The Year That Was: January 2012

Cover of BLUFF January 2012

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.


Viktor Blom wins the PCA $100k High Roller

Viktor Blom confirmed all the rumors that he was the man behind the “Isildur1″ account and was announced he had just signed on to be a PokerStars Team Pro. Blom showed that his skills weren’t limited to the virtual felt when he bested a 29 player field in the $100,000 Super High Roller event.

The eight-handed final table only paid five players and Humberto Brenes, Mike McDonald and Scott Seiver were the unlucky final tablists that left without a payout. Dan Shak finished runner-up, Galen Hall in third, Jonathan Duhamel in fourth and Daniel Negreanu finished fifth.

Freddy Deeb Wins WSOPC LA at the Bike

For the first time in WSOPC history the tour rolled into Los Angeles and set up shop at the Bicycle Casino. It proved to be one of the stop’s more popular Main Events, attracting 549 players. Some of the West Coast’s best players turned out for the event; Allen Cunningham, Phil Hellmuth, Bryan Devonshire, Alec Torrelli and Mandy Baker all took part in the action.

But it would be Freddy Deeb claiming the title at the end, along with $171,810, a WSOPC gold ring and a seat in the WSOP National Championship. Deeb took full advantage of the re-entry format and skipped Day 1 all together. He registered at the start of Day 2 with a 20 big blind stack and within a couple levels was one of the chip leaders. He carried his momentum all the way through to the end and defeated up-and-comer Alex Masek heads up.

Dan Smith Wins $100k Challenge at Aussie Millions

Dan Smith started his incredible 2012 with a bang after winning the Aussie Millions $100,000 Challenge. The win was the first of six tournament wins he put together that kept him in the top spot of the BLUFF Player of the Year race for most of the year. The seven-figure prize funded his tear across the globe that saw him cash in seven different countries.

Smith eliminated Name Le, Sam Trickett, Tony G., Joe Hachem and Mikhail Smirnov at the final table alone. Sorel Mizzi and Gus Hansen busted before the money courtesy of Smirnov.

Marvin Rettenmaier spoiled Smith’s POY title in one of the last major tournaments of the calendar year. The young German won four tournaments himself, including, the $25,000 WPT World Championship and the EPT Grand Final.

Oliver Speidel wins Aussie Millions Main Event

Poker fans were foaming at the mouth when they learned Phil Ivey returned from his self-imposed poker hiatus at the 2012 Aussie Millions. But for the fourth consecutive year an Australian took home the title. Oliver Speidel defeated a relatively unknown final table to walk away with $1.75 million in one of the world’s most prestigious events.

Ivey ultimately finished in 12th, Daniel Idema 8th, Grant Levy 15th, David Paul Steicke 26th, Jason Koon 27th and Kenna James 57th place. Bjorn Li entered the final table with a quarter of the chips in play but sputtered out with a sixth place finish. After his elimination Speidel kept his foot on the accelerator and by the time heads up play came he held 14 million of the near 20 million chips in play. Speidel beat Ken Wong after only 20 minutes of heads up play and claimed the biggest prize of his poker career.



Pius Heinz: Main Event Champ

BLUFF sat down with 2011 WSOP Main Event Champion Pius Heinz and found out he’s pretty much just like every other 22 year-old guy, except now he’s got nearly $9 million in tournament winnings with less than a year’s experience. Heinz was a late bloomer in online terms when he started to take poker seriously.

Heinz graduated high school and went straight to college with the intent of studying business psychology. While in college he got more and more sucked into the poker world and started playing $0.05/$0.10 game in a friend’s basement. He gradually began more and more online and before he knew it he had racked up $600,000 in winnings without a single six-figure score.

Heinz shared his poker struggles  with us and then broke down some of the turning point hands during his Main Event run that led to him capturing the bracelet.

The Legend of Benny Binion

When discussing the history of gambling, or Las Vegas in general, Benny Binion should be the first one of the first names mentioned. His beginnings were rooted in being a “Boss Gambler” from Dallas. Binion moved to Las Vegas and opened Binion’s Horseshoe on  Freemont Street and revolutionized the business.

Noted poker historian Hughes dove into his beginnings and his battles with other Boss Gamblers and the mob. Hughes also goes on to highlight some of his struggles with law enforcement and the infamous backroom where cheaters and thieves were taken for Binion’s own special brand of justice.



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Paul Oresteen

Senior Writer: Paul Oresteen originally joined BLUFF in 2008 as an intern. He covered two World Series of Poker’s before leaving to join After a two year hiatus Oresteen returned to BLUFF in November 2012. Since starting as a poker journalist Oresteen has covered the World Series of Poker, WSOP Circuit, World Poker Tour and European Poker Tour. He graduated from Georgia State University with a B.A. in Communications in 2008.
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