Once upon a time, a tournament pro struggled to find a poker series worth playing in. Legitimate tournament series were few and far between, and even when there was a tournament going on, he or she would inevitably wonder, “Would enough players show up? Would there be a decent prize pool?” Never mind the fact that they might have to travel quite a distance to even participate…But in the past few years, there has been a major poker series nearly every month online, and 2010 doesn’t look to be any different. In fact, if recent trends continue, the upcoming year could offer the biggest prize pools yet for online poker series.UB Kicks Off the Action with UBOCOn Wednesday, UB.com’s fourth-annual UltimateBet Online Poker Championship will begin with a Sniper no-limit hold’em” event, featuring new UB.com pro Joe Sebok as the tourney’s host, a $320 buy-in, and a $250,000 guarantee. In fact, there is $4 million guaranteed in the 18-event schedule, which runs Jan. 20-31.As many sites have done in the past with many of these bigger buy-in online series — the UBOC will feature tournaments ranging from $109 to $2,600 — UB.com will also run a concurrent mini- UBOC series with similar tournaments, but with buy-ins of approximately 10 percent of the premiere UBOC events.“With UBOC heading into its fourth year and Aruba coming up to year nine, UB now has two amazing series. Whether you are a diehard poker player or a weekend warrior, UBOC and MiniUBOC offer something to excite everyone,” said Annie Duke, a UB pro. “_UBOC 4_ is about to break records again and this year you don’t even have to make a final table to cash big.”Highlights of the 2010 UBOC schedule include a $1,050 heads-up event on Jan. 23 at 1 p.m. ET (with a $128,000 guarantee), a $2,600 six-max deep stack event on Jan. 24 at 4 p.m. ET, a $530 six-max deep stack pot-limit Omaha event on Jan. 29 at 8:05 p.m. ET, and the $1,050 two-day main event that kicks off Jan. 31 at 4 p.m. ET.Full Tilt Keeps on Truckin’ with FTOPSFull Tilt Poker launched its first Full Tilt Online Poker Series in 2006 and even from its very first event, it was clear that the online poker site had a winning product on its hands. In event No. 1, 2,000 players ponied up $216 to play, with “hoodini10” winning first place and $86,000 over a stacked final table that included Roland de Wolfe (finished second), Howard Lederer (finished third), and Eric Froehlich (finished sixth).That nine-tournament series was so successful that Full Tilt quickly made the decision to run these series multiple times throughout the year. Now, in 2010, the site is preparing for its 15th through 19th FTOPS as the site has been running the popular series every February, May, August, and November.Full Tilt’s series provide a wide range of buy-ins, but the site’s $535 main event regularly attracts a huge number of participants. In its most recent series, FTOPS XIV , buy-ins ranged from $109 to $2,620. The FTOPS XIV main event attracted 5,471 players and paid out nearly $419,000 to winner ‘zhivago2’ after a chop.FTOPS XV , which begins Feb. 10 at 9 p.m. ET with a $216 no-limit hold’em event, boasts a schedule complete with 27 events and more than $17 million in guaranteed prize money. Premiere events for the upcoming FTOPS include the $2,620 two-day six-max no-limit hold’em event with antes from the start on Feb. 20 at 2 p.m. ET and the $535 main event, which begins Feb. 21 at 6 p.m. ET. This series’ main event guarantees at least $2.5 million in prize money.While Full Tilt will run FTOPS in February, May, August, and November this year in all likelihood (though official schedules for the latter series have not been released), the site will also run its extremely popular mini- FTOPS in the months following their corresponding FTOPS . So for FTOPS XV , which runs Feb. 10-21, miniFTOPS XV will run March 10-21.That means that Full Tilt will run an exhaustive, 25 event-plus tournament schedule in eight different months in 2010. If you’re a fan of these poker series, no site has more options and no site runs them as frequently as Full Tilt.PokerStars Prepares for Mammoth Poker SeriesLast year, PokerStars conducted two major poker series – the newly created Spring Championship of Online Poker and the eighth annual World Championship of Online Poker . Both attracted an absurd number of players – the 2009 WCOOP welcomed over 43,000 unique players while the 2009 SCOOP (with three different sets of buy-ins) attracted nearly 200,000 competitors from well over 150 different countries.Simply put, no site has bigger tournaments – both in terms of field size and overall prize money.If it mirrors the 2009 schedule, the 2010 SCOOP will run in April. Last year’ schedule featured 22 events, each with three different buy-in levels, over a two-week period. A variety of games were offered – including hold’em, razz, Omaha, H.O.R.S.E., and eight-game mix.The SCOOP was originally planned to cater exclusively to players who might not quite be able to afford WCOOP buy-ins, but the finished product in 2009 had something for everyone – with a tournament as affordable as $5.50 (a rebuy tourney that attracted 27,134 players and paid $41,562.77 to first place) and a tournament as expensive as $25,500 (heads-up event that attracted 32 players and paid $310,000 to first place).“In the first draft of the schedule, the SCOOP was drawn up as a series which was similar to the WCOOP , but with the buy-ins a bit smaller, the series a bit more accessible to more players than a WCOOP event would be, and so on,” said Bryan S., a member of PokerStars’ management team. “As we were planning, there was a school of thought in the company which said that we should offer something more tightly focused on the high-stakes players.”The first SCOOP was an overwhelming success, with over $40 million in prize money awarded. The biggest winner was “j.thaddeus,” who won the high-level $10,300 main event and $963,338 for his efforts.The 2010 WCOOP will likely run in September, although an official schedule has not been released. The 2009 version distributed more prize money (over $50 million) than any other online poker series in history. It featured 45 events, highlighted by Yevgeniy Timoshenko winning the $5,200 main event against a field of 2,144 for over $1.715 million.Most events featured buy-ins in the $215-$330 range, although the site did host a couple $109 events and even a $10,300 H.O.R.S.E. high-roller event.Bodog Wraps Up Year with Bodog Poker OpenNot to be outdone, Bodog also runs its prestigious Bodog Poker Open each year. In 2009, it was one of the final online poker series of the year; the 2010 schedule has not yet been released.If you’re looking for value, it’s hard to find a better site than Bodog . Although it doesn’t run up to 66 events in a single series (like PokerStars’ SCOOP did), its 2009 BPO had the distinction of being the only major poker series that added on prize money to each of its seven championship events.The site added $5,000 to most of its premiere tournaments last November, with $15,000 added to its series-opening tournament (a $109 no-limit hold’em event) and $25,000 added to its championship event (a $500 no-limit hold’em tournament). In all, Bodog added $65,000 in extra money to the BPO IV series.In 2010, Bodog Poker Open will launch its fifth series and players can expect to find a number of enticing tournaments to play in. The series traditionally has focused on hold’em, although the site has offered a variety of events within hold’em (pot-limit, no-limit, limit, six-max, etc.).
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