This week was an incredible one on the tournament scene, with tons of stuff going on down in the Bahamas. Between the millions of dollars on the line, dozens of tournaments held, and the small detail of a live broadcast of the final table of the PCA Main Event on ESPN2, they dominated the news this week. Or they would have, if any of the members of the media were actually doing their job, rather than racking up impressive scores of their own this week.
PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (Nassau Paradise Island, Bahamas)
One of the biggest experiments, at least in the United States, in the history of televised poker, the broadcast of the final table of the PCA did anything but disappoint. A collection of young talent was looking up at Chris Oliver, a 21-year-old Florida native who held 42% of the chips in play, more than twice that of second place Galen Hall entering the final day of play. Phillipe Plouffe and Max Weinberg (no relation to the former Conan O’Brien and E-Street band drummer) hit the rail early, and they were followed by Bolivar Palacios. Each player earned more than $200,000, with Palacios earning a nice haul of $450K.
The two players who entered this final table with the biggest previous results were Sam Stein and Mike Sowers. Stein’s biggest cash entering this final table was a 2nd place finish at the NAPT Venetian last year for over $500,000, and he also has a WPT final table under his belt. Sowers finished 3rd at the LAPC in 2009 for $650,000 and added a WSOP final table later that same year. Both fell victim to the Oliver buzz saw, as Sowers exited in 5th place and Stein right behind him in 4th.
The quietest player at the table by far was Romanian Anton Ionel. By far the oldest player at the table, Ionel made quite a parlay, riding his $33 satellite win to the final three of the tournament. He played very few hands throughout and the blinds eventually caught up to him, but not before Ionel was able to turn $33 into $1.35 million.
When heads-up play began, Oliver held a chip lead of 4-1, but Hall methodically picked his spots and avoided disaster. The pivotal hand was actually one that Hall folded, and is likely to be a hand that will be discussed for a long time to come. On a board reading [5d][3d][2c][2h][As], Hall bet out 2 million with [8c][4h], leaving himself about 8 million behind at 100,000-200,000. It was a disaster card for Hall, as Oliver had hit a runner-runner full house with [Ad][2s]. Oliver eventually moved all-in, and in shockingly little time Hall was able to fold his wheel, preserve his stack, and keep the match going.
Oliver once again extended his lead to 4-1, but Hall went on a rush, and within an hour had turned the deficit around into a significant advantage. At the end of a heads-up battle that lasted over 200 hands, it was Galen Hall taking the 2011 PCA Main Event crown and the $2.3 million first prize. Chris Oliver settled for second, but he has $1.8 million to wipe his tears away. [PokerStars Blog]
$25,000 High Roller
I’ll preface this by saying there are billions of people who are truly unlucky in the world and have to deal with real world issues. It’s hard to argue against the fact that William Molson’s PCA High Roller record is one of the unluckiest out there. While he was comforted by the second place money each time, in both 2009 and 2010, Molson finished as the runner-up in this event.
This year’s table would not be much easier, featuring Jason Mercier, David Baker and Erik Seidel, amongst others. But this time William Molson sealed the deal, topping off an incredibly impressive three year run by taking down the $25,000 High Roller event and a first place prize of over $1 million. [PokerStars Blog]
The Twitter stream was going crazy this past weekend as people back in the states (or elsewhere in the Bahamas) cheered on Kristin “change100” Bihr as she vied for the Ladies’ Event title. A veteran poker writer and reporter, Bihr had satellited into the tournament and was working on a pretty nice parlay of her own. She was up against a pretty impressive collection of players that included Team PokerStars Pro Vicky Coren and Lauren Kling, as well as ’90s talk show host Ricki Lake.
Most of the updates during the tournament came via @taopauly Tweets, and by the end of the night, @change100 had become a local trending topic in Las Vegas. Mostly thanks in part to the fact that change100 defeated Kling heads-up to take the crown and a cash of just under $30,000. Congratulations to her on her monster cash. [PokerStars Blog]
Heartland Poker Tour – Red Rock (Las Vegas, Nevada)
Anyone who has been around the poker scene over the last few years has almost certainly run into Rob “veeRob” Perelman. One of the hardest working guys in the game, you can be sure that he’s behind the scenes on some of your favorite poker television programs, and if you’ve ever tried to keep track of a Matt Savage tournament, you likely have veeRob to thank for excellent coverage as well as comprehensive live streaming.
Perelman found himself at the final table of the HPT event at Red Rocks Sunday night, entering as the chip leader. He faced some stiff competition that included Joanne “JJ” Liu. It was really no big deal for veeRob, though, as he found a way to take the title (and likely the remainder of the media rungood for the year, thanks a lot) and an astounding first place prize of $158,000. A big congrats to Rob as well, though I’m sure he’s setting up a live stream for an LAPC prelim as we speak. [HPT]
This week will see the Main Event at the WSOPC Choctaw in Oklahoma, just outside of Dallas, and a Main Event will take place at the India Poker Series as well. Action will continue at the Aussie Millions in Australia, the Southern Poker Championship in Biloxi, MS, and tournaments will be starting at the LAPC in LA as well as in Atlantic City for their Winter Poker Championships. One of the busiest times of the poker year, to be sure.
PCA photos courtesy of PokerStarsBlog.com. HPT photos courtesy of heartlandpokertour.com.