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Buy-In: $25,000 + $500
Prize Pool: $3,626,000
Entrants: 148

Event 26 - No-Limit Hold'em High Roller 8 Max

  • Jan 12, '12 - Jan 14, '12


Updates on Final Day (Jan 14, 12)


PCA 2012: Bilokur wins $1.1 million high roller, Duhamel second


It was a final table perfect as a send-off for the 2012 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. There were no weak links, no one out of place, no anomalies in ability. Just eight great players in peak form meeting for one last day to decide the winner of the $25,000 High Roller.

As the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure was winding down around it; the last of the side events playing out, the cash games drying up and players packed and ready for flights home tomorrow, a glance through the line-up left little need to convince anyone that what we were going to get would be worth sticking around just a few hours longer for.


The High Roller final

There was chip leader Jason Koon, a bright talent with ambition in his soul; high roller extraordinaire Isaac Haxton with millions to his name; Team PokerStars Pro Jonathan Duhamel, in the form of his life; World Record holder Randy Lew, the short-stacked wonder; Michael Telker the young unknown; and Govert Metaal, the crafty veteran.


Team PokerStars Online’s Randy Lew

But there was also Alex Bilokur, the poker-faced Ukrainian, who would quietly defy them all, taking down the high roller title, the trophy, Shamballa Jewels bracelet, everything; and that first prize of $1,134,930.


Bilokur wins

Bilokur outdid all expectation today to topple the seemingly unstoppable Duhamel. It’s the first major title for Bilokur since he won a side event at EPT Germany in 2010. He has already shown flashes of talent and panache and today proved a worthy winner.


Bilokur mobbed


Bilokur moves his chips in

The heads-up session proved a tortuous struggle for supremacy. Duhamel started with a more than two-to-one chip lead which seemed like the prelude to his elevation to High Roller champion. But Bilokur doesn’t look the type to throw in the towel. Instead he wound it tight and started flicking it at his opponent, taking small pots, then a big one, taking the advantage and pushing it home to win.


Heads-up at the final table

There’s no denying though that the romantics were looking for a Duhamel double.

We may only be two weeks into the New Year but for Duhamel this can already go down as yet another career high. For the 24 year old, 2010 was his time. But with feet firmly on the ground, he made 2011 outstanding (see Deauville High Roller, London and Marrakech). Now 2012, just two weeks old, looks to be a continuation.


The in-form Jonathan Duhamel

First there was the $100,000 Super High Roller which started this year’s PCA. Duhamel was eliminated from the event, but with the courage of his convictions quickly re-bought, going on to finish fourth to earn $313,600. A few days later he finished fifth in the $5,000 Turbo event for $17,990 (loose change for tips and gum) before going all the way in the $5,000 no-limit event, good for another $239,830.


Second placed Duhamel ends memorable PCA

Now he adds today’s haul to that, making his earnings since Thursday last $1,205,370. If World Champions need vindication for their exploits Duhamel already had it.

It’s also worth remembering the story behind Duhamel’s arrival at the PCA. Just days before Christmas he was victim to a home invasion, being badly beaten and fearing for his life while money, and his prized World Series bracelet, was stolen. It was an event that put poker into trivial perspective, but poker may also have been a useful antidote. His recovery has been exemplary. His bracelet may be gone, but the talent that earns one is very much alive for all to see.

But today the plaudits are for Bilokur, who after hours of straight-faced concentration finally broke into a smile as his friends rushed the stage to congratulate him.


Duhamel heads-up


Bilokur heads-up

He had steered past some solid opposition; the likes of Koon, Haxton and Lew, eliminated across eight hours of play, all worthy of the highest accolades, and all would have been worthy winners of this, one of poker’s most prestigious titles. The story of their day, and their departure, can be found in our live coverage page, as can their pay-outs.


Isaac Haxton

That brings the 2012 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure which now foregoes poker for a celebratory party to see the festivities off for another year. It proved as successful as it always was, appealing to the best nature of the game and to its best players, providing poker players, and fans, with the experience of a lifetime, one that we’ll have another go at in 12 months from now.

Thanks to you everyone who has read the blog this week, for your support and your comments. The action stops here but starts again in two weeks when the European Poker Tour rolls into Deauville, France, for good food and temperatures that will suck the tan off your skin. It’s going to be great.


The Atlantis Resort

Now we’re going to try catch the last few minutes of the free bar, toasting another successful PCA.

For 2012, it’s goodnight and goodbye from Paradise Island.

All photography copyright Neil Stoddart.

This EPT is brought to you by PokerStars, the official sponsor of the European Poker Tour. Win your way into the biggest events Europe has to offer at Europe.


PCA 2012: When live poker just isn't enough

PCA-2010-thumbnail.jpgThe PokerStars Caribbean Adventure has been a mammoth festival of live poker with tournaments of all formats and buy-ins catering for every player. What’s more, it has given online terrors more used to clicking buttons to make bets the chance to use real chips at real tables instead.

Those online warriors get to play each other over the internet any time of day or night, 365 days a year if they so wish. So surely they would enjoy some time away from their computers here in the Bahamas?

Apparently not.

When PokerStars added the Battleship event, a form of heads-up but using laptops placed back-to-back, it became an instant hit. So now, instead of playing each other the internet, they can play each other face-to-face, er, over the internet.


Poker on the internet is quite popular

Battleship has been around for a few PCAs now, and today 12 players forked out the $2,000 ( $100) buy-in to play heads-up matches. After it was all said and done, Ole Schemion won through four rounds to take the event and $9,000. Jan Mueller was runner-up for $7,000.

This EPT is brought to you by PokerStars, the official sponsor of the European Poker Tour. Win your way into the biggest events Europe has to offer at Europe.


PCA 2012: The welcome face in the crowd

PCA-2010-thumbnail.jpgIt’s not unusual for people to want to watch events like yesterday’s main event or today’s high roller final. A certain breed can happily spend a couple of hours glued to the action, and might rush in from the beach, the bar, or wherever, to see the heads-up conclusion and the crowning of a new champion. But not many will spend all day here, every day, just for the love of the game.

That is except for Joseph Levy who has become a familiar face in the Imperial Ballroom, not to mention everyone’s new friend.

He certainly doesn’t look like the type to be enamored by poker. Tall and thin, with long white hair and a face that could tell some stories, Levi has spent his life travelling, looking for things in life to love rather than hate, an ideal that led him to find his wife and family, and also poker.

“I’ve loved playing poker for many years,” said Levy, taking his spot in the bleachers. It marks the end of a unique experience for Levy who won his seat to the PCA as part of PokerStars’ Tenth Anniversary celebrations in the “Class of 2001” freeroll; a fairly exclusive event.

“There were only 96 players registered and 12 of them didn’t play,” said Levy. “I didn’t even know it was for the PCA.”

“We were all talking about how we all had old names,” said Levy, pointing out that there were no numbers, modern slang or bravado. Levy’s user name on PokerStars is ‘Trousers’.


Joseph Levy (in grey), aka ‘Trousers’

Levy went on to win it, landing in the Bahamas as a PokerStars online veteran, but a high stakes rookie. He made it through the first day but found it rough going on Day 2, finally moving in with pocket queens, only to run into pocket kings.

“I was disappointed,” said Levy, “but only for five minutes.”

Levy’s trip here had been far from certain. First he had to get a new passport, replacing the one that was about to expire. Then he had to arrange flights and the paperwork, hassle that would tempt some to just take the money.

But even after a short time talking to Levy you sense this isn’t really his style; the spirit of adventure strong in this citizen of the world, who would probably point to his upbringing to explain why he sees the world as one big place to make friends.

It’s not hard to understand why.

Levy’s parents had moved to Israel after the war from Bulgaria, where as Jews they were among a lucky few to escape the horrors of deportation. Levy’s father was Professor Morris Levy, who went on to become a pioneer of open-heart surgery, performing the first heart transplant ever in Israel.

His family’s history is a sensitive subject, far removed from the comparatively trivial world of poker, although perhaps you could point to Wanderlust as being an ideal attribute for poker players.

So far though Levy gets all he needs from just watching.

“I’ve played ten years of poker. I’m not great. I’m still a Bronze Star,” said Levy before beaming: “I was Silver last year.”

For Levy poker means a place to play tournaments for a few dollars on PokerStars. Walking into his local card room in Blackpool, England, was also a way to integrate into his adopted country.

To some, Blackpool might seem an odd place to settle, but it was on the coast, it was affordable and had enough charm for Levy to call it home in 1997. It also had a local card room.

“I knew no one, but I played backgammon so I looked around for a place to play. Then a friend said there was more money in poker.”

Levy would play low stakes tournaments in deserted casinos, the type where staff would have to scour the roulette tables for enough players to play.

“I loved the atmosphere, the people, the excitement,” said Levy, an atmosphere magnified so powerfully here, making this unlikely trip the experience of a lifetime. “I play every week on PokerStars for the past ten years,” said Levy. “I never play the Sunday Million – but I will now. I’ll try to qualify for other events as well.”

For now though it’s back into the bleachers where Levy, usually chatting to someone nearby, can watch the finale to another great PCA. A first visit for this now familiar face but certainly not the last.

This EPT is brought to you by PokerStars, the official sponsor of the European Poker Tour. Win your way into the biggest events Europe has to offer at Europe.


PCA 2012: How does a Duhamel run like a god?

PCA-2010-thumbnail.jpgAs the blog team engaged in an important debriefing last night, we were joined by Emma. She’s sort of the Shawshank Redemption’s Red Redding to the PCA. If somebody needs something, Emma can get it. Over the years, Emma has been a great source of stuff and advice for the PCA team. Last night she shared her love for the series of “How Do Dinosaurs…” children’s books.

As it happens, the same books are favorites in my family. In fact I read one to my sons just before I left. Obviously, I was nearing the edge of sappiness and had to refocus on poker for one more day.

Screen shot 2012-01-14 at 6.40.27 PM.png

…How does a dinosaur eat all his food?

Does he burp, does he belch, or make noises quite rude?…

And so back into the fray of the $25,000 High Roller I went. I focused. I took notes. And before I knew it, I was realizing Jonathan Duhamel’s surname shares the same number of syllables with the word “dinosaur.”

Then this happened.

With all apologies to the wonderful Jane Yolen and Mark Teague, I give you…

How Does a Duhamel Run Like a God?

How does a Duhamel run like a god?

Does he bet like a fool and play really odd?

Does he get in behind, no matter the cost?

Does he pay no attention and cry that he’s lost?

Does he spew from his stack until he goes bust?

Does he fold to sure bluffs from folks he mistrusts?

Does he weep like a child when he goes broke?

Does he say raise, then say he misspoke?

Does a Duhamel CHOKE?



A Duhamel smiles when things go his way,

And hides the sly grin when he’s making a play.

He makes the steel wheel to stay in the tourney,

And makes Isaac Haxton call for gurney.

His main event fails, but he crushes the sides,

And when times get tough, the dude still abides.

To carry his winnings, he’ll need a strong camel.

Very well played, young master Duhamel


This EPT is brought to you by PokerStars, the official sponsor of the European Poker Tour. Win your way into the biggest events Europe has to offer at Europe.


PCA 2012: Frick-ing amazing

PCA-2010-thumbnail.jpgIt’s nearly five minutes into the first break of the last event of the 2012 PCA, and this guy won’t make up his mind. It’s a queen-high board, there is a bet to him, and the guy seems content to just spend his break thinking.

Meanwhile, Marie Frick’s eyes don’t leave the man’s forehead. Her hand is clutched tightly around the stub of the deck. Nothing on her body is moving until the man does something. She does all this knowing that just as soon as Mr. Thinker comes to a decision, she will be able to take a break from dealing. To look at her, you might wonder how she could remain so poised. It’s all I can do to not call the clock on the guy from the rail. Finally, he mucks (tankers always fold, or so goes the axiom) and gets up to take his break. Frick pushes the pot, gathers the cards, and steps away from the table.

She’s toned, that much is clear, but how much so is hard to tell under the standard issue dealer shirt.

“I work out eight times a week,” she reveals when I ask.

I should be clear about this: I don’t go around asking good-looking women about their workout habits. It’s frowned upon by PCA managers (and, for what it’s worth, a woman who answers to “Mrs. Willis” back home). Today, however, it’s my job.


Marie Frick

This morning, Frick won her age division (25-29 years old) in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5k race here in the Bahamas. She was part of a big crowd of people who got up at the crack of dawn this morning and ran from Nassau, over the bridge, and on to Paradise Island.

A personal note here: I do a fair bit of running myself, and since I’ve been at the PCA this year, I’ve run several times. One of those times was over the bridge and back. I’m happy to be alive to tell you that bridge is a steep one, and the fact that I didn’t vomit over its side on the way back home is a testament to…well, the fact I didn’t eat breakfast before I left, I guess. Point being, it’s quite steep.

“I didn’t think it was that bad,” Frick says to me. Because, of course, Saturdays are the days the world has picked to make me feel old and decrepit. Fricks says the worst thing about her run this morning was the humidity.

That’s the point I start asking her how serious she is about this whole running thing.

“Actually, I’m a kickboxer,” she says.

As I take a step back, the Danish lady from Copenhagen explains that her eight weekly workouts are split evenly between kickboxing and running. She considers herself a kickboxer with a running hobby.

So, while everyone else in the Bahamas was sleeping off the rum drinks, while all the other dealers were massaging each other’s necks and dreaming about getting through the last day of the PCA, Frick was strapping on her running shoes, winning her division in the 5k, and then getting cleaned up for an entire day of dealing. For fun.

“I had heard about it before,” she explains. “I like running, and it was for a good cause.”

Before long, the break is over and Frick is getting pushed to the next table. It’s occurs to me to tell the players there to be careful, but decide against it. On this last tired day of the PCA, it might liven things up if somebody got kicked in the head by a 20-something kickboxer/runner/poker dealer.

Dealer Marie Frick_2012 PCA_Joe Giron_GIR8338.JPG

This EPT is brought to you by PokerStars, the official sponsor of the European Poker Tour. Win your way into the biggest events Europe has to offer at Europe.


PCA 2012: Breaking down at the PCA

PCA-2010-thumbnail.jpgThe Imperial Ballroom at Atlantis is one of the biggest you’ll ever see. With 50,000 square feet and 26-foot high ceilings, it can host functions so grand that others, even the neighbouring Grand Ballroom, can’t. That’s only 25,000 square feet. It’s in this cavernous space that the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure has been running all week.

There are 152 poker tables and 1,672 chairs in this room. There is a television stage, TV back stage area, tournament staff area and media row. Across every wall are PokerStars branding banners and TV screens for tournament clocks. There are hundreds of yards of rails and, for today at least, nine huge country flags that stand proudly next to the World Cup of Poker tournament area.


A small part of the Imperial Ballroom


The PCA television set

By 6am tomorrow, all this will be gone. It will be as if someone flicked a magic switch and the whole lot just disappeared.

Truth is, from the moment the last card is dealt tonight, and the last cheers of victory fade away towards the nearest bar, a small army of men and women get to work. Within hours, the TV set will be gone, the tables and chairs packed away, the branding dismantled.


Branding everywhere, even behind golfer Sergio Garcia

Seeing the Imperial Ballroom empty after working the PCA for ten days is sobering; even for a PokerStars blogger. A year or so ago one of our absent-minded team came down the morning after the PCA had finished to try and find his jumper. Who would be daft enough to need a jumper in the Caribbean? I’m glad you asked. But I won’t tell tales and reveal his name. Anyway, the point is his jumper was still in the Imperial Ballroom. It was resting on the back of an empty chair, the only piece of furniture left in an otherwise empty 50,000 square-foot ballroom.


Blogger’s identity hidden to save embarrassment

So here’s what will be happening while players are at the PokerStars party tonight, and no doubt scattered around various bars and clubs afterwards. For starters, everything in the Imperial must be gone by 6am tomorrow. Add to that the branding in the ‘rotunda’ and hallways, as well as back-office equipment, and the huge satellite truck that is beaming today’s high roller webcast around the world.


A hallway leading to the Imperial Ballroom


The rotunda outside the ballroom

Once loaded, there will be 60 pallets heaving with the guts of a world-class poker tournament. By tomorrow night all of those pallets will have been piled carefully into six crates and passed on to a freight handling agent here on the Bahamas. Then it will be shipped out by plane or boat to various worldwide locations for storage.

Before that, every single item will have been sorted, coded and added to a complicated-look inventory sheet. The reason for that, of course, is that when this whole circus comes back next year, it will be easier to unpack and set up. In fact, the brains behind events like this are already planning for 2013.

So spare a thought for the poor souls who will be breaking down the PCA long after most players and visitors are already headed home. At least the good news for them, according to my man with a clipboard, is that it is three times quicker to break down an event than it is to set it up.

This EPT is brought to you by PokerStars, the official sponsor of the European Poker Tour. Win your way into the biggest events Europe has to offer at Europe.


PCA 2012: Looking like champions


When we left last night the final table area was a mass of dislodged chairs, empty drink cups and the debris of a memorable final table. Today it’s back to being a spotless amphitheatre, beautifully lit, neat and orderly. No half empty bottles of Hennessy here.

The same goes for the players, neatly washed and pressed for the day ahead, with the reward at the end of it a first prize of $1,134,930 and a shot at making that party before the free bar closes. This is the last day of the PCA and most want to see it out in style.

Talking of style, Isaac Haxton looks like he always does, a bit like a rock star since he chopped his long hair, an act that doesn’t seem to have had any Samson-like effect. Wearing sunglasses and a t-shirt, Haxton bends low to look at his cards, elbows on the table.


Isaac Haxton, with Leonid Bilokur on his left

A seat along is Leonid Bilokur, looking like a man who hasn’t spoken a word all week. Randy Lew looks much the same. He tends to let his cards (or his clicking finger) do the talking but, here as the short stack, he may not have much left to say.

Next along is Jonathan Duhamel, sitting low against the oversized table. He looks ready to strike; ready to seal off an amazing PCA for the former world champion who has played five, cashed in four and (so far) won one.


Jonathan Duhamel

Nicolas Fierro looks like he’s gradually easing into the afternoon, sipping from a can of sugar free Red Bull, given to him by his girlfriend on the rail, the camera following him at all times and zooming in when he gave her a kiss. Finding the whole scene a little absurd, he made his way back to his chair alongside Jason Koon in seat six.

Much like yesterday, Jason Koon looks full of energy, coiled ready to strike and win what would be his first major title. He’s the chip leader and may be for a while yet.


Jason Koon

Next to Koon, Telker looks either tired, or like he’s plotting something. Second shortest in chips, his options are limited but he doesn’t look pressured by it. For that matter neither does Govert Metaal, third shortest in chips, in seat eight.

Metaal may be the veteran at the table but he’s proved time and again an ability to compete successfully in high roller events, finishing fifth here last year after a patient, considered performance, which he looks set to repeat here.

“Cocktails to the feature table”, says Robbie Thompson. Things are about to get interesting.

This EPT is brought to you by PokerStars, the official sponsor of the European Poker Tour. Win your way into the biggest events Europe has to offer at Europe.


PCA 2012: A million-dollar benediction

PCA-2010-thumbnail.jpgThe nature of this endeavor, this brave new world in which the video of what we see is streamed to your computer, means that we know things 40 minutes before you do. For instance, we know that within thirty seconds of the start of the $25,000 High Roller final table, Red Bull Robbie Thompson called out over the microphone, “Can we get cocktails to the final table please?”

Indeed, we know that fact, and now many more, but we can’t reveal the specifics, or we’ll be fired, and maybe physically removed from the rom. This live coverage of the $25,000 High Roller really puts a crimp in how we work. There are gorillas all over this resort just ready to pounce on us for revealing the details of this final table before it’s aired live.

And so we won’t. We can’t. We have families who expect us to come home tomorrow. And most of them expect us to come home with jobs and without broken legs. That’s a challenge under normal conditions, but today it’s even worse.

And so, we can tell you only this. One hundred forty-one people started this tournament. Seven of them started this tournament twice (re-entry tournaments are all the rage with the kids these days). These guys are left.


Leading them at the start of the day is Jason Koon with 1,646,000 chips.Within a few blinds of Koon is Team PokerStars Pro Jonathan Duhamel, with 1,530,000. They’re joined by Team Online’s Randy Lew, and some of the best high rollers in the world, Isaac Haxton, Nico Fierro, Govert Metaal, Leonid Bilokur, and Michael Telker.

Wait, was that an all-in? Can’t tellya.

In around 40 minutes, you will begin to see live coverage here on this blog and on Until then, we’re mum. There are gorillas in the mist, and they are just looking for a reason to pound us.

Stick with us for semi-live coverage throughout the afternoon and a full wrap-up at night’s end.

This EPT is brought to you by PokerStars, the official sponsor of the European Poker Tour. Win your way into the biggest events Europe has to offer at Europe.


PCA 2012: Down to ten at PCA Women's Event

PCA-2010-thumbnail.jpgAfter eleven hours of play yesterday the PokerStars Women Live event ended Day 1 a little after one in the morning. The players were hoping to get to the final table of nine before the day ended but it wasn’t to be. There was an all-in the next-to-last hand, but short stack Maria Panyak’s luck was with her and she stayed to play on for Day 2.

Here is the list of today’s ten:

Lauren Kling

Pallas Aidinian

Maria Panyak

Kathy Saraf

Claudia Csongei

Alexis Gilbard

Bree Goldman

Deb Young

Evelyne Roy

Anne Marie Lachapelle

From a field of 75 runners yesterday, it has been a long road for these ten to reach Day 2. Today’s contenders include Lauren Kling, who placed second in last year’s event and is a serious player with several large cashes to her credit. She leads the pack today with a large stack, but Kathy Saraf is very close behind her, along with Claudia Csongei.


Lauren Kling

Kathy doubled her stack in a pivotal all-in hand against Vanessa Selbst when Vanessa flopped a straight and Kathy made a full-house on the turn. Csongei is a satellite player from Hungary who is playing in her first live tournament. Some notables in the field today include Alexis Gilbard, a poker commentator with several cashes to her name, and Bree Goldman. Another interesting player to note is Anne Marie Lachapelle, a micro limit qualifier whose biggest cash so far was for $150. She has played for fun for several years but never in a live tournament. She is currently nursing a small stack and holding her own.

Play resumes in less than an hour today and the final table will soon be set. There is much anticipation at this point, as the final table will include the unfortunate ninth place finisher who will finish on the bubble with no cash. Here are the pay-outs for those that make the money today:

1. $25,460

2. $16,010

3. $9,460

4. $6,910

5. $5,090

6. $3,640

7. $3,270

8. $2,910

This EPT is brought to you by PokerStars, the official sponsor of the European Poker Tour. Win your way into the biggest events Europe has to offer at Europe.


PCA 2012: Amateur John Dibella wins main event, $1,775,000

PCA-2010-thumbnail.jpgOne week out of every year, the Atlantis resort is the home office of hundreds of professional poker players. For John Dibella, his wife Wendy, and their two girls, it’s no office. It’s a regular vacation spot. This week, Dibella’s children are at home in New York going to school. He was here just to have a little fun. In other words, he didn’t come here to work. Nevertheless, he’s leaving with a major poker championship and life-changing money.

“I’m overwhelmed. It feels so surreal, and I can’t believe it’s happening,” he said. “I’m sure it will hit me tomorrow.”


John Dibella, 2012 PCA champion

They aren’t the words we normally hear from a PokerStars Caribbean Adventure champion. In the minds of almost every past PCA title-holder, it was only a matter of time before they had multi-million-dollar bankrolls. In other words, most of the previous champions here considered it their job to win. Dibella just considered it fun.

Dibella is a 43-year-old day trader from New York who likes to dabble in poker. Until today, his largest live cash was $16,000 at a previous PCA. Today, after a heads-up deal with professional Kyle Julius, Dibella won the 2012 main event title and $1,775,000.

Asked about how this compared to his normal work life, Dibella said, “I made more doing this, but I’m not going to call myself a professional.”

Still, for the moment, he was the envy of the hundreds of professional players. Many of them had put up the $10,000 buy-in on their own. Dibella won a $1,000 live satellite. He turned it into one of poker’s most coveted titles. Now, cameras were in his face. A microphone was at his mouth. Daniel Negreanu, one of the most famous poker players in the world, was waiting in the wings to talk to him.

With the interview over, Dibella allowed himself a moment some would call “amateur,” but a lot of other people would call “human.” Dibella turned to the live TV cameras and his family watching from home.

“Baby, I did it,” he said into the lens. “I love you and the kids!”

It wasn’t just another day at the office.

It was joy.


More than a week ago, this tournament began with 1,072 players. Today, eight sat down in a battle for the title. Almost all of them were pros. Some of them had major poker tournament final tables on their resumes. One of them was becoming a piece of PCA history. All of them had the $2 million first prize in their sights.


The 2012 PCA main event final table

There are days you wake up and you can’t lose. There are days you wake up and can’t win. On one of the most important poker days of his life, Ruben Visser woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Though he started with more than four million chips, he was the first to leave the table with none. Bled down to half of his starting stack, he doubled up Mark Drover with an out-kicked ace, and then lost a race with pocket sixes to Kyle Julius’ AHeart SuitQDiamond Suit. Bing, bang, boom, Visser was gone for $156,400.


Ruben Visser

Meanwhile, David Bernstein, a man who was able to qualify for this event just by virtue of a free PokerStars promotion, managed to hold on to seventh place. Selected at random just a couple of weeks ago from a pool of applicants, Bernstein’s UKASH freeroll took him all the way to the final table. Today, short-stacked at 1.5 million million, Bernstein got it all in with pocket fours, but ran right into John Dibella’s pocket aces. That situation almost never ends well, and this time was no exception. Nonetheless, Bernstein’s seventh-place finish earned him $260,000. In the world of freerolls, that’s a good result.


David Bernstein

Of the eight people who made the final table today, only one of them had seen a PCA final before. Three years ago in 2009, Anthony Gregg finished runner up to Poorya Nazari for $1.7 million. Now 25 years old, Gregg is the only person in PCA history to make two final tables. Though he had a championship in mind and might have settled happily for another runner-up finish, Gregg’s day ended in sixth place when he shoved his last fifteen big blinds into the middle with ASpade Suit10Spade Suit and Xuan Lui woke up in the blinds with ADiamond SuitQClub Suit. With no help on board, Gregg was out in sixth for $364,000.


Tony Gregg: Now $364,000 happier!

Mark Drover was the next to go. He had started the final table with barely more than a million chips, so making it as far as five-handed was an accomplishment in itself. That was where it ended however when he found KHeart SuitJSpade Suit, shoved over Faraz Jaka’s pocket sixes, got a call, and missed. For a $468,000 payday, he can’t be disappointed. After all, he qualified for $700 in a PokerStars steps tourney.


Mark Drover, day over

To that point in the tournament, it seemed as if poker’s indignities and fate’s malevolence had decided to take a vacation during this final table. But that never happens, does it? There is always one great suckout that reminds us life isn’t fair. In this case it came when Faraz Jaka got his pocket jacks up against John Dibella’s pocket fours. There wasn’t a person in the audience who didn’t see the four before it had even hit the felt. Jaka couldn’t find a jack on the turn and river, and Dibella doubled to more than 10 million.


Gunslinger John Dibella shoots down jacks

Justice is a funny thing, though. Within ten minutes of having his jacks cracked by fours, Jaka came back and won nearly four million of his chips back from Dibella, cracking aces with KDiamond SuitQSpade Suit all-in pre-flop. It wasn’t an even trade, but it was close enough for Jaka. And anyway, Jaka was on his way to sticking a fork in the dreams of all the people who hoped to see a woman win the PCA.

Xuan Liu went deeper in the PCA main event than any other woman in history. Last year, Ana Marquez placed tenth. After a dinner break at the PCA, Liu was poised to double up against Faraz Jaka when she got ADiamond Suit7Diamond Suit all in against Jaka’s AHeart Suit6Diamond Suit. Jaka flopped two pair, Liu never caught up, and she was gone. In addition to the female PCA record, she also earned $600,000.


Xuan Liu accepting her fate

If Jaka thought that victory would be a foundation on which he could build a championship run, he didn’t think it for long. Only a few minutes passed before he got KHeart SuitJDiamond Suit all-in against Kyle Julius’ ADiamond SuitKSpade Suit. The board ran out 7Diamond SuitAClub SuitKSpade Suit9Heart Suit8Heart Suit. It left Jaka hobbled at the table, and though he would double up once through Dibella, he eventually had to watch as Julius’ KSpade Suit10Club Suit outran ASpade SuitJSpade Suit. Just like that, the man who had been chip leader on three out of five nights of this tournament was gone in third place for $755,000.


Faraz Jaka

With Jaka gone, it was business time. After a short break to discuss the specifics, Julius and Dibella decided to cut a deal. Their counts weren’t dramatically different, so it was $1.5 million for each. They left $275,000 and the championship title on the table for the winner.

heads_up_pca_2012_main event.jpg

Heads up for the title

From there, Dibella opened up an early lead and never looked back. It finally ended when Julius raised to 825,000 with 9Diamond Suit6Spade Suit. Dibella came along with 5Club Suit6Club Suit. On a flop of AClub SuitQHeart Suit3Club Suit, Dibella check-called Julius’ 725,000. Both men checked the 8Diamond Suit turn. When the 10Club Suit hit on the river, Dibella led for a million. When Julius bluffed all-in, it was all over. Julius had to be content with his $1.5 million in cash.


Kyle Julius

That only left John Dibella—amateur, day trader, satellite winner, family man, and 2012 PCA champion—to hoist the trophy.


We hope you have enjoyed our expanded PCA coverage this year for the main event. Please join us back here tomorrow for live updates, features, and interviews from the final table of the $25,000 High Roller and the finale of the PokerStars World Cup of Poker.

Until then, once again let’s offer big congratulations to John Dibella the 2012 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure main event champion.

Main event final table photography © Neil Stoddart

This EPT is brought to you by PokerStars, the official sponsor of the European Poker Tour. Win your way into the biggest events Europe has to offer at Europe.

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