For the past week, I’ve been sitting at home in chilly Wisconsin keeping a close eye on all the action happening at 2015 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA), which took place on the Bahamas’ luxurious Paradise Island. The festival featured 35 events of different buy-ins and variants, and it was undoubtedly a great way to kick off the New Year.
Of course, some major storylines emerged during the nine-day affair, and here’s my Rapid Reaction to the 2015 PCA.
Ronaldo’s Run: Considered one of the greatest football players of all time (soccer for us Americans), retired Brazilian footballer Ronaldo was at the 2015 PCA and showed just why he’s called "O Fenomeno" ("The Phenomenon") by making a deep run in the Main Event.
According to PokerNews Editor-in-Chief Donnie Peters, the best finish for a professional athlete in PCA Main Event was 27 of 1,560 players by Paulo Rink in 2011 for $66,000, while Sergio Garcia placed 51 of 1,072 in 2012 for $35,000. Amazingly, Ronaldo, who is new to such big buy-in events, placed better than both by finishing 26th (albeit it out of 816 entrants) for $42,180.
Literally hundreds of thousands of fans from around the world were sweating Ronaldo’s run, and he gave the entire festival a jolt of energy. What’s more, the living legend plans to play even more poker in 2015.
"I would love to play at the World Series of Poker (WSOP), to be there and to see how it is, but the WSOP is too much for me," said Ronaldo, which you can read here. "What is sure, however, is that I will play a lot of poker around the world during 2015."
Two Up; One Down: The 2015 PCA $10,000 Main Event may have attracted just 816 entrants, down from 1,031 in 2014 and the lowest total since 2006, but both the $100,000 Super High Roller and $25,000 High Roller were up considerably — both breaking the previous record.
The $100,000 Super High Roller had 66 total entries (50 unique, plus 16 reentries), which were up from 56 (46 unique, plus 10 reentries) the year before. Steve O’Dwyer won that event for $1,872,580, which came just three months after he won the APPT Macau HK$500,000 Super High Roller for $1,811,638. Meanwhile, the High Roller proved to be the seventh largest $25,000 (or €25,000) in history, and the PCA's biggest ever with 269 entries (200 unique, plus 69 reentries), up from 247 (198 unique, plus 49 reentries) in 2014. Ilkin Garibli won the latest event for $1,105,040, though he struck a heads-up deal with Joe Kuether, who took home $1,050,000 for his runner-up finish.
LAPT Bahamas: The complimentary Latin-American Poker Tour Bahamas $3,000 Main Event was expected to draw a modest crowd, but no one saw the 736 entrants coming. The tournament created a $1,945,248 prize pool, and in the end Josh Kay defeated Martin Finger heads up to win $367,928. Read all about that here.
Pros Dominate Side Events: Of course the PCA’s bigger buy-in tournaments soak up the spotlight, but as mentioned there were dozens of other events taking place on Paradise Island. Wouldn’t you know it, some of the game’s biggest names emerged victorious in those events and took home a coveted "Spadie."
Team PokerStars Pro Jonathan Duhamel took down one of the last events on the schedule, winning Event #31: $5,300 NLHE 8-Handed Turbo for $116,738, while Paul Volpe topped a field of 217 entrants to win Event #14: $2,000 NLHE for $89,140. Other winners included Justin Bonomo (Event #15: $5,000 PLO for $48,4500), Nicole Cervenka (Event #10: $2,200 NLHE Double Bubble for $22,220), and Nick Petrangelo (Event #9: $5,000 NLHE Turbo for $113,853).
For more information on 2015 PCA side event winners, click here.
Some Big Names MIA: Last year the Aussie Millions became a part of PokerStars' Asia-Pacific Poker Tour (APPT), and since then they’ve worked with the PCA to allow interested players to attend both stops. Still, some players find it too much to travel to both. The PCA had plenty of big names, but there were some notable absentees.
Both WSOP Asia-Pacific champ Scott Davies and 2014 WSOP Main Event runner-up Felix Stephensen opted to skip the PCA in favor of Aussie Millions. Along those same lines, not a single November Niner made the trip to Paradise Island, and their absence did not go unnoticed.
As a bonus, check out the following infographic featuring the 2015 PCA nationality breakdown: