In this installment we’ll take a look at:
- Daniel Negreanu finishes 11th in the WSOP Main Event
- Bluff Magazine shuttered by Churchill Downs
- Joe McKeehen dominates the WSOP Main Event
- Mourning the loss of …
- PokerStars marketing shift culminates with controversial VIP changes
#5: Daniel Negreanu bubbles the WSOP final table
As the World Series of Poker Main Event wore on, day after day, and the tournament went from three tables down to two, there was one really big name in the hunt for poker’s most coveted title that had the entire poker world buzzing: Daniel Negreanu.
A Daniel Negreanu-led November Nine had poker enthusiasts salivating, as the affable poker pro is perhaps the most well-known and well-liked player in poker, and the hope was that Negreanu’s presence could create a buzz surrounding the November Nine not seen since the height of the poker boom.
Alas, it wasn’t meant to be and Negreanu finished in 11th place, two spots shy of making the November Nine. And with that elimination, all of the air went out of the World Series of Poker Main Event, and 2015 turned into “just another year.”
#4: Bluff Magazine closes its doors
One of the sadder moments of 2015 was the decision by Churchill Downs to shutdown Bluff Magazine (at least as we know it), a decision they made at perhaps the strangest time imaginable, right as the World Series of Poker Main Event was playing down to the final table.
In its surprisingly short existence (Bluff was created by Eric Morris in October of 2004 and sold it to Churchill Downs in February of 2012) the magazine had become a well-respected outlet in the poker world with its print magazine, digital content, and Player of the Year award, all overseen by a top-notch staff willing to cover any aspect of the poker world.
Earlier in the year Bluff had stopped producing a print edition, so it wasn’t a complete shock when the announcement was made in July, but it still sent shockwaves through the poker media who are still reeling from the decimation Black Friday inflicted on that segment of the industry.
#3: Joe McKeehen dominates the WSOP final table
Daniel Negreanu’s elimination stole the WSOP Main Event show during the summer, but when the final nine players reconvened in November to play for the title the story was Joe McKeehen, who utterly dominated the final table. McKeehen entered the final table with a commanding chip lead, and no one ever challenged him throughout, as McKeehen went wire-to-wire for the victory, putting in a near flawless performance that will be hard to top.
McKeehen’s only competition for headlines was the insane amount of tanking that was taking place, and in a distant third, the play of 61 year-old Neil Blumenfield, a nattily attired but unlikely amateur player who put the pressure on the pros with his attacking style at the final table.
It was a tough year for the poker community, as the poker world lost the following people over the course of 2015:
- David “Devilfish” Ulliott
- Online wizard Chad Batista
- Paul “Eskimo” Clark
- UK poker pro Mehmet Hassan
- Simpsons creator and poker aficionado Sam Simon
- One of the original Hollywood poker players, , Dick Van Patten
- Investigative journalist Diamond Flush
- Robert “Uncle Krunk” Panitch
- Ellix Powers, whose 15 minutes of WSOP fame is only part of his poker story
#1: PokerStars invites controversy
It was quite the year for the world’s largest online poker room, as PokerStars began a major shift in their marketing that instigated a very harsh response from its longtime customers.
What started with PokerStars shifting from sponsoring poker pros to sponsoring sports stars, continued with the company’s newfound emphasis on Spin & Go’s and their new casino and sports betting products, and ended with what is perhaps the biggest story of 2015 (it definitely is in my mind): The changes PokerStars made to their VIP rewards program.
The changes caused a player backlash against PokerStars no one ever expected to see, and as we head into 2016 the situation is still fluid and somewhat unresolved.