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The Biggest Paydays In Regulated US Online Poker


The US online poker market has gone through some big changes in 2018. The New Jersey WSOP.com and 888 Poker sites started sharing player pools with sister sites in Nevada and Delaware back in May. As a result, online tournament entry numbers climbed dramatically, bringing prize pools along for the ride.

Prior to that, there seemed to be only one way for a player to book a truly big score in a legal and regulated US online poker room. This involved winning a World Series of Poker online bracelet event in Nevada.

In New Jersey, players booked big scores by winning major tournament series main events. These include the PokerStars NJ Championship Of Online Poker and the PokerStars NJ Spring Championship Of Online Poker. However, even NJCOOP and NJSCOOP titles only came with top prizes under $40,000 attached. These were the biggest in the Garden State until now.

Of course, there have always been satellites into live events at casinos. The spring of 2015 to look back on. That’s when New York’s Asher Conniff won an NJ online satellite seat into the $560 Borgata Spring Poker Open opening event. He booked a $203,231 win there. Then, he accidentally registered for an online satellite for the $15,000 World Poker Tour World Championship. He went on to win the seat and the WPT Championship for another $937,683.

That has to be one of the biggest paydays connected to legal and regulated online poker in the US. However, Conniff didn’t exactly win the lion’s share of the money playing online.

Multi-state online poker

Regardless, the stakes have gone up significantly in the tri-state shared player pool online poker market. Now, players are hunting six-figure scores, or close to it. It’s just like they did when online poker in the US was a grey market operating without a fence.

The biggest and most significant scores in legal and regulated US online poker are still mostly made up of WSOP event wins. But now those wins can, and have now happened outside Nevada.

It also might surprise many people to see one of the biggest scores came from a tournament of sorts with just three players registered.

Here’s a list of the top five largest and most impactful paydays in legal and regulated US online poker history, starting with that one:

A Six-Figure Spin & Go

New Jersey’s James Piccolo moved to Las Vegas, Nevada to pursue his dream of playing poker professionally. However, he was back in the Garden State in January of this year, standing by his father preparing for cancer surgery.

The night before the operation, Piccolo was passing the time playing on PokerStars NJ. Then he got super lucky. He registered for a three-person Spin & Go that ended up offering a $120,000 jackpot prize pool.

PokerStars’ Spin & Go tournaments are three-player sit and go events. They feature a randomly drawn prize pool giving players the opportunity to win up to 1,000 times the buy-in.

Playing under his screen name ‘VaderWolf’, Piccolo won the $100,000 first-place prize. It marked the biggest win in his poker career. Plus, it’s one of the top five largest and most impactful paydays in legal and regulated US online poker history.

New Jersey’s first online bracelet win

The 2018 WSOP $565 Pot Limit Omaha online bracelet event was the smallest of the four on the schedule. However, it may end up having the longest lasting impact on the US online poker market.

That’s because Matt “mendey” Mendez won it playing from the Garden State. It marked the first time anyone from New Jersey had ever done that.

Mendez showed the world part of what shared liquidity can make possible. More New Jersey players are sure to register for future online bracelet events because of it.

Mendez beat a field of 657 players and 566 re-entries to grab the events $135,077 first-place prize. That one of the largest scores ever in the legal and regulated US online poker market. Plus, it has the potential to be one of the most influential.

More than just WSOP bracelets

A list of the five biggest and most significant scores in legal and regulated US online poker history should be about more than just online bracelet events and poker-lottery hybrid winners.

However, the major tournament series haven’t really stacked up until now.

When WSOP.com launched its tri-state shared player pool network it made a big splash with its Coast to Coast Classic series.  They got back at it again in August 2018. The WSOP.com Coast 2 Coast Classic II featured a main event with a $250,000 guaranteed prize pool. It remains one of the largest guarantees ever in legal and regulated US poker.

A player going by the screen name “Loco4coco” won it. He earned a $63,750 top prize that stands as one of the largest ever for a US online poker tournament outside of the WSOP. It certainly put others like NJCOOP and the Borgata/partypoker’s Garden State Super Series on notice.  The Coast to Coast Classic is the new gold standard in US legal and regulated online poker tournament series.

Almost six figures on a Sunday

With the success of the 2018 WSOP’s online bracelet events behind them, WSOP.com wanted to thank players for turning up in droves.

It ultimately decided the way to do that is run a $300,000 GTD Player Appreciation Tournament. It was available for online players in Nevada and New Jersey. There were multiple freerolls satelliting players into the $525 buy-in event. When it ran on July 1, 2018, it drew a whopping 572 entries. It created a guarantee-smashing $406,500 prize pool.

In the end, Georgia’s Tanner “Bamatide88” Bibat won it for $97,560, playing from Nevada. Not too shabby for about 12 hours work on a Sunday. Plus, it is clearly one of the top five largest and most impactful paydays in legal and regulated US online poker history.

The biggest online WSOP bracelet event in history

The WSOP upped the number of online bracelet events to four in the summer of 2018. Plus, for the first time, New Jersey players could get in on the action. The results included every single one of the events breaking registration records.

In fact, the $1,000 WSOP.com ONLINE No-Limit Hold’em Championship drew 1,635 entries. It created a $1,553,250 prize pool that stands as the largest in legal and regulated US online poker history.

An historic tournament deserves a history-making champion. The 2018 $1,000 WSOP.com ONLINE No-Limit Hold’em Championship delivered.

Chicago, Illinois’ Ryan Tosoc took it down. He collected a $238,779 first-place prize. It marked the biggest score in legal and regulated US online poker history.

Honorable mention

Of course, honorable mention must go to the winner of the WSOP.com WSOP Circuit main event held at the end of September 2018. As a part of the first ever completely online WSOPC series, the $525 main event drew 682 players, creating a $341,000 prize pool.

California’s Shawn Daniels took it down for $83,545, which has to also be considered largest and most impactful scores in legal and regulated US online poker history.


Martin Derbyshire has more than ten years of experience reporting on the poker, online gambling, and land-based casino industries for a variety of publications including Bluff Magazine, PokerNews, and PokerListings. He has traveled extensively, attending tournaments and interviewing major players in the gambling world.