Vanessa “Niffler” Kade Takes Down the PokerStars Sunday Million 15th Anniversary Tournament

Sometimes life is just too perfect. Yesterday, after three hard days at the virtual felt Vanessa Kade emerged victorious in the 15th anniversary edition of the PokerStars Sunday Million.

The iconic tournament is one of poker’s most sought-after prizes, and the anniversary edition comes with added kudos and a lot more money for the winner.

Over the past 15 years, the Sunday Million has run 707 times, attracting 6.2 million total entries and has paid out $1.1 billion in prize money, with $140 million going to the winners of which Kade’s $1.5 million is the biggest.

The 15th anniversary edition of the Sunday Million. generated some impressive statistics of its own:

  • Total playing time: 18hrs 12mins
  • Total entries: 69,876 (45,765 runners, 24,111 re-entries)
  • Total prize pool: $13,975,200
  • Places paid: 9971
  • First place prize: $1,514,920

These numbers make it the second-biggest edition of the anniversary showdown and the fifth-biggest online poker tournament of all time. But clearly, the bare figures only tell part of the story.

A Whirlwind Few Months for the Canadian Pro

Anyone who follows the soap opera of poker will know what a significant result this is. Kade was already this year’s biggest story away from the table; now she is the biggest story at the table as well. On Twitter, she described it as “The best day of my life” adding, “All the pain was worth it, the dream is real.”

Vanessa Kade was already well-known in the poker world, even before last year’s very public fracas with Dan Bilzerian. She had been a popular streamer on Twitch.TV for some time and enjoyed affiliate status with GGPoker, one of the fastest-growing poker rooms in the world.

But Kade was really catapulted into the public eye at the end of last year following GG’s decision to sign Bilzerian as a brand ambassador. Replying to a tweet from Melissa Burr, Kade described the move as “a huge step backwards”. Bilzerian’s seven-word reply began, “Quiet hoe [sic]” and triggered one of the ugliest episodes in recent poker history.

GG, no doubt sensing a potential firestorm, swiftly enlisted the services of Daiva Byrne, founder of Fantastic Ladies in Poker (FLIP), but it did little, if anything to calm the situation. To cut a long and unsavory story short, the debacle ended when GG severed all ties with Kade, somewhat undermining the inclusivity message it was trying to cultivate through Byrne.

A Social Media Frenzy

If this move was designed to end the controversy, then it backfired spectacularly, sending the Twittersphere into overdrive. Everyone in poker had an opinion on the matter, some of them distinctly unenlightened. In three short months, Vanessa Kade had gone from a mildly well-known Twitch streamer to—perhaps rather unwittingly—the go-to advocate for women in poker.

And then last week, just as the situation was beginning to calm down, the unregulated offshore site America’s Cardroom (ACR) unveiled its latest sponsored pro—you guessed it, Vanessa Kade.

There was a danger of course that this would be seen in some quarters as merely a publicity stunt—the logical riposte to GG’s signing of Bilzerian. Kade’s triumph in PokerStars’ flagship event has put paid to that idea once and for all.

Fairytale End to the Story

It has been a remarkable few months in the poker world and for Kade in particular. She has had to carry a lot of responsibility on her shoulders. It is not a position she asked to be in and the pressure and stress must have been unbearable.

What better way to prove the doubters wrong than by taking down PokerStars Anniversary Tournament? Sure, there’s luck in poker, but make no mistake, this victory shows the measure of the woman. It is resilience personified.

To win a Sunday million is every poker player’s dream. To win an anniversary edition puts you in rarefied air. To do it after the month that Kade has had, is the stuff of legend. To describe Kade’s recent weeks as a rollercoaster would be something of an understatement. The ups and downs the Canadian has had lately are more akin to an Elon Musk rocket launch.

Occasionally poker throws up stories that transcend the game itself and enter into poker mythology. Think John Hesp, think Victoria Coren, think Chris Moneymaker. This is just such a story.

Perfect Timing for ACR

As luck would have it, Moneymaker is also on ACR’s books and is currently fronting his biggest promotion for the poker room to date. In this respect, Kade’s victory could not have come at a better time.

It is the kind of story that Hollywood would reject for being too far-fetched: Boy trolls Girl; Girl loses (side) job; girl beats 69,876 players to win $1.5 million.

Back when the Twitter furor kicked off, Bilzerian’s original reply to Kade ended with the words, “nobody knows who you are.” Well one thing is for sure: they do now. It would seem the poker gods are real, and they are very fond of karma.