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2009 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure - A Festival of Poker in Paradise

$3 Million First-Place Prize Confirms That the PCA is the Destination Tournament of the Year

by Ryan Lucchesi |  Published: Mar 02, 2009


Atlantis Hotel ResortThe PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA), with its European Poker Tour $10,000 no-limit hold'em main event, has become the most anticipated tournament of the year, and one of the largest. The opportunity to kick off the year by escaping the cold winters of North America and Europe has proven to be a powerful draw for poker players who want to test their skills against the world's best. This year was no different, and Canadian Poorya Nazari won $3 million by outlasting 1,347 players in the largest poker tournament ever hosted outside of the United States.

Evolution of a Destination Poker Tournament

The first PCA was hosted in 2004 aboard the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Voyager. The buy-in was $7,500 for the tournament that was featured as part of the World Poker Tour. The tournament attracted 221 players and Gus Hansen won the top prize of $455,780 to foreshadow that greater things were in store for this event. The second PCA in 2005 attracted 461 players who bought in for $7,800. John Gale walked away with the top prize, $890,000. That year also brought about a very important move for the tournament. The Atlantis Resort became the host, and this truly made it a destination event. The place defies reality; it features a marine habitat containing 50,000 animals, a 141-acre water park, 21 restaurants, 19 bars, and thousands of hotel rooms (including the bridge suite, which at $25,000 a night is the third-most-expensive hotel room in the world). The resort is enough to take the most hardened grinder's attention away from a poker table, and as a result, a lot more people began heading down to Paradise Island in the Bahamas for the event.

In 2006, the size of the tournament grew to 725 players, and the buy-in jumped to $8,000, where it stayed for three years. Team PokerStars Pro Steve Paul-Ambrose won $1,388,600, becoming the first million-dollar champion at the PCA. Ryan Daut became the second young American online player to win the tournament in 2007, when he topped a field of 937 players to win $1,535,255 in prize money. The 2008 PCA saw the tournament become a stop on the PokerStars European Poker Tour, and was now able to load the field with online qualifiers. A total of 650 players won their way into the event, pumping the field up to 1,136 players, who bought in for $8,000. This created a massive prize pool, with a $2 million first-place prize. Team PokerStars Pro Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier won that top prize, becoming the third European player to do so, and the third young online player in a row to accomplish the feat.

This year was no different than each that preceded it, and records were broken once again. The 2009 PCA attracted 1,347 players (including 735 online qualifiers), making it the largest poker tournament field ever hosted outside of the U.S. The 2009 event will be broadcast on the Game Show Network, becoming the largest poker tournament other than the World Series ever to be televised. Also, the buy-in was increased from $8,000 to $10,000, and this change increased the first-place prize from $2 million to $3 million.

As the number of entrants and prize pools in the main event have grown, so has the size of the entire event. In 2005, the very first cash game in the history of the Bahamas was spread at a $10-$20 limit hold'em table, and now cash games of all sizes run around-the-clock. Preliminary no-limit hold'em events have been added, featuring $1,000, $2,000, and $5,000 buy-ins, and the first $25,000 high-roller no-limit hold'em event was added in 2009. The fifth World Cup of Poker was moved to the PCA venue from Barcelona, as well, with Germany being crowned the champion after a long battle. A true "festival of poker" has been created. Poker players come for the poker, stay because of the Atlantis Resort when they bust out, and then play more poker. At most tournaments, players leave when they bust out, but at this tournament, people stick around, and this has led many players to start comparing it to the World Series of Poker. While it still has a long way to go before becoming the next WSOP, the future looks very bright for the PCA. You can be sure that it will continue to attract a multitude of players, especially young online players, to the premier destination tournament of the year for many years to come.

Kevin Saul Anthony Gregg Benny Spindler Pieter Tielen

Poorya Nazari Wins the 2009 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure

Very few poker tournaments pay out a first-place prize of $3 million. The World Series of Poker main event has accomplished this impressive feat every year since Team PokerStars Pro Chris Moneymaker won $2.5 million in 2003 and changed the course of tournament-poker history forever. The World Poker Tour Championship has accomplished this feat three times, and the PokerStars European Poker Tour Grand Final awarded its first-ever top prize worth more than $3 million in 2008. The 2009 EPT PokerStars Caribbean Adventure became the 10th tournament in poker history to award a $3 million first-place prize.

Top professional players from all over the world made the trip to the Bahamas, but they were among the minority in the massive tournament field, which was dominated by young online players, confirming once again that this is the live tournament of the year for online poker players.

The two day-one flights were very long, as eight 75-minute levels of poker saw the field shrink from the original 1,347 down to just 380 to begin day two. The top 199 players would receive at least $12,500 in prize money, and as the action continued to fly during the day, the money bubble was easily reached and the final number of players left at the end of play was 102. The prescription for day three was a little more exact, as the day would end when 32 players remained. Kevin "BeLOWaBOVe" Saul finished the night with 2.675 million in chips to pace the field after he won a huge pot against Max Pescatori, eliminating the Italian professional in 50th place when he made a flush on the turn against Pescatori's set of kings.

The fourth day brought the field down to the final table of eight, and it represented the first prolonged slowdown in play. Many top professionals, young online phenoms, and notable players saw their tournament runs come to an end just short of the final eight, as Team PokerStars Pro Vicky Coren (30th place), Justin "WPThero" Rollo (29th place), 2008 PCA runner-up Hafiz Khan (21st place), David "WhooooKidd" Baker (16th place), Adam "csimmsux" Geyer (15th place), Benny Chen (14th place), and Kathy Liebert (12th place) all were eliminated. Saul once again found himself involved in the largest pot of the day, but this time he was on the losing end. Team PokerStars Pro Alexandre Gomes bet 355,000 on a flop of 6 6 2, and Saul called. The turn brought the 6 and Gomes checked. Saul bet 500,000 and Gomes went into the tank. He made the call, and the river rolled out with the Q. Gomes checked, and Saul bet 1.3 million. Gomes moved all in for 2.885 million, and Saul went into the tank. He eventually made the call, and Gomes broke into ecstatic cheers as he showed down pocket aces against the K-Q of Saul. Gomes doubled up and took the chip lead with more than 7 million in chips, as just nine players remained. Jan Collado fell a short time after that in ninth place, and after 13 hours of poker on the day, the final table was set.

Poorya Nazari Alexandre Gomes Dan Heimiller Dustin Dirksen

Here were the chip counts heading to final-table play:

1. Alexandre Gomes (Brazil) - 8,080,000
2. Poorya Nazari (Canada) - 6,790,000
3. Benny Spindler (Germany) - 3,352,000
4. Pieter Tielen (Netherlands) - 2,310,000
5. Anthony Gregg (USA) - 2,245,000
6. Kevin "BeLOWaBOVe" Saul (USA) - 1,640,000
7. Dan Heimiller (USA) - 1,440,000
8. Dustin Dirksen (USA) - 765,000

After an initial period in which Dustin Dirksen doubled up twice and Dan Heimiller doubled up once, part one at the final table was rough on the Americans and well-known professionals. Saul was the first to fall, an hour into play, when he ran into the pocket queens of Poorya Nazari and was eliminated in eighth place ($214,000). During the next two hours, Heimiller was eliminated in seventh place ($300,000), Dirksen fell in sixth place ($400,000), and Tielen was knocked out in fifth place ($550,000).

Gomes then got involved in a hand that was strangely similar to the huge one he played against Saul the night before. Gomes raised preflop and Spindler made the call. The flop came J J J and Gomes bet 535,000. Spindler raised to 1.35 million and Gomes called. The turn was the 5 and Gomes checked. Spindler bet 2 million and Gomes quickly raised all in. Spindler called, and showed the K J for quads. Gomes showed pocket aces. The inconsequential river was the Q and Gomes was eliminated in fourth place.

Spindler rode the momentum of this hand and took a chip lead into battle against Nazari and Gregg. But, he was unable to shut the door during the first hour, and Nazari stole the chip lead from him in a pot in which he made kings and eights against Spindler's kings and threes. Gregg doubled up twice to slow things down, and Spindler doubled up, as well. Gregg doubled up again after that, and it was four hours into three-handed play when third place finally caught up with one of the players. Spindler moved all in with Q-J, but he was dominated by the A-J of Nazari, and he went to the rail in third place with $1.1 million to show for his efforts.

Heads-Up Chip Counts:

Poorya Nazari: 17,685,000
Anthony Gregg: 9,210,000

The heads-up match played out a little differently than the prior marathon, as play lasted only four hands between the final two players. After Gregg opened the fourth hand for a 650,000 raise, Nazari reraised to 3 million, Gregg moved all in with the Q 7, and Nazari called with the A 10. The board was dealt 10 6 5 3 9 and Gregg was eliminated. He took home $1.7 million for his runner-up performance. That made Nazari the $3 million man and champion of the 2009 PCA. He hoisted the championship trophy in victory, and befitting of the exotic location of the tournament, he posed for photos next to a treasure chest filled with cash.

Largest Major Poker Tournaments Ever Hosted Outside the U.S.

1. 2009 PCA - 1,347 players
2. 2008 PCA - 1,136 players
3. 2007 PCA - 937 players
4. 2008 EPT Monte Carlo Grand Final - 846 players
5. 2008 Aussie Millions - 780 players

Bertrand 'ElkY' Grospellier Wins the $25,000 PCA High-Roller Event

Bertrand GrospellierWinning back-to-back championships in any form of competition is quite a feat, and in poker, it is even harder to accomplish. Team PokerStars Pro Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier won the PCA champiohship event in 2008, besting a field of 1,136 players to win $2 million. One year later, he won the first-ever $25,000 PCA high-roller event and $433,500 in prize money.

The $25,000 high-roller event attracted 48 top players, and when the final eight eventually emerged, the lineup was a testament to the toughness of the field:

Seat 1: Humberto Brenes - 423,500
Seat 2: Scott Seiver - 449,500
Seat 3: Nick Schulman - 99,500
Seat 4: Liya Gerasimova - 259,000
Seat 5: Daniel Alaei - 209,500
Seat 6: Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier - 358,000
Seat 7: Will Molson - 270,500
Seat 8: Eli Elezra - 355,500

Grospellier soon took the chip lead when he rivered trip tens to win a pot against Elezra, and ElkY eliminated his first victim at the final table when he held pocket tens against the A J of Nick Schulman about an hour into final-table play. The board delivered a lineup of blanks, and Schulman was eliminated in eighth place ($45,700).

Liya Gerasimova (the girlfriend of Ivan Demidov) put Daniel Alaei to the test after that. First, she doubled up through Alaei when she made aces up with A-8 in the hole against his pocket kings, and second, when she defeated his cowboys in the hole yet again. This time she held A-J and the board ran out Q-8-4-10-A, knocking Alaei out of the tournament in seventh place ($57,000).

The biggest hand at the final table came next, when two Team PokerStars Pros decided to duel for all of their marbles. Grospellier and Brenes saw a flop of Q 10 2, and Brenes bet 25,000. ElkY called, and the turn was the 4. Brenes bet 60,000, and ElkY raised to 188,000. Brenes paused for a bit, then announced that he was all in. Grospellier called and turned up pocket tens, while Brenes showed down pocket deuces. The river brought the 8, and Brenes was crippled. ElkY was the first chip millionaire in the tournament when no one held even half of that amount.

Elezra was on a short stack when he was forced to push all in with pocket fives a while later. Gerasimova woke up with pocket queens behind him, and she faded a third 5 to knock Elezra out in sixth place ($68,500). The final stand by Brenes came with the K 4, but he was dominated by the K 10 of Scott Seiver. The flop came 4 3 2 to give Brenes hope, but the board finished with runner-runner hearts (7 3) to knock him out in fifth place ($70,800).

Molson doubled up after the dinner break, but Seiver then scored his second elimination to steal the Canadian's momentum. Seiver held pocket aces when Gerasimova tried to make an all-in move with the 8 6. The board brought no help to the young Russian, and she was eliminated in fourth place ($91,300). ElkY then took things over by winning a large pot from Seiver, and he finished the job by knocking him out of the tournament. Seiver open-shoved with 10-9 and ElkY called with A-8. The turn brought an ace and sealed Seiver's fate, a third-place finish worth $137,000.

The heads-up match began with Molson holding just 331,000 to ElkY's 2 million, and things were finished quickly. On the first hand between the final two, Molson open-shoved with the K 10 and Grospellier called with the A J. The board rolled out with the Q 6 2 A 6, and Molson was eliminated in second place ($228,000). Grospellier was awarded $433,500, and he began 2009 the same way that he did 2008 - by winning a major tournament title.