PokerStars 7th Anniversary Sunday Million Draws 49,287
“I love being in the US,” tweeted Team PokerStars Pro Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier from Las Vegas early yesterday afternoon. “But not being able to play on @PokerStars and missing the 7th anniversary of Sunday Million is tough… #sad #sosick.”
PokerStars also loved being in the U.S. prior to April 15, 2011, but after two years without serving American customers, the online poker site is nonetheless thriving. On Sunday PokerStars reaffirmed its dominant position in the online poker landscape as it is currently constituted with its 7th anniversary Sunday Million tournament which drew nearly 50,000 players. A three-way deal at the final table resulted in three players earning $800,000-plus paydays in the event.
The $200+$15 buy-in tournament drew 49,287 entrants, thereby building a prize pool of $9,857,400 and easily besting the event’s special $7 million guarantee. The top 6,309 finishers divided the prize money, meaning the number who cashed was nearly that of the usual turnout for the Sunday Million which usually draws 7,000-8,000 players each week.
After a little over 15 hours, it was benislovas of Lithuania coming away with the win, earning $848,589.33 for doing so. sexygee of the United Kingdom took second for $836,321.83, and Kasra84 of Germany third for $813,370.28.
Million-Dollar Online Tourney Scores
Prior to the three-way final table deal, Sunday’s tournament did sport a $1 million guarantee for first, with the originally scheduled prize being $1,242,842.98. While among the largest online tourneys ever, Sunday’s event not eclipse the record for the largest ever Sunday Million. Indeed, in terms of participants it was the third-largest ever of the 327 that have been played on PokerStars.
On December 18, 2011, the Sunday Million sported a $10 million guarantee, marking the 10th anniversary of PokerStars offering cash games. A total of 62,116 played that week, creating a total prize pool of $12,423,000. Winner Kyle “First-Eagle” Weir ultimately earned $1,146,574.65 following a six-way chop at the final table.
On June 3, 2011, PokerStars noted the Sunday Million’s 5th anniversary by upping the Sunday Million guarantee to $4 million. A total of 59,128 played in that event, with Luke “Bdbeatslayer” Vrabel winning $671,093.81 (and a Lamborghini Gallardo) following a nine-way final table deal.
Weir’s win marked one of just a few million-dollar payouts in online poker tournament history, most of which have happened on PokerStars.
The 2010 World Championship of Online Poker Main Event — the last to play out prior to Black Friday in April 2011 — saw Tyson “POTTERPOKER” Marks topping a field of 2,443 to win the $5,200 buy-in and earn an all-time best $2,278,097.50 first prize.
The next two biggest prizes in online tournament poker history came in the previous two WCOOP Main Events, with Yevgeniy “Jovial Gent” Timoshenko earning $1,775,000 for winning the 2009 title and Carter “ckingusc” King taking away $1,265,432 for winning the WCOOP ME in 2008.
Two more million-dollar prizes were won in the 2012 WCOOP Main Event at PokerStars. Mike “munchenHB” Telker earned $1,000,584.34 for a fifth-place finish following a six-way deal. And Marat “maratik” Sharafutdinov — normally a player of microstakes sit-n-gos who won his way into the WCOOP ME for frequent player points via a satellite — took away a $1,000,907.26 first prize.
One other million-dollar online tournament win on PokerStars came in the 2010 Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP) Main Event. Ryan “toetag” Fair won $1,162,350 for taking first in that year in the $10,300 buy-in event.
Finally, in 2011 there was one other seven-figure score in an online tournament when Blair “blur5f6” Hinkle won $1,162,949.74 after making it to a three-way chop in the FTOPS XIX multi-entry Main Event on Full Tilt Poker, the last FTOPS to play out prior to Black Friday.
Alas for Hinkle, as a U.S. player he was unable to cash out his winnings following FTP’s pulling out of the U.S. and subsequent shut down in the summer of 2011, and like the rest of American FTP players continues to await word of possible repayment via the U.S. Department of Justice.
Stars Tourneys Back to Pre-Black Friday Levels
While the special $7 million guarantee obviously boosted the turnout for this week’s Sunday Million, the tournament has nonetheless continued to draw healthy-sized fields in recent months. Indeed, nearly two years later, PokerStars has seen turnouts for its weekly marquee tournaments return to pre-Black Friday levels.
The Sunday Million, for example, drew 8,273 entrants on April 10, 2011, then fell to 6,475 the following week when U.S. players no longer could play on the site. By last last year, the Sunday Million had again begun to draw over 8,000 entrants on a regular basis.
Meanwhile, the weekly $1,000+$50 buy-in Super Tuesday also has seen remarkable growth over recent months, no doubt a reflection of the paucity of alternatives for higher stakes players online.
From 4/10/11 to 4/17/11, the Super Tuesday saw field sizes reduce from 373 to 198, but by the end of 2011 the number of entrants had already grown back to 400-plus. October 2012 then saw the first 500-plus player field in the tournament, and last week a record 614 played in the event. That turnout created a prize pool of $614,000, more than twice the event’s $300K guarantee.
A newly passed online gaming law in New Jersey plus a bid by PokerStars to purchase the ailing Atlantic Club has the poker world wondering if a return to the U.S. might be in the cards for the online poker giant.