Ilfeld to understand how and why anyone would combine the two seemingly incompatible games. Turns out it all makes sense.
Following the launch in January, PokerStars soon announced a series in Michigan, the inaugural MICOOP with $1 million guaranteed. Meanwhile, PA and NJ players got ready for their own Bounty Builder Series and players on the .com client geared up for the Turbo Series.
Total prize pools for the Turbo Series reached over $29 million. Pedro “gusinaa” Madeiraof of Brazil topped the Main Event for a series high score of $332,143. David “MissOracle” Yan also earned a huge sum on the final day, $210,787 for first place in the $5k PKO High Roller.
Check out the Turbo Series highlights and numerical breakdown here and full Turbo Series results here.
March 8 was International Women’s Day, and to celebrate the thriving community of women across the globe who love the game, PokerStars introduced Our Voices – a community for discussion and to share experience and feedback.
Midway through the month, the online poker world turned its attention to the Sunday Million 15th Anniversary. The tournament surpassed its guarantee to reach a rather buff prize pool of $13,975,200. Canadian pro and streamer Vanessa Kade won the monumental event, earning an incredible $1.5 million. Poker In The Ears spoke with Kade following her win.
Live poker was certainly thin on the ground in 2021, but the European Poker Tour didn’t stop entirely. Over in Russia the EPT Sochi ran through March, and the Main Event reached a prize pool of ₽131,899,810, approximately $1.74 million. Artur “mararthur1” Martirosyan took it down for ₽24.633 million (around $325,000).
With the PSPC officially postponed, fans were thankful when US television channel FS1 started showing the 2019 event every weekend during March. It was poker entertainment that we all needed at the time. The PokerStars TV team chipped in with an effort to help keep the poker world sane, introducing PokerStars Retro for looks back at old poker with new commentary. The entertainment kept on coming when Joe and James took on the pros in the Commentator Showdown home game.
Hank Azaria also returned towards the end of the month for the second episode of Hank’s Home Game, bringing more celebrity laughs and giving a further $50k to charity.
SCOOP ran earlier than usual, occupying the online poker schedule for pretty much the entire month of April. The series reached total prize pools of $139 million, well over the $100 million guaranteed.
There were tonnes of highlights, including triple titles for UK pro Adrian “Amadi_017” Mateos and for Dejan “dejanlc357” Kaladjurdjevic, who seemed to come from nowhere to become the first champion from Monenegro and something of a series hero. Check out this interview with the hero himself.
SCOOP 2021 was an awesome time for Twitch poker – “bungkat” and “BowieEffect” both streamed six figure wins, as did Elias “SinKarma” Gutierrez, who won $174k with 15,000 viewers watching. Stanton interviewed Gutierrez to find out more about his victory.
When it came to the Main Events, “kZhh” won the High for $878k, ‘livinmydream1’ won the Medium for $838K, and ‘Cantaloupe91’ wins Low Main Event for $376K.
Over in the US, PokerStars MI, PA and NJ gave away a combined $1 million in prizes in a single weekend. This prompted announcements for a SCOOP for each of the states, with $5 million guaranteed across all three. The PASCOOP came first and awarded $2.6 million in prizes. “kingboss93” captured the Main Event for $46k.
PokerStars also welcomed six new ambassadors in April, players who have now become so ingrained in the community that you’d think they’ve been with us for years. Jack Stanton caught up with Parker “tonkaaaa” Talbot to discuss joining Team Pro and spoke with Sam Grafton about trying new things.
Neymar Jr, the famous footballer who joined us at the end of 2020, stepped up his game to take a more active role in his partnership with PokerStars as a Cultural Ambassador, including a music playlist, new advert and an $850k Golden Chip giveaway, followed by the Truth or Bluff Twitter contest.
May was a relatively quiet month, but the show went on with the SCOOP Afterparty. The “mini-series” awarded $27 million in guaranteed prizes across 180 tourneys. The three tiers of Main Event offered $4 million gtd.
The MISCOOP and NJSCOOP also started in May, and by the end of the month had awarded over $3.7 million in prizes across both series. “Stozypokes” won the MISCOOP Main Event for $41,074, and, following a heads-up deal, “TrashNinja00” won the NJSCOOP Main Event for $18,183.
PokerStars Casino recorded a massive $8.1 million jackpot win from a 70 cent spin on the Deal or No Deal slot game. Casino wins are not something we usually report on here at the PokerStars Blog, but in this case the sum of money was so vast and lifechanging that the story proved hot.
Lex Veldhuis ran LexNotLive in May. The online event proved popular once again with fun and accessible tourneys running daily. “vojta555cz” from Czech Republic came out on top in the $33 Main Event and bagged $32,642 for first. You can find the full results here.
PokerStars also introduced a new and novel series towards the end of May – the Bounty Builder Turbo Series with $25 million in guaranteed prizes. “Virgilik” of Romania took down the Main Event-H for a total of $209,214. Bounty Builder Turbo Series stats and results here.
Meanwhile, the PokerStars Blog continued to provide excellent feature content for education and entertainment. We wrote about the best poker gadgets, took an intriguing look into the world of the professional poker dealers, examined the top five epic quads hands, and explored the luxury homes of poker players.
June brought a little bit of downtime to the online poker world, and indeed to our busy little team of writers at the PokerStars Blog. The only series’ on the schedule happened across the pond – PA, MI and NJ were all treated to Summer Stacks Festivals with a total of $3 million in prizes for all three.
The Euro 2020 competition finally got underway after a year of delay and PokerStars cheered on with the Football Frenzy promotion and, more significantly, the introduction of Neymar Jr Spin N Goals with $1 million top prizes. As the competition reached the quarter-finals, Howard Swains treated us to a feature exploring what the Euros would look like if it were a poker event.
Many of us were squinting and rubbing sleep out of our eyes as we ventured outside, perhaps for the first time in months. Talk turned to the mental aspects of the pandemic, and the Blog team put together an article with advice from registered mental health counselor Nia Charpentier about how to adjust to the changes.
PokerStars also began a partnership with Missing People and providing an initial donation of £150,000 to the UK-based charity.
With the poker scene ever shifting, we speculated as to the current trends and future of online poker, covering the emerging US market, rise in mobile gaming, and the popularity of faster and more exciting game formats.
One of the definite trends is the rise of poker streaming. Jack Stanton, who writes the weekly Twitch Poker Tribune, provides a full rundown in his article on all you need to know about Twitch.
And because poker strategy is always important, Harris focuses on how you can improve your game without even playing a hand.
The biggest BSOP Online yet took place in July, with over $1.9 million paid out across the series. Very much an international competition, “Alister07” of Russia won the Main Event for $77,556. In the High Roller, seven of eight final table players hailed from Brazil, but “kofi89” of Uruguay came out on top for $31,459. You can find the full BSOP Online report and results here.
The MicroMillions also proved a huge success, paying out $5.3 million across 122 events. “Badbomen” of Argentina won that $22 Main Event, topping a 52,696-entry field to capture a cool $87,466 first prize. Full MicroMillions results here.
Expanding on the direction that online poker is traveling, one of our feature pieces for July was a guide on using Discord for poker – yet another way for players to create and maintain communities around their favorite card game.
Another quiet month, perhaps, but online poker’s biggest series was right around the corner. WCOOP was announced at the end of July – the series set to start in late August and carrying a weighty $100 million in guaranteed prizes. The Road to WCOOP would involve $1 million in free tickets to be given away.
On August 6, Team Pro Tom ‘Majincast’ Hayward streamed a huge special edition PKO Sunday Million first place finish to thousands of viewers on Twitch. Stanton caught up with Hayward to speak about his epic victory. Majincast said that he had repeatedly dreamed about winning the Sunday Million in the past. This time it’s real, and so is the $53k that he woke up with the next day.
From an established Team Pro member to a new one, Benjamin “Bencb789” Rolle joined up in late August. The German pro regularly streams on Twitch and is the founder of poker coaching brand Raise Your Edge, a partner of PokerStars.
August was also the month we introduced PokerStars Community, a forum players can use to ask and answer questions related to PokerStars products. The community is still developing and growing as we enter 2022, so check it out if you haven’t done already.
Of course, the real hype at this time of year is always around WCOOP – and 2021 was no different – 306 tourneys, $100 million in prizes, including a $10 million main event. Interestingly, all-time WCOOP prize pools were also about to top the $1 billion mark.
As we prepared for online poker’s most prestigious festival, Howard Swains took us on a journey back through the history of WCOOP.
September began with positive news as Brazilian pro Rafael “GM_VALTER” Moraes joined PokerStars Team Pro. Moraes’ biggest win came in the 2016 SCOOP and was worth over $300k, and he’s had major live cashes in the EPT and WSOP. Moraes represents a Brazilian player base that is growing in both numbers and strategic know-how.
By September, WCOOP was well underway. By the end of the epic series, which gave away over $122 million in prizes and broke records for entries, prize pools and payouts.
Brazilian pro Yuri “theNERDguy” Martins and UK pro Talal “raidalot” Shakerchi both locked up three titles each and Shakerchi also won Player of the Series for an additional $250k. In another series highlight, both Parker “tonkaaaa” Talbot and Spraggy won a WCOOP title in the same night and streamed to their respective audiences.
Several players won two titles, one of who was Laurie ‘LaliTournier’ Tournier, interviewed later by Martin Harris. Props too to “Fisherman FV” of the Netherlands, who became the first player in history to win two WCOOP titles in one night. PokerStars Blog got the story.
The final day saw “CrazyLissy” of Russia take down the High Main Event to claim a huge first prize worth almost $1.5 million. “festen x” took down the “Medium” for just over $549K. We caught up with the Swedish player, who plans to keep his win secret for a year.
Players on PokerStars’ three US sites came out in force to play in COOPs of their own throughout September. All told, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and New Jersey players won $5.27 million in the three separate series. Check out the full report and highlights for all three here.
In October, PokerStars announced the new Rewards Program. Gone were the days of random coin drops. The new scheme promised to be simpler and more transparent, and also offered the opportunity to earn extra rakeback in the form of bonus deals.
Another exciting announcement was the return of the Dare2Stream competition, the winner of which would receive a PokerStars ambassador contract. It was the perfect time for the Blog to publish a complete guide detailing everything you need to start streaming poker. We also outlined five players you can look to for streaming inspiration.
Bounty Builder Series ran throughout October, awarding $37.5 million in prizes. “bauruzito” of Brazil won the Main Event High for $249k, including $90k bounties. You can find the full Bounty Builder Series results here.
On the entertainment front, the world was tuning in to watch the rather violent but undeniably enticing Squid Game. PokerStars ambassador Ben “Bencb789” Rolle talked strategy and unveiled the optimal way to survive the gruesome ordeal.
To give you a little more inspiration on what to watch, we also covered classic films with poker scenes.
PokerStars held the Big 20 Rewind series in November (and into December), a celebration of 20 years as an industry leader in online poker. Each tourney had a different theme and gave away extra prizes ranging from poker merchandise to round the world trips.
PokerStars Blog got into the spirit by running an ongoing Big 20 Players Awards with a number of different categories to vote on. The results are now in, so for a very entertaining read check out the Big 20 Players Awards here.
We also wrote no less than 20 feature posts, each one covering a theme from the year that it represents. There’s lots of great content that’s well worth the read. Big 20 articles below:
2001 – Electronic poker before PokerStars
2002 – The year of WCOOP
2003 – Chris Moneymaker wins WSOP, sparks ‘poker boom’
2004 – The Year of the EPT
2005 – Reporting on poker will never catch on…
2006 – How poker prize pools ballooned
2007 – The changing face of the sponsored pro
2008 – Where future superstars cut their teeth
2009 – The live poker boom hits its highest point
2010 – Poker as a TV and streaming spectacle
2011 – Isuldur1 and the nosebleed cash games
2012 – A look back at some of poker’s best (and worst) innovations
2013 – Is this the best final table ever?
2014 – The art of the streak
2015 – The rise of the global game
2016 – The poker community gives back
2017 – The oral history of the Fintan and Spraggy stream
2018 – The year of platinum hunting
2019 – The greatest (and most unlikely) poker achievements
2020 – Poker during a pandemic
December began with a welcome (if temporary) return to live poker. The BSOP Millions, held in Sao Paulo, reached 25,000 entries across 50 events for total prize pools of more than R$ 40.5M (approximately $7.4 million). The Main Event set records for the biggest prize pool in Latin America. André Berlanda took away the title and top prize of R$ 1.5M. Full BSOP Millions write-up here.
Despite the optimism brought about by such a successful live event, elsewhere the EPT had to postpone again. In its place, a hastily put together EPT Online series with $17 million in guaranteed prizes.
PokerStars ambassador Ramon Colilas, best known for his $5.1 million PSPC victory, looked set to take down the Main Event when he faced Sweden’s “WhatIfGod” heads-up. Amazingly, WhatIfGod claimed the title for the second year running, this team bagging $363k. Full EPT Online results here.
In December, we also announced the winner of Dare2Steam, the competition that challenged players across the globe to showcase their Twitch talents for eight weeks of streaming. Sebastian “peace&loove” Huber won the competition and earned a Platinum Pass and a contract as PokerStars ambassador. Niclas “flushiisback” Thumm was the community winner and also earned a Platinum Pass.
Winter Series began on December 25 and runs January 12. The series will award a guaranteed $50 million in prizes, including $4.5 million across three tiers of Main Event. There’s still time to get involved, so glance over the full Winter Series schedule to plan your poker for the new year.