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Aliaksandr Shylko Wins PokerStars Players Championship For $3.1 Million

Belarusian Pro Tops Massive Field Of 1,014 Entries In $25,000 Bahamas Event

by Erik Fast |  Published: Mar 08, 2023


Aliaksandr Shylko has won the second-largest $25,000 buy-in poker tournament ever held.

The 26-year-old Belarusian defeated a near-record field of 1,014 entries in the 2023 PokerStars Players No-Limit Hold’em Championship, securing a career-defining title and the huge top prize of $3,121,838.

This victory was by far the largest tournament score yet for the young professional player. Prior to this win, the Minsk resident’s top cash had been a $106,770 payday for a fourth-place showing in the 2021 WSOP International Circuit King’s Resort €1,700 buy-in main event. Shylko now has more than $3.5 million in recorded earnings to his name.

“It feels like a dream. It’s incredible,” said Shylko after coming out on top. “It was an amazing experience. I had a lot of fun. I met a lot of good people, and winning such a big tournament… it means the world for me.”

In addition to the title and the money, Shylko was also awarded 3,360 Card Player Player of the Year points as the 2023 PSPC champion. This was his first live final-table finish of the year, but it alone was enough to catapult him into the outright lead in the 2023 POY race standings presented by Global Poker.

This massive tournament ran from Jan. 30 – Feb. 3 at the Baha Mar Resort & Casino in The Bahamas as part of the resurrected PokerStars Caribbean Adventure festival. The freezeout tournament attracted over a thousand total entries by the time registration closed on day 2, creating a prize pool of $24,843,000. Only the 2019 running of this same event, which drew 1,039 entries, had a larger turnout for a poker tournament with a buy-in at this price point.

Of the more than a thousand entrants, over 400 took their seats as PokerStars Platinum Pass winners. These proverbial golden tickets were handed out over the past few years through a wide variety of promotions, contests, and leaderboards.

Plenty of big names were among the 175 players that cashed, including David Peters (73rd), Andrew Moreno (66th), Kenny Hallaert (61st), Chance Kornuth (48th), Sean Winter (43rd), Jonathan Jaffe (37th), Dominik Nitsche (34th), Talal Shakerchi (33rd), Chris Moorman (26th), Blake Bohn (24th), Daniel Dvoress (23rd), Fedor Holz (21st), Nadya Magnus (18th), Jeremy Ausmus (13th), and Sam Grafton (12th).

The final day began with bracelet winner and two-time Latin American Poker Tour champion Nacho Barbero in the lead and just six players still in contention, and the first hour of play featured a number of bizarre occurrences.

First, Barbero slid out a big stack of chips from the small blind thinking he was raising all-in against a short stack in the big blind, only to learn that he had missed Shylko, who was second in chips at the time, min-raising from under the gun. Shylko moved all-in over the top of Barbero’s 5,125,000 raise for around 12 million total with pocket jacks and Barbero, who had been making a move with 9Diamond Suit 3Diamond Suit, was forced to fold.

Shortly after Barbero’s live misclick, Philipe Pizzari mucked the winning hand when his 7Club Suit 4Club Suit on a QSpade Suit 8Spade Suit 4Heart Suit QClub Suit JDiamond Suit board would have bested KSpade Suit 10Club Suit for Platinum Pass winner Niclas Thumm, who showed his king high after the betting was closed. Pizzari misread or misremembered either the board or his own holding and slid his cards face down into the muck, forfeiting a pot to one of the short stacks.

Barbero got back on track by scoring the first knockout of the day. Thumm open-shoved for 4,400,000 from the small blind with A-2 and Barbero called with K-Q suited from the big blind. Barbero took the lead on a king-high flop and improved to trips on the river to win the pot and narrow the field to five.

Thumm took home $1,001,200 for his first recorded live tournament cash ever. The 29-year-old German accountant and Twitch poker streamer reportedly averages a $12 buy-in price point playing online, but thanks to this deep run, he is now a poker millionaire.

Despite winning that big hand, Barbero soon found himself on the short stack after he lost a big pot with aces and sixes to the turned aces and tens of Philipe Pizzari. Pizzari’s time on the very top of the leaderboard was brief, though, as his A-K was cracked by the A-10 of Shylko to see the Belarusian surge into the lead.

Pizzari wound up on the other side of a dominated ace showdown not long after that, with his ADiamond Suit 6Diamond Suit facing the AClub Suit KHeart Suit of Portugal’s Pedro Marques. The board ran out 5Spade Suit 2Club Suit 2Diamond Suit ASpade Suit 6Club Suit to see Pizzari river aces and sixes for the win.

Marques, who finished fourth in the 2018 EPT Barcelona main event for a previous career high of $817,092, earned $1,251,500 for his showing in this event. He now has nearly $4.3 million in live earnings.

Barbero’s final hand saw Pizzari limp in from the small blind with 5Heart Suit 3Heart Suit. Barbero checked his option in the big blind with 8Club Suit 5Diamond Suit and the two saw a flop of 5Spade Suit 3Diamond Suit 2Diamond Suit. Barbero bet 1,500,000 with his top pair when checked to, only to have Pizzari check-raise all-in. Barbero called all-in for just shy of 4 million total and was shown top two pair. The ASpade Suit turn and 7Spade Suit river were no help and Barbero was eliminated in fourth place for $1,551,300. This was the largest score of the 40-year-old Argentinian’s career, bringing his career earnings to more than $6.5 million.

There was more than $8.5 million in remaining prize money up for grabs after Barbero’s exit. The final three decided to hash out a deal that would redistribute it a bit based on ICM. The agreement saw the trophy and an extra $200,000 set aside for the winner, an additional $100,000 for the runner-up, and at least $2.5 million for all three players.
Shylko jumped way out in front when he picked up pocket aces against the pocket queens of Menzel and held on a ten-high runout.

Pizzari was down to just over seven big blinds when his final hand was dealt. He shoved with J-7 suited and was called by the K-Q suited of Menzel. The flop gave Menzel queens and threes, while Pizzari picked up a flush draw. The turn and river kept Menzel ahead, though, and the 37-year-old Brazilian finance worker was sent to the rail with the $2.5 million he negotiated for in the deal.

The final hand of the event began with Shylko limping in from the button with 10Heart Suit 5Club Suit. Menzel checked from the big blind with JClub Suit 9Spade Suit and the flop came down 8Club Suit 5Heart Suit 5Diamond Suit. Menzel took a stab as the first to act, betting a single big blind. Shylko just called with his trips and the 10Spade Suit hit the board on the turn.

Menzel bet 2,800,000 with his open-ended straight draw and Shylko called with his full house. The QClub Suit on the river gave Menzel a queen-high straight. He checked and Shylko bet 4,500,000. Menzel check-raised all-in for 12,300,000 and Shylko quickly called to win the pot and the title.

Menzel took home $2,859,990 as the runner-up. The 37-year-old German logistics company manager, now based in Singapore, won a Platinum Pass into this event at a ‘Road to PSPC’ event in Manila and parlayed the opportunity into a multi-million-dollar payday.

1 Aliaksandr Shylko $3,121,838 (3,360)
2 Max Menzel $2,859,990 (2,800)
3 Philipe Pizzari $2,524,871 (2,240)
4 Nacho Barbero $1,551,300 (1,680)
5 Pedro Marques $1,251,500 (1,400)
6 Niclas Thumm $1,001,200 (1,120)
7 Thomas Eychenne $801,000 (840)
8 Petar Kalev $621,300 (560)
9 Andrei Boghean $449,700 (280)