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PokerStars Defies Cynics with Record-Shattering $26.4m PSPC Prize Pool

A view of the No Limit Hold'em Championship.
Neil Stoddart

If you build it, they will come.

PokerStars raised some eyebrows in 2017 when it announced it was launching a brand-new $25,000 buy-in tournament called the PokerStars NL Hold’em Players Championship set to take place in the Bahamas in early 2019.

What set the PSPC apart from other similar tournaments was that PokerStars was giving away 320 packages to the event, effectively pumping $8 million into the prize pool and adding a huge influx of recreational players to a tournament that would normally consist of 90 percent professional poker players.

The result is one of the most spectacular, value-laden tournaments ever held outside the WSOP Main Event. Registration on the momentous event ended earlier today with a total of 1,039 entries.

That means the event will offer a prize pool of $26.4 million with $5.1 million set aside for first place (including an extra $1 million provided by PokerStars). The top 181 finishers will make it into the money. It’s easily the biggest $25,000 buy-in tournament ever held. The PSPC is set to go for four more days with the final table scheduled for Thursday.

Here’s a look at the eventual final-table payouts for the gargantuan event:

1st$4,100,000 + $1,000,000

Celebs Norm Macdonald, Paul Pierce Hit the Felt

The WSOP Main Event has always been a favorite among celebs and professional athletes thanks to its large number of recreational players and it appears the PSPC will follow in those footsteps.

This year’s PSPC attracted the likes of actor/comedian Norm Macdonald, pro skater Tony Hawk, ex-NBA star Paul Pierce and pro golfer Sergio Garcia. Unfortunately all four players were eliminated on Day 1 of the contest.

While the PSPC has more recreational players than most tournaments, it also attracted some of the most famous poker pros in the world including Daniel Negreanu, Erik Seidel, Phil Hellmuth, Patrik Antonius, Chris Moneymaker and Liv Boeree.

English businessman/poker player Talal Shakherchi actually grabbed the overnight chip lead with 301,200 chips.

Poker pros Dan O’Brien (301,200 chips), Kristen Bicknell (279,000) and Dylan Wilkerson (244,300) were also near the top of the chip counts.

Interestingly, three Platinum Pass winners cracked the top 10 chip counts including 21-year-old German law student Christopher Putz (207,000), who won his package at the very first PokerStars live event he ever attended last year.

Roughly 700 of the initial 1,000-plus entries made it through Day 1 of the contest. Action is scheduled to run for four more days in the PSPC.

One of the most entertaining moments of Day 1 saw former Boston Celtic Paul “The Truth” Pierce play a lively hand against Italian poker pro Mustapha Kanit. The hand had everything, including a flopped set, a near triple-up and a dance.

PSPC Makes Poker History

With a massive infusion of cash from PokerStars, it was all but assured that the inaugural PSPC would become the biggest $25,000 buy-in ever held.

The event went beyond just becoming the biggest $25,000 buy-in tournament ever held and, if you discount the WSOP Main Event and tournaments with buy-ins bigger than $100,000, it’s actually the biggest on record.

The PSPC easily beat out the long-standing 2007 WPT World Championship, which attracted 639 players to create a $15.4-million prize pool. The PSPC also beat out some PokerStars competition in the form of the 2011 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, which offered a prize pool of $15.1 million.

Live poker tournaments have actually been trending up over the last year as the general public has showed a renewed interest in the game. The 2018 WSOP Main Event attracted 7,874 entries to become the second-biggest Main Event ever. The recent WPT Five Diamond also broke records for the WPT with a massive 1,001-entry field.

What sets the PSPC apart is that it’s a brand-new entry in the poker world and takes place at Atlantis Casino in the Bahamas, which isn’t the easiest destination for the average grinder.

At this point it’s unclear if the PSPC will become a regularly scheduled event but with no announcement of a 2020 PSPC, it seems likely the tournament will take place at least every other year. It’s understandable considering the long qualifying process.

The PSPC is just one piece of the overall PokerStars Caribbean Adventure festival that’s currently taking place in the Bahamas with numerous side events and a Main Event to close out the series.

To give the 2019 PSPC some perspective, here’s a list of the top five biggest tournaments on record (not including the WSOP Main Event or $100k+ buy-in events):

2019 PSPC$26,455,500TBA$5,100,000
2007 WPT World Championship$15,495,750Carlos Mortensen$3,970,000
2011 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure$15,132,000Galen Hall$2,300,000
2010 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure$14,831,000Harrison Gimbel$2,200,000
2006 WPT World Championship$14,671,000Joe Bartholdi Jr.$3,760,165