PokerStars is celebrating its 20th Anniversary: 20 years as the best known and most trusted online poker site.
To join the celebrations here at PokerStars Blog, we are looking back year-by-year on those two decades, noting the landmarks and remembering all the remarkable moments, fitting them into the wider landscape of poker’s sensational development.
Today we go back to 2006, a landmark year both for PokerStars and poker in general. It was the peak of the mid-2000s “poker boom” when reports of record-breaking prize pools became like… well… a broken record.
By 2006, poker tournaments had grown into a genuinely global phenomenon. And online poker sites like PokerStars had a lot to do with it.
As many remember, 2006 was the year the World Series of Poker Main Event peaked in terms of entries and prize pool.
With online sites again shipping players to Las Vegas via satellites at a rate higher than ever before, a record 8,773 players took part to create a prize pool of just over $82.5 million. Fifteen years later, that is still the largest prize pool for a live poker tournament.
In fact, in July just before the 2006 WSOP Main Event began, PokerStars hosted the largest ever online satellite for the event. No less than 255 players won $10,000 entries (plus travel packages) into the Main in that satellite, bringing the overall total of PokerStars satellite qualifiers over 1,600.
Three of those PokerStars qualifiers made the final table — Doug Kim, Erik Friberg, and Dan Nassif — winning more than $6 million between them. Jamie Gold, of course, a player with a last name almost as uncannily-apt as Moneymaker, took the top prize of $12 million, also still the record for the WSOP Main.
The upward trend at the WSOP Main Event was reflected as well in PokerStars events, both live and online.
The 2006 version of the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure that January was bigger than ever. Still in its infancy, the third PCA Main Event had a then-record a $5.6 million prize pool. That total would keep climbing every year for the next five.
In 2006 the PokerStars Sunday Million debuted in March, a $215 buy-in tournament guaranteeing $1 million prize pool every Sunday. The first one eclipsed that guarantee, and with only a few exceptions that would happen every Sunday for the rest of the year, peaking north of $1.4 million by year’s end.
Following its debut in 2004, second season of the European Poker Tour also ended in March 2006 with the EPT Grand Final in Monaco. There, too, a record was set with a largest-ever prize pool of almost $3.6 million, a mark soon to be bested again and again and again.
The World Championship of Online Poker was bigger than ever that year, too, with total prize pools adding up to $18.5 million. That was an average of more than $1 million per tournament, as there were only 18 WCOOP events that year.
There were other PokerStars milestones in 2006.
That year saw the first instance of 100,000 players being simultaneously logged on at the site.
It was the year PokerStars’ five millionth player registered an account.
It was the year the site dealt its five BILLIONTH hand of poker.
PokerStars would keep on breaking records thereafter for online poker tournaments.
Over the years the site would repeatedly break its own world record for most players in a single online poker tournament.
In late 2008, a total of 35,000 played an $11 tournament to set a new standard. Then the next year, 65,000 played a $1 event in July, then 149,186 turned out for another $1 event in December.
In 2011, the record was extended once again when 200,000 played another $1 event. Then on June 16, 2013, 225,000 played another huge $1 tournament, a record that still stands today.
As far as prize pools go, it was early last year that PokerStars set a new mark with the largest prize pool of any tournament ever on the site.
In March 2020, the 14th Anniversary Sunday Million had a $215 buy-in and a $12.5 million guarantee. Ultimately there were 93,016 total entries, pushing the prize pool up to an astounding $18,603,200.
Incidentally, winner “AAAArthur” got a seat via an $11 satellite. The first prize of $1,192,802 was thus more than 100,000 times the cost to play!
The numbers helping to illustrate ballooning fields and prize pools are fascinating in their own right. But they also help chronicle the ongoing appeal of a particular variety of poker highlighted by televised coverage and facilitated by the rise of the online game.
As AAAArthur’s massive ROI in that record-setting Sunday Million dramatically illustrates, tournaments offer players of all skill levels and bankrolls the chance to win a lot for a little, relatively speaking.
From the very beginning at PokerStars, players have enjoyed tournaments costing as little as a penny all the way up to those with buy-ins of thousands of dollars. Tournaments have proven to be “bankroll builders” for many, enabling players to gather experience and move up in stakes.
A poker tournament is not quite a lottery, since there’s usually a considerable measure of skill involved to go along with the luck of the draw. But tournaments can nonetheless produce lottery-like thrills, especially for those who make a final table and find themselves vying for a top prize worth many times what they paid to play.
Tournaments also are great story-creators, inherently producing exciting narratives of players turning small investments into big cashouts. We at PokerStars Blog and you our valued readers well know that. After all, we’ve been writing those stories and you’ve been reading them ever since the blog debuted just before that wondrous year of 2006!
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