A controversial signing, a surprise lawsuit and the passing of a poker legend get us started on perhaps the craziest year poker has seen.
2020 was a crazy year, so much so that we could have easily made this a Top 30 stories. We had to miss off lots of big stories including Negreanu getting banned from Twitch, Mike McDonald’s basketball bet, the passing of Kenny Rogers, the Daniel Cates ghosting story and the tournament that paid out in precious metals. Here are the ten biggest stories of 2020 as we saw it:
10. The Real-Time Assistance controversy
As long as there has been online poker there has been anxiety about bots destroying the game, but 2020 presented a real existential crisis for poker.
The prevalence of Real Time Assistance software (RTAs) was brought to light in 2020 when Fedor Kruse was alleged to have used a ‘dream machine’ of presolved hands.
RTAs do not unfairly influence the action itself but they do provide a close approximation of what the GTO line could be in some spots.
How poker deals with something like this continues to be debated, with everything from tracking mouse movements to banning preflop charts being proposed.
GGPoker caused headlines in this area when they banned 40 accounts they believed were using RTAs.
9. Mike Sexton passing
Sadly we lose popular poker players every year, such is life, but poker was dealt a real blow in 2020 when Mike Sexton passed away.
He was considered universally as the greatest ambassador the game has ever seen as well as a top player.
Indeed he played a pivotal role in both televised poker and the rise of online poker, a key figure behind the scenes at both partypoker and the World Poker Tour.
He will mostly be remembered for being a kind much loved guy, as the many tributes to him have shown.
8. Galfond’s comeback
One of the feelgood stories of the year (if you are not VeniVidi1993) was the Rocky-esque comeback staged by Phil Galfond in his first high stakes PLO challenge.
At no point was he ahead in the challenge, and he almost bought out, until the final 73 hands of the 25,000 hand challenge. He ended up up by €1,671 after being down over €900,000 at one point.
He also won a €100,000 side bet and over 22,000 people tuned in to watch the final hands of the challenge – a rarity for PLO.
— Run It Once Poker (@RunItOncePoker) April 2, 2020
7. Mike Postle sues the poker world
Nobody really thought we would hear much from Mike Postle in 2020, especially after the court case against him was dismissed.
First Stones Gambling Hall TD Justin Kuraitis did not win any friends when he broke his silence on the case then Postle shocked the world by suing every high profile player who accused him of cheating.
That included Veronica Brill, Joe Ingram, Haralabos Voulgaris, Daniel Negreanu, Doug Polk, Bart Hanson, Jonathan Little, Phil Galfond, Todd Witteles, PokerNews and ESPN.
More eyebrows were raised when a documentary was greenlit to go into production that appears to be sympathetic to Postle.
At the time of writing it looks like the story will fizzle out as Postle’s own legal team have attempted to drop their client, but who knows what 2021 will bring?
6. GGPoker sign Dan Bilzerian
GGPoker have done a lot of fantastic things which you will see in the next edition of this 2020 round-up but the appointment of Dan Bilzerian as an ambassador was not popular in poker circles.
He has a reach of tens of millions on Instagram but his past conduct with women, which it is no stretch to say is toxic, left most poker players feeling the site were alienating the biggest untapped market in the game.
Indeed, his first social media post related to GGPoker saw him abuse female poker player Vanessa Kade, thus compounding the problem.
Bilzerian has reach, there is no doubt, but this writer thinks that the deal will prove costly for GGPoker one way or another in 2021.
Stay tuned for more of the biggest poker stories of 2020.