After five long days, the final table is set. Read the player profiles of the final six at the 2023 PCA Main Event.
SEAT 1: Pedro Neves, 25, Portugal
Hometown: Funchal (lives in Luxembourg)
Pedro Neves started playing poker when he was 18. In 2019, he made his first trip to Las Vegas and hoped to get more acquainted with live poker afterward. While Covid halted his plans, the 25-year-old returned to the live felt when the EPT came back in March 2022.
Since then, Neves has pushed his live winnings over $400,000 and earned his first six-figure payout (£111,270 for third place in the UKIPT High Roller at EPT London).
Neves said he played live for about three months last year and plans to dedicate four and a half months to doing it this year — and not just because he enjoys traveling.
“As I’m getting better at it, I start to like it more than online poker,” he said. Neves enjoys the complexity of live tournaments. “There’s more factors to it than online; you have to watch the whole table,” Neves said.
Now guaranteed to set his new career-best score again, Neves stays focused on his game, not the PCA Main Event milestones. That’s what his coach Joao Vieira advised him. “I need to be at my best and not worry about the rest,” Neves said.
It’s worked out for him so far, as the variance took his side on Day 5 when he peeled kings in two all-in pots, winning both to move near the top of the standings and increase his chance to become the first PCA winner from Portugal.
Seat 2: Christoph Csik, 35, United States
Hometown: Martinsville, NJ (now a travelling pro)
The PCA Main Event is the first tournament that has ever tempted Christoph Csik, 35, to play outside of the USA, where he is currently an itinerant live cash game pro. He has been “loving getting back into tournaments” recently, after nearly a decade of focusing on PLO cash games, from New Jersey to Maryland, via Las Vegas in the summers for the WSOP.
Finding himself in Florida before the PCA, he says he simply thought, “What the hell, why not?” and took a short hop flight to the Bahamas which seemed as good a poker destination as any. That spontaneity has paid off, as he has already topped his previous best tournament cash of $206,020, which accompanied a WSOPC Baltimore ring in 2015.
Csik determined that only a couple of mistakes preceded his appearance on the final table during the five-day run-up, where he has since “made a few”. He acknowledges that this pressure on every move is felt more keenly than in the cash games he frequents, as “every decision is so important in tournaments, especially at this stage, and considering how world class these players are.” However, he has enjoyed his most recent foray into the tournament circuit despite the pressures of a deep run in one of the most prestigious events of the poker calendar.
“I always knew I had the skill set, but the mindset is what most players struggle with,” he said, even as one eye appears to be on the upcoming $25,000 PokerStars Players No Limit Hold’em Championship. “I’m here for the long haul.”
Seat 3: Artur Martirosian, 25, Russia
Home town: Voronezh (lives in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico)
You’d be forgiven for thinking Artur “Marathur1” Martirosian was older than he is. It feels like he’s been crushing both live and online for at least a decade, and with $4.6 million in live cashes and unknown millions won online, he has a poker résumé far older than his years.
At just 25, Martirosian has already reached the highest echelon of tournament poker–super high roller regular status–and has a chock-full trophy cabinet to show for his five years of playing professionally.
You’d also be right in assuming he isn’t Mexican. Martirosian currently lives in Playa Del Carmen, but it was in his hometown of Voronezh in southwestern Russia where he first discovered poker at 16.
He’s come a long way since. In March 2021 he took down his first European Poker Tour title, on home soil no less, winning EPT Sochi for $325K. He followed that up with an impressive $100K Super High Roller Bowl victory worth $1.4 million in August 2021 and most recently, he took down a €25K High Roller at EPT Barcelona for €540,990.
And that’s just his live poker accomplishments. Online he’s won just about everything including multiple Championship of Online Poker titles. He even won two WCOOP events in one night.
The guy is a beast, plain and simple, and whatever happens, it’s going to be fun watching him battle for his second PokerStars Main Event title.
Seat 4: Alexandre Raymond, 30, Canada
Hometown: Levis, Quebec
You might not be familiar with the name Alexandre Raymond just yet, but if you follow online poker–particularly the high stakes scene–then perhaps you’ll know him by his PokerStars screen name “aminolast”, where he regularly battles in the biggest tournaments running.
Raymond, 30, began playing poker during his first year of university back in 2013 when he was studying administration in finance. But it was only in 2019 that he really broke through, winning a big live tournament in Montreal near his home in Quebec City. The $60K score allowed him to move up in stakes.
He officially became a poker professional in June 2020 and since then has become a force to be reckoned with. He qualified for this event via a $530 online satellite.
But despite his confidence online, Raymond admits he still suffers from some butterflies in his stomach when he plays live.
“You feel like you’re naked when you’re not in front of a computer screen,” he explains. “As I’m less experienced live, I’m a bit more jittery than the typical pros, so I try to watch out for that.
“But I also think that some of the players underestimated me because there’s not much information about me out there.”
That’s about to change.
Seat 5: Jamil Wakil, 33, Canada
Until August of last year, Jamil Wakil was still a recreational poker player, even though he had already won online titles in SCOOP, the Winter Series and Blowout Series on PokerStars, and had another six-figure score in a WCOOP Sunday Warm-Up. He plays online as “Jamil11” and is a crusher.
Having started working in a car wash at 14, he had progressed through roles at marquee firms such as Mercedes Benz and Johnson & Johnson to work in mutual funds for a major Canadian bank. The prestigious job made him financially secure but allowed him to play poker only in what little spare time he had. And last August, tired of watching his opponents get better through study and more time at the tables, he took the plunge and went pro.
After decent showings at EPT London last November, and Prague the following month, this run to the PCA Main Event final table has further underlined the wisdom of his decision. “It’s a dream come true,” he said. “It’s been an amazing run.”
Wakil is in the Bahamas with his girlfriend, Lisandra, but is being supported by friends and family back home in Toronto. He’s a huge sports fan, following the Toronto teams in the NBA, NHL and MLB and the Buffalo Bills in the NFL.
Seat 6: Michel Dattani, 33, Portugal
By his own admission, Michel Dattani perhaps hasn’t had the impact in major live tournaments that his immense talents would suggest. But he says he has been winning every year since he took up the game aged 18, and has been “building something slowly”.
Dattani was a computer engineering student at a university in his native Porto when he first discovered poker, and continued his studies for three years. But he never worked in the industry in which he had trained; his poker career was already blossoming.
Originally an online cash game player, he latterly transitioned to tournaments and, as “FreeLancerZZ” on PokerStars, is much respected in every environment. He won a WCOOP title in 2016, and has numerous live tournament scores on the EPT and beyond.
He keeps himself occupied with multiple other business endeavors away from the tables too: he owns two restaurants, a gym, an events and a jewelry company.
An enormous cooler at the end of Day 4 catapulted him to the top of the overnight chip counts: he had aces and knocked out both Ramon Colillas and Elias Gutierrez, who had ace-king and pocket queens respectively.
He was then able to navigate through the penultimate day and arrives at the final table with 4 million chips, good for fourth place.