The Punta Cana Poker Classic has established itself as one of the most inviting poker vacation tour stops of the calendar year. Since their inaugural tournament back in 2010, they have created a must-play event that has blended plentiful poker and beautiful beaches into a one-of-a-kind experience. Now in their, eighth year, PocketFives decided to take a look back at some of the highlights of the PCPC in years past.
The Punta Cana Poker Classic more than doubling the initial $100,000 guarantee in its first year. Highlighted by the attendance of “The Godfather of Poker” Doyle Brunson the event was won by Canadian player, and PocketFiver, Peter ‘peterhammer’ Cross. Cross’ victory was worth a career-best $65,000.
In the shadow of Black Friday, the 2011 PCPC was a ray of light. On the heels of the success of 2010, organizers increased the guarantee to the modern-day mark of $500,000. Taking place at the Punta Cana Hard Rock Hotel, 415 runners took their shot at becoming the second ever champion. The event was won by professional poker player, 20-year-old Toronto native Demo Kiriopoulos. Kiriopoulos took home the $136,949 first place prize, only the second recorded tournament of his career.
Matthew Weber became the first American to take down the PCPC Main Event as he defeated Canadian Kelly Kellner in a lightning fast heads-up match. Weber added over $135,000 to his bankroll for his efforts and it marked the second time in as many years that the Main Event crushed it’s $500,000 guarantee and offered a six-figure score for first.
In 2013, the player pool swelled to nearly 500 runners, pushing the prize pool higher than it had ever been to over $700,000. Mexico’s Guillermo Olvera Acuna bested the packed field, which included World Poker Tour Champion Jonathan Roy, former November Niner Marc McLaughlin, prior PCPC Champion Kiriopoulos and Anthony Zinno, who would go on to become a three-time World Poker Tour Champion. Zinno made the final table but bowed out in fourth place. Acuna’s score of $171,000 would be a career high for him.
Once again the Main Event reached new heights attracting more runners and a larger prize pool than any previous years. One of those players would be former #1-ranked PocketFiver Ari Engel, the then, self-described “homeless” poker player was simply traveling the world from tournament to tournament when he arrived in Punta Cana to win the Main Event for over $177,000.
By now, word of the value and experience in Punta Cana was well-known and players flocked to the poker destination to, yet again, make the Main Event the largest in its history. Returning PCPC Champion, Ari Engel, looked to defend his title, making an extremely deep run. Though Engel would make his way to the final table, he would fall in fourth place as Venezuela’s Luis Yepez would score the victory this year, netting over $185,000 for the largest cash of his life.
Organizers of the PCPC switched the location of the series from the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino to its new home at the Melia Caribe all-inclusive resort. In an effort to give poker players a more exclusive experience the resort carved out a special section, called The Level, where players would have access to more amenities than in previous years. In another first, the PCPC crowned its first European champion when Latvia’s Eduards Kudrjavcevs took home the trophy and over $143,000 for first.
Here in 2017, the Punta Cana Poker Classic continues to write history. Returning to the Melia Caribe all-inclusive resort for a week’s worth of poker and palm trees from October 24-29, the PCPC is sure to bring with it both large prize pools and poolside memories.
For more information visit PuntaCanaPokerClassic.com.