How PCA Champions Have Fared Since Their Career-Defining Wins

Dominik Panka, the reigning PCA Main Event champion, had quite a bit of success in the year that followed. (Photo c/o Neil Stoddart/PokerStars Blog)

Dominik Panka, the reigning PCA Main Event champion, had quite a bit of success in the year that followed. (Photo c/o Neil Stoddart/PokerStars Blog)

The 12th PokerStars Caribbean Adventure is set to kick off in earnest Tuesday afternoon, and since the very beginning the PCA Main Event has awarded its champion a considerable payday. Excepting Gus Hansen and John Gale, the first two PCA Main Event champions, each subsequent winner has earned at least $1.3 million – one of the largest sums on the line in tournament poker in North America every year.

That’s where the fates of the PCA Main Event champions diverge. Some have gone on to even greater successes, while others have seemingly fallen off the tournament map in subsequent years. BLUFF has taken a look at the tournament results of each of these 11 winners to show just how well they’ve done since striking it rich in the Bahamas.

2004: Gus Hansen
Career Earnings: $7,697,095
2004 PCA Main Event Prize: $455,780
Earnings Since Win: $5,875,939

Gus Hansen is one of only two players in history to win three World Poker Tour titles – and they all came inside of a two year window. When Hansen won the PCA, it was a WPT event and not held at Atlantis – the only time in the event’s history that it was held anywhere else. This was Hansen’s third WPT win, and it would be the most significant result on his gaudy tournament resume for the next three years – until he won the Aussie Millions Main Event in 2007.

2005: John Gale
Career Earnings: $2,879,540
2005 PCA Main Event Prize: $890,600
Earnings Since Win: $1,989,540

‘Gentleman’ John Gale of England was the first of three consecutive PCA champions whose wins were their first career live tournament cashes. Gale continued to thrive in 2005, finishing second in a WSOP event and a big Five Diamond World Poker Classic prelim, and then broke through with a second major victory and his first career bracelet in 2006. He continued to play serious volume on the tournament circuit in the years that followed, and narrowly missed out on a second WPT title at the 2007 Borgata Winter Poker Open, but his results after 2008 indicate a serious reduction to his tournament schedule. Gale is one of four PCA champions with seven figures in career earnings following his win.

2006: Steve Paul-Ambrose
Career Earnings: $1,797,851
2006 PCA Main Event Prize: $1,388,600
Earnings Since Win: $434,751

Canadian Steve Paul-Ambrose was primarily an online poker player, but he turned his satellite seat into the 2006 PCA Main Event title and over $1.3 million. Paul-Ambrose also earned a spot on Team PokerStars Pro, a position he’d retain for the next several years. After another deep run in the 2007 PCA Main Event, where he finished 20th, Paul-Ambrose final tabled the $5,000 Mixed Hold’em Championship and ultimately finished fourth. There were a few other significant results in the years that followed, but a cash in the 2010 PCA Main Event is the last time Paul-Ambrose recorded a tournament cash.

2007: Ryan Daut
Career Earnings: $1,799,727
2007 PCA Main Event Prize: $1,535,255
Earnings Since Win: $264,472

Ryan Daut was primarily a cash game player when he tried his hand in the PCA Main Event, and his first career live tournament cash earned him over $1.5 million. Daut put some more volume into tournaments following his win, narrowly missing out on the WPT Mandalay Bay Poker Championships final table and cashing in a handful of WSOP events, but he closed out 2007 with another significant result. With a sixth place finish in the Five Diamond World Poker Classic, Daut pushed his earnings for 2007 to over $1.7 million – but he’s only cashed in three tournaments in the more than seven years since.

2008: Bertrand ‘ElkY’ Grospellier
Career Earnings: $10,285,245
2008 PCA Main Event Prize: $2,000,000
Earnings Since Win: $7,748,522

Bertrand ‘ElkY’ Grospellier had already been tantalizingly close to an EPT title after finishing second in Copenhagen in 2007, but he wouldn’t be denied in the PCA’s first year as part of the up-and-coming tour. Grospellier was the first to earn $2 million in the PCA Main Event, and it would be a harbinger of all the success that would come in the years that followed. He’d go on to win the WPT Festa al Lago Classic in 2008 on his way to WPT Season VII Player of the Year honors, and Grospellier booked another big win at the PCA in 2009 by winning the $25,000 High Roller. Grospellier completed poker’s Triple Crown in 2011 with a WSOP bracelet, and nearly added a second WSOP just weeks later.

The full list of Grospellier’s results is too large to recap in full, but with well over $7 million in tournament earnings since his PCA win, the Team PokerStars Pro has easily earned distinction as one of the best poker players in the world.

2009: Poorya Nazari
Career Earnings: $3,071,749
2009 PCA Main Event Prize: $3,000,000
Earnings Since Win: $0

After winning his way into the PCA Main Event via a $33 online satellite, Poorya Nazari fought through the biggest field in PCA history to win $3 million – which still stands as the biggest payday in the event’s history. Nazari only had a handful of live cashes prior to his PCA Main Event victory, and he hasn’t recorded a single one in the six years since. He still does play online, occasionally, and Nazari even managed to win the PokerStars Sunday Second Chance twice in 2013.

2010: Harrison Gimbel
Career Earnings: $3,062,359
2010 PCA Main Event Prize: $2,200,000
Earnings Since Win: $794,499

Harrison Gimbel’s first live tournament cash was a win in a $500 event in Florida against a field of 319. His second career live tournament result was his $2.2 million PCA win, which came at just 19 years of age. Late that year, Gimbel won a WPT regional event with the biggest buy-in in Florida history, at the time – and the $330,000 he won was also a record at the time as Florida had only just dropped heavy restrictions on its live poker. Gimbel final tabled a WSOP event in 2012, and he’s found some measure of success in events predominantly held in the state of Florida.

2011: Galen Hall
Career Earnings: $3,845,475
2011 PCA Main Event Prize: $2,300,000
Earnings Since Win: $1,539,120

After one cash each at the 2009 and 2010 WSOP’s, Galen Hall broke through in a major way by winning the 2011 PCA Main Event. Hall posted major results in each of the next few years, finishing third in the WPT Five Star World Poker Classic in May 2011 and third in the $100,000 Super High Roller in his return to the PCA in 2012, but despite all of his accolades he’s yet to earn a second career title.

2012: John Dibella
Career Earnings: $2,339,778
2012 PCA Main Event Prize: $1,775,000
Earnings Since Win: $522,373

From 2006 through 2011, John Dibella recorded exactly one live tournament cash a year – including a run in the 2008 PCA Main Event, where he finished 60th. It all came together in 2012, though, as Dibella won the PCA Main Event and its $1,775,000 first place prize. In the three years since that victory, Dibella has primarily stuck to events in the Northeast – with wins and results at series’ at Foxwoods and Borgata. He also took down a $2,000 Turbo event at the 2013 PCA, and Dibella cashed the PCA Main Event for the third time in 2013.

2013: Dimitar Danchev
Career Earnings: $3,229,266
2013 PCA Main Event Prize: $1,859,000
Earnings Since Win: $589,317

Dimitar Danchev is one of the few PCA champions who had significant success before taking down that title. Danchev narrowly missed out at EPT San Remo, losing heads-up to Andrey Pateychuk. 2013 would be Danchev’s year, though, as he took down over $1.8 million and the EPT title at Atlantis. Danchev went on to finish fourth in a $5,000 Pot Limit Hold’em event at the 2013 WSOP and second in a $1,500 No Limit Hold’em Shootout at the 2014 WSOP – with a few significant EPT cashes wedged in between.

2014: Dominik Panka
Career Earnings: $1,949,005
2014 PCA Main Event Prize: $1,423,096
Earnings Since Win: $519,875

Vicky Coren-Mitchell pulled off the first ever repeat EPT title, but Mike McDonald was very nearly the standard-bearer in that regard. Dominik Panka kept that from happening, beating out McDonald and Isaac Baron three-handed to win the 2014 PCA Main Event and $1.4 million. Panka wasted little time returning to the winner’s circle, taking down the EPT Deauville High Roller in late January, and he made another deep run in the EPT Barcelona Main Event in late August.

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Tim Fiorvanti

Tim Fiorvanti graduated from St. John's University with a B.S. in Journalism in 2008. After several years in the industry, he started working for BLUFF in the summer of 2010. He worked his way up at BLUFF and joined full time as a Senior Writer in April of 2012. Fiorvanti now serves as the Managing Editor of BLUFF. He's a tortured Mets and Jets fan, along with several other frustrating allegiances, but he's also a two-time defending BLUFF Fantasy Football Champion.
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