2008: What The Year Meant To Poker

2008: What The Year Meant To Poker

Thursday, 1 January 2009

It’s handy for those of us who have been working too damned hard or just too damned busy couped up in an online poker room. So what did 2008 mean to poker? Dave Bland discusses.

One of the reasons why I personally like New Year so much more than Christmas is the way in which all good publications issue lists of the defining moments of the year before. It’s handy for those of us who have been working too damned hard or just too damned busy couped up in an online poker room. So what did 2008 mean to poker?

It was the year which saw a European player once again conquer Las Vegas. Eastgate followed on from Carlos Mortensen and Noel Furlong as one of those who had cut his way through the (considerably larger) crowds to rise to the very top. While America is too busy wondering whether they should even be cultivating the culture of poker, Europe has embraced the game and taken it to an even higher level. While the ESPN coverage did murder what was a highly skilful final table, Eastgate will show us in the next twelve months that he’s no flash in the pan.

While Eastgate might have had the magazine covers and the glory of being the Main Event Champion, 2008 was arguable the year of another fresh face on the poker scene. Ivan Demidov was just another of the November Nine when they bagged the chips up for the last time in the Amazon Room at the Rio in the summer heat. What he did when he came to London though astounded us all, and might have arguably cemented the decision to have the three-month hiatus. The challenge offered at the Casino at the Empire was wholly different from that in America, with a smaller but more concentrated field possessing all bar a handful of the world’s best. Phil Ivey, Doyle Brunson, Phil Hellmuth, Gus Hansen… they all came but faltered. The young Russian quietly went about his work though, only turning heads when down to the last couple of tables. “Isn’t that the guy who made the Vegas final table?”, the press muttered. Yes, it was. Ivan might not have won either bracelet, but his brace of top three finishes might have made his reputation even more impressive than that of Peter Eastgate.

No discussion of the last twelve months would be complete without mentioning the online poker world. Cash game poker exploded in the second half of 2008, with Guy Laliberte winning a pot north of $700k with just a pair of deuces. The games went higher, the nosebleeds bled more and the swings got more violent. Ziigmund dropped $1.3m in one evening – something he credited the next day to being hungover; an expensive night out. While Ivey might not have cracked the WSOP or its European counterpart, he did dominate the cash games online, ending up in the region of $7m for the year. That’s five drinking sessions for Ilari then.

The year also had its sorrier moments. Scotty got too drunk on one of the biggest stages of them all, while the online poker world still suffered from its fair dose of controversies. The one thing the year did show us though is that poker is a resilient beast, able to brush aside the fears many have that the industry as a whole is coming into its twilight years. Ivan Demidov might just be the breath of fresh air the live game needs, while the boom of poker with the ascent of the Asian Poker Tour and new Russian and Australian circuits show you that, while the game may be stagnating in the States, the rest of the world is still wanting to shuffle up and deal. Bring on 2009 and Barack – we’d love to have the Americans back.

Tags: Dave Bland, Columnist