|Buy-In:||$10,000 + $300|
Jake Schindler tonight won the PCA High Roller for $1,192,624 stopping Team PokerStars Pro Vanessa Selbst just short of an incredible High Roller title defence. Schindler not only wins a huge pile of money, a glorious trophy, and the admiration of his poker peers, but also a Slyde Steel and Rose Gold watch worth €12,800, courtesy of the Official Watch Sponsor of the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure 2014.
The $25,000 High Roller was a bumper field, a record breaker even. After entries and re-entries had been totted up, there were 247 bullets in the pot. All that combined to add $6,051,500 to the prize pool. The PCA High Rollers keep going from strength to strength.
The event capped an incredible PCA 2014 for Team PokerStars Pro Vanessa Selbst and Ole Schemion, both of whom have managed to scoop cashes in the Main Event, Super High Roller and, now, the High Roller, too. It’s not even that unusual: Schemion did the same at EPT Barcelona earlier this season. That little trilogy pocketed Schemion $347,664, this time round it was for $510,720. Selbst’s PCA performance tops that with $1,400,220 in cash. Tonight’s result leapfrogs her name two spots up the all-time money list, above Scott Seiver and teammate Joe Cada. Selbst is a fierce competitor and she’ll no doubt wish that she went further (just like last year). A standing ovation would not have been out of place.
Schemion has got off to a flying start in the defence of his GPI Player of the Year title, but Selbst is already a strong contender. One suspects it’s going to be a 12-month tussle between Selbst and the young German. It should be fun to follow.
In the money, final table close
Fourteen players had come back this morning, all of whom were in the money and guaranteed a $89,560 payday. The first bust out was quick and brutal as Daniel Negreanu found kings and Greg Merson woke up with aces. Negreanu left in 14th ($89,560) with a bittersweet smile. He knew there wasn’t really anything else that he could have done.
Dan Smith followed in 13th ($98,560) when his fours ran into Schindler’s aces. Dani Stern was next to go, his kings cracked by Mustapha Kanit’s raggedy ace. Paul Newey was toppled in 11th ($110,740), just missing out on his second final table of the festival. Newey made the final nine of the Super High Roller, but bubbled the money in that one. Thus Newey, tonight, records his first major cash on the tour. Good work, Paul.
Myro Garcia went out in 10th ($110,740) losing a huge flip to Selbst, ace-king downed by pocket tens. That broke the action and pooled the nine remaining players onto one table. Schemion was the shortest stack, Selbst the largest. It was reminiscent of the start of the Super High Roller at the front end of this festival.
Nine left, big jumps
German karaoke aficionado Marvin Rettenmaier was eliminated in 9th ($130,720), his pocket eights losing to Greg Merson’s flopped ace with ace-ten. Joao Viera bust in 8th ($157,960) running nines into Mizrachi’s kings. Mizrachi found himself in exactly the same set up against Schemion later and held, which helped him up into the chip lead – but that didn’t last for too long. Schemion, bruised after that all-in with Mizrachi, was finally sent to the rail in 7th ($216,040) getting his top pair in on the turn against Schindler’s monster straight and flush draw. Schindler made a flush. Schemion had to accept another six-figure score.
Aleksandr Denisov was next to go. He took 6th ($295,920) after running his small pocket threes into the slightly less small pocket sixes of Mizrachi, who fortunes changed shortly after. He bust in 5th ($389,720) to Selbst, his face cards missing against pocket eights. Selbst, after some period off the top of the chip chart, was back in the driving seat.
Mustapha Kanit went in 4th ($492,600) for a career best score. He jammed jacks, Selbst found aces. All fairly grim for the former IPT player of the year. Could Selbst do back-to-back High Roller PCA titles as she had NAPT Mohegan Sun? It would have been incredible, but, alas, she had to settle for another bronze following her Super High Roller finish and $607,580.
With the action heads up the players opted to make a deal with Schindler pocketing $992,624 and Merson $948,996. The remaining $200,000 would go to the winner, and it didn’t take long for it to land in Schindler’s lap. Merson started to get active, very active. He wasn’t looking at his cards and shoving: “I didn’t get into poker to win trophies,” said Merson.*
Due to the style of play we’ve probably got the strangest all-in hands to report. Merson held 49 and Schindler K10. Both were all-in blind. Schindler flopped top pair with the ten and it played. It’s a hell of a way to win $1,192,624.
PCA 2014 High Roller
Date: 10-13 January 2014
Game: NLHE 8-handed re-entry
Prize pool: $6,051,500
1. Jake Schindler, USA, $1,192,624
2. Greg Merson, USA, $948,996
3. Vanessa Selbst, USA, Team PokerStars Pro, $607,580
4. Mustapha Kanit, $492,600
5. Robert Mizrachi, USA, $389,720
6. Aleksandr Denisov, $295,920
7. Ole Schemion, Germany, $216,040
8. Joao Viera, $157,960
*As reported back via our photographer Joe Giron.
Rick Dacey is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.
Kathy Saraf is this year’s Women’s Event winner and now $20,150 richer. To achieve that, all she had to do was beat 70 other hungry poker pros of a female persuasion, survive a frantic Day 2, stay focussed on a lengthy final table and pip a Team Online member’s girlfriend to the post. Easy peasy.
But wait, hang on a second, Saraf’s also the 2012 PCA Women’s Event champion. That makes her the first ever double winner of this much-loved $1,100 buy-in tournament, and there ain’t nothing easy about that.
“I wasn’t going to play the event and I’m really glad I did,” said Saraf after her win. "My sister in law wanted to play, and it was her first tournament, so I was like ‘okay, if you want to play I’ll play’.
“I’m thrilled to win, especially for a trophy this size.”
Saraf overcame a final table riddled with some of the biggest talents of the female game. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. To understand the true extent of her victory we need to rewind the clock a few hours. About 24 should do it.
Yesterday 71 players registered for the gender-exclusive event, and when the plug was pulled on the day, Adrienne “Talonchick” Rowsome was our chip leader with 17 left.
Despite being 20 weeks pregnant, Rowsome pushed through the field to bag up 87,300 chips, yet still busted Day 2 short of the final table.
It was a huge turnaround for Rowsome, and it came during a whirlwind of exits in the opening few levels.
No sooner had the 17 players taken their seats before we were down to a final nine. 2012 Women’s Event champ Kathy Saraf lead the charge, followed closely by a talented chasing pack, which included the likes of Fatima Moreira de Melo, and this year’s standout (and last standing) female player in the PCA Main Event, Loni Harwood.
Danijela Matusinskij was first to be sent back to her room to pack a suitcase after falling to Saraf in ninth. Harwood, Marguerite Spanguolo and Lily Kiletto quickly followed her to the elevators in eighth, seventh and sixth respectively. For a brief moment it looked like the final table would be done in time for everyone to catch a final Bahamian sunset.
Five-handed play put paiy to such wishes.
Over the subsequent few hours, the chip lead was tossed back-and-forth, as the next jump up the payout ladder seemed a leap no one was prepared to take. Amanda Musumeci would eventually be pushed, though, after running QJ into de Melo’s aces.
With four players remaining, and the chip lead still hoping round the table pot after pot, it looked as though de Melo would finally claim a first live event win, thanks in bulk to repeating her party trick of spinning a short stack into a title challenge.
Of the 17 who returned for Day 2, de Melo started the day second to last in chips.
“I just looked at it like having 15 big blinds and I was just going to play that stack and see what happens. Usually when I start a day short-stacked I get pretty far still.”
She was referring of course to last November’s UKIPT Isle of Man event, when the Team SportStar arrived at the final table in last place, before digging deep to finish second and record her biggest ever live cash of $59,660 in the process.
“You have to run good obviously, but in a ladies event I guess they call less so you can build up your stack without going all-in as much,” she added. “I played smaller pots to keep the variance a little lower because I thought I had an edge on the field.”
Today, de Melo couldn’t turn that edge into the win and fell one place short of repeating her UKIPT feat after busting in third.
“It’s kind of a bummer because I wanted to win,” said de Melo. “I lost a big hand with pocket jacks when my opponent hit a set of three, and then another girl hit a set against my top pair which kind of crippled me. You have to run good to maintain a lead.”
Laurence Grondin bust to de Melo in fourth, but the chips piled in front of the Team SportStar made the short hop over to Elena Stover’s side of the table after a shove with jack-ten failed to overcome pocket sevens, much to the delight of an onlooking Mickey Petersen.
Stover is Petersen’s girlfriend, and the when the Team Online whizz wasn’t busy bubbling today’s $10,000 Turbo event, he hoped Stover’s fourth live tournament cash would come with a free trophy.
“There was a fair bit of breaks in my event, so I had 10 minutes every once in a while to run over,” he told the PokerStars Blog. "Obviously every time I went over and she was still in. It’s a great thing.
“We sometimes play heads-up matches — small stakes like who’s going to do the dishes.”
“I’m up a few matches,” added Stover.
“There’s no official count,” was Petersen’s quick response.
Peterstove, or Stoversen (we’ve not quite decided on the right nickname yet) wouldn’t be leaving with the trophy in tow, however. Instead that honor would be Saraf’s for a second time in just a three years.
“I’m feeling good but I’m a little disappointed to finish second instead of first,” said Stover. "It was a really tough table, and I found it a little weird because there are all these external things going on. You have to think about your cards, the prize pool, people coloring up the chips and I’m really bad at counting stack sizes. So that was a little difficult for me.
“I’ve had a great time here, and I won a Big $27.50 tournament on PokerStars the other night, so it’s been a great week for me.”
Petersen’s fellow Team Online brethren, Dale ‘Daleroxxu’ Philip, generously donated a bottle of champagne to the couple to enjoy no matter what today’s outcome. Sadly for them it won’t be used to toast victory.
In the final hand, Saraf’s J7 overtook Stover’s pocket queens thanks to two flopped jacks to become your first Women’s Event double champ. She couldn’t have been happier.
“I had a chip stack going into Day 2, and I kept that till the final table, so I felt pretty comfortable,” said the winner. "And as it got down to four players I wasn’t catching anything for about three levels and my chips started to dwindle. Overall though I felt great.
“I haven’t thought about how I’ll celebrate yet. I did not expect to win so I’m thrilled.”
See below for a breakdown of how each of today’s final nine got their money, and don’t forget to click through to live updates, features and interviews from the $10,000,000 guaranteed PCA Main Event, the $25,000 High Roller and the $100,000 Super High Roller.
$1,100 PCA Women’s Event
Prize pool: $66,930
1st: Kathy Saraf – $20,150
2nd: Elena Stover – $14,460
3rd: Fatima Moreira de Melo – $9,400
4th: Laurence Grondin – $7,100
5th: Amanda Musumeci – $5,500
6th: Lily Kiletto $4,260
7th: Marguerite Spagnuolo $3,380
8th: Loni Harwood – $2,620
9th: Danijela Matusinskij – $2,066
Keir Mackay is a copywriter for PokerStars.
So, let’s be honest. It’s going to be a late night. At the time we would normally be expecting to be packing our bags for the mainland, we’re looking at what equates to a full table in the Main Event. We’re going to be here a while.
With that in mind, if you need a way to pass the time, here’s our Sarah Grant with some of the highlights from the past week here at Atlantis.
We sit in the Imperial Ballroom of the Atlantis Resort where three people from two final tables will win more than a million dollars later tonight. This is the peak, the very pinnacle of what any poker player can possibly wish for, and anyone here can congratulate themselves on belonging in the top percentile of their profession or recreational pursuit.
But it’s important not to get too carried away. Poker is a game that involves money — a lot of it — and it involves emotion, human emotion. There is a lifestyle befitting a movie star for its most successful exponents, but there are plenty of pitfalls that must be navigated along the way.
The Team PokerStars Pro Ville Wahlbeck is among the elite players in world poker, both online and off. He plays the very highest games on PokerStars (I’m talking the $1,000-2,000 draw games, when they’re running) and pretty much everything below that. He has run very, very hot — look at <A target=new href=“http://pokerdb.thehendonmob.com/player.php?a=r&n=24320”>Wahlbeck’s results at the 2009 World Series of Poker — and he has endured massive downswings. He knows the highs and the lows but, unusually, doesn’t mind talking about them.
We caught up with Wahlbeck for one of the most candid interviews you’ll get from a top-level professional player. It started as a chat about his work/life balance, about how he manages to arrange his life to accommodate both poker and non-poker pursuits. But right from the very first moment, when he said, “I will be terrible at this. I have no work/life balance,” it was clear this was going in another direction.
PokerStars Blog: What is a regular week for you in poker?
Ville Wahlbeck: A regular week? There’s no such concept for me. Some weeks I don’t play at all and some weeks I play 60 or 70 hours. But that’s the extreme. On average I would say between 10 and 20.
Do you have a routine?
I would really love to. I’ve been trying to do that for years but it seems to be impossible for me. I would like to get up really early, because the games are still going when it’s really early, do some exercise, eat a good breakfast and then play maybe three hours and then have the rest of the day off. But unfortunately it’s never worked out.
What ends up happening is that I decide, “OK, I’ll play a bit.” And then I’m still there in the next morning after 15 hours or so. And then I crash down, I haven’t eaten properly, haven’t slept properly, haven’t drunk enough water or done any exercise or anything. And then it just takes me a few days to get over that…and then it happens in the future a few days again.
What would need to change for you to get things straight?
I don’t know. To be more organised about it. To be more clear about the goals and how to do it. I don’t know why it’s always been a problem for me. Even if I start out saying I’ll play two hours, I then just say I’ll play one more hour. Then that hour goes by and then I don’t even put on a limit anymore. So in general, my life would have to be more organised.
Did you ever have a regular job?
Yes and no. I did some freelance journalism for a golf magazine. And I was teaching kids in elementary school, as a substitute teacher. I worked pretty long periods and they asked me to be a regular, so that was a huge compliment when they asked me if I would do it more often. But that all changed when I started winning enough money that, money-wise, it wasn’t worthwhile to do anything else besides play poker. So that’s pretty much the moment I decided to turn pro.
What about a bad period? Would that change your attitude?
Well, yes, they are the moments when you do think like that. You never think it when you’re on an upswing and winning a lot. That’s the moment when you don’t want to change a thing. Because the rush or the high of winning is better than anything. Once you hit the downswing and you don’t feel comfortable in your life in general, you start thinking that maybe you should start making some changes to your schedule. But yeah, periodically I do get the feeling I should do something about it.
Are you married, with kids?
I’m not married, but I do have two kids. I never play when I’m with them. I have my office space and whenever I’m going to play, I go there to play. Being with kids it’s just impossible, I couldn’t focus properly. I need to be in private and mostly alone to play.
Would you recommend poker to your kids?
No. Never. At least not with the methods I’m doing it. It’s too exhausting. The way I feel is that it’s a very nice hobby. It’s super fun with your friends or as a recreational thing. But once you’re doing it full time, it’s mentally very exhausting. When the losing periods are going on, it’s stressful, demanding. And ultimately I also think that there are way, way, way, way more professions that are more fulfilling intellectually and mentally for people, besides playing poker full time.
I’ve been playing over a decade, almost 12 years, and there are not very many new things happening. You don’t push forward. You don’t create much. I still enjoy it. I still like playing but not as much as I did when I started out. For my kids, I’m definitely going to teach them how to play and hopefully we’re going to have some fun moments together. But as a profession, I would rather see them do something else.
In an office job, you would expect an annual promotion and a salary increase. But it doesn’t work like that in poker.
Yes. It’s actually the contrary. Sometimes you’re actually going to be demoted. You could be playing much higher and then in the next year you could be crushed so badly that you have to move to a lower level. There are not too many professions in the world, besides maybe some investor or day trader, where you can work your ass off for a year and still end up being a loser. That’s not a nice aspect of the profession.
Do you ever find yourself thinking, “Right, I need a holiday, two weeks off”?
I don’t put a time period, but I definitely do have these feelings where I can’t even open the computer, or at least the poker software, because it makes me already so exhausted, I’m almost physically sick. Those are usually after very long sessions, when I’ve been playing for a few days. I haven’t slept much, and I’ve been losing lots of money, and I need some days off. Without that, you would just crash down or something.
You don’t travel as much as you used to.
Especially since I have kids now. I used to travel, I would say one third of the year. Nowadays maybe one fifth. It’s quite exhausting when you’re changing time zones and spending time in airports and in the aeroplane and eating restaurant food and things like that. So overall, the stability and regularity of life is in a fuzz all the time.
What do you say to people who are envious of you, who don’t know about the exhaustion?
It’s tough. You need to be pretty close to a poker professional to see how rough it can actually be. I’m not doing it the easiest way. There are tons and tons of smarter guys than me, who are more organised in their life and professional and are able to keep it separate. They just play some hours and don’t think poker otherwise. But for me it started out as something that I loved and has always been my passion, so whenever I play it’s in my head. It’s oftentimes in my head even when I don’t play. So the organisation, to divide things between the poker life and life in general would be brilliant.
Do you worry about burn-out or actually having a breakdown?
I’m hoping that I’m smart enough to go for breaks before I get to that point. But I can definitely feel the symptoms. There have been many times where I’ve felt that if I had still kept playing I could easily have had a breakdown. Fortunately I have been able to take breaks before that happened. I’ve been very exhausted, but you need to have a break before you crash down.
How do you keep your money safe?
You have to have some money management. There’s a saying, at least in Finland, that your bankroll is like your toolbox if you’re a carpenter. Without the bankroll, you’re as useless as a lumberjack without an axe. You need to take care of that. But it’s much more easily said than done. For me, like most poker players, one of the most difficult things is, when you have lost enough, to go down in limits. If you’re used to playing something higher, or much higher, it’s not very easy to start playing with smaller amounts, mentally. You feel, ‘Why am I playing for these peanuts, when a month ago I was playing five times or ten times higher.’ It’s tough, mentally.
I play pretty big and the variance is high on those short-handed games. There’s a lot of action, a lot of movement. It can be stressful sometimes. The problem with the high games is that the gaps are so big oftentimes. There’s really big games and the next biggest game is ten times smaller. At lower limits there are more options, you can play 50c-$1 no limit or $1-$2. But once you get higher, there are fewer and fewer players, so there’s not that much option.
Do you still get the buzz out of playing poker?
Not as much as I used to. I would be lying if I said I was as passionate as I was when I was younger. I still like it. I still like a good session and I still like putting the effort there. Once I start playing, I’m 100 per cent focused always. It’s not about that. But overall it’s been a long decade poker wise. Mostly I’m just glad that it’s not as intensive as it used to be.
When I started playing it was absolutely the best thing that I could possibly imagine. My first thoughts about poker in general was that I would hope that I could even break even, so I could just keep playing and playing. It wasn’t even about the money, it was about playing poker. Whenever I could, I just wanted to play more poker. The sad feeling was that if I lost it, I couldn’t play any more. So I would have been happy just to break even, just to keep playing whenever. Also one of my first goals in poker was the thought that if I could earn $50 per hour, that would be worthwhile. Then I wouldn’t need to do anything else.
Do you pay yourself a salary?
No. I try to invest the winnings when I have them so I don’t have them all online or cashable. I use them in the sense that maybe the investments earn me a bit of money in themselves. Once they’re out, put somewhere else, it’s not so easy to just cash them out and start putting them back into the games. It gives the money security, in a sense that I can’t lose too much too fast.
What do you do away from poker?
I try to read as much as possible and to do some sports, play golf and stuff like that. But the sad thing is that I’ve actually always been a gaming addict. When I’m not playing poker, I play something else like iPad games or PC games or whatever. It needs to be something. I find it very relaxing playing. I’ve just bought Knights of the Old Republic, it’s an old Star Wars game on iPad. It’s an old game but they just converted it to iPad. When I start one of them, I just have to get it finished and I just can’t put it down before it’s finished. But I also find it, sort of, relaxing. It fulfils the gaming or gambling addiction.
Does this mentality help in poker?
Yes it does. With that mentality it’s so easy to focus, when the action is there you’re so into it, like any computer game. I play computer games with the same kind of attitude: focused and in there, just playing it. I played PC games and golf before poker. But it’s just so time consuming playing these RPG games that take 100 hours to finish.
How old were you when you first discovered poker?
I played a bit when I was seven, eight or nine with my brother. My father played a bit of five card stud with his friends, so we picked up the game there. Mostly I was playing when I was 16 or 17 in High School. We had these game nights once a month or so. But when internet poker started, then you could play every day, 24 hours a day, there was constantly a game available. That’s when I feel that I really, really started. The basics were there already, but once you start playing online, the games are so fast and there’s so much material and so many opponents, so you can learn much faster than live. Ever since then, I’ve played so much that it’s ridiculous.
Will you ever give it up?
Professionally, yes. At some point when I’m older. Recreationally, I hope I keep playing until I die. I’m 37 so hopefully it’s still a few years away.
Here’s how you follow all the PCA action at PokerStars Blog. The Main Event is on the Main Event page, where there’s hand-by-hand coverage and latest chip counts in the panel at the top, and feature pieces below. We’ll be reporting with a one-hour delay as the action is also being screened on PCA Live.
The High Roller is on the High Roller page and that is happening in real time. There’s no live stream, but there will be some good words and some better pictures.
Earlier today, Sarah Grant was interviewing me as we kicked off the final day of the 2014 PCA. Because Grant is a woman of some stature and chooses to wear heels high enough to let a four-year-old work the pedals on an automobile, she kicked them off. It keeps me from feeling diminutive.
As we went through our chat, Brynn Kenney and a friend wandered toward the final table and tripped right over Grant’s giant heels. I was honestly concerned for the boys’ safety. It was one of those moments that should’ve been on video. Alas, the camera was pointed at my ugly mug.
This kind of thing happens more often than you might think, despite the nimble-tongued Sarah Grant being involved.
Here are some of Grant’s not so nimble moments over the past ten days.
If you didn’t already know, whilst it may look like the High Roller final table is being played in the Imperial Ballroom of Atlantis, it is actually being played in Ole Schemion’s living room.
It’s a casual affair and Schemion, wearing comfortable shorts and t-shirt, is the perfect host, happy to let people make themselves comfortable, just as he does. His shoes are kicked off and his skateboard is upturned on the floor next to his chair.
There’s a relaxed feel to the entire event even though, in comparison to the television stage, they sit squashed around a regulation size table. There are empty coffee cups lying around, as well as multiple banana skins, coke cans, napkins, a box that once contained salad. What’s more, Schemion has invited friends to come and watch, and each of them slouches in a chair along the rail, eating and drinking. There is even a big screen TV at the end of the room.
Back in the real world and these High Rollers play on amid relaxed scenes of inactivity. There has been little movement barring the departure of Joao Vieira in eighth place. His swan dive was in slow motion, having gone from close to the chip lead at the start of the day to the eighth place finisher, his last hand of pocket nines running into the kings of Mizrachi.
The lead meanwhile changes hands, from Vanessa Selbst, to Mustapha Kanit, to Robert Mizrachi. None says much, or alters their facial expression, except, presumably, when more coffee, coke or bananas arrive.
We expect more of the same for the foreseeable future.
Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter.
All eight remaining players in the PCA Main Event would have walked into the Imperial Ballroom via a large, well lit rotunda today. Since the PCA kicked off on 5 January the silver spade side event trophies lining the walls of that room have slowly been fading, like Marty McFly’s hand during The Enchantment Prom. In the centre of the rotunda was a separate cordoned-off booth which showcased the big dogs, the championship event trophies, two of which are still being fought over. But there are more than two on show. What has loosely been coined as the legacy trophy is on display behind a large clear box, which is presumably bulletproof and set to blast a klaxon should anyone have the temerity to touch it. It’s significantly larger than the others with twisted, fluted sides. It looks expensive.
The championship trophies are worth around $1,100 a pop, which will come as little surprise to anyone who has tried to lift one. Just ask Griffin “Flush_Entity” Benger or the man with most experience with trophy shots, EPT photographer Neil Stoddart.
“Anyone you ask to hold it like this can do it but they always say, ‘okay, take it quick,’ and their arm quickly starts shaking,” said Stoddart, holding one arm out to one side as if lifting trophy aloft. They are damn heavy.
No one is going to get to hold the legacy trophy though, it’s never given away, never used in winner photos. It’s a shiny portable roll of honour listing all the winners since the PCA began. It is surprisingly fragile, so I was told by a man in the know, and it pretty much lives in bubble wrap for 95% of the year. Today’s winner of the PCA 2014 Main Event will have their name added to it. Should they decide to get a replica made I’m sure that the $1.8m they’ve just won will cover it.
The infamous rotunda
The rotunda which leads into the Imperial Ballroom has featured in many PokerStars Blog stories over the years. It’s a thread in the rich PCA tapestry. Every player who’s busted had walked into the rotunda hoping and dreaming that they would be the last man standing, and had to walk back through past the trophies thinking ‘next year’.
Here are a few of those threads:
Rick Dacey is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.
Everyone raised their glasses.
All around were clinks of celebration.
Smiles broke out on faces.
A million balls of light lit the heavens.
This was the scene at roughly 22:22 Eastern Time in paradise last night, where the crystal-clear skies were disrupted by a red spade made of fire. Below it, players, workers, drinkers, friends, wives, husbands, and others celebrated with free drinks, food and good times. It was the PCA players’ party, and trust us, it was an absolute hoot!
Held towards the tail-end of each year’s festival, the players’ party is a way of thanking everybody for making the PCA a highlight on the poker calendar. It’s a chance to unwind after days of sitting on the beach, maybe grab a selfie with some pros, and almost definitely make some questionable decisions.
Hundreds packed their way into the transformed Atlantis Resort’s Royal Baths area for the occasion. As they huddled around the pool, attendees munched on carved turkey, pasta, beef and whatever else they could pile onto their plates, while busy servers flitted around the crowd carrying Marker’s Marks, white wines and a Kalik beer or five.
In the pool there were fireball cannons. To the right was a massive dance floor. Behind us the Royal Towers were aglow, and dotted around were loudly-dressed dancers. Somewhere a woman came dressed as a sequin.
Above it all popped close to six-figures’ worth of fireworks.
The dial was definitely turned up to 11 thanks in no small part to the PokerStars Events Team, who readied the tables, hired the performers and welcomed this year’s revellers with a smile. Judging by the bleary eyes on show in the Imperial Ballroom today (PokerStars Blog team aside, obviously) a damn fine job they did, too.
Luckily for some — regrettably for others — the night didn’t stop out by the poolside. Once food had been consumed and drinks drunk, it was on to Aura nightclub for the after party. There… ummmmm… to be honest, we’re not quite sure what happened there. If anyone can remember, they probably weren’t doing things right.
For a more accurate picture of the night, check out the images and video below, and if you woke up wearing a wristband this morning thanks for coming. Hopefully we can do it all again next year.
Keir Mackay is a copywriter for PokerStars.
When PokerStars announced the #PCALastLonger contest, you had to make a choice: which Team PokerStars Pro did you think could last the longest in the 2014 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event? There were ten Pros from which to choose. Forty-three percent of you picked Daniel Negreanu (insert that sad trombone noise right here).
In all we received 650 votes on Twitter, 2,200 on Facebook, and those intrepid souls who ventured out to the waters of Vanessa Selbst who will be reaping the profits. Selbst pipped Liv Boeree for the win.
If you voted for Vanessa on Twitter, you will be automatically entered into a $5k freeroll on January 26th at 13:00ET, with a $500 bounty on Vanessa’s head. If you voted for Vanessa on Facebook, you will be automatically entered into a $1k freeroll full of PokerStars merchandise at 15:00ET on the 26th January. You can find a list of all winning player IDs here. If you voted on both platforms for Vanessa you will be in both freerolls!
If for any reason you voted for Vanessa and your Player ID doesn’t appear in the lists, please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org.
It was 1.15pm in the Imperial Ballroom at the Atlantis Resort and four people were on the main television stage. That was all right, but none of them were poker players, much less any of the eight men due to be starting the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event final table at 1pm.
In short, things were running late.
The four people on the stage were from the tournament staff and were ripping open bags of chips. It seemed as though these were the final preparations before today’s play got under way, but even that was optimistic. There was still the small matter of a photograph, or several hundred, to navigate.
Neil Stoddart, the PokerStars photographer, had set up two light screens (technical term: “Soff Box”) behind his tripod on the catwalk leading up to the stage. And so when the players did eventually emerge, after a whirlwind of television interviews, they were still a long while away from starting play.
The players made the mistake of occupying their starting seats and began to riffle chips and to chat, but Stoddart told them to get up and come around the front of the stage, where he manhandled them, like oversized chess pieces, into their correct positions. Knight to E4, check.
They were then instructed to smile a lot. Then again. And then congratulated on their control of their zygomaticus major muscles. “That’s the most difficult part of the day,” said Neil Johnson, the PokerStars live events specialist, who would be assuming compere duties for the day.
Johnson’s own preparations included a quick round of the table and a chat to each of the players, asking for how to pronounce their names. “Is it Faabian or Fabiaaan?” he asked of Fabian Ortiz. “Is it Orteez or Ortiz?”
There then followed an interesting exchange with Madis Muur. Johnson: “How do you say your last name?” Muur: “Muur.” Johnson: “Muur?” Muur: “No, Muur.” Johnson: “Muur?” Muur: “Muur.” Johnson: “Muur.” Muur: “Muur.” Monty Python, this script is available.
Mike McDonald was then separated from the pack. The obvious star of this show, he has been tracked by at least one camera all night and all day and was brought down to the end of the catwalk by the television producer and asked to walk along it, up to the table, alone.
The other players were instructed to glare at him, giving him the evil eye. “Look moody, like you’re going to win,” the producer said. However the first take failed because clearly no one felt sufficient animosity. They broke out into spontaneous applause as McDonald arrived to the table.
“Don’t act like you don’t like it,” said Pascal LeFrancois, and McDonald scarcely tried.
“Don’t clap him, you’re mad at him,” the producer said. “One more time, Mike.” McDonald was escorted back to the front of the catwalk to do it all again, and this time only the supporters of Fabian Ortiz clapped his arrival, which was apparently satisfactory for the TV crew.
“Nice walk-up,” chirped Griffen Benger from the rail.
In a Team Pro Q&A a few days ago, Daniel Negreanu mentioned that one of the biggest attractions of poker is the freedom it offers its participants. Top players are their own bosses and can set their own schedule. But the rules and regulations came thick and fast for the players who had made the PCA final table today, from the instructions on how to place their cards on the card readers to the news that they wouldn’t be getting a break at the end of the current level. They would need to wait for more than two hours.
Everyone was, of course, amenable. Many had probably been doing little bit peeing all night anyway, and could hold on. But they still couldn’t play poker. Another television producer appeared, inviting them to leave the stage to the right, this time in preparation for all of their walk-ons to the stage.
Johnson stood in front of the camera and, one-by-one, invited our finalists on to the stage for what would now become the final time. LeFrancois allowed himself a slight fist-pump; Dominik Panka stayed calm even as his supporters whooped.
Shyam Srinivasan clenched both of his fists, then clapped his way to his seat. He put on his glasses and was ready to go. Isaac Baron followed, biting his lip, but no such restraint from Ortiz, whose face smiled broadly, particularly when his supporters began banging the hoardings.
McDonald, now approaching the table for at least the fourth time, received at least his fourth round of applause, including an ovation from his parents on the rail. There was whistling for Muur and some “Vamos! Vamos!” for Daniel Gamez, and, finally, the cards were in the air.
Here’s how you follow it all at PokerStars Blog. The Main Event is on the Main Event page, where there’s hand-by-hand coverage and latest chip counts in the panel at the top, and feature pieces below. We’ll be reporting with a one-hour delay as the action is also being screened on PCA Live.
The High Roller is on the High Roller page and that is happening in real time. There’s no live stream, but there will be some good words and some better pictures.
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