Year In Review
In the poker world, no news is good news. Unfortunately, there was a lot of news in 2006. On the plus side, some of the news was encouraging. But for the most part, the old adage turned out to be correct. Here were the top news stories of 2006:
The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act: Even if you have been trapped on a desert island for most of 2006, you probably have heard about the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). Passed in late September, the stroke of a pen led to the exit of major poker firms from the US market.
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This was by far the single biggest event of the year in the poker world, and the fallout from this act will be one of the top stories of 2007. Only time will tell what the full effects of this bill will be. Current US-facing poker rooms may face indictments if they continue to accept American wagers. Public companies that used to rely heavily on US traffic may go private so that they can resume accepting US players. Banks may soon roll out policies that effectively block transactions with online gambling sites, making it incredibly difficult for American players to gamble online.
Poker's Worldwide Growth: Those skeptical that poker could never have international appeal have been quieted after 2006. Poker's popularity grew incredibly outside the United States in 2006, especially in Europe. Poker shows are now broadcast frequently across Europe. Poker sites not only have their websites translated, but their software is also now translated into the major European languages. Major European-focused sites that do not have their software translated yet will likely do so in the first half of 2007.
WSOP Sets New Record: The WSOP once again set a new record for most entrants, drawing a whopping 8,773 entrants for a prize pool of over $82 million. This shattered the previous record set in 2005, when 5,619 people ponied up $10,000 to enter the Main Event. Most expected the 2006 WSOP to draw between 6,000 to 8,000 entrants. Having 8,773 entrants really testified to the growth poker sustained during 2006.
The record for most WSOP entrants used to be a short-lived one. Each year's WSOP drew more entrants than the previous year's and created the new record. However, it appears that the 2006 record will last for quite awhile, if not forever. Due to the passage of the UIGEA, we can expect a sharp dropoff in the number of WSOP entrants in 2007 and perhaps even a bigger reduction in 2008. An $80 million plus prize pool with a first prize of $12 million is a feat that most likely will not be repeated anytime soon.
The Jamie Gold Saga: Chris Moneymaker, the 2003 WSOP champion, led to the poker boom due to his Cinderella story of parlaying a $40 tournament satellite intro into a $2.5 million payday. The 2004 champion, Greg Raymer, has become one of the best-spoken ambassadors of poker. Last year's champion, Joseph Hachem, led to a poker boom in his native Australia and has also since become one of the most respected players on the tournament circuit. What did this year's WSOP champion, Jamie Gold, accomplish?
He got sued for half his winnings. Crispin Leyser is suing Gold claiming that the 2006 champion promised him half of his winnings before the tournament started in exchange for getting several celebrities to dawn Bodog gear at the Main Event. Gold's WSOP entry was paid for by Bodog with the expectation Gold would convince several celebrities to wear Bodog apparel at the Main Event.
The case is ongoing, and it appears that it will not be settled soon. Currently, half of Gold's winnings have been frozen by the state of Nevada pending the outcome of the case.
The "Grandma Dilemma": The first major case of online cheating was exposed publicly this past February. Several players were caught entering multi-table tournaments with multiple accounts. By entering the same tournament multiple times, the player had an increased chance of winning the tournament. Major internet phenoms JJProdigy and ZeeJustin ended up getting caught and having their poker accounts closed. The scandal was known as the Grandma Dilemma since JJProdigy tried to claim his Grandma was the person who played in a poker tournament under an account that eventually went on to win $140k. Only later did JJProdigy admit the Grandma excuse was not founded in any truth.
Greg Hogan Case: Those troubled by online poker's growing popularity among college students are quick to point out Greg Hogan, the former sophomore president of Lehigh University that robbed a bank to fund his online poker habit. Hogan had lost about $5,000 playing poker and soon found himself owing people money.
In a testament to the US educational system, this acclaimed student decided the best method for recouping his losses was to hand a note to a bank teller claiming he had a gun and demanding money. After taking a little under $3k from the bank, he rode back to his frat house with his friend (who did not know of the robbery). Needless to say, he was picked up by police later that day and charged for the crime.
The impact of this case should not be understated. Many major proponents of the UIGEA were quick to point out this case as an example of internet gambling's detrimental affects on youth. Those who are pro-online poker are also quick to point out this case as an example of online poker's merits. After all, if your opponents at the table are so dumb that this is the best sort of bank robbery scheme they can concoct, there must be a lot of dead money sitting at the tables.