I’ve been enamoured by poker ever since I started playing just shy of two years ago. This wasn’t a love affair that was built up over time, it was a fast and hard romance that still burns as I type these words out.

When I first discovered the game, it was straight to YouTube to ingest whatever coverage was available be it; binge watching every series of High Stakes Poker to the soothing tones of Gabe Kaplan, The Big Game, Poker Premier League, and of course an unhealthy view count of Phil Hellmuth blow-ups, “He called a raise with queen-ten honey!”

Obviously, there’s a lot of sentiment to the past amongst the poker community — heck, some people have felt poker’s time is past and have turned to sites like ranking kasyn for guidance on online casinos to try and make money online — but I believe 2019 has been great year for the game. Online poker legalisation is a topic that’s been picking up steam in the United States with Pennsylvania and West Virginia joining the short list of states that have legalised it. The inaugural PSPC kicked off 2019 with an absolute bang, the 50th annual World Series of Poker wasn’t without its share of drama, and now we’ve probably just witnessed the most entertaining high roller series ever in Triton Poker London.

2019 has without doubt been my favourite year of coverage of the game we love to play and, in my opinion, these are the top 10 moments to happen in poker so far this year.

10. Jungleman’s side bet goes horribly wrong

Dan “Jungleman” Cates is one of my favourite players to watch and arguably has a claim to two of the top 10 moments to happen so far in 2019. His antics with his-out-of-the-blue explicit video caused mass-hysteria on poker twitter, regardless if you think it was in bad taste it was one of the most out there moments to occur in 2019, and caused a buzz amongst the community.

However, it was Jungleman’s notorious side bet which hilariously backfired that took the biscuit. Playing in the Triton Series in March, a short-stacked Jungleman is seen taking action on a side bet about whether he can toss a chip into the where the community cards are dealt. He tosses the chip onto the felt, but as you’ll see it was his option to act which meant he had to call the big-blind… this then led to his eventual elimination from the tournament.

It’s a clip that I’ve watched numerous times and with each watch I find myself laughing harder and harder. Never change, Jungleman.

9. Femi Fashakin scoops the Big 50

To win any poker tournament, regardless of the number runners, is always a good feeling. But, imagine the thrill of winning a poker tournament that had the highest number of entrants in history! That’s exactly what Big 50 winner Femi Fashakin did as he turned his $500-dollar entry-fee into cool $1.15 million at this year’s WSOP. Fashakin, who had already recorded $60,000 in tournament winnings, overcame 28,370 other entries to pick up his first WSOP bracelet and etch his name into the history books. Post-script: Then, he went ahead and cashed in the WSOP Main Event, to boot!

8. The Tragic Death of Gavin Smith

It’s never a good day to lose someone from the community, whether that be someone from your local cardroom, streamers such as Liliya Novikova, or Kevin ‘Racks’ Roster, who won the hearts of many after this year’s WSOP. One of the biggest names to take his place in the sky was poker legend Gavin Smith who sadly passed away at age 50 in January.

Smith was a regular high stakes player during the initial poker boom, making appearances on Poker After Dark, Late Night Poker, and Face the Ace. The WPT Season IV player of the year was regarded as one of the nicest and funniest guys in poker. The “moment” alone might not be one some would include on a list like this, but I’ve included it because of the special way in which the poker community has come to the aid of the Smith family. Since his passing, approximately $120,000 has been raised to benefit his boys through poker tournaments, stand-up comedy benefits, silent auctions, and more. The GoFundMe page is still live and you can donate by following the link.

7. Garry Gates’ 4th place finish in the WSOP Main Event

A former Las Vegas grinder turned poker industry veteran, Garry Gates’ extraordinary run in this year’s WSOP Main Event was one of those proverbial “victories for the good guys.” Gates, a survivor of the tragic 2017 Las Vegas shooting, brought a large and vocal rail to the final table, and from watching the broadcast and monitoring social media it sure felt like the entire world wanted Gates to win the tournament.

It seemed as though people had only positive things to say about Gates, and I was overcome with emotion after learning about his story. Like so many others, was overjoyed when he took 4th place in the world’s most prestigious poker tournament for a life-changing score worth $3,000,000.

6. Poker bots banned with massive refunds being given back to players

While this might not be a “moment” strictly speaking, one of the top things to happen for the online community this year has been a further crackdown by online sites such as partypoker and WPN which has seen over $700,000 refunded back to players and close to 300 bots banned. We players are the first to, and rightly so, criticise sites when there’s unwanted changes in their terms of service but we must also recognise and congratulate the good work these sites are carrying out in order to achieve a fair playing field for online players.

5. Dario Sammartino vs. Jack Effel

“You call 17, you’re calling 22!” were the words that left a sour taste in WSOP Main Event runner-up Dario Sammartino’s mouth.

The difference of opinion between Dario Sammartino and WSOP Vice President Jack Effel brought the Main Event final table to a standstill and left many with their jaws dropped. After an unfortunate dealer miscount, Sammartino saw that his pocket tens were crushed by Nick Marchington’s pocket queens.

Effel was called to the floor after the protests of Sammartino regarding the dealer miscount, Effel relayed the ‘accepted action’ rule that the WSOP has in place for situations such as this, but it was his final comments that caused the stir.

Was Effel needling Sammartino regarding poker strategy or was he simply stating the rules that “if you’re calling 17 million, you must call 22 million.” Over half a million people (thus far) have watched Joey Ingram’s “investigation” of the moment in question.

4. Jean-Robert Bellande’s infamous shove with 53 suited pre

This needs no introduction, and the look on the face of Andrew Robl, a backer of JRB, will be ingrained in my mind for years to come. This is just brilliant and another highlight reel moment for Jean Robert Bellande.

3. Bryn Kenney tops poker’s all-time money list

Whenever the #1 spot on poker’s All Time Money List changes, it’s a big deal. And, that’s just what happened when Bryn Kenney finished runner-up in the £1,050,000 No-Limit Hold-Em – Triton Million for Charity earlier this month.

Kenney added a whopping $20.5 million to his already gargantuan life time tournament earnings to eclipse Justin Bonomo at the top spot. Kenney is sitting pretty at #1 with a grand total of $55.5 million in lifetime earnings, which is $7 million clear of Bonomo. With six- and seven-figure tournament buy-ins being all the rage these days, how long will it take Bonomo — or someone else — to claim the top spot by the end of 2020?

2. Bryce Yockey eliminated from the $50K Poker Players Championship

The $50,000 Poker Players Championship bracelet event at the 50th Annual World Series of Poker gave us a contender for the worst bad beat of all time; well one that was caught on camera at least.

In the Limit 2-7 Triple Draw orbit, Bryce Yockey was a 99% favourite with the second nuts at PAT #2 only for Josh Arieh to get sticky and draw perfectly to complete the wheel, knocking Yockey out in fourth place and costing him (at least) $140,000 and possibly a bracelet in the process.

1. Ramón Colillas wins the PSPC

As already mentioned, 2019 got off to an absolute flyer with the inaugural PSPC, a $25,000 No Limit Hold-Em tournament that captured the attention of everyone in the poker world.

PSPC Key Facts

  • 1,039 players
  • $26,455,500 prize pool
  • $1 million added to first-place prize
  • Largest ever field for a $25,000 tournament

This event was universally hailed by the professional poker community as a must-attend and by recreational players the world-over as a must-watch. It was a brilliant, one-of-a-kind event featuring 320 Platinum Pass winners. What made it even more memorable was that one of those Platinum Pass holders, Ramón Colillas, took first place and the $5.1 million prize. He has since gone on to become a PokerStars ambassador. Quite the moment, indeed!

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