2015 was full of big money winners and demonstrations of poker excellence, but only a few could make it onto our list of Moneymaker-style CHAMPIONS.
Although none of the players on our list can be classified as amateurs, they certainly made a splash in the poker world and proved themselves to be highly adept at money making over the last 12 months.
Leading from pillar to post in any sport is never easy; however, during the WSOP Main Event finale in 2015 Joe McKeehen made it look easy.
The American pro started the final table with an overwhelming chip lead, but unlike those before him, he didn’t let it slip through his fingers.
In fact, as the field grew smaller, McKeehen’s stack became larger and so did his dominance.
From more than double the chips of his closest foe at the start of the final table, to almost 3X with just six players left, the bracelet always looked destined for the young pro’s wrist.
By the time just three players remained, McKeehen had more than 3X the stack of his closest rival and once he found himself heads-up with Josh Beckley it didn’t take long for him to close out the match.
As hand 184 rolled around the contest was all but over and in a flurry of action McKeehen’s Ah Td connected with the board just enough to leave Beckley’s pocket fours without any way back.
With that the 2015 WSOP Main Event was brought to a close and the unassuming McKeehen was crowed the latest world champion.
If there was ever a Cinderella story reminiscent of Chris Moneymaker’s famous victory it was John Juanda’s European Poker Tour (EPT) win in 2015.
Although he is far from the amateur Moneymaker was when he won the WSOP Main Event, Juanda had been out of the poker spotlight for a number of years.
Despite being revered among his high stakes peers for his skill and temperament, Juanda has kept a low profile in recent times. Fortunately, while form is temporary, skill is permanent and Juanda broke out of shadows and in Barcelona to prove that he’s still one of the top players in the world.
After making his way past a stellar EPT Barcelona field, Juanda was able to topple England’s Steven Warburton heads-up to win a coveted EPT title and $1,164,034. Moreover, Juanda’s victory will go down as an outright win in the largest EPT Main Event on record.
When it comes to consistency in 2015, there are few tournament players who were able to match Byron Kaverman.
The Ohio native put together a string of impressive tournament runs in 2015 and managed to finish atop of the GPI’s annual Player of the Year rankings.
High rollers seemed to be where Kaverman felt the most comfortable throughout the year and as the months rolled by he edged ever closer to an outright win.
A third place finish in the Aria’s $25,000 High Roller in October eventually paved the way for a decisive victory in Malta just a few weeks later.
Travelling over from the US to the small island close to the UK, Kaverman sat down with 167 other players willing to ante-up €10,000 to play the EPT Malta’s High Roller and eventually came away victorious.
Despite being surrounded by some of the toughest players in the world, Kaverman shone in the finale and by the time Mukul Pahuja had fallen to his advances, the American was able to claim the $475,355 top prize and enough GPI ranking points to push him to the top of the annual leaderboard.
PokerStars’ 2015 World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) was another huge success in 2015 and when the lights went down on the Main Event a total of three players became poker millionaires.
Thanks to a deal with four players remaining, Coenaldinho7, AlwaysiNduCe and Nolet20 all banked $1 million+ while the fourth negotiator, beertjes79, netted $800,000.
Once the discussions had come to a close and there was a slither of cash left to play for, it was Belgium’s ‘Coenaldinho7’ who eventually secured the title and $1.3 million after his Th 7c caught a fortunate river to see off the Kh 5c of ‘AlwaysiNduCe’.
Commenting on his exploits after the fact, Coenaldinho7 admitted that his route to victory was made tougher because of his newborn baby.
“I must say these three nights (of WCOOP Main Event) were tough. No sleep, the next day at work as usual, and in the evening babysitting (my girlfriend often works late). When she arrived, I’d be at my computer…making history as it turned out,” Coenaldinho7 told PokerStars Blog.
The final big winner of note in 2015 was the first Spin & Go millionaire of the year: sss66666. Costing the Russian grinder just $5, the monumental prize was the first time PokerStars had given away a top prize of $1 million to a small stakes Spin & Go player.
Naturally, after the jackpot prize had rolled in during the early hours of the morning in Europe, those online took a moment out from their daily grind to watch the action unfold.
With three players, short stacks and $1.2 million in the prizepool, the tension was palpable as sss66666, Nonko999 and Geldduvel battled for the title.
Within a few hands Nonko999 hit the rail and collected $100,000 before Geldduvel did his best to fight off the attacks from sss66666.
Unfortunately for Geldduvel, heads-up didn’t last that long and in the blink of an eye sss66666 was all-in and ahead with Ac 8h.
Needing to avoid running fives on the board, sss66666 watched as the final cards rolled out and the remainder of Geldduvel’s chips were pushed his way.
As the chips crossed the felt the rail erupted as sss66666 became the first player to win $1 million from a measly $5 Spin & Go buy-in.