The PokerStars Players NL Hold’em Championship kicked off Sunday at the Atlantis Resort & Casino in the Bahamas. Anticipation for the event was through the roof in the days leading up to its start, and the energy only heightened as the hundreds of poker players shuffled into the tournament room before the start of play. All day long, there has been an electric buzz in the Bahamian air and PocketFives spoke to a few players about the atmosphere surrounding the PSPC.
“It’s crazy,” Christian Harder said of the event’s atmosphere. “I was actually talking to someone earlier and I was like, ‘Is this the biggest tournament outside of the WSOP Main Event in the history of poker?’ It’s up there.”
Harder is no stranger to playing events of this level, but this event seems to have a different feel to it than others with a similar $25,000 price tag.
“It definitely has much more of a main event feel than a high roller,” Harder, winner of the 2017 PokerStars Championship Bahamas Main Event, said. “Usually, the 25K price point is more pros or [recreational players] that are used to playing bigger buy-ins. It definitely has much more of a feel as a 5K or a 5K main event, which is great.”
Another player with plenty of experience in big buy-in poker tournaments is Jason Somerville, and he’s also in the Bahamas to compete in the PSPC. Like Harder, Somerville compared the PSPC to having an atmosphere like the WSOP Main Event.
“This has been amazing,” Somerville told PocketFives. “It’s very interesting. It’s kind of like the World Series of Poker Main Event. You’ve got a lot of qualifiers, people you haven’t seen before. So many people I would never see play a tournament like this have ‘reemerged.’ Most people stopped coming to the Bahamas when Black Friday happened, so it’s great to see. Awesome energy, huge prize pool – it’s awesome.”
Somerville was posted up at the main feature table for the first two levels of the opening day and commented on how his table was playing after he wasn’t sure what type of playing environment the PSPC would bring.
“I was just at the feature table for two hours and I think only Sam Greenwood and I talked, and Sam doesn’t talk that much,” Somerville said. “Everybody feels a little nervous. Even me when I first sat down, I’m like, ‘Wow, this is a serious poker tournament.’ I wasn’t sure if we were going to get that giddy chattiness or if you were going to get the scared silence, but my table at least was the scared silent type. It’s OK with me. I’ll just hang out, watch the Chargers win, and we’ll go from there.”
Matt Stout also made the trip down to the Bahamas, as he has many times before, and in similar fashion to Harder and Somerville, he likened the PSPC to having the feel of the WSOP.
“It’s obviously a lot softer,” Stout said. “It’s going to have a lot of people that have never played a 25K before and are never going to play a 25K again, but it’s also kind of cool because it has that Colossus or World Series of Poker Main Event vibe, where there’s a lot of people that this is their one and only shot. It’s a lot of fun.
“I saw one guy, who was a qualifier, walking in and as he was walking past the trophy setup in the lobby I heard him say to his mother, ‘Hey, mom! Take a picture of me in front of this real quick.’ That just warmed my heart. This is just great for poker. It’s a really, really fun event. It has a special vibe to it. It’s really exciting.”
Stout wasn’t always planning on coming to the PSPC, though. His first child was recently born in December, but ultimately he decided to make the trip because of the can’t-miss nature he felt regarding the PSPC.
“I wasn’t planning on traveling much after the birth of my son, Asher, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to play a tournament like this that’s one-of-a-kind and may literally never happen again,” Stout said.