After ten days of exciting poker, the 2011 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure has come to a close. During the past few days, records were broken, advances in poker television took place, and we finally met Isildur1, aka Viktor Blom. Let’s take a closer look at the top five stories from the 2011 PCA and their impact on the poker world.
5. Will Molson wins the $25,000 High Roller Event for $1,072,850
In 2009 Will Molson finished runner-up to Betrand “ElkY” Grospellier in the PCA High Roller Event. In 2010 Molson made a return trip to the final table and was heads-up again, but was bested by William Reynolds. Astonishingly, Molson not only final-tabled this event for a third time this year, but he also found himself heads-up again. His opponent, PokerStars Team Pro Leo Fernandez, put up a good fight, but Molson was not to be denied. On the final hand, Fernandez moved all-in for roughly 20 big blinds with , and Molson called with . The board ran , and Molson could finally tear the monkey off his back.
“I really didn’t want to come in second again,” he said after the win. “I would’ve hated to have that tag on me as the ‘second-place finisher.’ This is huge for me and it’s a relief that I got a victory finally.”
Molson now has over $1.8 million in live tournament earnings and we look forward to seeing him in next year’s PCA High Roller Event.
4. Daniel Negreanu becomes the all-time leading money winner
With a second-place finish in the $100,000 Super High Roller Event for $1 million, Daniel Negreanu overtook Phil Ivey on the all-time live-tournament earnings list with $14,116,191. Eugene Katchalov defeated him heads up, and while no one aims to finish second – just ask Molson – Negreanu seemed very happy with the result and his achievement.
“$1 million doesn’t suck,” he tweeted after the heads-up match. “Eugene is a great player and I am happy for him. Great start to the year!”
Negreanu deserves a lot of credit for adapting his game to a more modern style of poker. While other veteran players are too proud to admit they need to change it up, Negreanu went directly to younger players, including fellow PokerStars Team Pro Lex Veldhuis, to work out the kinks and familiarize himself with newer strategies employed by mostly online players. These adjustments are vital, and if Negreanu plays like this for the rest of the first half of the year, then a fifth World Series of Poker bracelet could be on his wrist come July.
As for the all-time money list, Ivey is not far behind with $13,859,944 in tournament earnings, and with the 2011 Aussie Millions $100,000 Challenge approaching, we could be seeing another lead change.
3. Galen Hall makes the fold heard round the world
Galen Hall entered heads-up play in the 2011 PCA Main Event with 66 big blinds to Chris Oliver’s 167 big blinds, and in one of the first hands he made an epic lay-down that saved his tournament life and propelled him to victory.
Hall opened to 450,000 on the button with and Oliver defended in the big blind with . The flop came , giving Hall an open-ended straight draw and Oliver a pair of deuces. Oliver check-called 575,000 from Hall and the turn brought the giving Oliver trips and removing Hall’s ace outs. Both players checked. The river was the , giving Oliver a full house and Hall the wheel, and Oliver sneakily checked to Hall who bet 2 million. Oliver thought for a moment before check-raising all-in for around 9 million and Hall went deep into the tank. To the astonishment of all, Hall mucked his straight.
“We have a lot of history online,” Hall said about the hand after the tournament. “His shove looked like it was for value.”
Hall never gave up despite being short-stacked, and four hours after the lay-down he found himself with the chip lead and eventually the title. His river-fold will go in the history books as one of the best of all time, especially considering the circumstances and results.
2. Katchalov wins Super High Roller, cashes in the Main Event and finishes runner-up in $10,000 Turbo
As mentioned before, Katchalov defeated Negreanu heads up to win the Super High Roller event. He banked $1.5 million for the win, but his PCA success didn’t end there. He went on to finish 74th in the Main Event for $28,000, and to end the trip, he finished runner-up to fellow Russian Alexander Kostritsyn in the $10,000 Turbo event for six figures.
At the Super High Roller final table, Katchalov not only defeated Negreanu, but he also conquered a tough lineup including his best friend Nick Schulman, Bryn Kenney, Humberto Brenes, James Obst, Andrew Lichtenberger and Sandor Demjan. Katchalov was a bit fortunate on the last hand, cracking Negreanu’s pocket fives with pocket fours, but he had no regrets about the hand.
“The hand played itself,” he told PokerNews' Kristy Arnett afterward.
After a sick PCA, Katchalov now has over $6 million in live tournament earnings to add to his already impressive resume. Talk about a nice week and a half on Paradise Island.
1. ESPN and PokerStars team up to broadcast the first live final table with hole cards
ESPN and PokerStars took one small step for televised poker and one giant leap for the entire poker industry at the PCA by broadcasting the final table of the Main Event live with hole cards. The program revolutionized the viewing experience because for the first time we were provided all the information for every hand, allowing the viewer to fully understand the dynamics of the table.
For example, in one hand Oliver opened with from early position and Sam Stein called near the button with . Hall smelled weakness and cold three-bet with on the button. Mike Sowers knew everyone was weak, so he four-bet jammed from the small blind, and Max Weinberg called in the big blind with two queens. Oliver, Stein and Hall all folded, and Sowers luckily hit a four-flush when the board ran .
Without knowing all of the hole cards and all of the tendencies at the table, Sowers’ shove would’ve looked absolutely insane. However, because the viewer knew Oliver tended to open light, Stein tended to call with position, and Hall was making a play at the pot, Sowers’ play looked brilliant – and it was.
The commentating was also fantastic. James Hartigan is one-of-a-kind as a host and Negreanu refused to be results-oriented as an analyst. Rather than use the hole cards to say whether or not a player should raise, call or fold, he instead discussed betting for value versus betting to bluff, floating out of position and other next-level poker strategies. At the same time, Negreanu provided enough entertainment to keep the average poker fan interested, which is always important for viewership numbers.
This maiden broadcast should lead to many more in the future, and with ESPN and PokerStars collaborating you can bet they will only continue to improve.
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