Punta Cana Poker Classic Overcame Humble Beginnings to Flourish


The Punta Cana Poker Classic

In just five days, poker players from all over the world will be sipping on complementary cocktails at the luxurious Melia Caribe Tropical Resort in the Dominican Republic, relaxing before the start of the seventh annual Punta Cana Poker Classic.

The PCPC is the brainchild of online poker site True Poker, which conceived of the idea after asking themselves what was lacking from live tournaments at the time. After thinking over the possibilities, the site’s marketing team came up with the concept of offering a professionally-run, vacation-style poker tournament set in a picturesque locale.

The team traveled to various tropical locations around the world in search of the perfect spot, and eventually settled on the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. The massive property offered players a variety of amenities, like the choice of dining in over nine restaurants, all under an all-inclusive system.

From the beginning, the company advertised the event not so much as a True Poker-branded tournament, but as a chance for partner sites and affiliates to offer packages as incentives for their most valuable players. Pointpoker, DSI, Bodog Network, BetCRIS and Doyle’s Room all got involved, running qualifiers and sending dozens of players to the event.

The tournament exceeded expectations from the very start, attracting over 200 players and doubling its $100,000 guarantee. Several big-name poker players made the trip, including Doyle Brunson, Mike Caro, Hoyt Corkins and Eli Elezra.

But as it was in its first year of operation, however, there were still several kinks to work out. For the inaugural event, organizers decided to use dealers, tables, chips and cards all from the local area, instead of bringing in their own. The decision led to a major problem when officials realized that they were missing a crucial component of the tournament – dealer buttons. But organizers didn’t sweat it, and eventually made use of some very old, non-value casino chips, stamping the word “Dealer” on them.

In the end, Canada’s Peter Cross emerged victorious, banking a $65,000 payday, while claiming the title of first PCPC champ.

With the success of the 2010 event, organizers decided to fly in an elite team of Las Vegas dealers, along with experienced tournament directors for the second edition. The results were impressive; a total of 415 players showed up for the Main Event, prompting organizers to bump up the $500,000 guarantee to a total of $600,000.

In 2012, player participation dropped slightly, but was still enough to beat the $500,000 guarantee by about $53,000. This time around, organizers had the experience to fix problems which had plagued them in previous years, and the tournament ran seamlessly. California native Matthew Weber took home first-place and a $135,475 prize in what was becoming a premier international poker event.

The following year, the event boasted a record 490 entrants, which pumped up the prize pool to an all-time high of $712,950. Mexico’s Guillermo Abdel Olvera Acuña walked away with the title that year, adding $171,100 to his bankroll for the win.

The bar was raised yet again and 2014, as 507 poker players from all over the globe bought into the Main Event. When all was said and done, Canadian pro Alan Ari Engel came out on top, taking home $177,045, the largest PCPC first-place prize which had been offered to date.

Last year’s event turned out to be the biggest yet, with 567 entrants buying-in to battle for the largest PCPC prize pool ever. Venezuelan poker player Luis Yepez ended up besting the field, taking home a $185,615 payday.

This year, organizers have decided to move the tournament from the Hard Rock Hotel to the Melia Caribe Tropical, renting out an entire level of the resort. They expect attendance to once again break records as players bask in the beauty of Punta Cana’s white sandy beaches, and vie for a slice of the $500,000 guaranteed prize pool.