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Aliaksandr Shylko Wins 2023 PokerStars Players No-Limit Hold'em Championship For $3.1 Million

The 26-Year-Old Belarusian Poker Pro Defeated A Field of 1,014 Entries In The Second-Largest $25,000 Buy-In Poker Tournament Ever Held


Aliaksandr Shylko has won the second-largest $25,000 buy-in poker tournament ever held. The 26-year-old Belarusian poker pro 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 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 live tournament score had been a $106,770 payday for a fourth-place showing in the 2021 World Series of Poker International Circuit King’s Resort €1,700 buy-in main event. Shylko now has more than $3.5 million in recorded tournament 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.

The 2023 PSPC field on day 1

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 a seat thanks to becoming a PokerStars Platinum Pass winner. 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 three-time bracelet winner and World Poker Tour champion Dominik Nitsche (34th), two-time bracelet winner and WPT champion Chris Moorman (26th), bracelet winner and 2019 Super High Roller Bowl Bahamas champion Daniel Dvoress (23rd), two-time bracelet winner and high-stakes superstar Fedor Holz (21st), five-time bracelet winner Jeremy Ausmus (13th), and 2022 Coin Rivet Invitational winner Sam Grafton (12th).

The final day began with bracelet winner and two-time Latin American Poer Tour champion Nacho Barbero in the lead and just six players still in contention. 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 Suit3Diamond Suit thinking he was only risking the effective stack of around 3.8 million held by Max Menzel, was forced to fold.

Shortly after Barbero’s live misclick, Philipe Pizzari mucked the winning hand when his 7Club Suit4Club Suit on a QSpade Suit8Spade Suit4Heart SuitQClub SuitJDiamond Suit board would have bested KSpade Suit10Club Suit for Platinum Pass winner Niclas Thumm, who showed his king high after the betting was closed. Pizzari either misread or misremembered the board or his own holding and slid his cards face down into the muck, forfeiting a pot with five big blinds to one of the short stacks.

Nacho BarberoBarbero 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 Suit6Diamond Suit facing the AClub SuitKHeart Suit of Portugal’s Pedro Marques. The board ran out 5Spade Suit2Club Suit2Diamond SuitASpade Suit6Club 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 lifetime live earnings.

Barbero’s run in this event came to an end in fourth place. His final hand saw Pizzari limp in from the small blind with 5Heart Suit3Heart Suit. Barbero checked his option in the big blind with 8Club Suit5Diamond Suit and the two saw a flop of 5Spade Suit3Diamond Suit2Diamond 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 ($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 in fourth place. The final three decided to hash out a deal that would redistribute that prize money a bit based on ICM. The agreement saw the trophy and $200,000 set aside for the winner, an additional $100,000 for the runner-up, and then the following guaranteed payouts:

Aliaksandr Shylko – $2,921,838
Max Menzel – $2,759,990
Philipe Pizzari – $2,524,871

Shylko started with a slight lead, but soon fell behind Menzel. He then 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 Pizzari was sent to the rail with the $2.5 million he negotiated for in the deal. The 37-year-old Brazilian finance worker, who is now based out of Miami, now has more than $2.8 million in live tournament scores under his belt.

Max MenzelHeads-up play began with around a 2:1 chip advantage in favor of Shylko. The final hand of the event began with Shylko limping in from the button for 800,000 with 10Heart Suit5Club Suit. Menzel checked from the big blind with JClub Suit9Spade Suit and the flop came down 8Club Suit5Heart Suit5Diamond 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 flat called with fives full of tens. The QClub Suit on the river gave Menzel a queen-high straight. He checked and Shylko bet 4,500,000 with his full house. 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.

Here is a look at the payouts and POY points awarded at the final table:

Place Player Earnings POY Points
1 Aliaksandr Shylko $3,121,838 3360
2 Max Menzel $2,859,990 2800
3 Philipe Pizzari $2,524,871 2240
4 Nacho Barbero $1,551,300 1680
5 Pedro Marques $1,251,500 1400
6 Niclas Thumm $1,001,200 1120

Photo credits: Danny Maxwell, Joe Giron / Rational Intellectual Holdings Ltd.