What Are The Most Memorable Poker Stories Of 2021?
Even though the global pandemic continues to drag on, the poker community has managed to remain active and adapt to the new norm (masks, social distancing, and vaccination efforts). In fact, in 2019, we’ve seen memorable stories, including 10 double bracelet winners at the 2021 World Series of Poker, recreational players beating pros, and winners donating their wins to support their cause.
Scroll below to read our most memorable poker stories of 2021.
Strict vaccination mandates
The 2021 WSOP organizers required all poker players and the attendees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before the tournament that was held at Rio Hotel and Casino last November. However, the same mandate was not extended to the dealers for some reason.
In addition, players had the option not to wear masks while seated at poker tables, provided that they had proof of vaccination.
Pros boycotting the WSOP series
With travel restrictions and strict vaccination mandates that exclude dealers and other casino staff, some pros like Kristen Bicknell and Alex Foxen boycotted the WSOP series to protest these decisions.
While all the players and audiences attending WSOP events were required to be fully vaccinated, the dealers and staff were excluded; this decision stemmed from the fact that there’s a global shortage of casino staff.
Player donating their win to support their cause
Not all poker players are about money, fame, or bracelets. One good example is Dragana Lim, an inexperienced player who entered the 2021 WSOP Main Event and decided to donate her $95,700 worth of winnings to build an animal foundation in Las Vegas. Meanwhile, she finished 64th place in the tournament.
Gershon Distenfeld, who finished 48th place at the $1,500 Shootout No-Limit Hold’em, also gave all his winnings totaling $204,063 to a charity.
Last wish granted
A recreational poker player, Michael Graydon, had terminal brain cancer when he tweeted a message saying his dream was to join the 2021 WSOP Main Event buy-in. Fortunately, some pros like Jonathan Depa and MJ Gonzales saw his tweet and offered to cover his buy-in, plane ticket to Las Vegas, and other costs related to attending the tournament.
While Graydon didn’t cash in the $10,000 buy-in tournament, he was happy and overwhelmed with the amount of support he got from the poker community, according to PokerNews.
The attendance in the most prestigious poker events was down around 30% compared to 2019. In fact, the biggest tournament, “The Main Event,” had about 6,650 players, lower than the previous year’s 8,570 attendees. But given the unusual circumstances we had in 2019, it’s still an impressive number.
Daniel Negreanu finally accepted to play heads-up no-limit hold’em against Doug Polk who said he would arrive like a “truck driver” to “drive away all the money at the table,” which is a self-fulfilling statement since he won around $255,700 on top of $1.2 million for the entire challenge.
Despite some trolling between the two pros in the past, they now seem like good friends. In fact, during a post-game interview posted on the GGPoker YouTube channel, Negreanu congratulated Polk and described him as a great poker player who gave him a fun challenge.
A staggering number of double bracelet winners
It’s almost expected to have at least one double bracelet winner at most WSOP events, but 10 attendees had this honor last year. Julien Martini, Scott Ball, Michael Addamo, Josh Arieh, Jeremy Ausmus, Kevin Gerhart, Martin Zamani, Daniel Lazrus, Mark Herm, and Anthony Zinno were two bracelets richer at the end of the poker season.
You may wonder why the poker community had an unusual number of double bracelet winners, and the reason was this: There were several online WSOPs, the WSOPE, and the Vegas WSOP last year.
The poker community remains active despite the travel restrictions, vaccination mandates, and other COVID-19 protocols. Initially, people thought that online poker would replace live events, but the truth is, nothing beats the feeling of being at the table and looking at your opponents and sensing their vibes.