Online poker expansions and retractions, performances of long-time pros, and new websites dominated the poker sphere in 2015. The landscape changed for the better and worse, and this year was exciting for both players and fans.
The game picked up momentum with the largest World Series of Poker (WSOP) tournament of all time, and many states got closer to successfully regulating online poker. Here are five of the biggest poker headlines of the past year:
5. PokerStars begins operating in New Jersey
The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement finally granted online gaming site PokerStars a license to operate in the state this year – a big change expected to launch in 2016. It took the site years of jumping through hoops before the license became a reality and this is the first time the giant will return to the U.S. since April 2011. While the possibility of the site returning nationwide is a long way off, the foot-in-the-door of this New Jersey launch is a reason for online poker fans to get excited about the future.
4. McKeehen dominates Main Event
Poker pro Joe McKeehen of Philadelphia dominated play at this year’s WSOP Main Event, winning his first bracelet and the $7.6 million grand prize this November. He started Day 7 fourth in chips, but quickly flung himself into pole position by the time the field was trimmed to 21 players. From there, he never looked back. When the November Nine players were decided, McKeehen had 35-percent of the chips in play. His dominance at the final table was reminiscent of Jamie Gold in 2006.
3. Hellmuth earns 14th bracelet
Phil Hellmuth is one of the biggest names in poker for good reason: he holds the world record for most cash finishes at the WSOP (100) and most WSOP final tables (49). He also became the youngest person ever to win the World Series of Poker Main Event in 1989. This year, he added to his record total of WSOP bracelets by winning a 14th in the $10,000 Razz Championship, the second Razz bracelet of his career. While he is known for his pompous and self-praising behavior – which garnered him the nickname “the Poker Brat” – there is no doubt this year’s bracelet win secures his place as a poker legend.
2. Online poker network launches in Nevada and Delaware
Nevada and Delaware are two of three U.S. states that offer regulated online gambling. In 2014, the pair signed a pact to share liquidity on their online poker sites. In March 2015, the pact became a reality and the two states launched their Multi-State Poker Network that allowed players from both states to play against each other on an online platform. While Nevada and Delaware alone don’t have the player network to support lucrative revenue, the two states have set a framework to get online poker back to where it was before 2011’s “Black Friday.”
1. Bryan Micon arrested
While Bryan Micon’s arrest doesn’t have as direct an impact on players as a few of the other top poker stories in 2015, it still marks a significant moment in the year’s online poker history. In February, Bitcoin-based online poker room Seals With Clubs announced it would be suspending operations due to a security breach. Soon after, the site’s chairman, Bryan Micon, announced his intentions to start a new Bitcoin poker site in the near future.
In April, the Nevada Attorney General’s office announced Micon was being charged with operating an unlicensed interactive gaming system. In June, he returned to the U.S. to face the charges and, in November, reached a settlement with the state, agreeing to two years of probation and a $25,000 fine. Now that his legal issues have taken a backseat, maybe Micon will finally break back into the online poker world. Legally, of course.
(Photo credit: Pete Fordham, Creative Commons.)
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