It’s difficult to pinpoint the moment where PSPC bubble tension gives way to bubble agitation then bubble frustration and bubble lethargy. But even if all of that sets in, there’s always a subsequent moment when bubble tension returns and ratchets up to an almost unbearable degree.
This bubble, at the $25,000 PokerStars Players No Limit Hold’em Championship (PSPC), was tense and frustrating and lethargic and then incredibly tense again, as we looked for the unfortunate players who would leave this spectacular stage with nothing.
We have talked a lot about how this tournament is mainly about celebrating recreational players, making sure everyone has a good time and not necessarily worrying about the money. But on the bubble, it can only ever be about the cash. There’s simply no way to enjoy it if you’re on the other side.
The most unfortunate man in the Bahamas tonight, the PSPC bubble boy, is Mauricio Ferreira Pais, a German player who just a few days ago made the last 16 of the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) Main Event. He reinvested some of his $68,000 prize for that one into the PSPC.
But he came up agonisingly short. Pais was down to less than one big blind, which was forced into the middle, even though he only had J♥ 5♥ in his hand. His sole opponent was Omar Del Pino, a Platinum Pass winner from Spain, whose Q♦ 6♥ flopped two pair and then turned a boat to drive the final nail into Pais’ coffin.
It was greeted by jubilation in the tournament room at the Baha Mar resort, where the remaining 175 players confirmed a payout and can now focus on getting closer to the $4.1 million first prize.
The whooping was led by Glen Craigen, the recreational player from Edmonton, Canada. As we learnt earlier, he is one of those players into this tournament for nothing thanks to his Platinum Pass, but is now seeking a life-changing payday.
THE BUBBLE NITTY GRITTY
Play went hand-for-hand with 179 players still left, meaning four still needed to be knocked out before we were in the money. Tournament organisers knew that this bubble would play out more slowly than probably any other event in poker: there were a lot of players on the Platinum Pass free-roll, for whom the min-cash of $35,100 was enormous.
“It’ll play like a satellite,” one industry veteran said, suggesting that players would be more than happy to fold down to one big blind.
Whether or not that was true, a more familiar obstacle to a swift resolution presented itself. Simply put: everyone who was all-in ended up doubling up — bubbling up — rather than getting knocked out.
One of the first earned Ema Zajmaric a double. Action folded around to Zajmaric in the small blind and she jammed for 100,000 with just the big stack of Talal Shakerchi behind her. Shakerchi called. Everyone waited for the hands to be revealed.
“Dinner on me, whatever you want,” Zajmaric offered the dealer, as the swarm of cameras arrived. Shakerchi remained stoic, although we think we saw him crack a smile when she uttered: “I jammed into the richest guy in the tournament who also has all the chips.”
When the hands were flipped it was Q♣ J♠ for Zajmaric and 9♠ 9♣ for Shakerchi, who was still had a stack of more than 800,000 after the call. The 3♥ 8♠ 6♠ flop and 5♥ turn were no help for Zajmaric, but the Q♥ river arrived to save her and secure the double.
There was an all-in and call on the feature table, but that meant Noah Schwartz built up his stack thanks to aces holding against Pedro Garagnani’s jacks. Platinum Pass winners Daniel Stancer, Adrian Vinuela and Tom Parsons also all doubled up while under threat: K♠ Q♠ beating 5♣ 6♠ in Stancer’s case, J♥ J♦ beating A♥ Q♥ in Vinuela’s, and aces against jacks for Parsons.
It would have been brutal for Vinuela to bust in this spot. He was one of the original Chase Your Dream players who won a Platinum Pass in Barcelona in 2019, just after the tournament was announced. It meant that he had anticipated this tournament longer than any other.
It had been three-and-a-half years since he booked his seat in the tournament, and it would have been an absolute sickener to then go ahead and bubble. But those jacks held to keep him alive.
We also saw Elia Ahmadian hold with pocket kings against Krasimir Yankov’s Q♠ 4♣ .
There were 23 tables in play still, which presented a trial of administration for the tournament staff. It only got more frantic as the bubble became more protracted, with more spectators flocking to the tournament room, and more players getting restless in their seats.
That meant they would get up to wander from table to table as the hands played out, eager to secure a ringside spot. And then when a player failed to get eliminated and the tournament staff said, “Dealers, next hand please”, these players had to sprint back to get their cards.
Luca Venturini was knocked out. Andrew Marques accounted for his Italian opponent with pocket sevens beating Q♣ 7♣ . That actually happened before most of the bubble ups, which meant Venturini was long gone before things got really slow.
And amid all the sound and fury, Will Falia became one of the high profile names to perish just before the money. He lost with J♣ 10♦ , which he had pushed all-in pre-flop. Falia ended up with top two pair, but Marques, the same man who knocked out Venturini rivered a straight with K♠ Q♦ .
They had to hold their hands face down as the TV crew came over to film it for the bubble. During the delay, Falia mouthed that he had top two to friends on the rail, but people around the table had already seen Marques’ cards as well.
Falia finished in 177th.
That then brought us to the stone bubble, and a few of those bubble-ups mentioned above. It was getting pretty tense again now, with those short stacks in real danger.
Pais was all-in blind at the same time as Miguel Posadas, another Platinum Pass winner from Spain. But Posadas managed to double with K♣ 4♣ against Ori Hasson’s 4♦ 3♠ , and although it gave him only two big blinds, it was desperate news for Pais.
Had Posadas lost, he and Pais would have split the $35,100 payout. But it wasn’t to be, and Pais was alone in his misery.
He ambled away as everyone else celebrated two and half days work for a minimum of $35,100. And for many of them — those Platinum Pass winners in particular — that’s all profit.
The freeroll fun continues.