Despite much of the turmoil that festered throughout 2012, there was much to be delighted and thrilled about on the tournament scene. As customary, major live tournaments have become the marquee attraction for the world’s best players, and last year did not disappoint. With many of the biggest names in poker once again making their presence felt, along with some amateurs and recreational faces introducing themselves fearlessly, it was truly a year to remember.
The importance of tournaments to the poker landscape is unprecedented, people from across the globe on multiple continents all continuously gather for their opportunity to win life-changing money. Even despite economic uncertainty or disaster, poker tournaments have become a way for every one – at least for a moment – to forget about their lives and immerse themselves into the welcoming poker community.
2012 was a tournament year unlike any we’ve ever seen; the introduction of world-class events such as the Big Drop and the Macau High Stakes Challenge helped lift tournament poker to unparalleled heights. The variety of major live tournaments has always been vast, but with the raised level of play and the intensity of what was on the line, we were able to witness some of the best poker talent ever displayed.
Let’s dig right into it!
PokerStars Caribbean Adventure – January 2012
The PCA is typically the start to the new calendar year for poker players, and what a great start it was in 2012. For most players, it’s an opportunity to start fresh – for John Dibella, it was an opportunity to completely rearrange your life.
The 43-year-old day trader from New York walked away with the gargantuan $1,775,000 main event prize, money that not only him, but most of us think we’ll never see in a lifetime. Surprisingly, Dibella and his family consistently travel to the Caribbean, but usually for vacation. This time around, Dibella decided that he wanted to spend a bit more time enjoying his second passion; poker.
Winning a small $1,000 live tournament satellite to make it to this event, it was through a field of 1,071 other players that Dibella finally made it to the winner’s circle. Once Dibella was heads-up against professional player Kyle Julius, he decided to strike a deal that guaranteed him the title, and most importantly $1.7 million dollars.
“I’m overwhelmed,” said Dibella. “It feels so surreal. I’m sure it will hit me tomorrow.”
Aussie Millions – January 2012
Although the previous tournament is usually the event that gets the poker juices flowing, the Aussie Millions is always a great opportunity for players to enjoy the luxurious destinations and the world-class poker atmosphere in Australia. It’s been customary over the past year or so for a local player to win the main event, and in 2012, that tradition followed suit once again.
Oliver Speidel was crowned the 2012 Aussie Millions champion, and he defeated a tough field of 659 players to achieve that dream. Speidel managed to finish deep in two other events in this tournament as well, and the main event title truly proved just to be icing on the cake.
Surprisingly so, even the $1.6 million dollar pay day for Speidel wasn’t enough to make the biggest headlines at the Aussie Millions.
In a triumphant return to the poker scene, Phil Ivey’s first major appearance since the Full Tilt Poker debacle saw him back in rare form, winning the $250,000 Super High Roller event and also the biggest cash of his career with $2,000,000.
Did we forget to mention that Ivey also finished 12th in the Aussie Millions Main Event?
World Poker Tour World Championship – May 2012
While the World Poker Tour is never by any means a lackluster event, it’s typically the time off between the early winter months and the beginning of summer that put tournament players in a bit of a seasonal coma. The World Poker Tour season is typically the opportunity for players to get a spring in their step, and no one did this better than eventual winner Marvin Rettenmaier.
The World Poker Tour Championship has been won by some of the most noteworthy players in poker – Gus Hansen, Daniel Negreanu and Phil Ivey to name a few – and for some it’s been a coming-out party for the rest of their excellent career. Rettenmaier is an established online player, and also tournament player, but the $1.2 million that he won on this occasion still shows as the biggest win on his growing resume.
In order to do so, Rettenmaier had to overcome a final table littered with grinders, and we should say “pun intended” because Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi was also included in this collection of regulars. To boot, the streaky and unpredictable Nick Schulman was also in attendance, and both of these players truly put Rettenmaier to the test throughout his quest for glory.
Despite Schulman being eliminated in fourth and Mizrachi in third, the 8-hour final table consisted of over 200 hands, and every player remaining was difficult to beat. However, the Party Poker sponsored pro was able to secure the first seven-figure cash of his career.
Rettenmaier also managed to steal the spotlight from well-known online player Tom Marchese, who won the $100,000 WPT High Roller event just a day earlier.
Big One for One Drop – WSOP – July 2012
To be honest, there truly isn’t much to say about this event unless you were hiding under a rock during the summer months. Antonio Esfandiari – otherwise known as “The Magician” – quickly became the world’s most envied poker pro after he cashed in the biggest tournament prize in poker history for $18.3 million. We don’t need to state that this was one for the history books, but we will anyway.
An incredible event, both for charity and for the poker community, Esfandiari got through 47 other individuals, including heads-up competitor Sam Trickett to become the all-time tournament money earner.
Truly one for the ages.
Macau High Stakes Challenge – August 2012
If you’re a poker player and follower, when you hear the word Macau you usually almost always think of the insanely-touted cash games that have been taking place over the past few years. While Vegas will always be one of the best places to find action across the globe, for those who play “uber high-stakes”, Macau has been the venue of choice. For those who play this high, you would think the multi-million dollar pots (yes we said multi), would be enough. Guess again.
In 2012 Macau was host to a $260,000 buy-in event (HK$2,000,000), and it managed to attract nearly every big name poker professional there on the planet. Tom Dwan, Gus Hansen, Erik Seidel, John Juanda, or you could select almost any other former member of Team Full Tilt, and they were in attendance. While the buy-in was a lot to pony up, the prize pool of $23,511,000 (HK$182,360,000) was enough incentive to get 73 players to invest. Believe it or not, but there was even a re-buy option!
Stanley Choi ended up as the victor, and he won $6,465,746 (HK$50,149,000) in the process.
The tournament lasted one day due to the rapid structure, despite the big-name pros in the field. They were probably happy to conclude this tournament quickly, as summer is always the busiest season for tournaments.
WSOP Main Event & WSOPE Main Event – October 2012
The World Series of Poker Main Event will always be the most historical in all of poker, but in 2012 it likely took a back seat to the Big One for One Drop. But it’s unlikely that you’ll find Greg Merson complaining, and despite the $8,531,853 being less than half of what Esfandiari won in his tournament, Merson still made his way into the annals of poker history with his main event cash.
There were 6,598 players in the tournament in 2012, and this year the final table concluded in October. The Maryland native was a dominate force at the final table, and it was also said that Merson used poker and his play during the ‘Series as a method of escape from drug addiction. Now doing much better, and with over $8 million to boot, Merson is still competing with the best of them.
Merson beat Jesse Sylvia ($5,295,149) heads-up to win the title, and also ended up winning the WSOP Player of the Year Race against fierce rival Phil Hellmuth.
Speaking of the “Poker Brat”, just weeks before Merson won the 2012 WSOP Main Event, Hellmuth was busy winning his own main event title. Hellmuth reigned supreme in Europe, winning the biggest prize held there in 2012 with EU$1.02 million. Etching his name even further into the history books of the WSOP, Hellmuth now has the most cashes (95) and the most wins (13) ever at the World Series of Poker.
2012 was truly a year of resurgence for Hellmuth, as he likely proved he’s still one of the best – if not the best – tournament players that’s ever played.
You’ll likely here more from these players in 2013, along with more from us here on MacPoker.com.