The PokerStars Players No-Limit Hold'em Championship (PSPC)

PokerStars Jumping for Joy Over PSPC Returns

The PokerStars Players No-Limit Hold’em Championship (PSPC) has been hyped for over a year. The online poker behemoth said it would be the richest $25,000 event in live poker history. Prize packages for the event in the Bahamas, part of the long-running PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA), have been given out like Halloween candy, awarded at both live and online PokerStars tournaments. The Stars Group CEO, Rafi Ashkenazi said, “We expect the PokerStars Players Championship will set the new global standard for live poker tournaments.”

The PSPC began over the weekend and it looks like PokerStars had all of its wishes come true. At the end of Day 1, more than a thousand players – 1,014 to be exact – entered the $25,000 buy-in tournament. That is easily the biggest tournament for a $25,000 event, demolishing the record of 639 set by the 2007 World Poker Tour Championship.

Atlantis Paradise Island Resort
Photo credit: PokerStars.com / Neil Stoddart

As mentioned, PokerStars awarded loads of tournament packages, called Platinum Passes, throughout the last year and change. According to the poker room’s blog, there were 320 Platinum Passes distributed, which means even without those free entries, the PSPC still broke the record.

Registration didn’t close until the start of Day 2; 26 more players signed up by then, bringing the total field to 1,039, 400 more than that WPT World Championship. So yes, the PSPC is everything PokerStars had hoped it would be.

Now, it is not like a different result would have sunk PokerStars or The Stars Group – the company is raking in the clams online every day – but Stars was certainly banking on the PSPC being a runaway hit. The company’s marketing was lousy with PSPC promos for twelve months. They were giving away this many Platinum Passes and that many Platinum Passes, a Platinum Pass here, there, and everywhere.

To put it in monetary perspective, PokerStars handed out $8 million worth of entries into the tournament. Even assuming a solid number of the players who acquired the Platinum Passes would have still bought in without the prize, PokerStars was still priming the pump with millions of dollars. And that doesn’t count whatever else was spent in marketing.

We don’t normally see anything close to these attendance numbers in an event that is so expensive (obviously, given that it wrecked a 12-year old record), but the added prize money by way of free entries – entries whose monetary value was still kept in the prize pool – created significant gravity.

The end result was that the total prize pool of the PSPC is $25,455,500 plus another $1,000,000 that PokerStars is adding to first prize ($5,100,000 after the added money). Technically, the prize pool is $24,946,390 plus the $1,000,000 because two percent of the prize pool is withheld for to pay dealers and tournament staff, but PokerStars is promoting a prize pool of nearly $26.5 million, so we’ll just go with that. For our purposes, it really doesn’t matter.

The 320 Platinum Passes injected $7,840,000 into the prize pool (or $7,683,200 if you take out the two percent), so there is effectively an overlay of sorts of almost $8 million. Poker pros did not want to miss out on the added money or the spectacle of the event itself, thus a hell of a lot of people showed up.

The Atlantis Bahamas resort must be loving life right now (or hating it because more than 1,000 poker players are swarming the property).

After Day 1, it was Talal Shakerchi who was the chip leader with 425,300 chips, septupling his original stack. Nobody else was remotely close to him, the nearest competitor barely eclipsing 300,000. Of course, there is a long way to go in this tournament and all it takes is one hand to turn the tide, but being the runaway chip leader is better than any other position.

Shakerchi did just fine on Day 2, increasing his chip stack by about half, but he dropped from first to 14th place (which is really quite good). Farid Jattin took over the top spot, ending Day 2 with 921,000 chips. It was actually a tightly contested race for that number one position, with three other players going into Day 3 with more than 800,000 chips and another just below that mark.

A total of 181 players will be making the money in the PSPC and with only 207 remaining after the tournament’s second day, Day 3 will be tense as the money bubble looms. The min-cash is pretty lean, just $25,450 all the way up to 152nd place, so one would expect a rash of bust-outs once the field makes the money as shorter stacks throw caution to the wind to try to double-up and larger stacks try to take advantage.

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