After posting my Biggest Online Poker Losers of 2011 it was only fair that I post my Biggest Online Poker Winners of 2011. These are not winning poker players that I am talking about as I do not follow poker players and their winners. This list consists of the five biggest winners in the online poker industry.
There can be no doubt as to who was the biggest winner this year. PokerStars withstood a U.S. Department of Justice seizure as well as indictments against officers of the company in 2011. Unlike Full Tilt Poker and Cereus, PokerStars did not miss a beat. In just a little more than a week after Black Friday, PokerStars was cashing out U.S. players. Players from the rest of the world did not miss a step with their cashouts. After US poker players got paid, the rest of the poker world breathed a huge sigh of relief. That brought on an influx of players that helped bring PokerStars back to the same traffic counts that they had before Black Friday. PokerStars proved that they were the class act that everyone knew they were. PokerStars proved that again this week. After announcing a major change to their rake structure they faced a backlash from players. The next day PokerStars showed that they listen to their players and dumped that unpopular change although they did keep the contributed rakeback formula for 2012.
#2 888 Network
The 888 Network defied a slow decline in the overall online poker industry in 2011. 888 has seen their traffic explode with quality marketing, expert use of social networks, and building a community around their brand. 888 also figures to be a big winner in 2012. They are one of many companies that have applied for a Nevada online poker license. Considering their partner is the World Series of Poker, 2012 could be another great year for 888.
#3 Nevada Gaming Control Board/Nevada Legislature
The day before it became public that the Department of Justice would not oppose interstate online poker, the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) voted 4-0 to approve intrastate online poker in Nevada. They did this on the hopes of getting either Congress to pass online poker at a federal level, or getting other states to pass online poker. If online poker passed at a state level it would have taken a change of the interpretation of the Wire Act for states to comfortably network their state’s online poker. The very next day an email sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid did just that. All of this could not have been done without the Nevada State Legislature passing a law that compelled the NGCB to create online poker regulations. In 2012, this should pay off huge as thousands of new jobs could be created in Nevada, the state that leads the U.S. in unemployment.
#4 Merge Gaming
After Black Friday, Merge Gaming found themselves in the position to become the #1 U.S. online poker room. Merge Gaming ran with the new title and signed up a record number of players in 6 weeks before temporarily blocking U.S. signups in early June. This was done to try and keep up with the processing and support needs of the new player base. In October, Merge Gaming began accepting new U.S. players again. While Merge Gaming has had many growing pains, they have done an overall great job considering the online poker environment in the U.S.
#5 The Anne Arundel County Police Department
The Anne Arundel County Police Department in Maryland won at online poker this year without risking a penny. As you can see by the picture, they do not have much of a poker face. The county police department scored over $470,000 in poker money. They won it simply providing three undercover officers to the feds for the investigation “Operation Texas Hold’em”. If there was a picture that described this year in online poker in the US, and the anger and frustration poker players have had towards the government, it is the picture to the right. As the poster “offyourface” pointed out in a thread at Poker Affiliate Listings, “Damn, that guy on the left is so happy he could eat a banana sideways”. Hopefully the Anne Arundel County Police Department spent the $470,000 that was taken from online poker players and poker rooms wisely, they certainly earned every penny of it. [/sarcasm]
So there you have it, the biggest winners and losers of 2011. Feel free to leave comments on who I may have left out of the lists. I wish everyone a lucky and profitable 2012.