As 2019 draws to a close, PocketFives takes a look back at the year that was in poker news, going month-by-month through the biggest and most important stories of the year. In January, all eyes – and seemingly poker players – were on a tiny island in the Caribbean.
PokerStars Players Championship Breaks Records
Throughout all of 2018, PokerStars built up hype for the 2019 PokerStars Players Championship, a $25,000 buy-in tournament in the Bahamas as part of the annual PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. By giving away 320 Platinum Passes, which included the $25,000 buy-in and another $5,000 for travel and accommodations, and adding $1 million to the first-place prize, the mission for PokerStars was to make the PSPC the largest $25,000 buy-in tournament ever.
Well, mission accomplished.
When registration closed, the field stood at 1,039 players, easily surpassing the previous record of 639 players for an event with a buy-in that high and pushing the total prize pool to $26,455,500. Spain’s Ramon Collilas, who won a Platinum Pass after winning a leaderboard from a series of small buy-in tournaments in his home country, outlasted the PSPC field to win $5.1 million.
Frenchmen Julien Martini finished as the runner-up for $2,974,000.
The event was a massive hit with players and many compared the atmosphere of the event to the World Series of Poker Main Event.
The Poker World Mourns Gavin Smith
On January 15, in the midst of the festivities in the Bahamas, the poker world was saddened to hear of the unexpected passing of Gavin Smith. He was 50 years old.
Smith, who won a World Poker Tour title in 2005 and World Series of Poker bracelet in 2010, had two elementary school-aged sons at the time of his death. In the days following his passing, a GoFundMe campaign was set up by longtime friend Josh Arieh to help out Smith’s kids.
Chino Rheem Wins PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event
Collilas’s win wasn’t the only big win at the PCA. Once all the PSPC festivities had ended, the 2019 PCA Main Event played out to a winner and Chino Rheem beat out a final table that included Simon Deadman, Marc-Andre Ladouceur, Brian Altman, and Daniel Strelitz to win the tournament and take home $1,567,000.
The win pushed Rheem’s career earnings to just over $10.5 million. Along with his PCA Main Event win, Rheem has won three World Poker Tour titles, and final tabled the WSOP Main Event but he still continues to be one of the most polarizing players in the game.
Daniel Negreanu Hints at Big Life Change
Just weeks after proposing to long-time girlfriend Amanda Leatherman, Daniel Negreanu made the media rounds at the PCA and talked candidly about his desire to get married and start a family and indicated that it might mean some changes were in order.
“The next few months we’re working on wedding lists and all that kind of stuff, so that will be a little bit of a distraction. (It was) something that I was thinking about during the PokerStars Players Championship that I probably shouldn’t have been, but my priority right now is her, and waking up every morning and thinking about how I can make her happy, and make her days as joyful as possible, and have her smiling throughout the day,” Negreanu said.
Romeo Romanovsky Wins January PLB
Romanovsky wracked up 4,522.98 PLB points to beat out Sweden’s ‘C Darwin2’ and British grinder Patrick ‘Pleno1’ Leonard. He cashed an astonishing 215 times in January to take down the title.