Canada was a bright light in 2014 throughout the global poker community. From the purchase of the two biggest poker sites in the world to one of the greatest finishes of a poker tournament ever, Canada grabbed the spotlight more than once this year.
Here are the top five Canadian poker moments of 2014. But, first, take a look at a few honourable mentions that almost made the list.
Mike McDonald activates beast mode
Mike 'Timex' McDonald started off 2014 like no other player in history. Most could only dream of such a feat.
Timex’s first cash of the year came on January 5 when he placed eighth in the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) $100,000 Super High Roller for $217,320. Two days later, Timex was on the brink of poker history. With the chip lead heads-up in the PCA Main Event, he was set to become the first-ever two-time EPT champion. Poland’s Dominik Panka denied him of the feat, but Timex received $1,064,865.
Less than a month later, at the Aussie Millions Poker Championship, McDonald finished second in the $100,000 Challenge for $1,500,000 and followed that up with a third-place finish in the $250,000 Challenge for $1,900,000. His four cashes amounted to over CAD $5.3 million, doubling his previous career live earnings.
Down under showdown; Ami Barer vs. Sorel Mizzi
It was an all-Canadian heads-up match at the Aussie Millions Main Event in February of 2014. Two of Canada’s best young poker players sat before each other, both looking for their first live major title.
At a final table that also featured Scott Seiver, Ami Barer and Sorel Mizzi played for nearly 12 hours from the start of the day until the last card was dealt. In the end, Barer emerged victorious and claimed the A$1,600,000 top prize. Mizzi consoled his loss by taking home A$1,000,000.
Top Five Canadian Poker Moments
#5: Benger wins inaugural PokerStars Shark Cage
Griffin Benger was previously known for his online poker dominance under the screen name 'Flush_Entity'. At one point in 2014, he was ranked #1 in the world on officialpokerrankings.com. Benger, though, had his sights set on making a name for himself in the live tournament scene.
Late in 2014, Benger participated in the inaugural PokerStars Shark Cage tournament and made the final table by winning the fifth of eight heats. Benger showed his skill and experience by besting some of the top players in the world to a huge victory and winner-take-all prize of $1,000,000. You can read all about Benger’s win here.
#4: Mike Leah loves gold
As Canada was shut out of the winner’s circle in Las Vegas during the WSOP this summer, our nation had only a few more opportunities to get on the scoreboard. Mike Leah put the nation on his shoulders and delivered a huge victory for the country. Leah was already one of the best poker players in Canada without a WSOP title. It took a trip down under to finally grab the most elusive title of his poker career.
On October 15, in Melbourne, Austrailia Leah was crowned champion of the WSOP Asia-Pacific $25,000 High Roller for A$600,000 and his first career WSOP gold bracelet. Read about Leah’s golden moment here.
This was not the first piece of gold hardware for Leah in 2014. On March 13, Leah bought in to two WSOP Circuit events at the Bicycle Casino is Los Angeles. Less than 24 hours later, Leah emerged as the victor in both events, capturing two shiny new WSOP gold rings and over $32,000. Read about Leah’s busy day here.
#3: Dr. No’s triple KO
There has never been a broadcasted final table with a finish like the 2014 PokerStars Canada Cup at Playground Poker Club, just outside of Montreal, Quebec. Four players were left with Robert Notkin in the chip lead. Notkin won a $30 online qualifier through PokerStars and was one hand away from turning that small investment into $366,660.
Notkin was under the gun and opened to 200,000. In the next seat over, the short-stacked Justin Miller moved all in over the top. Action moved over to second-in-chips Vincent Jacques who, after a brief moment, reraised all in as well. The decision was now put on Ryan Rivers. Rivers took some time thinking about his next move. Rivers was a short stack coming in to the final table and had laddered his way to a top-four finish, regardless. Eventually, Rivers made the call for his tournament life and Notkin snap-called, putting all three players at risk.
Notkin was in amazing shape to knockout all three of his opponents in one hand. The chatter and hype that echoed through the room was surreal. The dealer rapped the table and dealt a board. James Hartigan and Joe Stapleton who were live commentating the final table could barely contain themselves as Notkin won the entire pot and brought the event to a screeching halt from four players to one in a single hand.
#2: PokerStars and Full Tilt become Canadian-owned
On June 12, 2014, Montreal-based Amaya Gaming Group Inc and Olford Group Limited, the parent company of Rational Group which owns PokerStars and Full Tilt, announced a $4.9 billion deal that would entitle Amaya to all issued and outstanding shares of Olford Group.
The transaction resulted in Amaya becoming the largest publicly-traded online gaming company in the world. The Amaya acquisition was featured at #3 in our top 10 stories of the year. Read all about the future of online gaming here.
#1: Negreanu alone on top
Coming in on top of the list is Daniel Negreanu. Negreanu is one of the poker community’s most recognizable and outspoken members. He is Canadian, one of the best player’s in the world, and is now poker’s all-time leading tournament money winner.
With his runner-up finish in the 2014 WSOP Big One for One Drop $1,000,000 buy-in tournament, Negreanu earned $8,288,001, bringing his total career tournament earnings to $29,833,327 according to Negreanu’s Hendon Mob page, and dethroning Antonio Esfandiari from the top spot.
The One Drop in-the-money finish marked Negreanu’s 78th WSOP cash, narrowly missing out on his seventh WSOP gold bracelet. Negreanu made the money 13 times in 2014, totalling $10,284,118 — his highest yearly total in his career. Read all about Negreanu’s One Drop journey here.