Another magical year on the felt is drawing to a close. 2016 was something of a boom year for poker; the sport is growing by leaps and bounds across the world, especially in Asia and South America. New casinos and poker rooms are sprouting everywhere – even in Canada and the United States, where players still pine for the glory days of the Moneymaker Era. Poker is expanding beyond no-limit Hold’em, too, as people rediscover the joy of mixed games and stud variants through Twitch.

We even had a “recreational” player win the November Nine. Qui Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American from Las Vegas who used to spend most of his casino time playing baccarat, survived a tough final table to the World Series of Poker Main Event – although Nguyen thrived more than survived, playing with old-school aggression and getting his cautious, ICM-driven opponents to fold. His victory will only improve poker’s standing in the ever-growing Asian gambling community. It’s the beginning of the Nguyen Era.

Digging Holz
Nguyen may have won the biggest poker tournament of them all, but 2016 otherwise belonged to two well-known pros. Fedor Holz could do no wrong this year; the German wunderkind started with a massive $3.5-million victory at a WPTN Super High Roller in the Philippines on January 3, then added five more high-roller wins over the summer, including the WSOP $111,111 One Drop for nearly $5 million in prize money. It was enough for Holz to officially “retire” as a poker pro, although he continues to play at his leisure.

The other big winner for 2016 was Jason Mercier. Not only did Mercier earn WSOP Player of the Year honors by finishing first, second and first in three consecutive tournaments, he also proposed on camera to fellow pro Natasha Barbour. They married on November 20, and five days later, they both cashed in at the Seminole Hard Rock Poker RRPO – Barbour busting in 36th place, Mercier in 35th.

Mercier was also part of the inaugural Global Poker League season, but he and the New York Rounders didn’t make the playoffs. It was the Montreal Nationals winning Season 1 by defeating the Berlin Bears 6-5 in the Finals on December 1. Will there be a Season 2 for the GPL? Stay tuned to see what the poker world brings in 2017, and as always, best of luck at the tables