The 2015 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure is just over one day old, but in that brief period of time it’s already managed to break records in the biggest buy-in event of the series.
With the start of Day 2 in the $100,000 Super High Roller, registration closed with 50 unique players and 66 total entries – both record numbers for this tournament – and the top two finishers will take home over $1.8 million and $1.3 million, respectively. The LAPT Bahamas Main Event – a $3,000 tournament that’s drawn a big field of its own to kick off that tour’s eighth season – has continued a rapidly growing wave of momentum by cracking the 500 player mark.
The PCA has stood as the unofficial start of the tournament calendar over the last 11 years, and it’s built up a stellar reputation in the community by giving players what they want – a wide range of games and buy-ins at a Caribbean resort in the middle of winter.
“From a tournament perspective, there are some very popular formats that have been consistent over the years,” said David Carrion, President of the Live Poker Operations for Latin America and the PCA. “We have a $5,000, Eight-Handed No Limit Hold’em Turbo that has been very popular. We have $1K and $2K two-day events with long levels, and we have a multi-day $1K unlimited re-entry event that has also been quite good in the past.”
It’s not as simple as just pumping out the same schedule year after year, though. The PCA has been the home of some innovative ideas over the years, including the first ever Open Face Chinese Poker event. There are plenty of fresh ideas on tap for 2015 too.
“We have a couple of new things this year,” said Carrion. “In addition to super satellites for the Main Event and super satellites for the High Rollers, we’ve also introduced satellites to some of these $5K events, which we never had in the past. We’re also introducing this new format – the ‘Double Bubble’ – at $2,200 twice, and then $1,100 on the last day.
The ‘Double Bubble’ will see half of the field get their full buy-in back, with the remainder of the tournament playing out as usual with the top eight percent earning a bigger piece of the prizepool in a traditional payout scale. Even with the big money on the line in the High Rollers and Main Event drawing the lion’s share of the attention, the PCA continues to think beyond just the high stakes specialists.
“We have the $100,000, which is obviously an event for a very selective number of people, and then we have the Main Event, which is the real juicy event to play,” said Carrion, “But beyond those two and the $25K High Roller, there’s a little bit of everything – [and you can add in] almost 40 cash games of every game type and stake at very competitive rakes. There’s about three or four events every day and our cheapest is a $600 turbo event, No Limit Hold ‘em. Sit & Go’s pretty much go on demand all day long as well, so you can really play anything you want.”
One of the most impressive things about the PCA over the last few years has been its ability to continuously draw American players – despite the fact they can no longer play and qualify for any of the PCA events online. So why do they keep coming in droves?
“It’s a good question,” said Carrion. “You know, last year we took some to analyze PCA and did some research, surveyed about 2,000 players. We wanted to determine the identity of this event. We looked at what has happened with $10,000 buy-in events in the industry in the last 10 years.”
“And there was some 16 events, if I recall correctly, about 10 years ago, and there’s barely eight or nine these days,” continued Carrion. “Most of them have had their fields greatly reduced, and some of them have transformed to lower buy-ins. The PCA has really been the only one that, in spite of Black Friday, in spite of everything, it still remains strong in numbers with either very minimum decrease or small growth, like last year.”
“We wanted to get to the bottom of understanding why, you know, why it’s different for the PCA,” said Carrion. “We believe that the destination has a lot to do with it, and the time of the year. And still, even though American players cannot qualify [online], the rest of the world can. And there is always a big amount of qualifiers to make up a juicy prize pool from the get go – and also somewhat of a softer field.”
Certain parts of the poker economy continue to lag, and new players can sometimes be hard to come by – but the PCA seemingly exists in its own bubble in that regard.
“A number that a lot of people do not know or realize is that every year we have about 60 percent non-repeating customers,” said Carrion, “Which means that players might play in 2011 but not in 2012 or 2013, and they come back in 2014. So in a lot of ways, we have a lot of new customers every year in many different levels.”
Bringing more players into the fold is paramount to what PokerStars does across the board, but providing loyal players the opportunity at big money opportunities also seems a high priority. The LAPT Bahamas Main Event has thrived in its debut, allowing regulars on that tour to play with others who’ve never traveled further south than the PCA. It also serves as a more natural start to their season’s schedule.
“LAPT traditionally has had a schedule that finishes in November and restarts in late March,” said Carrion, “And we’ve always thought that that was quite a big break. At the same time, PCA takes such a big chunk of [our attention] in generating the interest of the industry and, at the same time, of our efforts in the qualifying players for PCA – it’s difficult to put something against those dates, one place or another place.”
Add in the already strong turnout by South and Central American players at the PCA over the last few years, and suddenly LAPT Bahamas makes all the sense in the world. Not only do they get to play for one of the biggest prizes of the year on the LAPT, they can earn points towards Player of the Year at the same time.
“The participation from Latin America in the PCA has been growing significantly over the years. Last year Brazil was the third biggest country in terms of players [in the PCA Main Event] after the United States and Canada. Latin America altogether, and Central America, I think, had a little bit over 200 players of the 1,031 that played – so we thought that maybe LAPT would be a good idea to kick off the festival.”
All these factors, along with dozens of other strategies of varying size and style, adds up to what should be another tremendous series. With the Main Event set to kick off Thursday afternoon, even bigger things may be in store
“When you can play a $10,000 event of this [size],” said Carrion, “You just can’t miss the PCA.”
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