The worst year ever for live poker and one of the best ever for online, as we recap the biggest stories of the last 12 months.
We continue our countdown of the biggest poker stories of the last 12 months, if you missed part 1 you can read it here.
5. Polk vs Negreanu
Daniel Negreanu vs Doug Polk
Daniel Negreanu finally cracked in 2020 and responded to the constant teasing from Doug Polk by accepting a heads-up challenge against him.
There has been no love between the two men for many years now and the poker public expected fireworks, but if anything they have managed to find a little bit of common ground.
At the time of writing Daniel Negreanu is down by almost a million due to a nasty combination of bad luck and being outplayed by Polk.
Polk still asserts that he hates poker so the question in 2021 will be whether this challenge has brought him back to the game or if it is to be his swansong?
4. The (2nd?) WSOP Main Event
The WSOP really raised eyebrows at the end of the year when they announced an online/live hybrid $10,000 World Series of Poker Main Event.
Many in the poker community were perplexed at the prospect of holding a live portion of the event (even though only 18 players would play live) during the pandemic with heavy lockdowns worldwide (indeed two of the final 18 players were unable to attend).
The other controversy was that many in poker believe, including the man himself, that Stoyan Madanzhiev was already the 2020 WSOP Main Event champion after winning the online series championship at GGPoker.
1,379 players in total entered the event making it the smallest post-Moneymaker Main Event.
3. The growth of GGPoker
One of the most striking stories of 2020 was watching GGPoker going from a relative unknown to arguably the second biggest poker room at lightning speed.
They hosted a lot of big online festivals in 2020 but they really gained momentum when they were the surprise announcement for the World Series of Poker Online as well as the aforementioned WSOP Main Event.
The action was so good that we saw them break the record for biggest No Limit pot, something railbirds perhaps never thought they would see since the days of Rail Heaven. They also hosted the biggest online MTT of all time (the first WSOP Main Event).
It wasn’t all great for PR for them, especially after they signed Dan Bilzerian and the suggestions that they banned winning players.
They really arrived in 2020 and they certainly have the software to continue their growth, the question is can they replicate their success when lockdowns ease all over the world?
2. The online poker boom
GGPoker had some record breaking pots
GGPoker had a record breaking year but pretty much every operator did in 2020, for the obvious reason that most of the world was in lockdown and wanting to be entertained.
We had the biggest single tournaments and the biggest online festivals of all time in 2020, and it appears that the growth will continue in 2021.
We also saw the meteoric rise in online home games as poker players wanted to replicate their kitchen table games with their friends online.
Because live poker was all but impossible for most of the year it meant that the biggest live festivals in poker took place at the virtual felt instead.
1. Hardly any live poker in 2020
We went to great effort to return to live poker
It was inevitable that this article was going to be about COVID and the biggest single way that the pandemic affected poker was the live game. Online poker’s gain really was live poker’s loss in 2020.
Most live poker tournaments were cancelled with some of them taking place online instead.
Those games that did go ahead looked very different with masks, Perspex partitions, extra spacing and less players to a table.
We learned in 2020 how poker was a petri dish for infection, what with chips and cards being passed around 30 or 40 times an hour.
It looks like we will see some normality in 2021 but perhaps the hygiene lessons we learned in 2020 will become a staple part of the game going forward?
What was your biggest poker story in 2020? Let us know in the comments:
Barry Carter is the editor of PokerStrategy.com and the co-author of The Mental Game of Poker 1 & 2, Poker Satellite Strategy and PKO Poker Strategy