Poker in 2021: The End-of-Year Roundup That Nobody Asked For

  • Vanessa Kade’s rollercoaster year was a contender for story of the year
  • The WSOP’s biggest story was Phil Hellmuth’s seven final tables and 16th bracelet 
  • Negreanu’s epic winless streak ended in 2021, but his WSOP winless streak continues 
  • Michael Addamo had an amazing run with six wins and $9.5m in earnings in just nine weeks
  • Kyna England had a breakout year which included a MSPT victory in Minnesota
"2021" at the end of a road at sunset
After zero e-mails asking us for a poker year-in-review piece, we decided to give you one, anyway. [Image:]

“Tis the season to rehash old content fa la la la la la la la la”

Nobody likes end-of-year roundups. Nobody wants to read an end-of-year roundup. I don’t even want to write an end-of-year roundup and let’s be honest, this is the only bit of this end-of-year roundup that I actually have to write. The rest of it is going to be a mish-mash of half-baked opinions and fragments of old articles, a Top 5 list as fit for purpose as the wrapping paper that you stuffed into that shopping bag at the back of your closet last Christmas. 

a badly cobbled together re-animation of once barely relevant things

If you click away now, there will be no hard feelings. Technically I still got your click and you could save yourself eight minutes. What follows is a badly cobbled together re-animation of once barely relevant things, a Frankenstein’s monster of poker stories, a turducken of news, gossip, and scandal.

Just now, as I tuck into a box of mince pies, washing them down with lashings of hot port, I remember the promise I made to my editor that this piece wouldn’t be too indulgent, a promise as sincere as the one I made to my neighbor when I said I’d water her plants while she is away for the holidays.

Kade’s story was the best thing of a thing in 2021

The best “thing of a thing” of 2021 was definitely the Vanessa Kade Story and its fairytale ending after months of trials and tribulations. 

Kade started the year at loggerheads with failed marijuana salesman and King of (buying) Instagram (followers), GGPoker’s newest brand ambassador Dan Bilzerian. In February, that spat was revived when GGPoker attempted to paint over the cracks by partnering with the female-only FLIP Facebook group. 

won the almost 70,000-entry Pokerstars Sunday Million 15th Anniversary for an incredible $1.5m

Then in March, Kade had her legacy affiliate deal terminated by GGPoker on the grounds that her calling him out on his clearly provable misogyny was beyond the pale, while of course his verbal abuse of her whilst representing their site was just dandy. In any case, she signed with Americas Cardroom and then, literally ten days later, won the almost 70,000-entry Pokerstars Sunday Million 15th Anniversary for an incredible $1.5m. Cut to June and Kade made three final tables in PokerGO High Rollers.

In an exclusive interview with VegasSlotsOnline News, Kade was asked to reflect on her triumphant year. “Please stop pestering me for quotes,” she said. 

Seven Heaven for Hellmuth at the WSOP

The 2021 World Series of Poker was itself a big story, but it was also the generator of many great stories. Koray Aldemir gave us a Main Event to remember. Josh Arieh’s Player of the Year performance was consistency personified. Scott Ball’s two bracelets in No Limit Hold’em events propelled him to the NLHE POY crown. Adam Friedman’s mind-blowing back-to-back-to-back in the $10,000 Dealer’s Choice is the stuff of WSOP folklore. 

There was, however, one performance that stood out from a man who continues to amaze. Phil Hellmuth silenced his detractors in 2021, stringing together a seven-game streak on High Stakes Duel. That run included a 3-0 drubbing of Daniel Negreanu, who was so confident that he would win that he booked heaps of side action on the contest. 

Hellmuth followed that impressive heads-up effort with a ridiculous seven final tables in seven different poker disciplines at the WSOP, the highlight of which was his record 16th bracelet when he took down the $1,500 No-Limit 2-7 Lowball Draw event. 

VegasSlotsOnline News reached out to Phil, but we got his message minder which was just Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping” on endless repeat. 

Negreanu’s winless streak ends (sort of)

Back in May, we reported on Daniel Negreanu’s epic winless streak. He had been humbled by Doug Polk in their epic Grudge Match. He was down 2-0 and would go on to lose his third High Stakes Duel encounter with Hellmuth. In fact, he had no wins on his resume for almost eight years and, staggeringly, none in the United States for 13 years. 

A reprieve finally came on July 12th when Negreanu won a 35-runner $50,000 PokerGO Cup event. After an almost 100-month drought, “Kid Poker” would only wait two months to notch another victory, this time in a 66-runner $10,000 Poker Masters event. 

The sense of relief was palpable on Negreanu’s always colorful face. With the wind at his back, he believed that he was destined to win a WSOP bracelet, but despite firing more bullets than anyone else across the online and live series, the best he could muster was a trio of third-place finishes, extending his frustrating WSOP winless record to 8 years. 

VegasSlotsOnline News did not reach out to Negreanu. 

Michael Addamo can’t stop winning

There was no such frustration for Michael Addamo, who put together an enviable string of results in the latter part of 2021. In the space of just 9 weeks, from mid-September to mid-November, the Australian pro put together a quite remarkable sequence of finishes on the High Roller circuit.  In buy-ins ranging from $15,000 to $300,000, he came 1st-1st-2nd-1st-3rd-1st-1st-1st.

Of the six wins, two of them were WSOP bracelets and four of them were seven-figure scores with the biggest coming in the Super High Roller Bowl for $3.4m. In total, he won $9.5m in prize money. 

The poker world has seen streaks in high stakes before. Dan Smith, Dan Coleman, Fedor Holz, Justin Bonomo, and Bryn Kenney have all enjoyed remarkable purple patches, but never before Addamo has poker witnessed so much winning in such a short period of time.

Kyna England’s breakout year

A few weeks ago, we reported that Kyna England’s MSPT victory in Minnesota was the icing on the cake of a phenomenal year. Back in March, she came third in the MSPT Riverside Main Event for $73,782. She followed that up in July with another third in the huge WPT Venetian $5,000 Main Event for a whopping $448,755. 

England gives back in the form of her instructor role at Poker Power

It is results like that, plus the fact that England gives back in the form of her instructor role at Poker Power, that caught the eye of The Orbit panelists when they named her “Poker Person of the Year.” Poker Power, the brainchild of billionaire investor Jenny Just, is an organization that teaches women how to play Texas Hold’em with the emphasis on lessons that can translate to success in a business environment. 

There is one MSPT stop left this year and it takes place at The Venetian between Christmas and New Year’s. If one of England’s closest rivals fails to make the final table, she will be crowned MSPT POY, the perfect cherry on top of that iced cake. 

A final thought for 2021

If you got this far, you are clearly a glutton for nostalgia. So sitting here with port-stained teeth and a belly full of dried fruit, pie crust, and beef suet, I would like to leave you with one final thought for the year. 

The word nostalgia comes from the Greek “nóstos” meaning homecoming and “álgos” meaning ache. Over time, this idea of homesickness became less about a physical place and more about a past that we can only revisit imaginatively.

Prompted by the evil social media birthday algorithm, I recently looked back at some old photographs of myself from a time when I distinctly remember feeling old and fat and useless. It was an image of me, younger and slimmer and less useless than I am today. 

Not only that, but I remembered how, on that very day that those photos were taken, prompted by the same wicked algorithm, I had looked back on an even earlier version of myself from a time when I felt old and fat and useless. Again, it was an image of a more youthful, skinnier and productive me.

The lesson I can take from this dystopian, Facebook-sponsored version of Krapp’s Last Tape is that I will one day look back on a photograph of myself from now and think about how young and thin and energetic I appear. 

The lesson I will take, however, is that I will one day be ancient, morbidly obese, and utterly decrepit and the algorithm will remind me of myself today and I will be envious of that old, bloated, waste of space, which will in turn make me envious of two earlier versions of me, both of whom had long let themselves go.

Unless I’m dead, and then that won’t happen. 

Happy New Year everyone!

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