Hello everyone and welcome to 2020. Did you have a good Christmas?

While many of us had our feet up, propped on mountains of candy wrappers and drunken relatives passed out on the floor, the virtual dealers of PokerStars were flinging cards at thousands of players in the inaugural Winter Series.

And, safe to say, there are still many, many people across the world for whom Christmas means nothing more than a great time to grind.

With the first week of competition in the books, 28 events are complete. That means 84 champions as there are three buy-in levels to each event. Here are some highlights of the Winter Series so far:

CHRISTMAS DAY

The Winter Series kicked off on December 25, and a staggering 15,198 people entered the $5.50 curtain-raising low buy-in event. Of them, 7,572 needed a re-entry too, building a prize pool of $111,573. Not bad for a tournament costing $5.50 to play. The last three players were still slugging it out a 6am on December 26 before coming to a deal, with Germany’s “Nentwich83” taking the title, and $9,063.44, ahead of Ireland’s “salllysboy” (second for $7,549.39) and the UK’s “SlickyTrick” (third for $8,985.26).

The medium ($55) and high ($530) buy-in events were similarly popular and both built prize-pools of more than $300K. Ukraine’s “psyhoagromor” needed a re-entry in the medium event, but will consider that money well spent as he or she won $51,723.51 for being the last player left. Meanwhile, “olle1FIN” of Finland chopped the $530 tournament with “N.E.C. NMGN” of The Netherlands and won $48,992.72.

Event 02-L
Buy-in: $5.50
Entries: 22,770 (inc. 7,572 re-entries)
Prize pool: $111,573
Winner: Nentwich83, Germany — $9,063.44 (after three-way deal)

Event 02-M
Buy-in: $55
Entries: 7,295 (inc. 2,153 re-entries)
Prize pool: $364,750
Winner: psyhoagromor, Ukraine — $51,723.51

Event 02-H
Buy-in: $530
Entries: 435 (inc. 174 re-entries)
Prize pool: $304,500
Winner: olle1FIN, Finland — $48,992.72 (after heads-up deal)

There was also three PKO Turbo events kicking off at about the time an exhausted Santa Claus was cracking open his first beer, with the $1,050 buy-in event offering the biggest first prize. Sweden’s “eijseijs” consolidated his place in the top 10 of Pocket Fives’ global online poker rankings with his victory over a 218-entry field, banking $21,388.91 in prize money and another $28,570.30 in bounties. He adds that to his debut WCOOP title, won earlier in 2019.

Event 03-L
Buy-in: $11
Entries: 12,322
Prize pool: $120,755.60
Winner: Hans-jörg029, Austria — $7,628.17 + $1,827.43 in bounties

Event 03-M
Buy-in: $109
Entries: 2,455
Prize pool: $245,500
Winner: blackaces93, Poland — $12,023.37 + $18,037.39

Event 03-H
Buy-in: $1,050
Entries: 218
Prize pool: $218,000
Winner: eijseijs, Sweden — $21,388.91 + $28,570.30

BIGGEST PRIZE POOL

Without doubt, the standout tournament so far in the Winter Series was the $215 buy-in Event 16, otherwise known as the Sunday THREE Million. The capitalisation tells you all you need to know about this one: the regular Sunday Million had its guarantee tripled for a one-off special event, which started on December 29 and played to its winner in the early hours of New Year’s Eve.

The lobby on the biggest event in the Winter Series

The guarantee was comfortably crushed by the 12,891 players who entered a total 17,543 times (that’s 4,652 re-entries), with $375,697 on the table for the winner. With eight left, Argentina’s “McFadden92” had the biggest stack, about 13 big blinds more than his closest challenger, “takisxa” of Greece. Those two went on to contest the heads up duel, by which point the tables had turned. “takisxa” knocked out “Levan1971” in third (winning a race with K♠Q♠ against “Levan1971″‘s pocket threes) and had 295 million to “McFadden92″‘s 144 million.

They played for about 15 minutes, but “McFadden92” couldn’t get back into it. He ended up calling all-in pre-flop for his last nine big blinds with K♦7♥, but “takisxa” had shoved with the dominant A♦7♣. The ace on the flop all but ended it. “McFadden92” took $270,120.44 for second. The best-known player at the final, Sam “SamSquid” Grafton”, won $37,322 for his eighth-placed finish.

Event 16 – Sunday THREE Million
Buy-in: $215
Entries: 17,543 (inc. 4,652 re-entries)
Prize pool: $3,508,600

1: takisxa, Greece — $375,697.41
2: McFadden92, Argentina — $270,120.44
3: Levan1971, Georgia — $194,218.90
4: gardze_wami, Poland — $139,645.43
5: prophetdream, Korea — $100,406.65
6: Tr!pleeeee, Poland — $72,193.30
7: margenov, Bulgaria — $51,907.98
8: Sam “SamSquid” Grafton, UK — $37,322.73

BIG NAMES, BIG RESULTS

Niklas “lena900” Åstedt is never far from the top of the global rankings, and the man from Vastra Gotaland, Sweden, starts the new decade as the Pocket Fives No 1 thanks in part to his Winter Series victory in the $1,050 Five-Card Omaha event. Åstedt beat a 98-entry field to this one, banking $23,896. He has also come second in two other Winter Series tournaments already, Event-17-M: $215 PLO 6-Max PKO and Event-11-H: $530 NLHE Afternoon Deep Stacks. Those two scores were worth another $12,960 and $26,920, respectively. (In the second, he actually won more than “Freeway1988” after the two struck a heads-up deal, but Åstedt had to settle for an official second place rather than another title.)

Niklas “lena900” Astedt: Running hot through the cold months

Canada’s “a.urli” is forever enshrined in the PokerStars history books for his victory in the Sunday Million 10th Anniversary tournament in 2016, but he has not rested on those laurels. He is another player who won a WCOOP title last September and also clinched a victory in the Winter Series. “a.urli” won Event-08-H, which was a 6-Max PKO Turbo with a $1,050 buy-in. It earned him $23,863.76 in prize money, plus another $29,718.74 in bounties.

BIG HANDS

Fintan “easywithaces” Hand recorded the standout performance of the PokerStars Twitch streamers in WCOOP last year when he came 23rd in the Main Event, all while streaming live. He was back up to his old tricks in Event 9-H of the Winter Series, when he finished fourth of 557 entries and won $20,381.57. His run came to a grinding halt when he ran pocket nines into the pocket aces of eventual runner-up Jerry “Perrymejsen” Odeen, but that was a fine way to end a great year for Hand. Here’s to a stellar 2020.

“Perrymejsen” was by no means done, by the way. He also finished third in Event #10-H (for $12,304.55 + $9,609.37) on the same day, and third in Event #11-H $20,193.20) the next night, behind his countryman Niklas “lena900” Åstedt, and “Freeway1988”.

Jerry “Perrymejsen” Odeen: Multiple deep runs

NEW YEAR’S DAY

Arguably the most amazing thing about this Winter Series is that it’s only just getting started really. Just consider how the New Year kicked off, with 12 tournaments on the first day of 2020. They were all no limit hold’em affairs, six of which were PKOs, with the day ending in a flurry of hyper turbos.

The biggest prize pool on January 1 (ending actually into January 2) was the $402,800 for the $215 buy-in 6-Max PKO, won by the UK’s “skooby10“. He picked up $30,174.19 in prize money and a further $24,990.72 in bounties after beating a 2,014-entry field.

The biggest single prize went to another Brit: “Ahh Is It?” who answered his own question with an emphatic “Yes”. He beat Andras “probirs” Nemeth heads-up and won $35,303.61 plus $46,218.75 in bounties.

Strap in for a jam-packed start of this decade. There are 15 tournaments starting today (Thursday January 2), and 15 each for the following three days too. That’s 60 tournaments over four days. On January 7, we have the $10,300 High Roller scheduled, among another 15 tournaments.

We’re all gearing up to the Main Event, which starts on January 12 and runs for three day. There are three buy-in levels: $5,200, $530 and $55, with guarantees of $2 million, $1.5 million and $1 million. This is going to be some year.

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