- Gary Wise, ESPN Poker
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Three days ago, it was Jan. 1, 2007 -- or, at least, it certainly feels that way. Time has flown by at the remarkable pace of 24 hours a day since then. Now, of course, we look back and remember when.
How will 2007 be recalled in poker history? It wasn't our banner year. It was the first year in which poker was fully depressed by the UIGEA, depriving the game of its true popularity. And with poker no longer the new pop-culture darling, there was some comeuppance in the form of scandal. Still, there were remarkable moments on both the good and bad sides of time's ledger. As tradition requires, we look back at the biggest moments of '07.
Carlos Mortensen's Double
It's a remarkable thing to win the World Series of Poker or the World Poker Tour Championship. In its history, only 31 men have managed to take the WSOP title. The WPT Championship has been around for only a half-decade. What, then, were the odds one player would take both of the game's most cherished events so soon in their respective histories?
Carlos Mortensen won the WSOP in 2001, just as poker's coming popularity was starting to be reflected in tournament numbers. He triumphed over a group of stars that included Dewey Tomko, Phil Hellmuth, Mike Matusow and Phil Gordon. His win in the 2007 WPT Championship proved just as difficult.
Mortensen triumphed over a field of 639, with Kirk Morrison his final obstacle. "We were flipping coins for $2 million," Morrison said afterward. Mortensen's double could go unrepeated for the next 500 years, and that wouldn't be remarkable. That anyone managed to do it certainly is.
There was no bigger story heading into the 2007 WSOP than the race to 11. Three men -- Phil Hellmuth, Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan -- sat tied atop the lifetime WSOP bracelet leaderboard with 10 apiece, and the question was which one would get to 11 first.
The answer was Hellmuth. For all the comic relief he provides, no one can question the remarkable success he has enjoyed on poker's biggest stage. He took down No. 11 in a $1,500 no-limit hold 'em event June 11, winning the second-biggest prize of his career, $637,254. Neither Brunson nor Chan was able to re-knot with an 11th of his own. Now the question is whether anyone will ever catch Hellmuth again. Story.
No woman had ever won a WSOP main event. No sub-21-year-old had ever played in a WSOP main event (well, at least, they shouldn't have). That commissioner Jeffrey Pollack took the WSOP brand out of Las Vegas and beyond American borders was a big deal, but that the champion who emerged tore down all of the old standards was an even bigger one.
Annette Obrestad, two days short of her 19th birthday, rewrote the record books with her title at the first WSOP Europe. The Norwegian set new age records and gender standards as she pounced into the international poker spotlight. She followed that victory with a second-place finish at EPT Dublin a month later. It was the most spectacular superstar emergence of the year. Story.
It's a name that's become synonymous with cheating in the poker industry. Due to a glitch in Absolute Poker's software, unsuspecting players were at risk as the entire table's hole-cards were revealed, allowing the offenders to play accordingly. POTRIPPER was the account that got them caught.
Buoyed by an Excel file, a collective of industrious high-stakes online players figured out who was doing the cheating and how they were doing it. The industry now watches to see how Absolute behaves in the coming year. Story.
In a story that might have been overshadowed by the Absolute Poker scandal, an account called "TheV0id" was disqualified after emerging victorious in the largest online tournament of the year, the World Championship of Online Poker. The biggest beneficiary was "ka$ino." That account got bumped from second to first, a difference of $530,000. Story.
The "one player per hand" rule was stretched in Jerry Yang's run to WSOP gold. An American-dream story, Yang repeatedly called on a greater power to guide and provide in the biggest tournament of the year. The prayers apparently worked, since Yang took home more than $8 million when he defeated Tuan Lam for the bracelet. Story.
THE YOUNGEST FOR NOW
For the fourth year in a row, the record for the youngest bracelet winner was broken. Gavin Griffin in 2004, Eric Froehlich in 2005 and Jeff Madsen in 2006 all were one-upped by 21-year, 10-day old Steve Billirakis. Of course, Billirakis' record then was broken by Annette Obrestad. Story.
GRIFFIN IN EUROPE
Gavin Griffin's first claim to poker fame was as the youngest bracelet winner, but he topped that feat by winning the biggest tournament of the year held off American soil, the European Poker Tour's Grand Finale. His victory was worth 1,825,010 pounds, or more than $2.4 million. Story.
LOSING A LEGEND
Regarded as the greatest cash-game player of modern times, Chip Reese died Dec. 4. Reese will forever be remembered as the winner of the inaugural $50,000 HORSE event at the 2006 world series. Story.
Happy New Year, everyone!
Gary Wise is a regular contributor to ESPN.com, Bluff magazine, worldseriesofpoker.com and a host of other publications. His podcast, Wise Hand Poker Radio, can be heard at roundersradio.com and airs at 8 p.m. Wednesdays.
Gary Wise takes a look at the biggest stories from a turbulent 2007 in the poker world.