Online High Stakes Poker Review of 2011 - Hansen still No.1

Gus Hansen was the largest overrall winner
Ilari Fin in the top of the Stars leaderboard
A great first year on Pokerstars for Isildur1

To say 2011 was an interesting year for online poker would be something of an understatement. While there were some great stories such as the astonishing comeback from Gus Hansen which started towards the end of 2010 and carried on through the first part of 2011, the resurgence of Ilari Sahamies in his new guise as "Ilari FIN" at PokerStars, the fistful of thrills and spills guaranteed when a certain Viktor "Isildur1" Blom graced us with his presence on the virtual felt and the slow but sure increase in stakes over at PokerStars leading to their first ever +$400k pot - it will doubtlessly be the events of Black Friday and the ensuing horror story of Full Tilt Poker for which 2011 will unfortunately be remembered.

As 2012 kicks off with American citizens choosing to stay in the "land of the free" still unable to compete safely in online poker games and with Full Tilt Poker still not operational (although if we are to believe Groupe Bernard Tapie that could be very soon indeed - see this interview from Pokernews.com with the lawyer representing GBT in the US Behnam Dayanim) let's remind ourselves of how it all went down in 2011.

For the sake of brevity, for a recap of the first six months, please refer to the reports linked below;

First Six Months - Part 1
First Six Months - Part 2
First Six Months - Part 3

With the WSOP drawing to a close the biggest news from Vegas, other than the Main Event reaching the final nine was Phil Hellmuth unbelievably picking up his third runners up spot, coming agonisingly close to winning the coveted $50k "Players Championship" Bracelet after having a huge chip lead over eventual winner Brian Rast before losing several flips and with it his quest for bracelet number 12.

Back at the virtual felt we saw plenty of action from Isildur1 who, after easily dispatching his "SuperStar Showdown" opponent Terje "Terken89" Augdal in just 1500 hands, went on to play over 78,000 hands in July for a $322k profit - second only to Andreas "Skjervøy" Tobergsen who scooped $481k for the month. The months biggest loser was Ilari FIN who dropped $262k and who was, at this point the biggest loser for 2011 at PokerStars, nearly $900k down. How things were to change. July also saw the first appearance since Black Friday of online legend Phil "MrSweets28" Galfond as he hopped over the border to Canada to ply his trade, winning $231k in his first month back. July was also supposed to see the "open hearling" in London of the Alderney Gaming Control Commission vs Full Tilt Poker - although the event turned out to be a non-event as Tilts lawyers requested and eventually received a postponement of the hearing and that future hearing be held in private.

The biggest pots of the month came courtesy of Isildur1 and Ilari FIN, see below;

Isildur flops top two and avoids Ilari's flush draw - $215k pot
Lucky river for Ilari - $209k pot

August saw some blistering action at the PokerStars PLO tables with the top honours eventually going to the Scandanavian triumvirate of Isildur1 (+$900k), Skjervøy (+$767k) and Ilari FIN (+$510k). The biggest swings as you can imagine were felt by Isildur1 and Ilari FIN. In fact Ilari had an outstanding month up until the last couple of days as he had accumulated $1.5m in profits until running into Blom at the $100/$200 PLO tables and losing over $700k to the Swedish phenom who had a typically crazy month winning and losing huge six figure sums throughout the month before ending on +$898k. At the rough end of the table it was Sauce123 who fared worst, losing $571k (much to Isildur1), followed by the years early pace-setter gavz101 who lost $452k. Unsurprisingly the biggest hands of the month came from these two, here are their respective biggest hands;

Isildur1 tries to bluff Ilari FIN off the pot on the flop - unlikely to happen when he'd flopped the nuts, $269k pot.
Ilari tries the bluff this time - picked off by Isildurs two pair - $240k pot

August also saw the huge story regarding the Jose "Girah" Macedo cheating scandal where the young player was accused of deliberately scamming his poker friends out of large sums of money by setting up a "sweat" session to watch them whilst (unbeknownst to them) playing them on unknown accounts and fleecing them. This scandal also brought into question the integrity of fellow pros Haseeb "INTERNETPOKERS" Qureshi and Dan "Jungleman12" Cates. Read HSDB articles on the scandal here and here

September saw a couple of great scores with two players (Ta-Chih 'socutiesf' Geeng and Rafi "refaelamit" Amit) both bagging over $1 million in profit for the month. The month also saw possibly the biggest action of the year as socutiesf opened up a number of deep stacked $200/$400 PLO tables and before you knew it there were over a dozen players fighting for space at the tables and some very big action. The biggest winners from these sessions were Ilari FIN (+$500k) and Phil "MrSweets28" Galfond (+$370k). It was during these sessions that Ilari FIN took the biggest pot ever seen at PokerStars;

bernard-bb picks the wrong hand to make a river bluff - $422k pot

At this point Ilari FIN was absolutely flying, racking up over $1.2 million in winnings during the first two weeks of the month before once again hitting a downswing although he did end the month a very respectable $900k in profit and had now overturned his -$900k deficit to show a half million profit for 2011 at PokerStars. Unlike Ilari however, the other two big winners from August had a shocking time in September as Skjervøy lost $463k in the big $200/$400 sessions (and lost $671k in total for September) and Isildur1 lost $635k in just over a week at lower stakes and was seemingly so perturbed by this turn of events that he was not seen at PokerStars for another three months!

The biggest winner for September, refaelamit was consistently near the top of the daily leader boards with a seemingly endless supply of six figure winning end up $1.07 million for the month which put him at the top of the 2011 leader board with over $1.8 million in total winnings. socutiesf wasn't far behind with a $1.05 million month helped by a huge $500k week to round off September.

September also saw the sorry FTP saga roll on as US Federal Prosecutors called the beleagured gaming site a "massive ponzi scheme" in relation to irregularities arising from the seemingly deliberate mishandling of payment processing (read the story here).

October was really all about two players, Phil "takechip" D'Auteuil and Ilari FIN who bagged $855k and $762k respectively - way ahead of the rest of the opposition. takechip won the majority of his months total in just one day where he was far and away the largest winner in a big $200/$400 NLHE match that took place on 23/24th October - taking $410k of that from just one table which produced by far the biggest pot of the month;

takechip holds the nuts when LiangYu shoves his last $84k - $347k pot

LiangYu was in fact the months biggets loser, dropping $404k in total. Just behind him on -$376k was Richard "nutsinho" Lyndaker who soon after tweeted that he was quitting online poker (due to disastrous 2011 results) until the next WSOP. Not quite true as he was seen in four high stakes sessions in December, but he was certainly nowhere near as active as he had been prior to his announcement.

Ilari FIN won the majority of his money in the second week of October where he won over $530k, including a $374k winning session of $100/$200 six max on the 13th of the month. Another player who grabbed some headlines in October was the intriguing !P0krparty¡, a still unmasked player who has been seen in the past few months playing absurdly long sessions on a huge number of tables and posting some astonishing win rates (although these win rates have largely been at lower stakes up to $10/$20 PLO). Invariably he will make a terrific run at the $25/$50 to $50/$100 tables winning a few hundred thousand before losing it all in a very "Isildur1-esque" manner. Amazingly he has been known to play up to 50,000 hands in a week and was recorded in at least one 60 hour session!!!

November once again saw Ilari FIN at the top of the leader board as he racked up another $772k in winnings. An astonishing turnaround was complete as he went from PokerStars biggest loser to biggest winner in just four months, winning $3million in the process to now sit at over $2 million in profit. The month started with a bang as Peter "GARFIELD25" Chan won a massive $500k at $50/$100 PLO before eventually losing over half of it by the months end, including a heavy loss during the biggest session of the month, a $200/$400 PLO session on the 23rd November in which Ilari FIN won over $400k including this, the biggest hand of the month;

GARFIELD25 was resigned to losing this one from the flop - $266k pot

Also benefitting from this session was the months second biggest winner, Fake Love888 (rumoured to be Patrik Antonius) who won $477k for the month, $418k of that on the 23rd. Once again there were some crazy antics courtesy of !P0krparty¡ who after rebuilding his roll at lower stakes (even seen at the $1/$2 PLO tables!) went on a mad tear in the first couple of weeks of the month building up $726k in winnings by the 13th, only to lose almost all of it a couple of days later! (he did however manage a +$100k month this month!)

The last month of the year was to prove an extremely eventful one as we saw two players win over a million bucks, one lose over a million, the acquisition of Full Tilt Poker gain some serious momentum and the return of both Isildur1 and (allegedly) none other than Phil Ivey to the world of online poker.

Yes, after three months of speculation (did he fall out with PokerStars? was he playing on other accounts? was he busto?) none other than Viktor "Isildur1" Blom came back in the most dramatic fashion to the PokerStars high stakes tables. Not the type to slowly creep back into the action with some tentative little sessions Blom came storming back and within three days of his return had won a whopping $1,500,000 at $50/$100 and $100/$200 PLO, destroying several of the worlds top players heads up in the process (including aba20, MrSweets28 and Fake Love888). During this session Isildur1 posted his biggest hand of the month;

Isildur1's wrap completes on the river - $214k pot

Of course his comeback was never going to be plain sailing and after this amazing win he promptly lost almost $1 million back before rallying towards the end of the month where he crushed Ilari FIN for $500k in a crazy $50/$100 PLO session where Blom was running like god and which allowed Blom to end the month a $1.04 million winner. Despite the loss Ilari FIN still put in a six figure month, adding $113k to his total winnings.

The biggest winner of the month however was unknown player 1Il|1Il|1il| who bagged $1.344 million for the month after topping the leader board on numerous occasions inlcuding a $500k win against Fake Love888 at the heads up $200/$400 PLO tables (Fake Love888 lost a huge $1.09 million in December making him the biggest loser by quite a margin). 1Il|1Il|1il| also won the months biggest pot during this session;

A killer river for Fake Love888 - $273k pot

In other news, recent sitings of the player RaiseOnce on PokerStars have lead to specualtion that none other than Phil Ivey is back in online action - see report here . We also heard news in December that the acquisition of Full Tilt Poker by Groupe Bernard Tapie was edging ever closer - see report here

So, what were the final stats for the winners and losers for 2011? Well, despite not playing online since the demise of Full Tilt at the end of June Gus Hansen ended the year as online pokers biggest winner with his $3.94 million profit way ahead of his nearest rival with Gus putting in some superb performances at the ultra high stakes PLO tables in the early part of the year - leading to Daniel Cates eventually refusing him PLO action! Next to Gus we have Ilari FIN who's brilliant second half of 2011 at PokerStars brought his total winnings to $2.183 million (although he did lose $623k on his Full Tilt "Ziigmund" account). The remainder of the top ten, who won between $2.1 million and $1.3 million were (in order) refaelamit (Stars), jungleman12 (FT), NoPasaran (FT), Isildur1 (Stars), Matt Hawrilenko (FT), bixiu (FT), Jeans89 (Stars) and Phil Ivey (FT). It is certainly worth mentioning here that between his Full Tilt and PokerStars accounts that Jens Kyllönen won over $2.5 million (his accounts are Jeans89 on Stars, and Ingenious89 on FT) and Ronny Kaiser won $2.2 million (his accounts are 1-ronnyr3 on Stars and ronnyr37617 on Full Tilt) The top five losers all came from Full Tilt, the biggest loser somewhat surprisingly being none other than Tom "durrrr" Dwan who lost $2.474 million.

Let's hope for a little less disruption to our online poker enjoyment in 2012 and that we see more of our favourite players returning to the tables and also that the acquisition of Full Tilt goes smoothly and the return of railheaven!

Here's to 2012....

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