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  1. [caption width="640"] The PokerStars Championship Bahamas had some highs and some lows (PokerStars photo/Neil Stoddart)[/caption] 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 GoneIn 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 BahamasIf 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 HangBefore 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 ThingOver 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.
  2. [caption width="640"] Christian Harder won the first ever PokerStars Championship event on Saturday, defeating Cliff Josephy heads-up to win PokerStars Championship Bahamas (PokerStars photo)[/caption] Just 2.5 months ago Cliff ‘JohnnyBax’ Josephy was at the final table of the WSOP Main Event with a player he once backed in the pre-Black Friday era of online poker. Josephy eventually finished eventually busted in third while his one-time horse, Gordon Vayo, finished second. Christian Harder improved that narrative on Sunday night at the final table of the PokerStars Championship Bahamas Main Event. Josephy finished runner-up while Harder, once also backed by Josephy, took home the title and just over $400,000. It took just seven hands for the first elimination on the night and much to the delight of his legions of fans on PocketFives, it wasn’t Josephy. Harder opened the action, raising to 140,000 from UTG. Rasmus Glaesel moved all in UTG+1 and Harder called. Glaesel showed [poker card="ah"][poker card="kc"] and found himself racing against Harder’s [poker card="tc"][poker card="th"]. The board ran out [poker card="8d"][poker card="6h"][poker card="3s"][poker card="6c"][poker card="6s"] to give Harder a full house and eliminated Glaesel in sixth. That handed seemed to provide some momentum for Harder, but it also seemed to spell the beginning of the end for Michael Gentili, who started the final day with the chip lead. Over the course of the next five hours, Gentili saw his chip stack evaporate mostly at the hands of Aleksei Opalikhin. Josephy eventually finished him off. After Harder opened to 275,000, Josephy moved all in for 1,785,000 before Gentil called off the last of his stack from the small blind. Harder folded and Josephy showed [poker card="ks"][poker card="ts"] while Gentili had two live cards, [poker card="9s"][poker card="7c"]. The [poker card="kh"][poker card="7s"][poker card="6h"] flop put Josephy ahead and he stayed there through the [poker card="js"] turn and [poker card="kc"] river to eliminate Gentili in fifth place. At this point Harder had almost 2/3 of the chips in play but again he sat back as another player was eliminated. Josephy opened to 240,000 before Michael Vela re-raised to 1,000,000. Opalikhin called his last 295,000 before Josephy folded. Vela showed [poker card="kc"][poker card="ks"] and Opalikhin tabled [poker card="tc"][poker card="9d"]. The [poker card="ac"][poker card="ad"][poker card="ah"] flop left Opalikhin drawing thin and while the [poker card="th"] turn and [poker card="9c"] river gave the Russian two full houses, they weren’t big enough and he was out in fourth place. Another 90 minutes of play passed with Harder still in command before the next elimination. Harder raised from the button to 350,000, Josephy called from the small blind but Vela moved all in for 1,485,000. Harder and Josephy both called. Harder and Josephy both checked through the [poker card="8d"][poker card="7d"][poker card="6d"][poker card="3h"][poker card="4d"] board. Harder showed [poker card="ac"][poker card="qs"] for ace-high while Josephy tabled [poker card="kd"][poker card="jh"] for a king-high flush and Vela tabled and mucked [poker card="ah"][poker card="6h"] to be eliminated in third place. When heads-up play began Harder held 12,130,000 chips to Josephy’s 9,175,000. Play was paused to allow Harder and Josephy to discuss a chop and after just a few minutes the Americans agreed to a deal that saw Harder take $419,664 and Josephy $403,448 with an additional $10,000 going to the eventual champion. Just 20 minutes later Harder finished Josephy after a preflop all in spot. Josephy raised to 400,00, Harder raised to 1,100,000 and Josephy move all in for just over 6,000,000. Harder called and tabled [poker card="ad"][poker card="js"] which had Josephy’s [poker card="as"][poker card="8h"] dominated. The [poker card="9s"][poker card="5c"][poker card="4s"][poker card="ks"][poker card="9c"] board was no help for Josephy and he was eliminated in second place leaving Harder standing tall with the first major title of his career. The $5,000 buy-in event, which replaced the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, attracted 738 entries. Last year the $5,300 buy-in PCA had a field of 928 and Mike Watson took home $728,325 for first. The next PokerStars Championship event is in Panama, March 10 - 20. In the meantime, the PokerStars Festival event hits London, England January 22 - 29. Final Table Payouts Christian Harder - $429,664* Cliff Josephy - $403,448* Michael Vela - $259,980 Aleksei Opalikhin - $191,420 Michael Gentili - $140,940 Rasmus Glaesel - $103,780 Brock Allison - $76,400 John Dibella - $56,260
  3. Five years ago, Greg Merson won two World Series of Poker Bracelets, $9.75 million and WSOP Player of the Year, but the things that happened to him off the felt just before and after that summer have had a bigger impact on his life. As people go through life, they mentally circle important dates on the calendar in permanent ink. Memories pile up as each calendar page turns, but celebrating or remembering the important ones is only half of the process. Adding new dates as you reach new milestones makes up the other half and over the last five and half years, Greg Merson has built up an impressive collection. Five years ago, Greg Merson was one of thousands of online poker players who made their living – and built their reputation – sitting in front of a computer screen. The 2012 World Series of Poker changed all of that for Merson, but not before a far more important milestone began his path to poker stardom and ultimately saved his life. December 10, 2011 It was early December 2011, and a lot of poker players were in Las Vegas for the World Poker Tour Five Diamond World Poker Classic at the Bellagio. Merson was sharing a room at Aria with two of his better friends, Tony Gregg and Christian Harder. Merson was in the room alone when his two friends returned to find him sitting upright in the bed, unconscious. “I really don’t remember that much. Last thing I really remember is eating goldfish (crackers),” said Merson. “I just remember being scared and then immediately being like, ‘Alright, he’s alive’, and then telling him, ‘Greg, you can’t do this bro’ and then just him having a breakdown,” said Harder, who realized his friend and fellow Maryland poker pro had come ridiculously close to dying of an overdose in that hotel room. “I just completely nodded out, which is somewhat close to overdosing, where you just kind of fade out, and if your heart stops beating, then you’re going to die,” said Merson. “I don’t remember nodding out, but I just remember them telling me that I was positioned like that, like I was dead. So that was a big wake up call for me.” As Harder remembers that day, Merson got himself together, grabbed his phone and headed for the hallway where he called his mom, in tears. He had just turned 24 years old, but Merson was smart enough to recognize he needed to get his life together in a hurry. He took the unusual step of locking himself in his hotel room for three days to get the drugs out of his system and start over. It worked, but it certainly wasn’t easy. “I remember the depression being by far the worst, like ten times worst than anything I had ever experienced, and how sick I was,” said Merson. “But for all that, I can only imagine what it would have been like if I continued to use for a long time.” A little less than a month ago, on June 10, Merson quietly celebrated 5.5 years of sobriety. His life is very different now than that day where he woke up in a hotel room with uneaten Goldfish crackers all over his shirt. Not long after detoxing himself in his hotel room, Merson made the decision to move to Toronto to get back to doing the thing he loved more than anything. “He got clean, he went through some stuff and he was like, ‘alright, I’m going to bury my head and play online constantly’,” said Harder. “So he went to Canada, it was post-Black Friday and he just played online a million hours a day.” It wasn’t the only thing he did though. While in Toronto, Merson took up yoga and began attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings. When he wasn’t doing that, he was playing upwards of 24 tables of No Limit cash games with stakes as high as $5/$10. Through all of that, Merson never forgot one very important fact that he was going to have deal with the rest of his life. “You have to stay focused on the fact that you are an addict and you are not going to ever be cured of this. So you just have to constantly remind yourself that one bad decision could mean falling back into some bad habits,” said Merson. It might be over 5.5 years ago now that two of his closest friends walked in on him and probably saved his life, but Merson still looks back once in a while at the way he was before he got clean. “I think about it sometimes. I don’t dwell on the past, but I am also not embarrassed about my past, because similar to poker, you just need to keep moving on,” said Merson. “I don’t really regret anything that happened. I’m not super spiritual or think that everything happens for a reason, but for me, it ended up working out so I could not really change anything if I wanted to.” July 6, 2012 As the 2012 was drawing closer to the Main Event, Merson had a cashed a couple of times, including bubbling a final table, when the event Merson describes as his personal “Super Bowl”, the $10,000 Six Max No Limit Hold'em Championship began. After three days of play, Merson had just one opponent standing in between himself and a WSOP bracelet; Keith Lehr. Merson woke up on July 6, knowing he had to be at the Rio for 1 PM. Only 11 hours earlier, Merson had bagged up a 2-1 chip lead over Lehr. The event was scheduled to end that night, but tournament staff wouldn’t allow the pair to finish it out. Merson and Lehr played exactly one hand on the extra day, with Merson beating Lehr to win the first bracelet of his career and $1,136,197. The previous six months had been a long journey, but seeing the fruits of his labor was more than enough for Merson to break down in tears during his post-win interview. It was just his fifth career WSOP cash and third that year. Harder didn’t even know how many WSOP events Merson, who prefers to play high stakes cash games, had planned to play that summer, but definitely saw a much-improved version of his friend before the WSOP began. “I just knew that he was in a better place and was playing everyday. That’s the best thing for him, if you ask him, just getting in a groove of playing all the time. That’s when he’s playing his best,” said Harder. “Then the World Series came around. I didn’t know he was going to play any tournaments because Greg barely played any tournaments.” Merson wasn’t done there though. Ten days later he made his way through the Main Event field to make the final table. Thanks to the U.S. Presidential Election, the November Nine was moved up a week and became the October Nine, but Merson still had a 3.5-month break before the final table began, so he did what any online grinder would have done; he went back to Toronto and went to work. After two months of that life though, Merson headed back to his hometown of Laurel, Maryland. The drive should have taken just about nine hours, but Merson had a planned stop to see a friend that he’d known since he was in high school, Julie Sosenko. Greg and Julie had met at the beach years earlier and stayed in touch via Facebook and email. They hadn’t seen each other since 2005, but Julie’s hometown was the halfway point of the trip, so Greg messaged her on Facebook to see if she’d want to grab dinner as he drove through town. Even though they’d been friends on Facebook for a while, Julie didn’t really know much about what Greg was up to. She knew he was into poker, but not much beyond that. And she knew nothing of his addiction issues. The pair had first met before Merson was doing drugs and this reconnection was coming almost a full year after he’d cleaned up. “At dinner I was kind of waiting for her to bring up either one, and it was not happening and then I brought up the poker thing without trying to sound like I was bragging,” said Merson. “She was like, ‘Yeah, I saw some stuff on Facebook, but I didn’t know what that meant’.” The poker side of his story was the easy one to tell, the other part came up after dinner when Julie suggested they go to a bar for drinks. Greg told her he didn’t drink and next thing he knew, he was explaining the rest of the story to her. “I didn’t really flag it as anything concerning, mostly because I’ve been around it here and there before,” Julie said. “Of course, there were concerns, it’s scary. Nothing you ever want to think about, but me personally, I don’t know him as that. I hope to never know him as that.” Not long after that reconnection, the pair began dating. It went against what Merson was looking for at the time as he was solely focused on preparing for the Main Event final table and wanted to avoid any possible unnecessary distractions. “I can’t be falling in love and then have the girl break up with me two days before,” said Greg. “But it just kind of happened.” “We kind of both dove in pretty quickly. We were both very hesitant to get into a relationship at all,” said Julie. “We both assumed, ‘Oh, we’re just gonna be friends,’ which is kind of funny because immediately our friends could tell we were inseparable. Something about him made me trust him a lot and I think he felt the same way.” Six weeks later, Merson sat down on stage at the Penn & Teller Theatre to play the WSOP Main Event final table while he and Julie, who was studying to be a physical therapist at the time, were well into a relationship. October 31, 2012 With poker fans around the world watching, Merson plowed through the other eight Main Event final table players to win his second bracelet of the year, $8,531,853 and WSOP Player of the Year. His total earnings for the 2012 WSOP topped $9.75 million. That type of windfall boost to somebody’s net worth can change people at their core. Those closest to Merson don’t see him acting any differently today than he did before he won those two bracelets and the money. ‘I don’t know if he’s that different, honestly. He loves the game. He loves poker more than anyone. People don’t know because they don’t see him out in tournaments, but no one plays more than Greg,” said Harder. “I talk to him almost everyday, he’s just playing on New Jersey sites. He’s content to just grind.” Obviously winning nearly eight figures in a single year affords one a different type of lifestyle, but Merson doesn’t feel like he can sit back and not continue to work hard. “The financial freedom is awesome. I struggle with being afraid of not being able to make money. I have no degree. I have no backup plan. I want to take advantage of my skill set in the industry as much as I can,” said Merson. “It’s a good thing and a bad thing because it makes me work a little too hard sometimes if you ask people close to me.” Now 29 years old, Merson still loves the game as much as he did when he was in his early 20s, playing online after dropping out of college. That passion is something only those closest to him get to see on a regular basis. “He plays a lot, wins at a high rate, at stakes where people would not expect somebody with that much money, that many accomplishments,” said Harder. “That’s the Greg I first met and he was off drugs, then he relapsed and he wasn’t the same Greg. Then before the (2012) Main he was in the zone. It still crazy that until this day, not one sliver has he let up.” September 25, 2017 In just under three months, Merson is heading into surgery to fix both of his hips, a degenerative issue that has caused him a lot of pain the last couple of years – so much so that it’s actually prevented him from playing live for the better part of the last 12 months. “I would have had the surgery earlier, but with the Series … I just wanted to deal with the pain and then get the surgery in the fall,” said Merson. While he delayed the surgery in part to be able to play the WSOP this summer, he didn’t come out to Las Vegas until mid-June. “I literally cannot sit for more than a couple of hours without being in a lot of discomfort. That’s why I haven’t been playing any live poker for the last year,” said Merson. “I’m just going to deal with the pain for the tournaments.” Having both hips operated on at the same time – a rarity for somebody as young as Merson – also presents a challenge that is simply just a fact of life for any former addict. He’s going to come out of surgery and have a lot of pain to deal with and he’s going to be prescribed painkillers. A few years ago, he had his Achilles operated on and went through that recovery process without any prescription medicine. “I just have no idea what kind of pain I’m going to be in, and my Achilles was fucking awful for two days of not having anything. So, if I need them, I’m not going to hold back from using them,” said Merson. He won’t have easy access to them though. Julie will be the one responsible for giving Greg the drugs and keeping them out of reach when he doesn’t need them. Julie is happy to act as the checks and balances for Greg, but she thinks he’s more than capable of recognizing any potential problems himself. “He tells me, ‘Hey, do you mind taking care of these? Give them to me if I ask for them and we’ll go from there’,” said Julie. “I don’t see it being an issue. If I were concerned, I would address it with him, but I also feel like he would see that.” July 22, 2017 Earlier this year the WSOP announced that the November Nine concept was being retired and that the 2017 WSOP Main Event would play out live on ESPN in late July. Every poker player made note of the new scheduled date of the final table and told friends and to expect to be busy that day. Except Merson. He panicked. July 22 – the day that the 2017 Main Event champion will be crowned – is the same day that Greg and Julie are getting married in Morristown, New Jersey. After dating for just over four years, Greg popped the question and the two picked a date they though wouldn’t conflict with the already-announced dates for Main Event. “It’s not even just me though, it’s half of my groomsmen are going to be in the tournament,” said Merson. The new schedule calls for the final nine players to begin play on July 20 and play down to six. Those six return on July 21 and play down to three. The final three return on July 22 and play down to a winner. The announcement from the WSOP came early one morning in mid-May. Harder jokingly texted Merson, but he’d already seen the news and was reading it to his soon-to-be-wife who wasn’t exactly sure how to respond. She just reassured herself that the chances Greg or any of his friends made it to the final table were slim. “Once I got past the confusion and taking the whole idea in, I was like ‘Wow, that sucks’. From there I thought, ‘You know what? It’s like one in a billion chance that he’ll get to the final table again,” Julie said. “Then people tried to make me feel better. He was like ‘Really? It’s like 1 in 900.’ and I thought ‘Oh, great’.” “It’s not even just me though, it’s half of my groomsmen are going to be in the tournament, and then other close friends,” said Greg. “If one of our super close friends make the final three, she just feels like it takes away from our wedding, since people are going to be watching (the final table) on their phones.” Even with the wedding planned and everything already paid for, Merson is a poker player and can’t help but dream about the possibility of repeating his performance from five years ago. “It’s so unlikely to affect anything and I think it would just be such an awesome thing if I were in the final three, obviously,” said Merson. “Who the fuck cares that I’m punting all of this money we spent on the wedding because it’s just not going to matter.” Julie might not be a poker player, but she understands the odds are actually in her favor. Still, she’s come up with a contingency plan should Greg still be in the tournament on July 22. “The wedding is probably get canceled or put on hold for however long,” said Julie. “I fly to Vegas with my wedding dress and probably sit behind him in my wedding dress until he’s done.”
  4. Another week into the Las Vegas summer and more prize pools outside the Rio are building into seven-figure territory. Last week's individual performances of Antoine Saout and Chris Moorman were replaced by big fields and huge numbers. The Venetian Sets a New Record The Mid-States Poker Tour $1,100 $3.5 million guaranteed event set a record for entries in a tournament at The Venetian. A total of 4,411 entries took part in the tournament to compete for a prize pool of $4.3 million. 451 players made the money and a few notable names found themselves deep to play for the $548,341 first-place prize. Two-time WPT Season XVI final tablist Derek Wolters placed eight to collect $64,511. Former WSOP final tablist Owen Crowe was the last Canadian standing and earned $150,525 for sixth. David Levine emerged victoriously and earned the over half-million prize for first. Levine's largest tournament cash before the MSTP was $16,910 for an event at the 2018 L.A. Poker Classic. Other relevant players to reach the top-50 include Iaron Lightbourne (12th), Nick Pupillo (29th), Joe Elpayaa (30th), and Mike Del Vecchio (32nd). The second MSPT seven-figure event is currently on Day 2 at The Venetian. 2,779 runners crushed the $1 million guarantee for the $600 entry to put a $1.425 million pot up for grabs. Three more events are left on the MSPT/Venetian schedule with the $5,000 $1 million guarantee up next on Friday, June 15. Familiar Names Come Close at Wynn In the final days before the first multi-day event at the Wynn Summer Classic, a few well-regarded players almost made it to the finish line in a single day of work. Christian Harder formally got on the board by placing third in the $1,100 $200,000 guarantee. Harder collected $29,876 with Andrew Hills winning the event and $72,799. A few days later, Greg Raymer took second in the $550 Seniors Event. Raymer withdrew $34,416 from the prize pool and Nicole Honour earned first place along with $52,718. The first multi-day event kicks off on June 14 when the first of two $1,100 $1 million guarantee opens up. Three starting flights are available for the tournament which is expected to draw close to 2,000 runners. Michael Wang Almost Repeats The choice between events can be a conflict at times and that was the case for bracelet winner Michael Wang. Stuck between Planet Hollywood and the Rio, Wang decided to defend his title in the $600 $1 million guaranteed clash he won in 2017. https://twitter.com/miw210/status/1005360505198768128 In a field of 2,238, Wang placed seventh for $29,909 and is sure to be back in the final table mix again this summer. Other final tablists included Marshall White and Marvin Rettenmaier. The 2017 version featured a field of 2,721 and Wang's share for first place was $205,165.
  5. 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.
  6. Everyone in poker knows what January brings. It brings a fresh start to the poker year, it brings the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, and it brings a big result for Tony Gregg. This year, the PokerStars Players NL Hold’em Championship may have added an exciting new element to the poker world, but much was the same in regards to Gregg making a big splash in the Bahamas. Entering the 2019 edition of the PCA, Gregg had earned $3.096 million from the stop and sat third on the festival’s all-time money list. He added another $86,400 to his total haul from PCA after placing 36th from a field of 1,039 entries in the record-setting PSPC. “I guess it’s just one of those things that when you have continued success you’re going to have that much better of a feeling playing here,” Gregg said of his string of big results from the Bahamas. Gregg’s first result from PCA was also his largest. In 2009, he placed second in the PCA Main Event from a field of 1,347 entries to win $1.7 million. A few years later, in 2012, Gregg was back at the PCA Main Event final table from a field of 1,072 entries. This time around, he took sixth place and brought home $364,000. “I don’t think it specifically has anything to do with the Bahamas, I just think Tony is a fantastic poker player and some places you run good and some places you run bad,” Christian Harder, 2017 PokerStars Championship Bahamas winner and good friend of Gregg, commented. Another six-figure score from a sixth-place finish came in 2014 with Gregg earning $347,720 in the PCA $100,000 Super High Roller. Then in 2015, he took third in a $5,300 side event for $72,800. As if those results weren’t impressive enough, in 2016 Gregg reached the final table of the PCA Main Event for the third time. Again, he found himself heads-up. Again, he finished in second place. Although he didn’t land in the winner’s circle, Gregg added another $612,175 to his bankroll. “For me, living in the mid-Atlantic most of the time, getting out of that area in January and getting to come here, it just feels so good to be here that I guess it just motivates me to play better, be more patient, or have more faith in myself that things are going to work out,” Gregg said. “Any number of those things.” “It’s awesome,” Harder said of seeing Gregg’s continued success. “Tony deserves all the success he has. He’s a student of the game and always keeps himself sharp even when he’s not playing live much. He’s always watching live feeds, or videos, or playing online. I’m not surprised one bit he went deep in PSPC.” Prior to his PSPC result this year, Gregg’s last cash was in December 2017. He took a bit of a break from the poker grind, but it doesn’t appear to have caused any sort of drop-off in his play. Gregg was right back, true to form in the Bahamas, and making a deep run. “Seeing Tony go deep in something big again hopefully inspires him to play some more poker,” Greg Merson, 2012 WSOP Main Event champion and another good friend of Gregg, said. “Not for the financial gains, but to imprint his legacy on the game as one of the all-time legends that he is.” If it wasn’t for Louis Boutin hitting an ace on the flop with ace-king against Gregg’s pocket sevens, another final table run at this stop could have been in the cards. Ultimately, he’ll settle for the $86,400 score and look for the next tournament at Atlantis to crush. “It’s nice,” Gregg said of Merson’s comments. “He’s one of my best friends, so of course he’s going to say that (laughs). I’ve been around for a while and it’s always good to have respect from your peers.”
  7. Winning a World Series of Poker gold bracelet is widely considered by many to be poker’s ultimate achievement. For some players, it defines his or her career. For others, it’s the one prize eluding some of the game’s best. For years, Stephen Chidwick was considered the best poker player without a WSOP gold bracelet. At the 2019 WSOP, Chidwick bucked that monkey off his back like the most turbulent bull does to a rider at a rodeo when he won the $25,000 Pot Limit Omaha High Roller for $1.618 million. Shawn Buchanan was another player in the "best without a bracelet conversation," but, like Chidwick, he broke through at the 2019 WSOP, winning the $800 buy-in WSOP.com Online NL Six-Handed. Now that Chidwick and Buchanan have each won an elusive gold bracelet, let's take a look at who are the best players remaining without a bracelet entering the 2020 WSOP. Patrick Antonius CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 15 2 0 $929,518 Widely considered one of the best all-around players in poker for quite some time, Patrik Antonius is still missing a WSOP gold bracelet from his résumé. He's come close a couple of times, finishing in the top 10 on four occasions and placing at the final table twice, but he's never scored better than third place. Antonius has been known to pass on tournaments for cash games these days, but he's still a threat to win a bracelet in the bigger buy-in WSOP events when he does compete. Niklas Astedt CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 6 0 0 $110,645 Sweden's Niklas Astedt is one of the top-ranked online poker players in the world, but his live success hasn’t been too plentiful, especially at the WSOP. Astedt’s skills should not be overlooked, though. His first WSOP cash came in 2014 and his highest WSOP finish was a 26th-place result in the 2019 WSOP $25,000 Pot Limit Omaha High Roller. He's also cashed in the WSOP Main Event on two occasions, with a 182nd-place finish in 2016 and a 899th-place finish in 2019. Mikita Badziakouski CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 4 4 1 $3,161,362 Mikita Badziakouski plays some of the biggest buy-in events around the world, and his career to date includes more than $26.1 million in live tournament earnings. At the WSOP, Badziakouski has four cashes. Each cash has been a final table appearance and each has come at WSOP Europe. If there's a high roller event on the WSOP schedule, Badziakouski will likely be in the field and a threat to win the gold bracelet. Darren Elias CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 28 3 0 $645,659 With four World Poker Tour titles and more than $7.5 million in live tournament earnings, it’s a matter of when, not if, Darren Elias will finally win WSOP gold. His first WSOP cash came in 2009. He has three WSOP final table appearances and two finishes in third place, although he’s never made it to heads-up play. The two times Elias finished in third came from the same event, the $10,000 No Limit Deuce to Seven Championship in 2017 and 2019. Alex Foxen CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 39 4 0 $808,918 Alex Foxen has been around the WSOP for a much shorter time than some of the players on this list, with his first WSOP cash coming in 2015. He has, however, built up quite the reputation as one of the best tournament poker players in the game today and it seems very much just a matter of time before he finds himself in the WSOP winner’s circle with his first gold bracelet. Already, Foxen has racked up 39 WSOP cashes and four final tables ahead of 2020. His highest finish to date was a third-place finish at the 2017 WSOP in a $1,000 No Limit Hold’em event. Matt Glantz CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 61 13 1 $3,232.669 Pennsylvania's Matt Glantz has been around the WSOP block a few times, but he’s still looking for that first gold bracelet. Glantz first cashed in a WSOP in 2000 and he’s been producing everything but wins since, including 13 final table appearances. Glantz has reached heads-up play once and finished third on three occasions. At the 2019 WSOP, Glantz picked up his third WSOP Main Event cash. Mark Gregorich CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 69 11 1 $1,168,497 Mark Gregorich is another player on this list who has been around for quite some time, earning his first WSOP cash back in 1999. He has 69 cashes and 11 final table appearances at the WSOP, with one runner-up finish that came in the 2003 WSOP $5,000 Limit Hold’em event. Gregorich also has a trio of third-place finishes at the WSOP to date. Nick Guagenti CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 37 3 0 $583,181 Ohio's Nick Guagenti has 37 WSOP cashes with the first coming in 2006. He has three final table appearances. Guagenti's highest WSOP result came in 2019 when he took third in the $3,000 H.O.R.S.E. event for $85,265. His best finish in terms of money won came from his 46th-place finish in the 2017 WSOP Main Event, for which Guagenti won $145,733. Guagenti is a regular in mid- and high-stakes cash games in his region, and he also has 15 cashes on the WSOP Circuit. Christian Harder CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 53 2 0 $1,050,784 Christian Harder’s first WSOP cash came in 2009. He’s won titles elsewhere in the poker world, just not at the WSOP just yet. He’s been close before with a pair of fourth-place finishes and is known to put in a high amount of volume in the big bet games of No Limit Hold’em and Pot Limit Omaha. Maurice Hawkins CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 29 3 0 $623,240 Maurice Hawkins has been a longtime grinder of the WSOP and WSOP Circuit, racking up 29 WSOP cashes and 110 WSOP Circuit cashes. He has a whopping 14 WSOP Circuit gold rings, but Hawkins has yet to win a WSOP gold bracelet. Hawkins has three WSOP final tables and they've come in big-field NL tournaments. With as many big-field NL events that are on the WSOP schedule these days, one has to figure that Hawkins is going to break through and win one at some point. Isaac Haxton CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 27 7 1 $2,923,424 Isaac Haxton is widely considered as one of the best minds in poker, and he’s certainly lived up to that with more than $27.6 million in live tournament earnings, millions more won in cash games, and who knows how much won online. The one thing he doesn’t have is a WSOP gold bracelet. Haxton has seven WSOP final table appearances and one runner-up result. The second-place finish came to Vitaly Lunkin in the 2009 WSOP $40,000 No Limit Hold’em. Maria Ho CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 55 5 1 $1,644,554 Maria Ho is another long-time regular at the WSOP, with cashes dating back to 2005. She has five final table appearances and one runner-up finish in WSOP events, and she’s known to mix it up in most of the games. Ho’s runner-up finish came to Allen Bari in the 2011 WSOP $5,000 No Limit Hold’em. Ho has been the last woman standing in the WSOP Main Event on two occasions, 2007 and 2014, and she finished sixth in the 2017 WSOP Europe Main Event. Ali Imsirovic CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 10 3 1 $583,986 Ali Imsirovic is one of the newest kids on the block in all of poker, not just the WSOP, and he’s quickly acquired a reputation of one of the game’s best when it comes to No Limit Hold’em tournaments. Imsirovic’s first WSOP cash came in 2017, so there isn’t a ton of sample to draw from, but he’s already made three WSOP final tables in top-level events and has one runner-up finish. Given his success in his young poker career, Imsirovic is considered one of the favorites any time he enters a high buy-in, No Limit Hold’em event. Rainer Kempe CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 31 3 0 $1,142,997 Rainer Kempe has won more than $21.3 million in his poker career and he’s been in the winner’s circle many times, but he’s yet to win a WSOP gold bracelet. His WSOP career is still pretty young, though. His first WSOP cash came in 2015, but over a short period of time he’s already earned 31 in-the-money finishes and more than $1.1 million in earnings. Kempe has been to a WSOP final table three times to date. Jason Koon CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 42 7 1 $1,789,462 For all of the poker success that Jason Koon has enjoyed over the course of his career, he’s still searching for his first WSOP gold bracelet. Koon has more than $31.1 million in live tournament earnings to date and his first WSOP cash came back in 2009. He has seven WSOP final table appearances and one runner-up result. Koon is similar to Haxton and Imsirovic in the sense that he’ll almost always be one of the favorites any time he enters a high buy-in, No Limit hold’em tournament. Timofey Kuznetsov CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 0 0 0 $0 Timofey Kuznetsov, also known as ‘Trueteller,’ is highly regarded in the poker community as one of the best, especially within the high-stakes community. He has zero WSOP cashes to date, but he simply doesn’t play a lot of tournaments. That said, Kuznetsov is still one of the best players in poker without a WSOP gold bracelet. Maria Lampropulos CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 27 0 0 $136,731 Maria Lampropulos first cashed a WSOP event in 2016 and that first year she walked away with five WSOP cashes in total. She followed that up with six cashes in 2017 and seven cashes in 2018. At the 2019 WSOP and WSOP Europe festivals, she cashed nine time. With partypoker MILLIONS and PCA Main Event wins on her résumé, both for seven-figure paydays, Lampropulos has shown she has the chops to compete in some of the biggest events in the world. Toby Lewis CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 24 0 0 $409,171 Toby Lewis’ first WSOP cash came in 2011 when he took 11th in the $10,000 Pot Limit Hold’em Championship. He’s racked up 24 WSOP cashes to date, but he’s never reached a WSOP final table. Tom Marchese CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 26 4 1 $1,295,638 A player with more than $19.1 million in live tournament earnings, Tom Marchese is often considered one of the better tournament players poker has to offer. He's yet to score a WSOP gold bracelet, though, but he has come close a few times, with four WSOP final tables and one runner-up finish. The time Marchese finished second was at the 2015 WSOP in the $1,500 Pot Limit Hold'em tournament. Steve O‘Dwyer CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 18 2 0 $675,717 Like Haxton and like Koon, Steve O’Dwyer has a ton of live tournament winnings. O’Dwyer has scored more than $30.4 million from the live felt, plus plenty more online, and his first WSOP cash came in 2007. O’Dwyer is a player who put in more WSOP volume at the beginning of his career compared to what he does now, which could be holding him back in terms of winning his first gold bracelet. At this point in his career, it seems that if O'Dwyer does win a gold bracelet, it will come at WSOP Europe or a similar international WSOP stop. Adam Owen CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 34 5 0 $570,961 Adam Owen is another one of the younger guns on this list, but he’s widely regarded as one of the best all-around players in the game these days. Having earned his first WSOP cash in 2014, Owen has racked up 34 WSOP cashes to date, including five final tables and three third-place finishes. Owen has shown a propensity to perform well in the $10,000 buy-in championship events at the WSOP and many think that’s where he’ll earn his first gold bracelet from. Felipe Ramos CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 31 4 0 $526,047 One of best poker players to come out of Brazil is Felipe Ramos, with 31 WSOP cashes dating back to his first in 2009. Ramos is known as a solid player who can compete across all variants, and the more tools you have in your shed, the better when it comes to chasing gold bracelets. Ramos has four WSOP final tables and they've all come in Omaha. Three of those four final tables were in Pot Limit Omaha. Dario Sammartino CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 41 10 0 $9,927,947 Italy’s Dario Sammartino first cashed in a WSOP event in 2011 and he’s been performing very well ever since, except winning a WSOP gold bracelet is something he’s yet to achieve. Sammartino has found the money in WSOP events 41 times to date. Of those, he’s reached the final table on 10 occasions. Sammartino's biggest claim to World Series of Poker fame was a runner-up finish in the 2019 WSOP Main Event for $6 million. He's also one of the few players to have made the final table of both the WSOP Main Event and WSOP Europe Main Event in his career. Sammartino has learned how to play all the games and play them well, so don’t be surprised to see him finally win WSOP gold much sooner than later. Ole Schemion CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 6 1 0 $469,735 Although his WSOP results don’t pop off the page, Ole Schemion is one of the best players out there and an absolute force when it comes to poker tournaments. He’s amassed more than $16.3 million in live tournament earnings, numerous high roller victories, and one World Poker Tour title. He’s still in search of his first WSOP gold bracelet, though. In terms of winning WSOP gold, it’s very likely just a volume game for Schemion. If he puts in the volume, he’ll get it eventually and probably in the near future. It also works to his benefit that WSOP Europe looks as though it will remain at King’s Casino in Rozvadov where Schemion has shown success before, including a sixth-place finish in the 2019 WSOP Europe €100,000 Diamond High Roller for €341,510. Jake Schindler CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 33 4 0 $1,050,644 The first of two players named Jake on this list, Jake Schindler has 33 entries and four final tables at the WSOP entering 2020. His best finish was a third-place result in the 2014 WSOP $3,000 No Limit Hold'em for $212,373. Over his entire poker career, Schindler has more than $25 million in live tournament earnings. Jake Schwartz CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 60 3 1 $658,477 Jake Schwartz earned his first WSOP cash in 2012 and has built up 60 in-the-money finishes since. He was first widely known as a No Limit hold'em player but he's since branched out and has been playing more of the games. In 2013, Schwartz earned the top WSOP finish of his career when he took second in the $1,500 NL Shootout, earning $202,035. To date, he has two other WSOP final table appearances in addition to that one. Shannon Shorr CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 79 9 2 $2,217,846 When is Shannon Shorr going to finally win a WSOP gold bracelet? Shorr first cashed in a WSOP event back in 2006, which seems like ages ago when you consider he’s still very much on the younger side of poker players. Ever since that first WSOP cash, not a year has gone by that Shorr hasn’t racked up multiple WSOP cashes. Plus, he’s been very close on several occasions with nine final table appearances and two runner-up finishes. He also has a pair of third-place finishes. Shorr can play all of the games very well. Before Chidwick winning his bracelet, Shorr was right there at the top of this list with Chidwick. Dan Smith CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 36 10 1 $9,884,615 Another high roller with a knack for all the games, Dan Smith has been close to winning WSOP gold before but it just hasn’t happened for him yet. His first WSOP cash came in 2010. Since then, he’s earned 36 total WSOP cashes and won more than $9.8 million at the WSOP. He has 10 final table appearances, six third-place finishes, and one second-place finish in WSOP events. Like some of the other high rollers on this list, with Smith it feels like more of a volume game than anything. Christoph Vogelsang CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 13 6 0 $8,668,735 Christoph Vogelsang has come close at the WSOP on a handful of occasions, including two third-place finishes in a pair of the biggest events the WSOP has ever offered. In 2014, Vogelsang placed third in the $1 million buy-in Big One for One Drop for $4.48 million. In 2019, he took third in the WSOP Europe €250,000 Super High Roller for more than $1.3 million. If there's a big buy-in event at the WSOP, Vogelsang is considered a threat to win it. Mike Watson CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 63 11 4 $2,917,143 Mike Watson has been knocking at the WSOP gold bracelet door for several years now. His first WSOP cash came in 2007 and he’s put up more than 60 cashes to date since. Of the 11 WSOP final table appearances Watson has on record, four of the times he’s finished runner-up. Interestingly, Watson did win the €50,000 Majestic High Roller at the 2012 WSOP Europe, but it was an added non-bracelet event for the high rollers. Had that event been in a later year, it very likely would have been for a gold bracelet. Watson usually plays a high volume of events and can play all the games, much like Shorr, and it’s only a matter of time before he finally scores a WSOP gold bracelet. Jerry Wong CASHES FINAL TABLES RUNNER-UPS WINNINGS 38 7 0 $1,899,225 Jerry Wong may be most well known for reaching the now-defunct WSOP November Nine in 2016, when he finished eighth for more than $1.1 million, but he has plenty of other success at the WSOP. With 38 total WSOP cashes and seven final table appearances, the only thing left for Wong to do is win a gold bracelet. One would think that has to be on the horizon soon for Wong, who has the ability to compete highly in all of the games. His WSOP final table appearances have come in No Limit Deuce to Seven, Pot Limit Omaha, Big Bet Mix, Razz, Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo, H.O.R.S.E., and No Limit Hold'em.
  8. All good things must come to an end. And that end has come for the PCA. As PocketFives reported, when PokerStars announced the return of the PSPC in 2020 they also, unceremoniously, announced that the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure would not be back in 2020, ending its run of 16 years. For many, the PCA kicked off the yearly poker calendar with players making plans to escape their winter hardships for weeks of poker, sun and waterslides. At the height of the poker boom, the PCA was one of the most popular stops on the tour as winners of the Main Event added millions to their career earnings and a marquee victory to their resumes. [ptable zone="Global Poker Article Ad"][ptable zone="888poker"][ptable zone="PokerStars NJ"] However, as many tour stops experienced, the numbers began to decline after Black Friday and the fatigue of making the trip to the Atlantis Resort & Casino began to weigh on the players. Now, PokerStars has pulled the plug on one of the most enduring poker stops of the last two decades. But even though it’s gone, it certainly won’t be forgotten. With that, we’ve compiled nine of the most memorable moments in the history of the PCA. Gus Hansen’s On A Boat Before the PCA became the flagship stop for PokerStars, it has a very different look. In fact, in 2004, the first year it ever took place the PCA was then a World Poker Tour event. Also, it took place on a boat. The Royal Caribbean Voyager of the Seas to be exact and just as poker was about to hit mainstream a young up-and-coming player from Denmark, Gus Hansen, was in the middle of making a reputation for himself, a reputation that lasts to this very day. Hansen bested the likes of Daniel Negreanu for the $455,780 first-place prize and his third WPT title. Right from the get-go, the PCA drew premier poker star power and eventually the PCA would be the engine to create that star power. Ryan Daut And Isaac Haxton Take It Outside In 2007, rising online phenom Isaac Haxton was in prime position to take down the 2007 PCA Main Event and it’s massive $1.5 million first-place prize. Ryan Daut had other ideas and the pair put on a famous heads up battle at the final table which took place…outside. The weather outside was nearly as volatile as the play on the felt. The winds whipped as evening fell and it looked like the sky was going to open up and pour at any moment. In the eye of the storm was Haxton and Daut who played an iconic hand where both players had “absolute Garfunkel!” Haxton won the famous battle of the bluffs but Daut took home the PCA title. ESPN Took The PCA Live The PCA made history in 2011 when PokerStars struck a deal with ESPN to bring ‘near-live’ coverage of the PCA final table to the network. The final table was shown on ESPN2 and online on ESPN3.com on a one-hour delay so viewers could see the hole cards. According to the PokerStars Blog, it was the first time that poker fans were able to see a final table, every hand, every decision completely unedited. “For the first time viewers at home will see a poker telecast from start to finish, with all the strategy of world class-poker players playing in real-time,” said ESPN’s Matt Volk back in 2010. Galen Hall Finds A Fold Not only did 2011 produce one of the first unedited accounts of a final table, but it also produced one of the finest folds every caught on camera. Former #1-ranked PocketFiver Chris ‘Getting Daize’ Oliver was cruising in the PCA Main Event and at the start of heads up play he had a 3:1 chip advantage over fellow online pro Galen Hall. On the third hand of play, the pair both make monster hands by the river. Hall rivered a straight while Oliver had just gone runner-runner to a full house. After being checked to by Oliver, Hall put out a bet and was check-raised for his tournament life. “If Hall calls it’s all over,” said commentator James Hartigan. “I don’t see Hall getting away from this hand,” declared Daniel Negreanu. After minutes in the tank, Hall makes the laydown of his poker life and ended up turning the tables on Oliver to become the 2011 PCA Main Event champion for $2.3 million. Antonio Esfandiari DQ’d From Main Event Antonio Esfandiari loves to prop bet. So does Bill Perkins. When the two of them got together at the 2016 PCA they agreed to a bet that had Esfandiari only able to perform lunges when moving for 48 hours. Sore and not wanting to lunge himself to the bathroom, Esfandiari made the unfortunate decision to go to the bathroom in a bottle…under the poker table. When officials caught wind of Esfandiari’s makeshift restroom he was quickly disqualified from the Main Event. However, the prop bet continued and he got up and lunged his way out of the tournament area. Read: Antonio Esfandiari Disqualified from PCA Main Event Vanessa Selbst’s Big Bet So the story goes…after a night of having (perhaps too much) fun in the Bahamas, Vanessa Selbst made a big bet against her friend Jason Mercier that he couldn’t win three WSOP bracelets the following summer. It’s hard enough for pros to count on winning one WSOP bracelet, much less three and so she ended up giving 180:1 odds on a $10,000 wager. The bet was made in a bit of an 'altered state' and when Selbst woke up the next day, she tried to cancel it but according to Mercier, the bet was booked. She offered Mercier a $1K buy-out, he declined. Mercier went on to pick up two bracelets that summer and finish second in another tournament nearly completing the challenge that would have paid him $1.8 million. Christian Harder Battles Bax Long-time online and live pro Christian Harder became a bit of a footnote in PCA history in his 2017 Main Event win. That’s because, technically, it wasn’t the PCA. That year PokerStars shelved their popular PCA brand and tried to rebrand the tour stop the ‘PokerStars Championship Bahamas’. That is the year Harder fought through the field of 738 entries to find himself heads up for the title. When he looked up he saw he sitting across from him was his former backer (and PocketFives Legacy Award winner) Cliff ‘JohnnyBax’ Josephy. Josephy was a bit of a mentor to Harder and had put him in the PCA in the past so when they got heads up, a deal was quickly struck between the two friends with Harder going on to take home the extra $10K and the first (and last) PSC Bahamas trophy. Maria Lampropulos First Woman Winner of PCA Argentina’s Maria Lampropulos made PCA history in 2018 by becoming the first-ever female to capture a PCA Main Event title. She overcame a 2:1 heads up chip deficit to defeat Canadian crusher Shawn Buchanan and take home the $1,081,100 first-place prize, her second seven-figure score in under 12 months. The Main Event final table was not only notable for who won the title but how she won it. Lampropulos was quite visibly extremely sick throughout the final day, having fits of coughing and seemingly struggling to stay focused. This also led to her taking a long time on many decisions, which prompted other players to call the clock on her on a number of occasions. In the end, she fought through the sickness, made the right decision and won some crucial flips to become the first (and now last) female PCA champion. The PSPC Breaks Records In 2019 PokerStars has a plan to revitalize the PCA and that was by hosting the largest ever $25,000 buy-in tournament - the PokerStars No Limit Hold’em Player Championship. The PSPC was the culmination of a year-long marketing campaign. One that doled out over 320 Platinum Passes, a ticket worth $30,000 that allowed players from all over the world to live their dream of playing in a tournament with life-changing money on the line. When the event got underway, the tournament room was electric with players of every skill level giddy with excitement over such a special event. The tournament exceeded all expectations with 1,039 players registering for the event creating a prize pool of $26,455,500. In fairytale fashion, Platinum Pass winner Ramon Colillas from Spain ended up as the winner and took home the massive $5.1 million first-place prize.

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