U.S. Poker Championship

[SS] “Maybe Donald Trump being President will be a good thing for poker”,1 Stan the Stat suggested.

[RR] “How so?” Roderick the Rock wondered.

[SS] “He used to own two Atlantic City casinos, the Trump Plaza and the Trump Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal even hosted the U.S. Poker Championships from 1996 to 2010.”

[LL] “Why did they kill the event?” Leroy the Lion inquired.

[SS] “Technically it’s just on hiatus, although it would need to find a new home now that the Taj has closed. But I think it’s like almost every other U.S. poker festival that’s come and gone; casinos don’t think they’re profitable. Attendance was already starting to lag despite dropping the Main Event buyin from $10,000 to $5,000.2 And then Black Friday hit. The tournament might have died anyway, but that was certainly the nail in the coffin.3

Still, it was a nice run while it lasted. Plenty of famous players did well there… Daniel Negreanu won in 1999 and Men Nguyen in 2001, while John Juanda, Phil Hellmuth, Dewey Tomko, Erik Seidel, and T.J. Cloutier all made final tables.

U.S. Poker Champions

Year Winner Prize Entrants Cashed Runner-Up
1996 Ken Flaton $500,000 100 18 Surinder Sunar
1998 Ray Lamoureaux $148,000 74 9 O’Neil Longson
1999 Daniel Negreanu $210,000 70 9 John Bonetti
2000 G. Richard Tatalovich $318,000 106 19 John Juanda
2001 Men Nguyen $228,000 76 9 John Juanda
2002 John Hennigan $216,000 72 9 Erik Seidel
2003 Toto Leonidas $388,080 99 9 Erik Seidel
2004 John Aglialoro $691,096 187 18 Joe Cassidy
2005 James Caporuscio $831,532 226 18 Ralph Pecorale
2006 Alex Jacob $878,500 261 27 Jordan Morgan
2007 Adam Gerber $606,095 164 18 Louis Lee
2008 Robert Ford $221,936 52 6 Duane Hunton
2009 William Brindise $261,800 154 18 Men Nguyen
2010 Edward Gamaitoni $167,616 96 9 David Gillen


  • Baywatch actress Jasmine Bleeth, who claimed to have never played poker before, caused a stir at the inaugural Main Event when she amassed a big stack early and finished in 29th place.
  • 2002 champ John Hennigan also finished fourth in 2003 and has won four WSOP bracelets, including the 2014 $50,000 Poker Players Championship for $1,517,767.
  • 2004 champ John Aglialoro is a businessman whom CNN Money listed as the 10th wealthiest executive in 2007, when he was the Chairman and CEO of Cybex International.
  • 2006 champ Alex Jacob tore up Jeopardy! in 2015, winning six straight games for $151,802 and then taking down the Tournament of Champions for another $250,000.
  • 2007 champ Adam Gerber had just earned $248,500 for finishing second in the Borgata Open $5,000+200 No Limit Hold ‘Em two weeks earlier.
  • John Juanda reached a record four Main Event final tables, also finishing fifth in 2005 and seventh in 2002. Eric Panayiotou and Men Nguyen each made three final tables.
  • Maureen Feduniak had the highest finish by a woman, placing fifth in 1998 for $20,350. Cyndy Violette joined her at that final table, falling in seventh. Svetlana Gromenkova also finished seventh in 2007 and actually out-earned Feduniak with a $39,770 payday. Kathy Liebert finished 13th for $28,372 in 2005.”


  1. { January 3, 2017 note: } This article about proposed casinos in South Carolina agrees that the Trump Presidency will be good for poker.
  2. The entry fee was $7,500+$100 in 1996 and 1999 to 2002, $5,000+$100 in 1998, $9,800+$200 in 2003, $9,700+$300 from 2004 to 2008, and $5,000+$250 from 2009 to 2010.
  3. Another factor in the demise might have been the loss of television coverage from ESPN. The tournament didn’t air at all in 2007 and 2008 and returned on the less popular Spike network.


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