5 Occasions When Poker Grabbed The Mainstream Headlines

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Those unfortunate people who don’t hold more than a passing interest in poker will be oblivious to the thrills that this game can bring. Throughout the calendar year, physical poker tournaments are held across the planet while millions head online for a few hands at their favourite casinos.

There are times, however, when poker bursts out of its own confines and grabs the national headlines and at that point, no-one can ignore the news. Here then, are five occasions when poker grabbed everyone’s imagination.

Justin Bonomo Dominates

In 2018, one man dominated the poker scene like no-one before. Justin Bonomo’s earnings across that 12-month period were simply phenomenal and it may be some time before any player can match his mark.

total, the 33-year-old scooped 19 six-figure pots across the year but that bare statistic doesn’t begin to tell the whole story. In 2018, Bonomo won the Super High Roller Bowl Macau, the Super High Roller Bowl IV in Las Vegas, and the Big One for One Drop at the WSOP.

His total earnings across all poker tournaments was a staggering $25,428,935 and that figure dwarfed his career prize money up to that point. Big wins are big news and Justin Bonomo’s success duly made its way into the mainstream media.

Phil Ivey Returns


2018 also saw the return to the tables of legendary poker player Phil Ivey. Over the course of a long and colourful career, Ivey hadn’t always grabbed the headlines for the right reasons, but his comeback showed some positive signs of what might lay ahead.

After sitting out since the start of 2016, the comeback trail began with a place in the Triton Poker Super High Roller Series in Montenegro. The signs were good as Ivey scooped over £2 million for a first and third place finish but he would later become one of Justin Bonomo’s many victims in 2018 as he finished eighth in the Big One for One Drop. Results were mixed but Phil Ivey’s overdue return was a big boost for poker.

Victoria Coren Mitchell Makes History

The public at large love the cult of celebrity so, when a TV or film star makes waves on the tables, everyone wants to read about it. Victoria Coren Mitchell is well known away from the baize as a writer, presenter and regular panel show guest but, as her tournament history shows, she is a poker player to be genuinely feared.

Coren Mitchell started out, as many players did in the pre-digital age, by playing a few hands for fun at home but, as an amazing talent, the path to professional player soon became an obvious one to follow. In 2006, she won her first European Poker Tour title but in 2014, the TV personality made history by becoming the first person to ever win the trophy twice.

In 2006, she won her first European Poker Tour title but in 2014, the TV personality made history by becoming the first person to ever win the trophy twice.

The second victory was even more remarkable as Coren Mitchell came from eighth place to scoop the pot. After a break from the tables, Victoria Coren Mitchell is back and as formidable an opponent as ever.

Viktor Blom Makes his Mark

The accessibility of online poker in the digital age has allowed many players to develop their skills in their own home. Some will progress and make a good return as a professional player but few, if any, will make as big an impact as Viktor Blom.

The story begins in 2009 when Blom first started playing poker online. As a teenager he remained largely anonymous as he began to accumulate a sizeable sum from a range of small European sites. By the time he had assembled a substantial return of $1.7 million, Blom had assumed a familiar username of Isildur1 but still, nobody knew his true identity.

Now up against the likes of Phil Ivey and Tom Dwan, Blom was beating the best but a pot of $6 million was reduced substantially by $4.2 million when he lost an infamous match to Brian Hastings. It was an amazing few months for the youngster whose identity was now revealed, and it underlined what can be achieved by the best players when they head online.

The World’s Greatest Bluffer

We all like to take the occasional bluff: It’s a risky strategy that will work occasionally but it’s not a tactic that many pros will put into their regular armory. That’s not the case, however, with Jack Straus who pulled off some outrageous bluffs with horrendous hands and his gameplay eventually brought him into the national headlines.

A ‘larger than life’ figure, standing at 6 foot 7 inches tall, Straus’ frame earned him the nickname ‘Treetop’ and his reputation was just as big. Back in the Poker World Series of 1982, Straus was dealt the dreaded hammer – a 7-2 off suit – before the flop, turn and river produced 7-3-3. Treetop was aided by the fact that all but one of his opponents had folded but most sane players would have laid down their cards at this point. He persevered and in a classic display of mind games, scooped the pot against the odds. Sadly, Straus died suddenly at the age of 58 but his exploits were more than enough to earn a slot in the poker hall of fame.

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