|Buy-In:||$10,000 + $300|
Several years ago when Mike “Timex” McDonald was playing a poker tournament in Aruba, his parents stood in the hotel convention center and tried to pick their boy out of the crowd. They remembered that moment this afternoon as they stood in Atlantis’ Imperial Ballroom, home to the 2014 Main Event.
“It was a huge room like this, and you couldn’t see anything,” said McDonald’s dad, Rick. “Then he busted, so it was just a nice family vacation.”
Finding Mike in the crowd today is much easier. There are cameras following him wherever he goes. There is a microphone on his collar. There are reporters tracking his every move. Mike is taking it all in stride as he sits down among the final eight players in the Main Event. It’s easier for him, because he’s won a European Poker Tour event before. He has the experience.
“We’re feeling it more than he is,” Rick said. “It’s hard to watch.”
Despite Mike’s six million dollars worth of live poker winnings, his parents don’t often travel from their home in Waterloo, Ontario to see their son play.
“We watch the live stream and the PokerStars Blog,” said Rick, a software developer for Blackberry.
The parents arrived four days ago thanks to a room Mike had comped at the hotel. When this tourney started, there was barely an inclination that Mike would come this far. Now, fate has again smiled on the McDonald family as the vacationing parents get to watch their son play for $1.8 million and the distinction of becoming the first two-time EPT Main Event champion.
Mike’s mom Patti, an accountant, said, “It’s exciting, but it’s a little nerve-wracking because it just puts more pressure on him, right?”
Maybe so, but to look at Mike, you wouldn’t know it. As I chatted with his parents, Mike sat less the five feet away aiming his patented Timex Glare at his phone, seemingly unbothered by his parents giving interviews about their son’s youth and transition into big time poker.
“He’s much like he used to be,” Rick said. “We’ve been really happy how he’s grown with it.”
Mike’s mom nodded. “It’s been awesome to see him keep a level head about him and not go crazy,” she said.
Mike comes by his love for poker honestly. He’s the firstborn of a family with a math background. In the years before Mike and his younger sister were born, Rick and Patti used to play a lot of Bridge. In later years, the parents started to play board games with their kids.
“Sometimes I sit there and think, ‘Why am I playing games with a professional gamer?’” Patti said with a laugh.
Mike’s parents are secure in their roles. They’re here for moral support and to enjoy the unique experience of watching their son become a millionaire…again.
“I always give him some good advice,” Rick said with a smile. “I always tell him to do what he thinks is best. That’s my advice.”
Good advice, Dad. Good advice.
Want to follow along? Here’s how. 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.
Brad Willis is the PokerStars Head of Blogging
Whatever happens today Mike McDonald will cement his position as an “-est”. Not the “biggest”, not the “winningest”, but the “most-referred-to-as-a-potential-first-double-EPT-winner-ever-est”.
No EPT champion in tour history has taken a seat at the final table more often, while the likes of James Hartigan talked excitedly of them becoming the first EPT double winner. Today is another of those days for McDonald.
It is of course down to his remarkable record. Since he won EPT Dortmund in 2008, becoming the youngest ever EPT winner, McDonald has reached EPT finals on four separate occasions, not to mention a handful of penultimate days. In McDonald’s own words, he either goes deep or busts early.
So it’s fair to say that McDonald has the weight of statistics on his side.
But sometimes bigger forces play a part in a poker tournament, something that goes unseen and might not even exist. But thinking of it brings a kind of low rumbling sound into your mind and maybe some Wagnerian bass. That force could be called many things, but today we’re going to refer to it as “positive thinking”.
It contrasts greatly will the airy logic of statistics, one which enters the thought process to the leitmotif of a roomful of typewriters hammering away.
It’s not uncommon for players to rely on the first. When in doubt, it can be tempting to reduce your fortunes to the level of closing your eyes tight and thinking hard, like a child blowing out candles and making a birthday wish. It’s easier to do that sometimes than to rely on the second, which can never predict what will happen, only what has taken place in the past.
Shyam Srinivasan has absolute conviction that he will win. In his pre-match interview Srinivayans was adamant: “I’m not here to do anything else. I know I’m gonna win. I told myself I’m gonna win… and anything else would be a disappointment to me because you don’t know when this opportunity will come up again.”
So this final table will be a battle between these two forces – the power of positive thinking, what with all its emotional baggage, and the cold hard facts provided by statistics. Then again, with that comes the burden of expectation.
Either way, whether today becomes a record day or merely extends an “-est” it should prove unmissable.
Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter.
The exits are coming thick and fast in this year’s $1,100 Women’s Event. No sooner had we reported on the last 10 standing before the final table was set. And we’ve already lost one. Wait, make that two.
The final nine:
Current chip leader is 2012 PCA Women’s Event champ, Kathy Saraf, and she added to her massive stack after eliminating Danijela Matusinskij in ninth place. Will we have our first two-time winner? Stay tuned to find out.
See below for details on how this year’s $68,870 prize pool will be awarded.
$1,100 PCA Women’s Event
Prize pool: $66,930
8th: Loni Harwood – $2,620
9th: Danijela Matusinskij – $2,066
Stay tuned for more from the $1,100 Women’s Event on the PokerStars Blog, or 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.
Keir Mackay is a copywriter for PokerStars.
It’s a busy day in the Imperial Ballroom. With just hours to go before the curtain falls on this year’s PCA, the final tournaments on the schedule are racing towards their respective finishes. And in the hard-fought $1,100 Women’s Event, Kathy Saraf is looking the most likely to board the plane home clutching one of those coveted PCA trophies.
69 players made up yesterday’s Day 1 field — more on that here — but just 17 remained when the chips were bagged late last night. In less than two hours today that number’s been trimmed to 10. Only nine will get paid.
Team Online’s Adrienne “Talonchick” Rowsome sat in the number one spot at the end of Day 1, looking to add a first Women’s Event cash to her career stats.
“Yesterday did go fairly well,” said Rowsome before today got under way. “I was reviewing my hands when I woke up this morning – I was pretty tired when I went to bed at 2am – so I was thinking about them this morning. I was actually… not card dead – I hate that expression – but I didn’t get the premium starting hands, but I did well with the hands I got.”
Sadly for the mother in waiting, she couldn’t replicate that success today, and she’ll have to wait a little longer for a first Women’s Event cash after busting in 12th place.
Instead it’s Saraf who has broken free from the chasing pack. She won this event back in 2012, collecting $25,460, and there’s every chance we could have our first ever two-time Women’s Event champion come the end of the day.
Of those looking to stop Saraf, Loni Harwood arguably has the strongest pedigree. The $10,000 Main Event’s last woman standing has a middling stack at the moment, and she’ll be hoping to add the $20,150 to the $43,300 already banked at this year’s PCA.
“We had a very fun table,” Harwood said of yesterday’s action. "We had a couple of people who were just playing for fun and I made a joke that you shouldn’t play jacks just queens plus, and some lady thought I was serious and folded jacks! But it was a good time.
“I had a couple of cooler hands. I ended the day, last hand, losing a pot to a French pro. I was up to eighty thousand but lost ace-queen to ace-king against Jen Shehade then built it back up and then lost opened king-four and it came king-nine-X and got it in verses nines. So standard spots but hopefully I can ship it today.”
We’ll bring you more from the Women’s Event later in the day, but here’s how the players finished on Day 1:
Adrienne Rowsome – 87,300
Kathy Saraf – 74,500
Elena Stover – 67,000
Laurence Grondin – 54,800
Amanda Musumeci – 48,500
Oksana Jancevic – 45,800
Loni Harwood – 38,600
Trishelle Cannatella – 38,400
Maguerite Spagnuolo – 37,000
Jennifer Shahade – 35,000
Danijela Matusinkskij – 28,700
Geralda Sarraf – 28,100
Lily Kiletto – 27,500
Jeanie Bernth-Andersen – 25,100
Sonja Kovac – 22,300
Fatima Moreira de Melo – 17,900
Astrid Silvana Pereira – 13,600
Stay tuned to see who takes down the biggest share of the $68,870 prize pool .
Keir Mackay is a copywriter for PokerStars.
The European Poker Tour (EPT) today announced that it will stage Europe’s largest-ever poker festival in Barcelona this August to celebrate its 100th event.
Poker players and fans will not want to miss this historic celebration which will likely set European prize and attendance records from august 16 – 27, 2014 at the Casino Barcelona.
“The EPT was born in Barcelona so it’s very fitting to celebrate EPT’s 100th event in true style and with unforgettable poker,” said EPT President Edgar Stuchly. “EPT Barcelona is one of the most popular tour stops and attracts players from all over the world for the fantastic mix of beaches, iconic architecture, party atmosphere and world class poker,”
Since the first event took place back in September 2004, the EPT has welcomed over 180,000 players, visited 16 countries, created 39 millionaires and paid out over €535 million in prizes, making it the world’s richest and most popular poker tour.
The Barcelona festivities will kick off Season 11 of the EPT, once again partnering up with the successful Spanish regional Estrellas Poker Tour from August 16-21 to create a spectacular 12-day Barcelona poker extravaganza.
Last year’s EPT Barcelona event broke all previous records when the Estrellas and EPT Main Events clocked 1,798 and 1,234 entries, sending Soenke Jahn and Tom Middleton back home with career-besting prizes of €169,136 and €942,000 respectively. This year, the EPT is adding 20 extra tables this year to accommodate player fields that are likely to beat last year’s records.
After eight days, nearly 40 tournaments and some long, long hours at the poker tables of Paradise, the 2014 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure has reached its final day.
And it’s not just any old last day of a tournament series. We have two champions to crown in the Imperial Ballroom of the Atlantis Resort this evening, in the $10,000,000 Guaranteed Main Event and the $25,000 High Roller.
What’s most exciting is that both champions could be doing it for the second time.
Mike McDonald became the youngest ever European Poker Tour winner when he triumphed in Dortmund in 2008. No one either before or after McDonald has managed to win a second title, and we have carried that particular monkey on our backs through 94 events.
But McDonald, the fiercely focused player from Ontaria, Canada, who is still only 24, comes into the final today with the second biggest chip-stack and a glint to match the pierce in his eyes.
Predicting poker tournaments is a fool’s errand, but my colleague Stephen Bartley said about two years ago that he fancied McDonald would be the first ever two-time EPT champion. And on Day 2 of this event, when McDonald had only a small stack, my other colleague Brad Willis said he thought McDonald would make the final table this week.
They may both have been lucky guesses, but they were educated. Almost no player has managed to remain as determined as McDonald, matching exceptional ability with stamina and a ceaseless desire to improve. He sketches the curve even as he stays ahead of it and, with his parents in the audience this week in the Bahamas, McDonald is on the verge of something unique.
Click through for the full Main Event final table line-up.
There is nothing unique about what is happening in the High Roller event. Vanessa Selbst, the Team PokerStars Pro from the United States, carries the chip lead into the last day, the top of the leader board featuring 14 of the world’s elite names.
It’s been, hmmm, well, about three days since this last happened. Selbst does this kind of thing every week. Selbst made the final table of the $100,000 Super High Roller event, which kicked off the festival, eventually finishing third. She then cashed in the Main Event, having led the way for a long while.
Lo and behold, she emerged as the front-runner of the $25,000 event within a few hours of joining the tournament and stayed there pretty much ever since.
What’s more, she is the defending champion. This time last year, Selbst bludgeoned through a similar-sized field to win $1.4m — and she has previous form in the realm of back-to-back achievements too. In April 2011, Selbst won the first ever North American Poker Tour event to be held in Connecticut, beating 387 others. In April 2012, she did it again.
Selbst is the most predictable poker player in the world, but predictability has never been so exceptional.
On the subject of predictability, how about Ole Schemion? In Barcelona last year, Schemion cashed in the High Roller, the Super High Roller and the Main Event. He’s done it again here at the PCA, alongside Selbst. The GPI Player of the Year for 2013 is living up to billing once again.
And how about Daniel Negreanu? Negreanu won the Bluff and WSOP Player of the Year titles for 2013 — only pipped by Schemion for the GPI title at the death. Negreanu is also remaining in this High Roller field and that tournament is set for a compelling finale.
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.
$10,000,000 Guaranteed Main Event Final Table
Madis Muur, Estonia, 6,205,000
Mike McDonald, Canada, 5,605,000
Pascal Lefrancois, Canada, 5,595,000
Dominik Panka, Poland, 3,695,000
Fabian Ortiz, Argentina, 3,040,000
Isaac Baron, USA, 2,995,000
Daniel Gamez, Guatemala, 1,885,000
Shyam Srinivasan, Canada, 1,505,000
$25,000 High Roller Final Table
Vanessa Selbst, USA, 1,633,000
Joao Vieira, Portugal, 1,604,000
Myro Garcia, Brazil, 1,181,000
Greg Merson, USA, 1,112,000
Jacob Carl Schindler, USA, 1,109,000
Marvin Rettenmaier, Germany, 1,014,000
Rob Mizrachi, USA, 856,000
Dani Stern, USA, 837,000
Daniel Negreanu, Canada, 723,000
Mustapha Kanit, Italy, 705,000
Aleksandr Denisov, Russia, 626,000
Dan Smith, USA, 434,000
Ole Schemion, Germany, 357,000
Paul Newey, UK, 162,000
In some cases the predictable becomes boring. As brilliant as he is, each Sebastian Vettel win gets a little less interesting than the previous one, and all those Lance Armstrong victories in the Tour de France soon lost their sheen.
But when Vanessa Selbst bags up something close to the chip lead, again, it is only ever treated with awe. Today came further proof as to why.
Selbst has been almost unstoppable this week. She looked set to win the Super High Roller, only for some reason she didn’t. She then picked up where she left off in the Main Event, cashing in 42nd place, and now, completing a remarkable trifecta, she’s guaranteed a cash finish in the High Roller. The only question remains — again — is how far she can go.
The answer to that question will come tomorrow, when the remaining 14 players return to wrap up the last major event of the 2014 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. Selbst will be among the favourites, but the nature of the event means the opposite will not make it easy for her.
That line-up is both strong and fiercely competitive. Joao Viera had a spirited second day that, almost taking the chip lead himself, bagging up 1,604,000.
Also returning tomorrow will be the likes of Mustapha Kanit, Robert Mizrachi, Andrew Chen, Dan Smith, Paul Newey and Daniel Negreanu. Not to mention those fearsome Germans, so regularly at the top of the pile come final day. Marvin Rettenmaier and Ole Schemion are still in this one.
Here’s how they stand:
Vanessa Selbst – 1,633,000
Jaoa Viera — 1,604,000
Myro Garcia – 1,181,000
Greg Merson — 1,112,000
Jacob Schindler – 1,109,000
Marvin Rettenmaier – 1,014,000
Robert Mizrachi — 856,000
Daniel Stern — 837,000
Daniel Negreanu — 723,000
Mustapha Kanit — 705,000
Aleksandr Denisov – 626,000
Dan Smith – 434,000
Ole Schemion — 357,000
Paul Newey – 162,000
The big field meant the list of names departing was chock full of notables. Shaun Deeb, Michael Mizrachi, Eugene Katchalov, Isaac Haxton, ElkY, Mickey Petersen, Scott Seiver, Tobias Reinkemeier and Jason Mercier were among those wrapping up their PCA today. They went before Kyle Julius exited on the bubble, freeing up the likes of Fabian Quoss, Jake Cody, Ana Marquez, Olivier Busquet, Jonathan Duhamel and Philipp Gruissem to crash out with the comfort of financial reward.
Perhaps most notable among the cash finishers was Englishman Paul Newey, who bubbled the Super High Roller, and who has sought for so long to secure that first cash. He did so, with <a href=“”http://www.pokerstarsblog.com/pca/2014/pca-2014-ease-and-anxieties-on-the-high-145063.html" target="_blank">a little encouragement from Daniel Negreanu along the way. He could well turn that into a first High Roller final.
It brings an end to the penultimate day of the PCA festival. Tomorrow it’ll be all about final tables, with the Main Event and the High Roller to play to an end. It might be a long one, but all the action will right here on the PokerStars Blog, with live coverage (with a one hour delay) on PCA Live, starting at 2pm.
We’ll see you then.
Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter.
High Roller tournaments play out differently from other events, and it is never more notable than on the bubble. Whereas a Main Event field approaching the money is an anxiety-addled place, often scattered with qualifiers or lower-stakes players praying desperately to avoid catastrophic elimination, High Rollers tend to take it more in their stride.
It’s tense. Make no mistake about that. But these players have been here before and know how to act. When Chris Oliver went out in 34th place in the PCA $25,000 High Roller tonight — his A[10s] outdrawn by Tommy Vedes’ KJ — he closed his eyes and rocked his head back in silent disappointment. It felt like he should have earned a penalty for excessive commiseration.
No one shook his hand. No one whooped their delight at his passing. He took a last sip from a beer can, wound his headphones around his iPad and wandered away. The quashing of a $1.3m dream was never dealt with with so much dispassion.
When the field went down to the last 31, ie, the stone bubble, the volume did raise somewhat. Olivier Busquet and Chris Klodnicki whiled away hand-for-hand play by talking about hotels at the World Series of Poker Europe, Philipp Gruissem wondered aloud how many chips Ole Schemion had, and one of the floor staff watched Jon Voigt and then Amy Adams accept Golden Globes on the TV screen that had until recently been showing the NFL game.
Schemion, incidentally, was now using his orange skateboard as a coffee table and had two glasses of beer positioned on it. The front of his baseball cap bore the embroidered words, “Easy Livin’” and there really is no phrase in any language that describes Schemion’s outlook more perfectly.
On Daniel Negreanu’s table, livin’ wasn’t quite so easy. Negreanu had a short stack and was caught bluffing when he made a small raise from the small blind. Byron Kaverman, also with a short stack, announced that he was all in and Negreanu was forced to fold.
“I had nine six off-suit,” Negreanu said.
Negreanu has often stated his complete disregard for the fears of the bubble. He is in every tournament to win it and has no fears at all about going out one spot before the cash kicks in. The approach could not, however, be further from that of his neighbour tonight, Paul Newey, who is fresh from bubbling the Super High Roller event.
“If I go all in, I’ve got king or aces,” Newey said. “I just want everyone to to know. I bubbled the Super High Roller. I don’t want to do it again.”
Newey wasn’t joking. After learning poker by playing only the most expensive tournaments in the world (he made his debut at the One Drop), Newey is desperate to earn his first tournament cash after several near misses. Each seems to scar a separate section of his heart.
He turned to Fabian Quoss. “You knocked me out in Monte Carlo. You technically knocked me out with your queen in the Super High Roller. I want to avoid you.”
“That’s good to know,” Quoss said.
Negreanu tried to offer Newey a glimmer of hope. “You could be the guy who bubbled the Super High Roller and the High Roller. You could be that guy. They’d be talking about it forever.”
Newey didn’t seem keen on the notoriety. “It’s not the money,” he said. “It’s the principal.”
“I understand,” Negreanu said. “You just want a cash.”
What a difference an indefinite article makes. Newey certainly doesn’t need “cash” — he sold his finance company for £200m in 2006 — but he desperately wants “a” cash. He has only one on his resume and it’s tiny.
Vanessa Selbst, the tournament chip leader (of course), got up from the table to take a tour of the stacks. She alighted on that of Anthony Zinno, who had a matter of a few big blinds. But never one to wait for someone else to do the dirty work, she soon took her seat again and got this thing finished.
Selbst, with the medium stack of Ana Marquez and the shortie of Kyle Julius to her left, open shoved for millions. Marquez folded but, perhaps to the surprise of some, Julius called.
After being given permission to turn their hands over, Julius tabled AK to Selbst’s 78. This was just about perfect for Selbst, and the 7 on the turn sealed it. Julius departed.
It left a relieved 30 to plough on towards $1.3m — and a delighted Brit among them, vindicated at his seventh attempt.
Follow full coverage of the $25,000 High Roller event on the High Roller page.
Imagine Raymond Siu. He’s an unassuming translator in a Toronto office who spends his Wednesday nights playing pub poker with the Toronto Poker League (TPL). It’s a cold winter there. It’s not been too long ago that weather shut down the city.
“Most of us didn’t have power for four days,” said Michael LeFrank, Tournament Director for the TPL.
For the past few days, the Canadian winter has been little more than a bad memory as 16 members of the Toronto Poker League walked under the Caribbean sun. Now, when they head back home, at least a couple of them can stuff their parkas with cash.
Siu and a fellow TPL member, Oksana Jancevic, both made the final table of a $1,000 side event here this week. Jancevic took sixth place for $14,000. Siu got heads up and chopped for $45,000. It took him 25 hours of poker over two days, but it’s ended with a story he’ll never forget.
“It was just constant tension,” Siu said. “I felt like my heart rate was just constantly elevated.”
Siu was the winner of a 16-week series of events in Toronto, including free live tourneys and online at PokerStars. Before it was all said and done, Siu had beaten more than 700 people to make it here.
“This is my first major live event,” he said.
The TPL’s path here started back in 2010 when some of its members were here with former Team PokerStar Pro Darus Suharto. They fell in love with the place.
“We just had a great time,” LeFrank said. “This became our favorite live event.”
It’s a totally different world for the Canadians. Back home, the bar poker is fun, but it only exists because they created it. They train their own dealers and floor staff. It’s a big operation for a city with no big card room.
“There is no casino in Toronto,” LeFrank said. “There is no opportunity for people to play to hone their skills.”
Apparently the TPL is doing a fine job of that on their own. If anything, the training worked pretty darned well for Raymond Siu. He’s got $45,000 to prove it—even if he has no idea what he’s going to do with with the money.
“I don’t even know yet,” he said. “I’m still trying to digest it.”
Brad Willis is the PokerStars Head of Blogging
Seat 1: Pascal LeFrancois, 27, Montreal – PokerStars player – 5,595,000 chips
Pascal LeFrancois first shot to fame in 2010 when he won a $1,500 no limit hold’em event at the World Series of Poker, earning $568,974. It wasn’t only the victory that made him famous, however. He also ripped off his shirt and posed bare-skinned in the traditional winner’s photo shot, the first and only time a winner has appeared bare-chested as he collected his bracelet. Only a month after that victory, LeFrancois then went deep in the WSOP Main Event, finishing 11th for $635,011, which remains his biggest cash to date. His other major result was runner-up to his fellow Canadian Jonathan Roy in the 2012 WPT Montreal Main Event for $470,130. Although he is still a student, his lifetime tournament winnings already total nearly $1.8 million. LeFrancois is here at the PCA for the fourth time and has been an EPT regular for the past four years as well. He is one of a large group of French-Canadian players who have started playing on the EPT circuit.
Seat 2: Dominik Panka, 22, Poland – PokerStars qualifier – 3,695,000 chips
Dominik Panka comes from the tiny town of Brześć Kujawski in Poland and is enjoying the deepest run he has ever experienced in a live event. Before this year’s PCA, Panka only had $8,092 in live tournament cashes to his name, the majority of that from a 42nd place finish in the EPT 10 Barcelona Estrellas €2,000 High Roller. He is guaranteed at least $173,220 in the PCA final and is therefore set to earn at least 21 times his lifetime tournament cashes. Panka can also become the first Polish player ever to win an EPT main event. Despite nine countrymen making final tables, none has yet to convert. Panka is on a tremendous spin up, having won his seat to the 2014 PCA in a $700 Mega Qualifier on PokerStars.
Seat 3: Seat: Shyam Srinivasan, 32, Toronto, Canada – PokerStars qualifier, 1,505,000 chips
Although Shyam Srinivasan isn’t a well-recognised face on the live circuit, his online handles “g’s zee” (PokerStars) and “s_dot111” (Full Tilt Poker) certainly are. Srinivasan has clocked up more than $7m in online tournament winnings and is looking to convert that success into a PCA title tomorrow. “I think I’m gonna win,” Srinivasan told the PokerStars Blog. “That’s it. I’m not here to do anything else. I know I’m gonna win. I told myself I’m gonna win… and anything else would be a disappointment to me because you don’t know when this opportunity will come up again.” Srinivasan won his seat to the PCA via a $700 satellite qualifie on PokerStars.
Seat 4: Isaac Baron, 26, Chicago, USA – 2,995,000 chips
Originally from Menlo Park, Calfornia, Baron now calls Chicago, Illinois home. It’s not the only major change for the 26-year-old online poker legend. Baron has lost a lot of weight in recent months and is hardly recognizable from the figure who made a splash on the live poker scene several years ago. “It’s been a while since I made a big final table,” Baron said (two years, in fact). “I’ve kind of been flying under the radar. I haven’t been playing too many tournaments.” In the meantime, the man with millions in online wins and $2.6 million in live cashes has been playing live cash games and taking some college classes. He’s looking forward to getting back to the big time. “I had decided to give tournaments a break for a little while, but I decided in the New Year I was going to give them another go. It’s going good so far.”
Seat 5: Fabian Ortiz, 44, Chaco, Argentina – 3,040,000 chips
Fabian Ortiz, a 44-year-old businessman from Argentina, has owned several discos during his career, but recently he’s been doing most of his dancing on the poker circuit. Ortiz was the first Latin American player to win a LAPT title when he made a sensational comeback from only one small blind to take down LAPT2 Viña del Mar in Chile in January 2009. But his biggest live result was last summer when he finished 17th in the WSOP Main Event for a cash of $357,655. His lifetime tournament winnings of $565,570 put him third on the Argentina all time money list, behind Team PokerStars Pros Nacho Barbero and Leo Fernandez.
Seat 6: Mike McDonald, 24, Waterloo, Canada – PokerStars qualifier – 5,605,000 chips
The youngest ever champion on the European Poker Tour, Mike McDonald heads to the PCA final table second in chips and is looking a very strong contender in the bid to become the first two-time EPT winner. The 24-year-old from Ontario, whose lifetime tournament winnings already total nearly $6 million, was only 18 when he won the EPT Dortmund Main Event in 2008, worth €933,600. McDonald came close to retaining his title the following year, with a fifth place finish. As well as making the final of this PCA’s $100,000 Super High Roller, his phenomenal results also include third at EPT Deauville, bubbling the EPT Madrid final and making the final in both the EPT Barcelona Super High Rollers – in 2012 and last August. Like 426 other players, McDonald won his PCA 2014 seat on PokerStars, but he isn’t just any old qualifier. He was actually the very first player win a package, securing his trip in a $700 qualifier in August last year.
Seat 7: Madis Muur, 27, Tallinn, Estonia – PokerStars qualifier – 6,205,000 chips
Madis Muur is the first Estonian player to reach the final table of the PCA and enters the fray as the chip leader. Muur is mainly an online player, focusing his attention on mid-stakes tournaments on PokerStars during the week and the majors on Sunday. This is the Estonian’s first year on the European Poker Tour, as he only plays live if he is fortunate enough to qualify. Muur has already won seats to three of the four EPT Main Events this season, playing in London and Barcelona along with PCA. Muur finished 12th in the EPT Barcelona Main Event, earning $78,892, and has slightly more than $100,000 in career tournament earnings. He has already doubled that number by reaching this final table, and will be looking for his first seven-figure score on Monday.
Seat 8: Daniel Gamez, 29, Guatemala City, Guatemala – PokerStars player – 1,885,000 chips
Daniel Gamez is a recreational poker player who invested some $4,000 in online satellite tournaments and finally won his trip to the PCA in a $33 re-buy event. A keen golfer, Gamez works as an event coordinator for his family’s radio company in Guatemala. The former communications student mainly plays mid stakes multi-table tournaments online. He has been to the PCA three times but this is his first ever live cash. His biggest online cash was $17,500. He said: “My dad is my mentor and if I win the tournament I plan to help him out with the company.” Gamez, whose Panamanian wife is expecting the couple’s first child in February, came to the Bahamas with his friend Juan Carlos.
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