What We Learned: The PokerStars Championship Bahamas

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The PokerStars Championship Bahamas had some highs and some lows (PokerStars photo/Neil Stoddart)

In August 2016 PokerStars announced a massive change to their live offering that saw all of their tour operations rebranded under the PokerStars Live name. The European Poker Tour, Latin American Poker Tour, Asia-Pacific Poker Tour and other smaller, regional tours were now PokerStars Championship or PokerStars Festival events. With all due respect to the EPT Grand Final, no PokerStars-branded event was more iconic than the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. That too was part of the re-branding project and became the first ever PokerStars Championship event. Here’s what we learned over nine days of poker action in the Bahamas.

1. The Glory Days of the PCA are Gone

In the early days of the online poker boom, the PCA was a must-attend event for amateurs and pros alike. Amateurs loved the fact that they could qualify online for a tiny investment and get to go to a world-class poker tournament in an exotic locale. Pros loved that the event had so many amateur qualifiers building a soft field in what was then a $10,000 buy-in event. They also didn’t hate the fact it was in the Bahamas at a time when most of America was going through its coldest period of the year.

That sentiment seems to be gone now though. With only a handful of American qualifiers and just 250 overall, the field for the Main Event this year was 738 – the lowest total since 2006 when 724 showed up for the $10,000 buy-in event. That’s a year-over-year drop of 20.5% and not something that is sustainable. Combine the Atlantis-fatigue with some of the changes PokerStars recently made to their live products (20% payouts being a part of that) and a jam-packed schedule (92 scheduled events over nine days) and you’ve got a number of possible reasons for the drop in attendance.

There were whispers last year that 2017 would be the final PokerStars-branded event held at the Bahamas and the Main Event numbers, along with the lower-than-expected turnout in some of the side events, doesn’t do anything to hush that chatter.

2. Bryn Kenney Should Run for President of the Bahamas

If the event doesn’t return to the Bahamas next year, nobody will be more disappointed than Bryn Kenney. He cashed six times including a wins in a $25,000 and $50,000 High Roller event to push his lifetime earnings on the island to $5,558,151. All told he’s cashed 14 times with four of those coming in the $100,000 High Roller where he’s finished third twice (2011 & 2015), first (2016) and seventh (2017).

3. The pre-Black Friday American Online Players Can Still Hang

Before Black Friday shut down online poker in the United States, there was a generation of American players that had cut their teeth playing online poker and were just starting to make names for themselves in the live arena.

Christian Harder and Cliff Josephy, the final two players in the Championship Main Event, were two players who were part of that group. Josephy was famously ranked #1 on PocketFives for 74 weeks at one point and Harder made it as high as #14. It’s something that other players who came up at the same time have noticed:

4. The Poker Shot Clock is Going to Become a Thing

Over the last few years a number of players have made it known that one of the issues facing the game today is other players taking too long to play a hand. In their eyes, the “tanking epidemic” has made the game unplayable to some and the solution put forth has been a shot clock.

Last April, at the Tournament of Champions, the World Poker Tour introduced the Action Clock, a device that sat on the table and allowed the dealer to give each player a pre-set amount of time to act on each decision. Players were then given additional time buttons they could use to extend their time.

One of the most vocal on this issue has been Team PokerStars Pro Daniel Negreanu. After Negreanu and a few other high stakes regulars, asked PokerStars Department Head of Live Poker Operations Neil Johnson and his staff to at least consider experimenting with a shot clock in the Bahamas, Johnson agreed and, despite having no real technology to work with, made it happen. While it was just one event of the 90+ events on the schedule, it indicated that if the technology can be made affordably and easy to use, the likelihood that more events have a shot clock in the near future is pretty high.