It was an interesting year for the poker industry. While the United States moved slowly towards legalized online poker and continued to feel the aftershocks of Black Friday, the live tournament circuit continued to grow here and abroad. Despite the disappearance of much of the televised poker programming that the ousted online poker sights were responsible for, there were still plenty of bright spots.
This year featured a $1 million buy-in tournament and career years for stalwarts like Antonio Esfandiari and Phil Hellmuth. Then there was the BLUFF Player of the Year race, with young guns Marvin Rettenmaier, Dan Smith and Greg Merson each putting together a 2012 campaign to remember. As we look back at 2012; you’ll see a lot of great moments and reasons to be hopeful as 2013 begins.
Giacomo Fundaro Wins WPT Mazagan
For the second time in 2012, three different WPT champions were crowned in a month. WPT Mazagan just snuck in, wrapping up on December 1st, but the event in the coastal Moroccan town kicked off an eventful month of poker. Davidi Kitai tried to cap a year that already saw him lock up a triple crown with a second career WPT title, but he fell short in fourth place. Bruno Fitoussi made the final table as well, but couldn’t come back from a short stack as he would go out sixth. Giacomo Fundaro would go on to victory in this one, claiming the title and $168,207.
Online Poker Legislation Advances in Nevada and New Jersey
Online poker has been virtually non-existent since PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker were shut down after Black Friday, but that looks like it could be changing for some players in the near future. Nevada passed legislation for online poker and is already granting licenses, like the one it awarded Caesars in early December. New Jersey hopes to put itself in a similar position soon, with the New Jersey state senate approving an online gaming bill that is still awaiting the signature of Governor Chris Christie. PokerStars seems to be positioning themselves for such a bill to pass, as the online giant looks to purchase the Atlantic Club Casino contingent on said legislation.
Marcin Wydrowski Wins at WPT Prague
The second WPT event of December was the tour’s entry in Prague in a month in which almost every possible regional and international tour passed through at some point. 567 players turned out to contend for their spot on the Champion’s trophy, with Americans Dan Ospina and Elio Fox, the 2011 WSOP Europe champion, reaching the final table before falling short. Marcin Wydrowski won this title and $423,957.
Howard Lederer Settles Black Friday Charges
Howard Lederer reappeared in 2012 to give a couple of interviews in which he avoided answering many questions. Lederer continued to face a series of civil charges and judgments for his involvement with Full Tilt Poker, but in December he finally cleared them up. He agreed to asset forfeitures of $2.5 million that included bank accounts, properties and cars. Chris Ferguson and Ray Bitar are the only remaining defendants who still face civil charges going into 2013.
WSOP Europe Moves from Cannes to Paris in 2013
After starting out in London in 2007 and moving to Cannes in 2011, the World Series of Poker Europe will be on the move once again in 2013. It will move from one Casino Barriere in Cannes to another just outside of Paris for its seventh year after two years on the French Riviera. The specific tournament schedule is not yet set, but the series will last from October 11-24.
Ravi Raghavan Wins WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic
The third WPT final table of the month and the final one of 2012 saw a lot of familiar faces. After winning in 2010 and finishing sixth in 2011, Antonio Esfandiari was back for a third straight year. Joining him were Andrew Lichtenberger, who was at the final table for the second straight year, and Shawn Buchanan, who made that final table in 2009. None of them would make good on another opportunity as Ravi Raghavan, known best as ‘govshark’ online, would win the $1.26 million first place prize.
EPT Prague Brings 2012 and the BLUFF Player of the Year Race to an Exciting Finish
With EPT Prague sitting as the final major series of the year, Dan Smith had to feel pretty good about his chances at being the 2012 BLUFF Player of the Year. Greg Merson hadn’t played any tournament poker since clinching the Main Event title, and Marvin Rettenmaier needed a big result to even think about passing him. Then Rettenmaier’s flight got canceled and prevented him from playing the Main Event, leaving him with his final chance of the year in the EPT Prague High Roller.
If he struck out in this tournament, there was nowhere else to go. None of the remaining tournaments in Europe, America or elsewhere had enough points attached to push him over the top, forcing Rettenmaier to take on a field of 113 high stakes pros to do it. And that’s exactly what he did. Rettenmaier captured the title and enough points to overtake Smith to give himself a storybook ending to an amazing year, as well as €365,300. The most competitive race in the history of the award ended as dramatically as possible, with Smith in attendance to see it happen.
Meanwhile in the Main Event, Ramzi Jelassi was having some serious success of his own. After dispatching David Boyaciyan (who had finished second in this tournament a year before) out in third, Jelassi emerged from a heads-up match with Sotirios Koutoupas victoriously, earning over $1 million.
For content from the December issue of the magazine, check out the BLUFF Mobile App. This month’s stories include ‘The New Full Tilt’, where we look at how the restarted online poker site is doing, and ‘Not Just Another Pretty Face’, where we break down the growing trend of Open Face Chinese Poker. Our cover story takes an in-depth journey with Main Event champion Greg Merson as he goes through almost all of the pivotal hands he played during the final table.
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