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Top-10 poker stories of 2010

13 December 2010

It's been a busy year in the poker world, and not just on the felt. In fact, poker made headlines in the courtroom as well as Washington D.C. While there are still a few weeks left — and the potential for more big news to come before the New Year (see No. 1 on this list) — here are Casino City's top-10 stories in the poker world for 2010.

10. Phil Laak's marathon

Phil Laak had a banner year in 2010 (see below) but he first made headlines back in June when he set a Guinness World Record for playing 115 straight hours of poker at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. He shattered Paul Zimbler's previous world record of 78 hours. The Unabomber originally set a goal of 80 hours, but he far exceeded that. He was up $6,766 after his marathon session, with half of his profits going to charity.

9. Isildur1 joins PokerStars, might be outed

Former Casino City Senior Editor Gary Trask picked Swedish online poker phenomenon Isildur1 as #1 in his "Top-10 Most Fascinating (Poker) People of 2009" list last year. Isildur1 continued to stay in the news throughout the year, especially during the World Series of Poker Europe in September. It was reported in many news outlets that Isildur1's real identity was Viktor Blom, who finished in 16th place in the WSOPE Main Event. This was never publicly confirmed. Just last week, PokerStars announced Isildur1 will be playing on their site as a Team PokerStars Pro, and hinted that the man of mystery may reveal his true identity in the near future.

8. Harrington, Seidel make HOF

Two poker legends reached immortality in November as "Action" Dan Harrington and Erik Seidel were each elected to the Poker Hall of Fame. They are the 39th and 40th members of the Hall and were inducted before the heads-up action at the WSOP Main Event. Harrington, the 1995 Main Event champion, is best known to younger poker fans for his back-to-back top-four finishes in the Main Event in 2003 and 2004. Seidel, the owner of eight WSOP bracelets, has remained a presence in the online poker world as a Team Full Tilt pro.

7. States discuss online legalization

Legalization of online poker was a hot topic throughout 2010, and not just at the federal level. California and New Jersey both held hearings and had committee meetings on the possibility of legalizing the activity for revenue purposes. California was busy earlier in the year as State Senator Roderick Wright announced he would be drafting legislation that would license and regulate online poker in the state. That legislation was delayed and prospects for legalization before year's end are remote.

New Jersey is a different story. In late November the New Jersey Senate voted 29-5 to allow Atlantic City casino operators to offer online gambling to state residents. Democratic state Sen. Raymond Lesniak has spearheaded legislation efforts, and a vote by the entire Assembly is expected by the end of the year. Gov. Chris Christie would then have to approve the bill for it to become law.

6. First-time bracelet winners

This year will also be remembered as the year four major poker pros finally got the monkey off their back by winning their first WSOP gold bracelets. Michael Mizrachi (more on him later) won the $50,000 The Poker Player's Championship (and knocked out his brother Robert in the process). Canadian Gavin Smith broke through by winning the $2,500 Mixed Hold'em (Limit/No-Limit) event. Laak took down the £2,650 Six-Handed No-Limit Hold'em event in London at the WSOP Europe. And Gus Hansen picked up his first bracelet in London as well after winning the £10,350 No Limit Hold'em High Roller Heads-Up event.

5. The debut of the North American Poker Tour

PokerStars continued to stay one step ahead of the game this year by launching the North American Poker Tour. The site has had plenty of success sponsoring the European Poker Tour, Asia Pacific Poker Tour, Latin American Poker Tour and Australia & New Zealand Poker Tour. So it was only natural that the North American market would see similar results. The inaugural season saw stops in the Bahamas (PokerStars Caribbean Adventure) Las Vegas (The Venetian), Connecticut (Mohegan Sun) and Los Angeles (The Bicycle Casino). PokerStars also scored a coup when ESPN agreed to broadcast 16 hours of action.

4. The year of Michael Mizrachi

Frank Kassela might have won the WSOP Player of the Year Award, but no player was more impressive in 2010 than The Grinder, Michael Mizrachi. Mizrachi's big year came just in time as he had serious financial problems due to failed investments in Florida. He won more than $1.5 million after taking down the $50,000 Poker Player's Championship, his first WSOP gold bracelet. Casual poker fans were reintroduced to Mizrachi after his performance in the Main Event. He was one of four Mizrachi brothers who cashed in the event. He did much more than cash, however. He was a member of the November Nine and briefly held the chip lead during the final table. He eventually finished in fifth place and won $2,332,992.

3. Duhamel makes WSOP Main Event history

The person who knocked out Mizrachi was the eventual WSOP Main Event champion, Jonathan Duhamel. The 24-year-old from Montreal made history with his victory as he became the first Canadian to win the prestigious event. Duhamel entered final table play as the chip leader, but lost that chip lead when play became seven-handed. He fought and clawed back, and after winning the largest pot in WSOP history (177 million chips) off Joseph Cheong, he was the overwhelming favorite heading into heads-up play against John Racener. He defeated Racener to win $8,944,310 and his first gold bracelet.

2. PokerStars, Full Tilt pull out of Washington

After the UIGEA was enacted in 2006, many prominent online poker rooms, including Party Poker, left the U.S. market. PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker did not. That's a major reason why they're the two largest poker rooms in the world. The two sites even remained accessible to players in the state of Washington, despite the state having some of the toughest online gambling laws in the country.

That all changed in September, when the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that a statewide ban on Internet gambling was not unconstitutional. A week later, PokerStars announced it was no longer accepting real-money players from the state. Full Tilt followed suit six weeks later. There is a difference between the two bans. PokerStars won't accept Washington residents at all, while Full Tilt will allow residents to play real-money games if they are located outside of the state's borders.

1. Harry Reid's online poker bill

The number one story on our list is the story with the biggest potential ramifications, both presently and in years to come. It is also a story whose conclusion is still unknown. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has been trying to build support for a bill that would license and regulate Internet poker in the United States. The hope is the bill will get attached to the Obama tax cut compromise bill during this lame-duck session of Congress.

The effects of this bill would have an enormous impact on the global poker market.Casino City's Vin Narayanan wrote an informative column about the details of the legislation, as the bill effectively shuts out offshore competition like Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars for at least a couple of years. The bill favors large commercial casinos, with most of them based in Reid's home state of Nevada.

However, all of this discussion may be for naught, as there are rumblings it will be difficult for Reid to attach this bill. But regardless of whether the bill becomes law, it's always a good thing when the mainstream media discusses online poker, as long as it isn't scandal-related.
Top-10 poker stories of 2010 is republished from