Saturday, 20th July 2024 11:41
Home / PSPC / Top PSPC moments: The bubble to end all bubbles

The PokerStars Players Championship (PSPC) 2023 is just around the corner and the entire poker world is chomping at the bit (particularly the 400+ Platinum Pass winners who won their entry to the $25,000 buy-in event for free).

In the build-up, we’re looking back at some of the top moments that made the first iteration of the PSPC so special.

Not your usual $25K bubble

Over the years, PokerStars Blog has reported on hundreds of $25,000 buy-in tournament bubbles, and most of them share the same characteristics.

It’s usually the best players in the world, casually going about their business. One might be texting their backer, while another is ordering a beer. It’s rare to see players from one table get up to sweat an all-in at another table. They’ve studied the ranges, they know the plays, and they’ve done this countless times before.

The PSPC 2019 bubble was very different.

With so many of the tournament’s 1,039 players in for free via a Platinum Pass, even the min-cash of $25,450 was momentous. It meant a lot to so many of the players, and you could feel it.

Only 181 players would leave the Bahamas with at least that figure locked up, and as the bubble loomed, play naturally slowed, particularly among the Platinum Pass winners hoping to turn their golden tickets into real cash.

It’s safe to say that min-cashing wasn’t the top priority for a successful businessman like Bill Perkins. He was all-in around ten people away from the money with AQ and was called by Max Greenwood (brother of high roller regulars Sam and Lucas) who held AK.

“Queens and hearts,” said Perkins as they watched the dealer spread the flop: 983

That was no good. But then the Q landed on the turn and the river was an inconsequential 8. Perkins survived.

Bill Perkins gets lucky to survive

Bill Perkins gets lucky to survive

Meanwhile, on another table…

“I gotta try something here,” said John Esposito. But what was he going to try?

Well, Platinum Pass winner Andrii Grynechko was taking a long time to act. Like, a long time. It was pre-flop, and as we moved closer to the bubble, tensions were running high.

Moreover, the potential for stalling was becoming more appealing to the shorter stacks.

Esposito looked for a way to goad Grynechko into acting. He thought he’d found it:


Grynechko was sporting the same Toronto Maple Leafs jersey he’s been wearing throughout this event. But Esposito’s insult didn’t seem to break the shell.

“Compared with the Golden Knights, anyway,” Esposito added.

Eventually, the clock was called on Grynechko. The floor came over, and the countdown began.

“C’mon man, you can’t win by folding,” said Esposito. “Get it in there!”

With three seconds left on the clock, Grynechko jammed for ten big blinds. It folded around to Esposito in the big blind.

He folded.


Hand for hand

At 1:10 pm “hand for hand” play began. That’s when every table must finish its current hand before the tournament moves on to another one. It’s a way of knowing the order in which players are eliminated, as well as keeping things fair on the bubble and (hopefully) avoiding stalling.

“This is the greatest tournament in the history of poker,” Ben “Spraggy” Spragg told us as he nursed a stack of less than eight big blinds. “Well, in a few minutes, I might not feel that way.”

Spraggy chatting to Lex Veldhuis during the bubble

Spraggy chatting to Lex Veldhuis during the bubble

Two hours of hand-for-hand play went by. There were double-ups, but no bust-outs.

When Platinum Pass winner Alin Grasu went all-in, having barely played a hand all day, Christoph Vogelsang gave it some thought, studying his opponent before throwing his hand away.

Christoph Vogelsang

We’ll never know what Christoph Vogelsang actually had

Grasu claimed he had pocket aces, convincingly. Vogelsang claimed he folded pocket kings, not quite so convincingly.

The tension continued.

Ice-cold cooler ends it

It would take two and a half hours of intense hand-for-hand play before the bubble finally burst.

Action folded around to Paul Leckey, a player from Northern Ireland with more than a million in live cashes who won his seat to the PSPC in a satellite the night before the tournament began.

He checked his cards and moved all in for 21 big blinds. Next to act was Tianle Wang, and after a look at his cards he said he was reraising all in over that, and everyone else folded.

Leckey stood from his chair, but the subsequent wait for other tables to complete their hands was long enough for him to sit back down again. Minutes passed, and while Leckey sat motionlessly, Wang held his cards face down just slightly above the felt, his hands trembling ever so slightly.

The excitement around the room was electric.

At last, the tournament director arrived, and he instructed Leckey to show his hand first. 

He had KK, and then another few seconds passed before Tianle was told to turn his cards over. Everyone leaned forward an inch or two to see him show AA.

The chaos of the PSPC bubble

The chaos of the PSPC bubble

“No flush draw,” said Leckey, and the two players shook hands as they awaited the board cards.

The 3710 flop kept Wang’s hand in front, as did the 5 turn. Then came the river… the 6!

A roar erupted from those standing around the table, and it spread throughout the room as everyone realised they’d made the cash. Leckey and Wang shook hands once more.

He might have bubbled the biggest $25K tournament of all time, but Leckey didn’t leave empty-handed. He was awarded an EPT Monte Carlo package worth more than $11,000.

Leckey got a decent consolation prize

Leckey got a decent consolation prize

With that, everyone who had won a Platinum Pass to the PSPC was now $25,450 better off.

“I’m hyped,” said Platinum Pass winner Jacqueline Burkhart. “It’s fun. I’m feeling great. Now I have a lot of work to do.”

As for Platinum Pass winner Paul Macneil, his patience had paid off. “It was tough folding a lot of good hands,” he told us.

It truly was a bubble we’ll never forget, and we look forward to what the PSPC 2023 version has to offer.

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