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Almost a year back thrilling news broke across the global poker community – PokerStars had announced the PokerStars Players No Limit Hold’em Championship (PSPC)! It was six-time WSOP bracelet winner and PokerStars Team pro Daniel Negreanu who made the announcement at the PokerStars Championship Prague Main Event.
The mastermind who made it all happen is PokerStars Marketing Director David Carrion. Back in December 2017, when the PSPC was announced, Carrion had stated, “One of my dreams has always been to create–if such a thing exists–a perfect poker tournament.” Carrion and his colleagues at PokerStars then set about to turn this dream into reality and that is how the PokerStars No-Limit Hold’em Players Championship came about.
Slated to run from January 6-10, 2019, in the Bahamas, the PSPC is most definitely a star in the making. With its rake-free $25,000 buy-in, the tournament is all set up to become the biggest $25K event ever. From the very beginning, the plan was to give away 300 Platinum Passes valued at $30,000 each that made for a staggering $9,000,000 contributed to the prize pool, with a further $1,000,000 piled on to the first-place prize money.
“For me, this is the opportunity to really do something meaningful that impacts the industry and impacts the players,” Carrion had said for the PSPC.
A few months ago, PokerStars brought in Danny McDonagh to the fold and appointed him as the new executive tournament director. Following a discussion with other PokerStars executives, it was decided that two conditions would be firmly placed before players are asked to send in their suggestions for the event. Firstly, the event would run for five days. Second, it would be a freezeout format.
With these conditions set, PokerStars launched a ‘Have Your Say About #PSPC’ feedback survey to collect player inputs and opinions on what they would like to see as far as the structure of the event is concerned. The survey ran from August 16 to 31, 2018.
McDonagh thereafter spoke to the Director of Live Events, Marta Norton and PSPC and PCA Tournament Director Mike Ward, prior to consulting with PokerStars LIVE staff and five players, namely Maria Konnikova, Daniel Dvoress, David Peters, Shaun Deeb and Dragos Trofimov. This was done in order to resolves issues that the survey could not.
The combined feedback from the survey and discussions contributed heavily to the design and structure of the event which determined factors like whether the event should be eight or nine-handed, how many hours of play should be conducted every day, should the eight-hour day include a dinner break and so on.
Most of the talk in poker town this year has revolved around the precious PSPC Platinum Passes. Every poker player wants them but only 320 players have managed to win them. So what are these Platinum Passes?
The PSPC Platinum Pass is an all-expenses paid package to the PSPC that includes a $25,000 entry to the PSPC event, six nights’ accommodation at Atlantis Resort, Nassau, in The Bahamas and $2,000 in travel expenses and room folio.
“The way in which we are going about it is to make it accessible,” Carrion had clarified. “That is the reason for all the different qualifying paths. The other one is that we really want to make it inclusive where everyone can really have a shot at qualifying.”
He continued, “The first stage for us has been more than anything about positioning the tournament and creating awareness that it exists. I think that is going to continue to build. It really is a tournament for the poker players.”
“It’s very rare for any tournament to be able to know in advance who will be there and then follow them. I am almost sure that at every table at the PSPC, we will have a story there and I hope that’s going to create a different dynamic for the community to be involved in the tournament,” Carrion concluded.
Several PokerStars Team pros were integrally involved with the handing out of Platinum Passes. Daniel Negreanu decided to award a Platinum Pass to the best fan video while supporting a worthy cause. Jeff Gross and Andrew Neeme chose to get people to vlog for winning the coveted Platinum Pass, while Maria Konnikova wanted players to share their poker stories.
While players from several different countries and nationalities won the passes, eight of the coveted passed were claimed by Indians.
The first Indian to lay his hands on the prestigious Platinum Pass was Sumit Sapra. A prominent face in the Asian circuit, Sapra has been a consistent performer who has been very active in the domestic and international circuits throughout the year and reaped successful results. He picked up his Platinum Pass at the 2018 Asia Pacific Poker Tour (APPT) Korea through a Flipout tournament which came down to a flip between Sapra and PokerStars Team pro Randy Lew. He outlasted Lew to win the pass and will certainly be looking to open his 2019 scorecard with a deep finish!
The one player who probably worked the hardest to win the Platinum Pass was Nikhil Segel and his story makes for an inspiring read. A New Delhi-based architect, Segel participated in and won the #MyUltimateSweat challenge designed by Team PokerStars pro Jamie Staples. As part of the challenge Staples had invited poker players to send in their choice of a personal challenge that they’d like to undertake and achieve, over a period of three months, and the player putting up the best challenge would go home with a Platinum Pass. A total of 149 people participated and logged in their chosen challenges and updates on Twitter.
An avid recreational player, Segel decided to quit smoking, lose weight and reduce his high blood sugar levels. Not only did he overcome the mental roadblocks that had been stopping him from quitting smoking and getting his health in order, he did so in style! Going far beyond his initial challenge of losing 8.5 Kilos, Segel went on to lose nearly 17 Kilos, from 105.3 kilos to 88.1 kilos in just 84 days. The 47-year-old’s determination and dedication is an invaluable asset that will indubitably take him a long way in the upcoming series.
The next pro in the line-up is the Team Manager of the Mumbai Jetsetters and one of India’s most revered high stakes cash games specialist Kavin Shah. A veteran who is not only one of the most feared players on the felts but has also worked on the business side of the mind sport, Shah is undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with in the Indian poker fraternity. Additionally, Shah’s expertise as a cash game specialist is ideally suited to the structure of the PSPC making him a strong contender for a deep run at the event.
Another veteran and cash game expert on the list is Raman Gujral. Boasting of a 15-year long poker career, Gujral is fondly known as the “Grandfather of Indian poker”. With a plethora of experience behind him, Gujral is another player who can outplay anyone on his day.
Bringing up the youthful section of the Indian brigade is Young Gun Sharad Rao. Initially associated with poker staking and coaching service Pocarr, Rao has now launched his own poker staking stable, Alpha Grinders. He was in fact the second Indian to get his hands on the much sought-after Platinum Pass when he took down the freeroll event at the PokerStars India Diwali Rush series last month.
26-years-old Young Gun Vivek Singh is one of the budding talents in the Indian poker landscape. An online regular from Chennai, he has been picking continuous scores on the virtual felts which brought him to the limelight. While his advent on the live poker scene is quite nascent, he still managed to capture his maiden live title at the ₹15K Deep Dive event at the 2018 Deltin Poker Tournament (DPT) February Edition for a ₹6.57 Lakhs payday.
Rookies Saurabh Sindhwani, from Ghaziabad and Aneesh Nair, from Kerala, will also be a part of the Indian bandwagon heading to the Bahamas next month. While they are yet to make their mark in the industry, the exposure that they are sure to receive will certainly go a long way in honing their skills.
Captaining the eight challengers, will be poker icon and the first Indian to become a PokerStars Team Ambassador Aditya Agarwal. Possibly one of the most celebrated players in the country, Agarwal’s exploits on the live and online felts are widely known among fans and players alike. Having played in almost all major international events, including the full schedule of the 2018 WSOP, Agarwal will not only be a great mentor but also a key player to watch out for.
This amalgamation of established and emerging talent will make for a great team which has immense potential to perform well at the PSPC and surely give tough competition to the other players. Speaking of this, CEO of PokerStars India Ankur Dewani said, “I am extremely delighted to see the growing interest amongst people towards poker which has led to so many players from India travelling to the Bahamas to compete in this incredible tournament”.
With just a few weeks left for the PSPC to commence, the event is most certainly gearing up to be a milestone tournament in poker history.
Image Courtesy: PokerStars India
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