As 2010 drew to a close, the poker world looked back on its time over the last 12 months and smiled as it marveled at everything achieved. Records were broken, legislations were passed and poker touched the hearts of millions as it used its global influence for a greater good.
The year began with poker showing how its existence can be used for good causes. In January, Haiti suffered a terrible earthquake that resulted in the deaths of thousands and millions were left homeless. A list players such as Michael Watson, Eric Haber and Kyle Brossia donated generously to aid efforts whilst other poker celebrities such as Michael Mizrachi and Shannon Elizabeth tirelessly promoted fundraising events, emphasizing just how powerful the game can be. Poker related donations eventually totaled into the millions of dollars.
January also saw one of the greatest poker players of all time, T. J. Cloutier, pawning his WSOP bracelet in order to cover debts he had accrued. A pawn shop in Plano, Texas was the lucky outlet and Cake Poker eventually bought the historic piece of poker memorabilia for $4,006. The first month of 2010 really had seen the best and the worst effects of the game.
In April, the huge site Titan Poker experienced a major re-branding. As more and more sites filled the internet it became clear that the big names were in need of updating to keep ahead of the competition. Titan perhaps did this in the most successful manner by ditching their blue theme, adopting a darker and more cutting edge look. The site hasn’t looked back since.
The darker underground side of the game came to the fore in May as Cereus Poker Network’s two sites, Absolute Poker and UltimateBet, were victims of security breaches. A problematic XOR encryption meant that cheating was easier on the sites and this resulted in major security fears. Previous incidents in 2007 and 2008 meant this latest breach couldn’t have come at a worse time for the two sites.
In August, the largest business transaction in the gambling world saw Party Gaming and Bwin merge to create the largest online gambling firm in the world. With Bwin holding a small majority stake it was a massive merger which reshaped a large part of the online gambling world. Not much changed for the players but the power now held by both firms was magnificent.
November was arguably the biggest month for poker this year. The most publicized news occurred when Jonathan Duhamel secured the 2010 WSOP title by defeating John Racener in one of the most exciting final tables of recent times at the November Nine in the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada. 23 year old Duhamel took away $8.9 million and carved his name into the game’s history with one of the most mature displays of play ever witnessed on the WSOP.
In slightly less exposed news, 2008 WSOP Champion Peter Eastgate auctioned his WSOP bracelet for the benefit of charity. The Dane revealed that he had become disillusioned with the game and his bracelet was only ‘gathering dust’. It was a very humble action by one of poker’s most modest winners. The sale saw a winning bid of $147,500 from an anonymous bidder. All of the money went to charity.
The year ended on a low note for players in the US. Democratic congress representative for Nevada, Harry Reid, pushed for online gambling to be re-introduced carefully into American culture during the lame duck Congress. If he was successful it would have overturned the Republican-led Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 and allowed millions of Americans to legally gamble online. It would also have allowed more online poker rooms to attract more players from America and would have brought billions into the American economy. Unfortunately, the act was quashed with many believing Senator Harry Reid had ulterior motives in order to reward financial backers of his successful election campaign.
Other events throughout the year saw France take a step forward and legalize online poker. It followed in the footsteps of many other European countries to do this expanding the game and allowing many more to enjoy the unique experience of playing online. On top of Senator Harry Reid failing to push his online gambling bill through Congress at the 11th hour, the UIGEA law was fully implemented with online gambling in America totally restricted. This was a major blow for poker in the US and things do not look like they are going to improve in the near future.
So the year ended on a low note. However, 2010 really saw how great poker could be. The bad was eclipsed by the good. As the odd security breach, restriction of online gambling and riches to rags story tried to shadow the magic of the game, the amazing stories made sure that we didn’t forget how powerful it can be. As the donations rolled in for Haiti, Duhamel defied all the odds in Las Vegas and Peter Eastgate showed that wealth can breed selflessness we were forced to remember why this is the greatest game on earth. The future of the game might have taken a hit with the UIGEA law tightening its grasp on American culture but as we enter 2011 the world of poker has never been in a stronger position and hope of a glorious future has never been so strong. 2010 was a good year but 2011 has the potential to be great.