It seems the key to scoring a Platinum Pass in the random live giveaways is not being physically present at all and being dealt a raggedy hand.
The Passes provide winners with a $25,000 seat to the PokerStars Players No-Limit Hold'em Championship plus travel and accommodation to The Bahamas for the January 2019 event, valued at $30,000 total. PokerStars awarded the first one of the 2018 PokerStars and Monte-Carlo©Casino EPT stop, and the way it went down recalled one of the first passes awarded, at PokerStars Caribbean Adventure a few months ago.
Set to begin at noon, the €1K EPT National had 224 players scheduled to take their seats and start playing, but in typical poker tournament restart fashion, not everyone made it in on time. Still, each player had his or her equity in the Platinum Pass flipout locked in as the tournament director instructed the dealers to pitch everyone a hand. Each table's champion would meet up for the second round.
"This is the most important hand of the day," a player said excitedly, whipping out his phone and recording as the dealer at his table determined who would get a sweat.
By the time the dust settled a few minutes later and the winners gathered in selected tables at the edge of the room, less than three full tables of players remained. One by one, each table played out a second flip and the finalists emerged: Terence Reardon of the U.S.A., Federico Petruzzelli of Italy and... an empty seat.
A player who had yet to show up had won his first two flipouts, and the tournament director announced one Miguel Romero as the third finalist.
A crowd gathered and the dealer fired off the final hands face down. Each player flipped over one card, or in Romero's case, had it flipped for him. Petruzzelli had an eight and Reardon a seven. Absentee Romero had a four. The board came out queen-five-two-nine-four. Only Romero had paired, and he had it locked in without even needing his second card as his opponents each turned over threes when instructed to peel their second hole cards. For historical records' sake, Romero had jack-four offsuit.
Buzz died as there was nobody there to celebrate, with those present chuckling over the nice surprise Romero had coming whenever he made his entrance. It was reminiscent of PCA, when Thai Ha showed up late and was informed his empty seat had binked a Platinum Pass courtesy of eight-deuce offsuit that was good for trip eights.
About 10 minutes later, Romero bore a grin in front of a camera and held up the Pass. Turned out, it was his birthday and he had been gifted quite the present. He didn't ascribe his tardiness to a night celebrating. Quite the contrary, he had a rather mundane reason for showing up late, one that anyone who has made the trip to Monaco will nod knowingly at: he couldn't find a taxi.
Furthermore, he'd been delayed again just walking into the room. Upon trying to enter, he'd been told to wait by security as the TV crew was filming the giveaway. He finally made it in and got enfolded in a bear hug from a friend who relayed the exciting news.
PokerStars Live personnel spoke with Romero through a translator on first break of the €1K, which Romero eked into with a short stack.
The Chilean merchant told them he's a casual player enjoying his first poker trip to Europe. He's been playing for about five years, starting on PokerStars after some prodding from a friend.
"This is the best gift I could receive," he said. "When my friend Gustavo told me I had won a package to go to The Bahamas valued at $30,000, I could not believe it. I want to thank PokerStars for the opportunity and how they reward the players."
He's away from his wife for the first time on his birthday, and she's going to get some great news as he plans to take her to The Bahamas in January.
As for how he's going to compete with the high roller crushers who will be populating the tables at the PSPC, Romero said he'd already planning to reach out to some fellow Chileans who possess more poker chops.
It's certainly a 34th birthday to remember for Romero, and with the way these Platinum Pass flipouts have gone so far, dealers might be pitching to a bunch of empty seats next time as superstitious poker players try to be the next to bink in absentee fashion.