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2021 poker year in review: Polk beats Negreanu, American online poker gets a big boost

Take a look at some of the biggest stories in poker in 2021.

This year we’re doing something a little different and breaking down our annual review of the year of poker into three different parts: the Flop (January-April), the Turn (May-August) and the river (September-December). ). We end 2021 by looking back at some of our biggest stories, winners and surprises that unfolded in one of the most unique years in gaming history.


Although we are officially in 2021, some of the most important cases of 2020 had not yet been decided at the beginning of January, because Damien salas and Joseph herbert gathered at a near-empty Rio All-Suites hotel and casino in Las Vegas to play heads-up for a million dollars and determine who will win the official title of the 2020 World Series of Poker Main Event champion.

The final was not without detractors as an online version of the WSOP Main Event had been played on GGPoker earlier in 2020, but Salas – who had already appeared in a previous WSOP Main Event final table in 2017 – s ‘proved to be a worthy winner, taking home an additional $ 1 million and the WSOP Main Event bracelet.

“I’m not playing for the money, it’s not my goal,” Salas said after his victory. “My basic motivation is to get better and better every day and to remain a member of the world-class poker elite.”

READ: The desire to remain elite drives new world champion Damian Salas

As January continued to be full of exciting news for players including Chance Kornuth going to Phil Galfond in the Galfond Challenge, Ilyas Muradi winning the highly successful WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open and Jack Hardcastle winning the WPT Montreal Online Main Event for $ 447,000, poker industry news dominated the first month of the year.

READ: Chris Moneymaker reflects on 17 years as Everyman Ambassador of Poker

For the fourth time in 12 years, the World Poker Tour has been sold under a deal with Element Partners, LLC for more than $ 78 million.

“This agreement will allow the World Poker Tour to do a number of things that it has always wanted to do,” said the CEO of the World Poker Tour. Adam pliska said at the time of the announcement of the deal, unable to fully expand on the nature of the takeover. “What I can say, however, is that for me and my management team we are still here and business continues as usual and we look forward to this exciting next chapter of the World Poker Tour.”

That same week, perhaps one of the biggest stories of the year erupted when the First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the New Hampshire Lottery Commission in its case against the US Department of Justice, overturning a revised Wire Act opinion. In short, it was a big win for online poker players in the United States, setting the stage for a potential online poker boom in the United States in the years to come, removing legal barriers for potential states to enter. in action and even join multi-state pacts to increase total liquidity for Americans.

Almost at the right time, PokerStars officially launched PokerStarsMI.com, becoming the first operator to offer Michiganders (and visitors to the state) the ability to play online poker, legally and regulated, from within the United States. ‘State.

To end the month, Brazil Brunno Bottéon kept his hot 2020 streak intact and ended up as January’s Online Player of the Month.


February started off with a bang. The months-long heads-up grudge match between Daniel Negreanu and Doug Polk ended after 91 days and 25,000 hands. Polk wrote his name in the history books, beating Negreanu solidly and taking home around $ 1.2 million.

“I am very happy that I spent so much time preparing myself and felt that it really helped me tremendously and that I was able to perform at such a high level over such a long period of time,” said Polk said moments after the last hand of the challenge.

During the match, the feud between the two seemed to turn into a respectful rivalry and Negreanu paid homage to what was due in the end.

“He deserved it. He played well. I thought he made some really good adjustments. I thought he got better as the game went on. I thought he got better and better and more sharp, in many different areas, ”said Negreanu.

But that wasn’t the only high-profile high-stakes poker that took place in February as Tom Dwan emerged to take his place in the latest iteration of High Stakes Poker on PokerGO and took home a payout of $ 300,000. The appearance of Dwan was a pleasure for the fans who were equally delighted to find the popular programming “on the air”.

Phil hellmuth

READ: Hellmuth Rants and Palihapitiya win big on latest High Stakes poker

High Stakes Poker wasn’t the only mainstay of poker making a comeback in February as, after more than a year away from Las Vegas, the World Poker Tour returned to Sin City for the first time with the WPT Venetian. The final table featured the aforementioned Jack Hardcastle, as well as 2015 WSOP Main Event champion Joe McKeehen, but it was Qing Liu who took home the trophy and the $ 752,880 first place prize.

Brazilian Yuri Dzivielevski was in contention for the world’s top spot in the online poker rankings (something he ultimately held for most of 2021) and he also walked away with the honors of Online Player of the Month for February. .


Polk and Dwan were not done entertaining the poker world as the High Stakes Poker season stretched into March and the two top players continued to impress. Polk did what some have called “one of the best laydowns of all time” in a massive hand against Phil Hellmuth that rocked the poker world for days as Dwan’s dominance earned him another victory half a million, showing that although it was not in the public eye, it showed no signs of rust.

READ: Tom Dwan, Bryn Kenney Star in Biggest High Stakes Poker Pots S8

Another big winner in March was Vanessa Kade. After his high-profile clash with Dan Bilzerian on social media, Kade used that energy in the PokerStars Sunday Million 15th anniversary online event and walked away with the win for a changed $ 1.5 million salary. his life.

Seeking to replicate the same fervor of the one-on-one battle of Polk and Negreanu, the former No.1-ranked online pro Fedor Holz unleashed a beef with a high stakes cash game crusher Wiktor Malinowski and the couple agreed to bring their quarrel to the pen. The feud was probably fabricated and the heat wasn’t too hot, but fans were treated to a pair of high-stakes pros devoting time to entertaining viewers with the four-session challenge.

Brunno Botteon lost his grip at the top of the online poker rankings as Bert ‘Girafganger7’ Stevens took his third round at the top, but at the end of the month he gave way to Yuri Dzivielevski, who took control. and held it for the next six months.

In case you missed these popular profiles of some of the best poker players, we spoke with Alex Butcher about the possibility of becoming the # 1 player in the US and the work he needs to do on himself in order to to go out of your own way and be open. to succeed.

Speaking of success, Kevin Rabichow explained what made him go from being one of the best online cash game players in the world to playing tournaments and dedicating himself to success.

At the end of the month, Joao ‘Naza114’ Vieira won the Online Player of the Month award for March.


One of our most popular articles of the year was published in April when PokerStars discovered that Isai Scheinberg had agreed to be interviewed for the first time after sorting out all of his Black Friday legal issues. Scheinberg stepped into the spotlight and spoke about the early days of PokerStars, the start of the poker boom, the fallout from Black Friday, and what he does with his life after selling the company for nearly $ 5 billion.

“I valued privacy, but I was not a secret. It’s not the same, ”Scheinberg said, addressing the media for one of the very first times. “I was working hard. I was very busy and I’m not the type to go out and do public relations.

READ: Isai Scheinberg: his company, his legacy and the impact of Black Friday on both

The heads-up craze continued in April as Phil Hellmuth and Daniel Negreanu played in the first of three High Stakes Duel matches on PokerGO. The former was, for many, the most memorable as Negreanu reduced Hellmuth to a 19-1 disadvantage in chips. But Hellmuth used his #WhiteMagic to revive him and defeat Negreanu in what was set to become a running theme for High Stakes Duel.

PokerStars’ Spring Championship of Online Poker and GGPoker’s Spring Festival have both taken over the online poker scene, both offering massive guarantees and nonstop action amid the pandemic. One person who couldn’t get enough was the former No.1 Niklas astedt who couldn’t stay away from the headlines, winning multiple GGSF titles and adding to their SCOOP legacy.

Speaking of the former No.1’s performance in the spring, Simon ‘C Darwin2’ Mattsson won two SCOOP titles on the same day. Additionally, Chris Moorman finally added a SCOOP title to his CV, after winning the first SCOOP of his career.

READ: Joakim Andersson Ships $ 1.5M GGSF Main Event
READ: SCOOP: Series Ends As ‘kZhh’ Wins 10L Main Event Title, $ 878,000

With a massive accumulation of points in the leaderboards, high stakes legend Sami ‘LarsLuzak’ Kelopuro won Online Player of the Month in April.

The results of the year of poker 2021 will continue!

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