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A Historical Look at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure

PokerStars Caribbean Adventure

Is there a better way to kick off the New Year than with a series of poker tournaments in one of the world’s most exotic locations? That has been the appeal of the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) for nine years running. The event has gone through a few transformations throughout the years, but it seems the stop, which is part of the European Poker Tour, has found a enduring home on Paradise Island at the Atlantis Casino and Resort.

This year’s event will run for 10 days, from Jan. 4 through 14, and will feature 41 events including the $10,000 Main Event, $100,000 Super High Roller, $25,000 High Roller, $1,000 Women's Event, and a slew of PokerStars $5,000 Championships. Last year, Galen Hall cleared a field of 1,560 players to claim an impressive $2.3 million first-place prize and became an instant star in the poker world.

Anticipation has never been higher for the PCA, as evidenced by the throng of pros flocking to the island, but did you know the inaugural event wasn’t even on land at all? Indeed, the 2004 tournament took place on the high seas of the Caribbean, the first stop on our look back at all things PCA.

Hansen Captain of the High Seas

In 2004, the PCA was held on a cruise ship that trolled the Caribbean Sea. That year, 221 players forked over $7,500 and played in what was then a World Poker Tour event.

It was a success, but the event was actually quite small — at least by today’s standards. In fact, the entire 2004 prize pool was less than recent first-place prizes. As Roy Scheider’s character, Chief Martin Brody, says in Jaws, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

Given that they don’t make many boats bigger than a cruise ship, PokerStars called an audible and approached Bahamian officials, who had just begun to allow poker on their island in 2005. A deal was struck, and just like that, Atlantis on Paradise Island became the new home of the PCA.

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Gus Hansen

2004 PCA Main Event Results

Buy-inEntrantsPrize Pool
1stGus Hansen$455,780
2ndHoyt Corkins$290,065
3rdDaniel Negreanu$192,270
4thMichael Benedetto$132,600
5thJohn D’Agostino$99,450
6thRemco Schrijvers$74,590

Field Doubles in 2005

The field more than doubled from 221 to 461 in the PCA's second year. The event attracted some of poker’s most notable players, including Amnon Filippi (66th), Steve Billirakis (39th), Greg Raymer (32nd), Erick Lindgren (21st), Allen Cunningham (16th), and Patrik Antonius (12th).

That year, Englishman John Gale satellited his way into the Main Event and ended up winning the $890,600 top prize.

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John Gale (Picture courtesy of PokerStars Blog)

2005 PCA Main Event Results

Buy-inEntrantsPrize Pool
1stJohn Gale$890,600
2ndAlex Balandin$484,700
3rdMichael Westerlund$306,400
4thPatrick Hocking$207,700
5th“Miami” John Cernuto$155,800
6thNenad Medic$112,500

More Than a Million to First

The next year, 724 players entered the PCA, creating a prize pool of $5,647,200 with nearly $1.4 million reserved for the winner. This marked the first time the winner of the event would receive more than a million dollars, a tradition that still stands. In fact, recent winners have received upward of $2 million, with one even receiving $3 million.

The winner in 2006, Steve-Paul Ambrose, Waterloo, Ontario, received $1,388,600 after defeating Brook Lyter in heads-up play. Interestingly, Ambrose has gone on to make two more deep runs in the PCA Main Event, finishing 20th in 2007 as he attempted to defend his title, good for $36,026; and in 2010, when he placed 72nd out of 1,529 players for $33,000.

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Steve Paul-Ambrose (Picture courtesy of PokerStars)

2006 PCA Main Event Results

Buy-inEntrantsPrize Pool
1stSteve Paul-Ambrose$1,388,600
2ndBrook Lyter$681,500
3rdDavid Singer$436,200
4thMichael Higgins$327,100
5thAnders Henriksson$239,900
6thAurangzeb Sheikh$177,200

2007: A Year of Transition

The PCA had grown each year since its inception, and 2007 was no different as the field grew to 937 players. Furthermore, 2007 was the last year the event was part of the WPT.

By that time, the tournament had grown to be so prestigious that the vast majority of poker’s elite traveled to the Bahamas to test their luck. This was evidenced by a stacked final table that included Jonathan Little, Robery Mizrachi, and Isaac Haxton. Interestingly, the final 13 players that year were all from the United States.

In the end, Ryan Daut outlasted them all to seize the $1,535,255 first-place prize.

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Ryan Daut (Picture courtesy of the PokerStars Blog)

2007 PCA Main Event Results

Buy-inEntrantsPrize Pool
1stRyan Daut$1,535,255
2ndIsaac Haxton$861,789
3rdRobert Ford$550,980
4thRobert Mizrachi$409,703
5thJonathan Little$317,873
6thFrank Rusnak$247,234

Enter the EPT

After the PCA found a new home on the European Poker Tour in 2008, the field surpassed 1,000 players (1,136 entries) for the first time. It also marked the first time the winner would receive $2 million in prize money. It was quite the coincidence that the first year the PCA was on the EPT, a European won it — Bertrand “ElkY” Grosspellier.

This marked the first major victory for Grospellier, who is now a Team PokerStars Pro, will be representing PokerStars at this year’s PCA, starting with the Super High Roller.

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Bertrand \"ElkY\" Grosspellier (Picture courtesy of PokerStars Blog)

2008 PCA Main Event Results

Buy-inEntrantsPrize Pool
1stBertrand “ElkY” Grospellier$2,000,000
2ndHafiz Khan$1,094,976
3rdKristopher Kuykendall$800,000
4thDavid Pham$600,000
5thCraig Hopkins$450,000
6thJoe Elpayaa$300,000
7thChristian Harder$200,000
8thRich Fohrenbach$150,000

Poor No More, $3 Million to First

The PCA had boasted a buy-in of $7,800 or lower in previous years, but 2009 marked the first time the event would flirt with the $10,000 mark. Amazingly, even with the buy-in increase, the field grew for the fifth year in a row, attracting 1,347 players. What’s more, the winner of that year, Poorya Nazari, received the largest prize in PCA history — $3 million.

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Poorya Nazari (Picture courtesy of PokerStars Blog)

2009 PCA Main Event Results

Buy-inEntrantsPrize Pool
1stPoorya Nazari$3,000,000
2ndAnthony Gregg$1,700,000
3rdBenjamin Spindler$1,100,000
4thAlexandre Gomes$750,000
5thPieter Tielen$550,000
6thDustin Dirksen$400,000
7thDan Heimiller$300,000
8thKevin Saul$234,000

Gimbel Turns $1,000 into $2.2 Million

The 2010 PCA continued the tradition of increased attendance, though the first-place prize was lowered to a prudent $2.2 million, allowing for deeper payouts. As for the winner, Harrison Gimbel, then 19, from Jupiter, Florida, won a $1,000 satellite the day before the Main Event and managed to turn that into a $2.2 million payday.

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Harrison Gimbel

2010 PCA Main Event Results

Buy-inEntrantsPrize Pool
1stHarrison Gimbel$2,200,000
2ndTyler Reiman$1,750,000
3rdBarry Shulman$1,350,000
4thBenjamin Zamani$1,000,000
5thRyan D’Angelo$700,000
6thAage Ravn$450,000
7thZachary Goldberg$300,000
8thThomas Koral$201,300

The Biggest and Best Yet

The poker world waited with bated breath to see if the 2011 field could surpass that of 2010. Even though it wasn’t by a huge margin, the 2011 PCA did just that, attracting 1,560 entrants — 31 more than the preceding year. All eyes were on Team PokerStars Pro Chris Moneymaker as he made a deep run, but he ultimately fell short of the final table, finishing in 11th place.

The final table itself revolutionized the poker industry by sequestering players and airing the final table live on ESPN. It was a crazy final table, one that is remembered for one of the PCA’s most astonishing hand. It began when Galen Hall raised to 450,000 from the button holding {8-Clubs}{4-Hearts} and Chris Oliver defended from the big blind with {A-Diamonds}{2-Spades}. When the flop fell {5-Diamonds}{3-Diamonds}{2-Clubs}, Oliver check-called a bet of 575,000 from Hall, leading to the {2-Hearts} turn.

The card gave Oliver trips, but he checked and Hall checked behind. The {A-Spades} river was disaster for Hall as he hit a straight but Oliver filled up. The latter coyly checked and Hall fired out 2 million. Oliver thought for a few moments before moving all-in. To call would mean Hall’s tournament life, and after a tanking for several minutes, he laid down his straight. Not only was it the right decision, but it led Hall to victory and $2.3 million prize.

Hall will be in at this year’s PCA and no doubt has a title defense on his mind.

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Galen Hall

2011 PCA Main Event Results

Buy-inEntrantsPrize Pool
1stGalen Hall$2,300,000
2ndChris Oliver$1,800,000
3rdAnton Ionel$1,350,000
4thSam Stein$1,000,000
5thMike Sowers$700,000
6thBolivar Palacios$450,000
7thMax Weinberg$300,000
8thPhilippe Plouffe$202,000

Who will be the next player to join the following list and cement their legacy as a PCA champion?

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PCA Trophy

PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event Champions

2004Gus Hansen$455,780
2005John Gale$890,600
2006Steve Paul-Ambrose$1,388,600
2007Ryan Daut$1,535,255
2008Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier$2,000,000
2009Poorya Nazari$3,000,000
2010Harrison Gimbel$2,200,000
2011Galen Hall$2,300,000

Not everyone can become a Main Event champ, but there will be plenty of other opportunities to find fame and fortune at this year’s PCA, with 41 events to choose from. Below is the entire PCA schedule. You can also visit for more information.

2012 PCA Schedule

DateTimeEventBuy In
Jan 512:00Event #1 Super High Roller “8 Max” Re-Entry$100,000
Jan 617:00Event #2 NL - One Rebuy Super Satellite to Main Event$1,100
Jan 619:00Event #3 NL - One Rebuy Super Satellite to Main Event$1,100
Jan 712:00Event #4 Main Event$10,300
Jan 714:00Event #5 PLO—Turbo—“8 Max”$5,200
Jan 717:00Event #6 NL - One Rebuy Super Satellite to Main Event$1,100
Jan 719:00Event #7 NL - One Rebuy Super Satellite to Main Event$1,100
Jan 814:00Event #8 NL—Turbo—“8 Max”$5,200
Jan 818:00Event #9 NL—Hold’em—Turbo—Bounty$2,250
Jan 819:00Event #10 PLO—Turbo$300
Jan 912:00Event #11 NL—Canada Cup—Live Final Table!Invitation
Jan 913:00Event #12 NL—Hold’em—“8 Max”$5,250
Jan 915:00Event #13 H. O. E. - $25K GTD$1,100
Jan 917:00Event #14 NL – Hold’em – Win the Button!$1,100
Jan 919:00Event #15 PLO—Turbo$300
Jan 1012:00Event #16 NL—Hold’em$2,150
Jan 1013:00Event #17 PokerStars PLO Championships “8 Max”$5,250
Jan 1015:00Event #18 Omaha 8/Stud 8 $25K GTD$1,100
Jan 1017:00Event #19 NLHE- "Survivor" - $10K Prize 20 Min Levels$1,100
Jan 1019:00Event #20 NL—Turbo$300
Jan 1112:00Event #21 NL – Hold’em –“6 Max”$1,100
Jan 1113:00Event #22 PokerStars 8 Game Championships$5,250
Jan 1117:00Event #23 NLHE- "Ante Only"$1,100
Jan 1119:00Event #24 NL—Turbo$300
Jan 1212:00Event #25 NL – Hold’em$1,100
Jan 1213:00Event #26 High Roller “8 Max” Re-Entry$25,000
Jan 1215:00Event #27 PLO--"8 Max" Dealer's Choice 4 or 5 Cards$1,100
Jan 1217:00Event #28 NL—Turbo$2,150
Jan 1218:00Event #29 Super Sat to Women's Event "3 SEATS ADDED!"$220
Jan 1219:00Event #30 NL—Turbo$300
Jan 1312:00Event #31 World Cup of PokerInvitation
Jan 1312:00Event #32 NL—Hold’em—Turbo—Bounty$2,250
Jan 1313:00Event #33 PokerStars Heads Up Championships (64 Cap)$5,250
Jan 1314:00Event #34 Women’s Event$1,100
Jan 1315:00Event #35—Players Choice Event$600
Jan 1317:00Event #36 NL—Hold’em—Rivers$1,100
Jan 1319:00Event #37 NL—Turbo$300
Jan 1319:00Event #38 NL—PokerStars VIP Club FreerollInvitation
Jan 1412:00Event #39 PCA Battleship$2,100
Jan 1412:00Event #40 NL - Turbo Edition of PCA Main Event - 15 Min Levels - 25K GTD$300
Jan 1413:00Event #41 NL—Turbo—“6 Max”—High Roller$10,200
Jan 1420:30PokerStars PCA PartyInvitation

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