BY RUSS SCOTT
JANUARY 15, 2008
BAHAMAS POKER ACTION MATCHES SPECTACULAR SETTING
PARADISE ISLAND, BAHAMAS — When you’re playing poker in paradise, the action on the felt has to be mighty good to equal the surroundings.
Last week’s PokerStars Caribbean Adventure here at the Atlantis Resort featured a huge field, spirited competition and the emergence of talented young players able to successfully shift their considerable online poker skills to live play.
Set against the backdrop of one of the world’s premiere resort settings, I’d rate the quality of poker displayed at the PCA as just about a match for the wonders on this island.
In only its fifth year, the PCA attracted 1,135 players, putting it ahead of any live tournament not a part of the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. Two facts fueled the surge:
* More than half the field qualified for a seat online through PokerStars, demonstrating the global impact of online poker, and,
* The tournament this year became an event of the European Poker Tour, which tapped heavily into the surging overseas popularity of poker, both live and online.
The result for the PCA was a record field featuring big-name U.S. pros and a bigger-than-ever influx of European and Asian players itching for a chance at poker’s pot of gold.
The biggest share of the PCA treasure chest went to Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier, 26, of France, a computer gaming expert who took up poker just a few years ago. He cashed three times at the 2007 World Series, but his biggest previous showing was runner-up last January for $406,000 at the EPT’s Scandinavian Open.
“If there was one tournament other than the World Series main event that was the most important, this was it,” Grospellier told PokerStars after earning the PCA victory and its $2 million first-place prize.
The second- and third-place finishers — Hafiz Khan and Kris Kuykendall — also notched their best tournament result by far and served notice of more success to come.
Khan, 33, of Stockton, Calif., turned pro two years ago. Normally an online player, Khan said the PCA “has been long and grueling, but fun. I expected to do well.” After cutting a deal with Grospellier when they got to heads-up, the former software analyst took home a bit more than the official $1.09 million second-place money.
Kuykendall, who turned 25 on the day he secured a final-table spot, set aside his business degree a year ago from the University of Cincinnati to pursue online poker. With the full support of his parents from the sidelines, the “Cincinnati Kid” played with poise and discipline in his first live tournament to come away with $800,000.
All of these relative rookies to live play had to overcome long-time top pro David “The Dragon” Pham, the 2007 player of the year who had a dominant chip lead when the final table started and was easily the odds-on favorite to win the event.
Pham, 41, of Bell Gardens, Calif., holds two World Series bracelets, scores of cashes dating back to 1992, and ranks 10th on the all-time U.S. money list with more than $7 million in winnings. Pham added $600,000 to his overall total by finishing fourth. (For more PCA results, go to www.luckydogpoker.com.)
At a farewell cocktail party following the tournament, Kuykendall was just beginning to understand what he accomplished in his first live tournament. “That was tough,” he said, “but I was confident I could do well.”
Like the other final table contenders, he didn’t get to see much of Paradise Island during the week because of the daily tournament grind. But with a huge Royal Deck outdoor party going on around him and a gentle breeze coming off the ocean just 100 yards away, the wide smile on his face told me he didn’t mind.
E-mail your poker questions and comments to email@example.com for use in future columns. To find out more about Russ Scott and read previous LuckyDog Poker columns, visit www.creators.com or www.luckydogpoker.com.
COPYRIGHT 2008 RUSS SCOTT
DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE INC.