In early January, both Patrik Antonius and Phil Ivey scrambled to accept Tom Dwan’s infamous poker challenge, in which he offered a 3:1 side bet of $1.5 million to anyone who could beat him over 50,000 hands heads-up. At the time, it seemed like the challenge could become one of the greatest battles – and one of the top poker stories – of all time.But nearly 12 months later, that story doesn’t even make Card Player’s Top 10 Poker Stories of 2009 list due to its infrequent sessions and the historic year that unfolded. We recap the 10 biggest — and most talked about — poker stories of 2009.10. PartyGaming Purchases the World Poker TourWhen the WPT was put up on the auction block, more than a few professional poker players held their collective breath. What would this mean for the tour? How would it change with the new owners?Once PartyGaming emerged as the victor in the bidding war , that sense of anxiety evaporated. Few poker companies are as trusted as PartyGaming, whose PartyPoker site helped revolutionize online poker and bring countless new players to the game.But the bigger story in this acquisition was the speculation that perhaps this was a sign that PartyGaming would return to the U.S. market. The site closed its doors to American customers following the passage of the UIGEA in 2006, but showed signs that it was preparing to come back after it settled with the U.S. attorney’s office in a non-prosecution agreement .PartyGaming’s Chief Marketing Officer said that a return to the states was exactly what the company had in mind when they purchased the WPT .“This is the first step toward us returning to the United States,” said Welch.Only time will tell if the U.S. government acts on pending legislation to explicitly legalize and regulate the industry in 2010, but PartyGaming’s actions in 2009 show the poker community that it is clearly positioning itself for a big return if and when it is able to do so.9. Daniel Negreanu Reclaims All-Time Money LeadIn what was a tumultuous year for one of poker’s most beloved stars, Daniel Negreanu reclaimed the all-time tournament money lead with his second place finish in the World Series of Poker Europe main event in October.“That is something that I am proud of, especially with the way that I got there compared to some of the other people on that list,” Negreanu said, in an interview after the WSOPE . “The winnings that I have come from over the years, winning year in and year out.”The consistent pro has earned nearly $12.3 million in tournament winnings. His WSOPE score helped him surpass Jamie Gold, whose $12.2 million in tournament winnings comes primarily from his 2006 main-event win. Negreanu had held the all-time lead before Gold’s monstrous payday.It was a difficult year personally for Negreanu, who watched his mother suffer after she endured a stroke in February before passing away in November. Despite her condition, Negreanu was still able to have a career year — final tabling three WSOP events and starring in the new TV series, Pokerstars Million Dollar Challenge .8. Multiple Bracelets All the Rage in 2009When Jack Effel announced in March that the World Series of Poker was going to offer more starting chips than ever and additional levels this summer, many people believed the added play would further reward skilled, patient players.Well, that prediction turned out to be spot-on as five pros won multiple bracelets in 2009, an accomplishment unseen since the poker boom.Jeffrey Lisandro led the way with three bracelets, and Phil Ivey created the most buzz with his two bracelet wins thanks to his plethora of prop bets. Not to be outdone, Brock Parker, Greg Mueller, and J.P. Kelly also took down two bracelets in 2009.Not since 2003 had so many players won two events in a single World Series. That year, just before Chris Moneymaker became a household name, six players — Phil Hellmuth, Chris Ferguson, Johnny Chan, Layne Flack, John Juanda, and Men Nguyen — won two bracelets apiece.7. Joe Cada Becomes the Youngest Champ in HistoryThis story probably would’ve felt more significant had Peter Eastgate not just broken Phil Hellmuth’s long-standing record a year before, but with Joe Cada winning the World Series of Poker main event at 21, that record will likely remain unscathed for a long time.Cada’s main-event win was all the more improbable because of the manner in which he did it. After losing most of his chips when he called an all in with A-J against Jeff Shulman’s A-K, Cada became the short stack of the table.Deciding not to play it safe for a chance to move up a spot of two, he didn’t hesitate to get his chips into the center of the table for the rest of the night, often behind when he did so. But fortune was on his side that night, and in dramatic fashion, Cada went from the table’s short stack to main-event champion.Since his win, the young pro has diligently hit the media circuit, speaking on behalf of the poker industry on issues of government regulation and arguing that poker is a game of skill.6. Father and Son Make Both WSOP Main Event Final TablesDoyle and Todd Brunson may be the most well known father-son combo in poker, but even they had to be impressed by the unprecedented accomplishment that Jeff and Barry Shulman pulled off this year. For the first time ever, a" father and son both final tabled a WSOP main event":http://www.cardplayer.com/poker-news/7679-shulman-duo-accomplish-rare-world-series-of-poker-feat in the very same year.After Jeff made the November Nine, Barry headed over to London to compete in the World Series of Poker Europe main event. Defeating one of the toughest fields and final tables ever assembled, Barry beat Daniel Negreanu heads-up for nearly $1.3 million.In November, Jeff made a spirited run but was eventually eliminated in fifth place after his pocket jacks were unable to hold against Cada’s pocket threes and after he wasn’t able to win a subsequent flip against Antoine Saout. Jeff collected $1.95 million for his result.It was an impressive accomplishment for the Shulmans, who have been at the epicenter of the poker world for several years now. Barry serves as the chairman and CEO of Card Player , while Jeff is the president and COO . While both were modest after their achievement — Barry said he might be even life now, while Jeff constantly downplayed his abilities in the four-month delay before the final table — the two have proven that they can beat the best of them on the felt.Check back to CardPlayer.com later for the Top 5 Poker Stories of 2009.
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