Dia 1 Terminado
Dia 1 Terminado
The inaugural PokerStars Championship Panama event kicked off with a massive $50,000 Super High Roller event, the largest buy-in poker tournament ever on Panamanian soil. A total of 26 unique players registered and 4 reentered after busting, making for a total field of 30 on Day 1.
After 8 levels of play, 19 players remain with Steve O'Dwyer in the lead. Registration remains open till the start of Day 2 so a prize pool is only expected when buying in is no longer an option.
|Orpen Kisacikoglu||United Kingdom||728,000|
|Justin Bonomo||United States||615,000|
|Ben Tollerene||United States||541,000|
|David Peters||United States||432,000|
|Ben Heath||United Kingdom||425,000|
|Jason Koon||United States||335,000|
|Dan Colman||United States||305,000|
|Paul Newey||United Kingdom||29,0000|
|Erik Seidel||United States||212,000|
|Isaac Haxton||United States||192,000|
|Stephen Chidwick||United Kingdom||84,000|
Play got underway at 12:30, half an hour later than planned. Everyone got 250,000 in chips to start the day, except for Jason Koon who got 260,000. Koon told the organization what had happened, and soon parted ways with the extra 10,000 he had received. Koon, who won the PokerStars Championship Bahamas Super High Roller at the start of the year, won some karma points and survived the day with 335,000 in chips.
Besides 250,000 in tournament chips, players got three 60-seconds time bank chips as the players were on a 30-second clock all day. That wasn't the first time for most, but it did give the event a lot of pace. Still, the chips weren't exactly flying as no local players entered and the field remained mostly a cozy get-together of players that battle it out with each other on the regular. No "Panamaniacs," as Mike Watson described the local players he so desired to sign up.
Igor Kurganov, who signed on as PokerStars Team Pro just two months ago, entered a bit late but was one of the first to depart as well. He ran pocket nines into the pocket tens of Daniel Dvoress and bought back in. He wouldn't do much better on his second bullet, losing most of it with ace-king suited against the ace-queen suited of Isaac Haxton. Haxton rivered a queen to leave Kurganov short and the Russian Team Pro busted one hand later.
Anthony Zinno and Adrian Mateos followed Kurganov out the door, but did not buy back in. Justin Bonomo, Stephen Chidwick and Erik Seidel did after busting, and all return on Day 2.
Steve O'Dwyer got off to a good start, crippling Mustapha Kanit with a flush. After losing some small pots, he regained the chip lead after busting Byron Kaverman with a wheel against top pair and top kicker. While Kanit did recover from the clash with O'Dwyer early on, he would eventually lose a lot of them to the Irish EPT champion. The latter made a flush with ace-four suited and Kanit's pocket aces ended up face down in the muck.
The tournament resumes on Sunday, 12 p.m. local time. The 19 players that survived the first day will return to the beautiful Sortis Resort in Panama City and will be joined by players signing up before registration closes. Bryn Kenney will be one of them, instead of sitting back down, he bought in for Day 2 after busting in one of the last levels of the day.
Panama City, playing host to PokerStars Championship Bahamas, serves as a destination spot for many players. If they bust out of a tournament or two a bit earlier than they expect, they can experience one of Central America's most vibrant locales by checking out the nightlife or spending time in nature in a jungle or on a beach.
For 27 year-old Michael Lech, those experiences would be just another day in his nomadic life as he continues a months-long journey exploring South and Central America.
Since 2014, Lech has been essentially homeless, backpacking his way through numerous countries as he racks up life experiences that others take decades to gain. Lech has financed it all through his poker winnings, living out his dream of seeing the world, meeting new people and trying new things.
As "One Poor Bum" online, Lech racked up a few hundred thousand dollars in winnings, starting as an underage grinder when he was 18. After Black Friday in 2011, Lech migrated to offshore sites and continued to have success — PocketFives counts over $550,000 in winnings for Lech on U.S.-facing sites in that time frame.
Lech credits his continued run to treating his bankroll with kid gloves and always playing the long game, avoiding taking big shots and consequently increasing his risk of ruin.
"I've never had a losing year," he said. "I was always content just playing small ball. I've always been on my own, 100 percent."
Live poker was a bit of a different story in terms of winnings. Obviously, the small-stakes tournaments Lech beat online don't really exist live — the smallest buy-ins worth playing tend to cost at least $300. Add in expenses for travel, food and accommodation, and playing a ton of live events just didn't make fiscal sense to Lech. The same discipline that kept Lech winning online prevented him from booking even a five-figure cash live.
He also never really had the desire to turn into a live grinder, preferring the freedom that online poker offered.
"I never put in too much volume, really," Lech said. "I really tried to balance my life."
In 2014, Lech's life took a drastic turn. In a rare live appearance, Lech took sixth place at Mid-States Poker Black Hawk in Colorado for $22,310. He also found himself newly single after a long-term relationship.
Armed with a career-best live score to augment the money he already had saved up, and with nothing tying him down to the States, the Arkansas native decided the time was ripe for change. He left most of his material possessions behind and booked a one-way ticket to a small town in Bolivia, beginning a journey that continues to this day.
Poker stops tend to be few and far between. Lech typically makes an effort to play live only when he wins satellite packages online. The rest of the time, he's busy checking off bucket list items and generally living life to the fullest as he sees it.
Lech rattles off the countries he's been to as casually as most poker players rattle off the beats they've taken in the past few hours — Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina, the Dominican Republic and Panama, where he's back today and playing the $1,100 PokerStars National Championship.
"Basically, wherever friends invite me to live," Lech said when asked what determines the next stop on his wanderings. "As I live in one place, I start to accumulate friends. The power of social media gives me the freedom to hit them up a year later. Month-to-month, I'm spending less money than I would even in Arkansas."
Highlights of his journeys include seeing the famed Peruvian ruins Machu Picchu, hiking up a couple of volcanoes in Ecuador, attending a Brazilian carnival and island hopping on a five-day boat trip after traveling to St. Maarten. He was there for a World Series of Poker Circuit event where he also happened to bag a ring and $6,400 in the six-max event.
Lech has picked up some skills along the way, too. He speaks decent Spanish now and can communicate some in Portuguese. He can also dance a little after a stop in Brazil.
"I was visiting a friend I met in Vegas who was a dance teacher," Lech said. "So, I took dancing classes and went dancing in Samba school and underground clubs in Sao Paulo."
Another time, Lech got a first-hand look at one of South America's most profitable — and notorious — exports.
"One time in Bolivia I went to my friend's coca plantation," Lech said. "They have 1,000 hectares of coca leaf. It's interesting to see that life and how they run it."
All of that adventuring leaves very little time for poker, and Lech wouldn't have it any other way. He finally broke through for a monster score at the 2016 WSOP, coming second in $888 Crazy Eights for $401,888. The elusive big score barely moved the needle for Lech's everyday life.
"I think I'm the exact same," he said. "I've invested quite a bit of it and skipped a lot of poker stops to not just blow it all."
What he most remembers is the friends he has made across South and Central America tuning in to the live stream to sweat him. He received videos of people drinking and yelling as they sweated him, giving him the same treatment as they would their beloved national teams in the soccer-crazy countries.
Lech has taken some of the winnings and invested in a budding business in South America that he calls a potential dream job catering to fellow barebones travelers. So, despite the big score, he plans to be careful as ever with his bankroll here in Panama. He's eyeing the $5,000 Championship but sees the hefty entry fee as "two months of traveling, all expenses paid."
That's not something he's eager to part with, so he plans to approach the event just as he would have when he had nary a $20K live score to his name.
"I'm gonna try to satellite into it," he said. "We'll see how I do."
Not too long ago, a high roller was a special event — $25,000 was just about the maximum for an event. When the World Series of Poker organized an event with a buy-in of $40,000 to celebrate their 40-year anniversary in 2009, people couldn't stop talking and writing about it.
PokerStars added big buy-in events to all their stops, and these days, one can play a high roller event just about every day of the week. All poker festivals are stocked with high roller events. And then there are the events at ARIA; the big Vegas casino has quite a few high rollers. In theory, one wouldn't have to leave Sin City if it were high rollers one was solely be interested in.
Always looking for action and an edge, the high rollers of the poker world still travel to exotic locations. The same group of regulars can be found in all outskirts of the world, with many traveling just about nonstop to grow their bankroll and satisfy their hunger for high-stakes poker.
Twenty-seven of them gathered here in Panama for the $50,000 Super High Roller, and Jason Koon is one of them. The high-rolling American from Weston, W.Va., won the $100,000 Super High Roller at the Bahamas for over $1.6 million and is one of the players to travel the high roller circuit. Looking back, he agrees a lot has changed.
"A couple years ago, a high roller was a special event at a stop," he said. "Now the majority of the tournaments I play are high rollers. The unique ones are the Main Events, which is kinda funny."
Just a glimpse at his impressive Hendonmob page makes it clear he wasn't exaggerating. His last seven cashes were in events with a buy-in of $25,000 or more. And while the $8,264,040 in live time earnings listed on his profile is incredible, one must not forget that the buy-ins stack up as well if you solely play huge buy-in events.
"They usually have smaller field sizes so you're gonna cash more frequently, but the overall buy-in is higher and the winrate is smaller than what they would be in a Main Event," Koon said of the variance involved in playing high roller events. The former lowers the variance, but the latter increases it. A cold streak in big buy-in events may just set you back $1 million; nothing too crazy has to happen for that to be your reality as a high-rolling poker player.
"But high rollers are great," Koon was quick to point out. "I really, really like 'em. I like that they take one to three days to win."
While Koon is on a good streak, having won the Super High Roller at the Bahamas and having finished third in an ARIA high roller for $120,000, it wasn't just a given he would come to Panama to participate in this event.
"For me, it's really if I'm happy traveling or not," he said. "If I don't feel like getting on the plane, I'm not gonna do it."
Besides feeling happy to go somewhere or not, Koon hinted that he's mainly looking for recreational players when deciding on going to an event or not.
"I decided to skip the Aussie Millions this year because I got a couple tips that the high rollers weren't going to be big, and they ended up pretty small."
With Panama being a new event on the schedule, assessing whether the field would be worth the trip, was a tricky one.
"You just try to make an educated guess with events that are new," he said. "I didn't know what would happen here in Panama, but there was some hope something could happen. It doesn't look like that's the case, sadly."
So far, Koon hasn't been exploring the country or city. The famous canal, the jungle, and other sights have to wait. Koon only got in last night and just had time for a workout before going to bed.
Today, the biggest event of the trip awaited Koon. A lot more high stakes action is to follow in the coming months. Right after this, Koon is flying back to Vegas to play the ARIA high rollers followed by a trip to Florida to play a $50,000 and $25,000 buy in event. He said he's unlikely to add PokerStars Championship Macau to his schedule.
"There's a chance I'll go to Macau, but it's unlikely. I just don't want to travel myself out."
PokerStars Championship Sochi is also not on his list, but Monaco, Spring Championship of Online Poker, and the $300,000 Super High Roller Bowl in ARIA are.
The WSOP that follows is a given. Koon was close to winning his first bracelet back in 2012 when he finished runner-up to Leif Force in the $3,000 No-Limit Hold'em/Pot-Limit Omaha Heads-Up event. Whether he's going to partake in the smaller WSOP events to get that piece of jewelry or solely remains focused on the high rollers there as well, remains to be seen.
PokerNews is on the floor for the inaugural PokerStars Championship Panama and we'll be here the entire festival. Today, we'll focus our attention on the big stories in the Panamanian capital with a series of features on the Super High Roller and the beautiful venue.
You won't find any live updates and chip counts on PokerNews.com today, we'll leave that to the PokerStars Blog. Our partners in crime have a battalion of reporters ready to cover each and every step of all the players in today's event. So head over to PokerStarsBlog.com for live updates, chip counts.
From the Main Event on, PokerNews.com is your one-stop shop for all the updates one can wish for. We'll be on top of all the action for all the big events and will feature the live stream on a dedicated page so you don't have to miss a thing.
PokerStars photographer Neil Stoddart had a look at who's in the €50,000 Super High Roller. You can follow along with the tournament on the PokerStars Blog. The event has 26 entries now, with Adrian Mateos, Anthony Zinno and PokerStars Team Pro Igor Kurganov having already busted. The latter reentered.
Qualify for an event by playing a smaller buy-in event; the first one to come up with the idea must have gotten a pretty big raise. Or he or she should have, at least. It's brilliant because of the simplicity. Players that would normally never have the chance to play a big event because of their bankroll being too small, now sit shoulder to shoulder with the big names in the game.
The one at PokerStars to come up with the Spin & Go qualifier should've even gotten a bigger raise. The luminous idea resulted in an unparalleled EPT Grand Final last year where everyone seemed to be happy. The Sporting, the location in Monaco where the event was held, was buzzing. Players that satellited in via a €10 Spin & Go couldn't believe their eyes; they were starstruck with the players and amazed with the exterior and interior of the Monte Carlo Bay Hotel. The other players, call them the regulars if you want, were equally excited as the level of play had gone down considerably with so many inexperienced players.
Chris Moneymaker may be the most famous qualifier in the world, but Asan Umarov surpasses that celebrity status in his home country of Kazakhstan. He finished fourth in the EPT Grand Final last year, turning a €10 Spin & Go ticket into a €305,660 payday!
Qualifiers are a good way for players with a smaller bankroll to get a chance to play big events. But more seasoned players like to play them as well, they won't say no to a little discount, on top of playing less experienced players.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that some of the names of qualifiers for the PokerStars Championship Panama Main Event sound very familiar. Players like Andrew Chen, Daniel Dvoress, Dylan Linde, Mike McDonald, Steven van Zadelhoff and Steve O'Dwyer are household names but they do have the "PokerStars qualifier" tag behind their names.
A total of 51 players have won a package for the PokerStars Championship Panama in regular satellites. Nine players won a seat and 40 players won a package for this event in a Spin & Go. That makes for 100 qualifiers altogether.
Qualifying for the PokerStars Championship Panama is no longer an option, but there are plenty of other live events you can try to get into. The PokerStars Championship Macau is up next, and there's still plenty of qualifiers there. Fancy a Spin & Go chance? PokerStars Championship Sochi Spin & Go's are just $8!
For most tournaments, starting on time isn't much of an issue. Even before the tournament starts, people anxious to play are lingering around after having gotten up early in the morning to prepare. As soon as the tournament director calls for the dealers to shuffle up and deal, the tournament starts and the dealers start pitching cards. Some players might even jump over chairs to be in their seat in time.
If you beat everyone in the tournament, you've won. You may then call yourself the champion. You receive all the money, the cheque, and all the attention. Usually, this is after a couple of days of play. If the tournament format is a sit-n-go, things are usually over within a day. In the case of a hyper turbo event, it can be after just a couple of hours of play.
When there aren't a ton of players flocking the tables when an event is supposed to start, things can get tricky. And while the PokerStars Championship and Festival events are incredibly popular, the Super High Roller events are a little bit of a different beast.
When the countdown reaches zero in Super High Roller events, most of the times, not much happens. These events rarely start on time just because of the fact that not enough players have signed up for the tournament to get underway.
One might think that the organization can just start when two players have signed up, but it's not that easy. If let's say, the two best poker players in the world sign up first, it's entirely possible a lot of the other players decide to wait out to see who joins more. Everyone is looking at each other and nobody makes a move. Deadlock.
Now, say those two best players get into a cooler situation and get their chips in the middle on the flop; set over set, what a cooler. One player triumphs, the other loses his or her money. One player has now beaten everyone in the tournament and can lift the trophy. The tournament is over, and all other players who were playing railbird, ready to join the action, are left out. Results are sent to the Hendonmob, all done for the day!
That's why the tournament organization often decides to postpone starting times for Super High Roller Events or other tournaments with a smaller field size. They can't risk an event being over before it really has gotten to its maximum potential, so they'll only start when a certain amount of players have signed up.
Things get even trickier when there's a guaranteed prize pool. Last year's $100,000-buy-in WCOOP event had a guaranteed prize pool of $1,000,000 but play got underway with just five players. If those five had somehow gotten it all in on the first hand and one player had scooped the pot, he would've won $1,000,000 and PokerStars would've had to pony up the $500,000 overlay as a result.
Besides just being late, wanting to sleep in or not signing up on time for another reason, a lot of players want to see what they get themselves into before signing up. Competition can be incredibly stiff in the Super High Roller events and not everyone wants to play if just the creme de la creme signs up. Therefore, while a lot will have the cash in hand, they wait to see who takes a seat.
What the players should do is all sign up well before the start and just start playing. But that's not how poker works. Not only are high rollers not particularly known for being punctual, not everyone wants to play regardless of who signs up. Despite a lot of players talking strat together and hanging out outside of poker, the game is still an individual game and everyone's looking for an edge. That's what poker is about. Everyone who plays knows this.
Most of the times, things will work out. Late registration is open for quite some time and certain players get a double stack which motivates others to hop in. Others are just sleeping in and decide to join later. Even more come as more recreational players sign up.
Super High Roller regular Steve O'Dwyer isn't the biggest fan of players just lingering around to see who's playing. "Just sit down and play" he would say. He also has a solution to get rid of this behavior: "Shame, shame people that do that."
In the PokerStars Championship Panama Super High Roller, just four players were in the tournament room as the clock struck noon. Just Daniel Dvoress, Ben Tollerene, Sam Greenwood and Mike Watson were seen in the tournament area when the tournament should've gotten underway. O'Dwyer joined them after two minutes.
Half an hour later, enough players had signed up to get the game going. Soon, more players followed and with play now underway for two levels, there are 3 tables in play with 17 players in contention. We have a game! Follow along with the action over on the PokerStars Blog.
PokerStars has consolidated the schedule, tweaked some events and added guaranteed prize pools to a number of tournaments set to take place at the PokerStars Championship Panama, the company announced in a blog post today.
"PokerStars is always reviewing player feedback to see how we can improve the experience for players at our live events and some of the feedback over the last few events has involved field sizes and lower buy in events," said Head of Live Poker Operations Neil Johnson in the post. "With that in mind, we've taken a long look at the upcoming PokerStars Championship in Panama to see what changes we may want to make."
The changes come on the heels of a PokerStars Championship Bahamas — the inaugural event in PokerStars' new global tournament series — a festival that Johnson admitted would spur some adjustments.
Likely foremost among those in terms of player interest is the guarantees that have been tacked on to some of the events. The $1,000 National Championship will feature a $400,000 guarantee. The $400 PokerStars Cup and the $200 PokerStars Open also have guarantees of $150,000 and $50,000, respectively.
Ten events have also been lopped off the schedule as the PokerStars Live team attempts to consolidate the tournament schedule for fewer events and a better experience for players in those events. A number of side events drew poorly or were even canceled at PokerStars Championship Bahamas as Johnson admitted there was too much overlap between events.
Part of improving the experience for players in the events that are on the schedule will be longer late registration windows, single reentry options for many side events and deeper stacks and/or slower structures for events priced at $500 and less.
PokerStars Championship Panama will take place March 10-20 at Sortis Hotel in Panama City. A full schedule of the event is available here.
"Beautiful city, great nightlife, good weather and the chance to play with people you've never played with before," Johnson said in January.
Spin & Go satellites for PokerStars Championship Panama are running now with $8,200 Main Event packages up for grabs at the $20 buy in level. PokerStars is also offering discounted hotel rooms that can save players up to $600. Head on over to PokerStars to take advantage of these opportunities and make your way to PokerStars Championship Panama.
PokerStars makes its first visit to the Sortis Hotel, Spa & Casino in Panama as the second PokerStars Championship stop.
PokerStars Championship Panama will follow the debut championship event in the Bahamas in January with a set of tournaments designed to appeal to players of all levels.
PokerNews will be on the floor providing live coverage.
The country famous for the Panama Canal has over 500 rivers, and players and observers can rest assured that there may be just as much drama in the river cards that hit the table.
Almost totally sea-locked, Panama forms a bridge between Costa Rica and Colombia, between North and South America.
Panama is a busy, thriving city and is home to just under a million residents.
The festival is just a few weeks before the rainy season, so there should be a good opportunity for players to sunbath the bad beats away. Although PokerStars is taking their rebranded Championship events there for the first time, it is no stranger to successful poker players.
Million Dollar Panamanian
Only one Panamanian player has broken through the million-dollar tournament winnings mark, and that is Bolivar Palacios. Palacios’ best results didn’t come in his home country, however, with his two biggest scores coming within a few months of each other on foreign soil.
First, Palacios finished runner-up at the LAPT Main Event in September 2010 in Argentina for $188,200. He followed up that result by finishing sixth at the 2011 PCA Main Event final table, an event won by Galen Hall for $2.3 million. Palacios earned a career-high $450,000 for his efforts, but it has been over five years since he took down that kind of six-figure score and over a year since his most recent live cash.
Of the highest Panamanian players on the Hendon Mob, only Victor Lemos in third position has a result in the last six months, having made it all the way to the final three tables in the WPT Main Event in Punta Cana last November for $14,500.
Here are the top five Panamanian players as they currently stand:
|Position||Player||Total Live Earnings|
|4||Raul Pino||$ 249,385|
|5||Jose Miguel de la Guardia||$195,812|
The venue for the PokerStars Championship Panama is just 30 minutes from the airport.
Once there, the Sortis Hotel, Spa & Casino is ready to provide players with the ultimate R&R experience with its pool and spa (available for $65). When players are ready to jump back into the action, it will be waiting there for them, ready to produce some winners like it's done in the past.
Here's Sortis Casino's current top five winners in their card room:
|Position||Player||Country||Earnings at Sortis Casino|
|2||Aaron Mermelstein||United States||$159,980|
The biggest winner from that list earned all of his winnings in one visit. Canada’s Shakeeb Kazemipur took down the LAPT Main Event in Panama City for $180,112 in May 2015 when he toppled the Ukrainian Olga Iermolcheva heads up for by far his biggest result to date.
PokerStars Championship Panama Schedule
The tournament action kicks off with the PokerStars Open between March 10-14, which provides a $50,000 guaranteed prize pool for a low buy-in of just $220.
The PokerStars National Championship runs almost parallel, with play beginning the day after, on March 11, but still ends on March 14. Costing $1,100 to enter, there is $400,000 in the prize pool before cards go in the air.
The PokerStars Championship Main Event begins on March 14, running for one week and culminating in the cards-up coverage fans have grown to love on March 20. The buy-in is $5,300 with a $50,000 entry Super High Roller running March 11-14. A $10,300 High Roller runs alongside the final few days of the Main Event March 18-20.
It’s worth remembering that you can’t take more than $10,000 in cash on your way in or out of Panama. Cash games run 24 hours a day and night in the casino March 10-20, so even if the tournaments don’t go as planned, there should be plenty of opportunities to have a profitable trip, with games running from $1/$2 right up to $200/$400. Be aware of the rake, though; it's steep in Panama.
Here are the highlights of the schedule:
|March 10-14||PokerStars Open||$220||$50,000|
|March 11-14||PokerStars National Championship||$1,100||$400,000|
|March 11-14||PokerStars Championship Super High Roller||$50,000|
|March 14-20||PokerStars Championship Main Event||$5,300|
|March 15-19||PokerStars Cup||$440||$150,000|
|March 18-20||PokerStars Championship High Roller||$10,300|
PokerNews will be in Panama providing live coverage on the Main Event, High Roller and Single-Day High Roller. The Super High Roller will be covered exclusively by the PokerStars Blog, but we're there to provide you with feature stories from the floor of the first PokerStars Championship Bahamas.