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Night Sweats

An icy Canadian keeps his cool to claim the 2009 Pokerstars Caribbean Adventure main event. Duncan Wilkie steps into the light to give us the play by play.

The tranquil peace of Paradise Island was shattered last month as 1,347 poker players from across the globe escaped the winter chill by swarming to the golden sands and dazzling seas of the idyllic beach-side Atlantis Resort for the 2009 Pokerstars Caribbean Adventure.

However, while the calming lap of waves and the gentle lilt of calypso music were drowned out by the bellowing of American railbirds and the fervent oompah-ing of the Dutch contingent, it was the altogether quieter figure of Canadian Poorya Nazari who emerged from the event with the most to sing about.

The 22-year-old from Richmond Hill scooped himself an astonishing $3 million payday and the much-coveted PCA title in remarkable fashion as he emerged victorious from a star-studded final table that included 2008 World Series bracelet winner Alexandre Gomes and online phenomenon Kevin “BeLOWaBOVe” Saul.

“I can’t believe it’s happening,” said the newly-crowned champion. “My brain has been fried from playing all week and I was fortunate to come out on top. It hasn’t sunk in yet.”

Coming immediately after the defeat of runner-up Tony Gregg, Nazari’s words were a typically reserved and modest appraisal of his efforts. In truth, after his A-10 proved strong enough to see off Gregg’s Q-7, Nazari could have afforded himself a little more self-indulgence when reviewing his performance.

After all, the avid online player only took his seat in the Main Event as a result of winning a $33 triple turbo re-buy tournament on PokerStars.com. And now there he was—the last man standing from a field littered with poker talent; his original $700 outlay successfully parlayed into a cool $3 million. And what’s more, he deserved it too.

Having held on throughout an up-and-down ride as he navigated the vast tournament field—going from monster stack on Day 1 to short stack on Day 4—Nazari displayed great graft and focus to finally stabilise the fluctuations and emerge at the final table second only to chip-leader Gomes. Ultimately, he had a greater say in matters than the PokerStars pro, however, as a cold deck hand saw the early favourite eliminated in fourth place.

Having already witnessed the departure of four players in a flurry of final-table action— including fifth-place finisher Dutchman Pieter Tielen who deserves a special mention for further inspiring a generation of internet players by qualifying for the event online for just $3—Gomes found himself tangling with German Benny Spindler on a J-J-J board.

When all the money went in, Gomes must have felt pretty good about his chances as he turned over pocket aces for the nut full-house, but Spindler revealed the only card he couldn’t beat—the final jack in the deck— to crush his main event hopes. Despite the bitter blow, Gomes was magnanimous in defeat. “It was a cooler of a hand, but Benny played it very well,” he said. “I put him on nines or 10s and he’s a very good player.”

With Gomes now departed, the breakneck pace that saw Kevin Saul, Dan Heimiller, Dustin Dirksen and Pieter Tielen crash out in the previous three hours of play abated and the remaining players were left sharing chips between themselves, waiting for an opening. Nazari eventually assumed the chip lead as the newly-crowned millionaires’ stacks levelled out. And when he ran his A-J into Spindler’s Q-J after the fourth hour of three-handed play, at last we had our two finalists.

Entering heads-up play against Gregg holding a two-to-one chip lead, the battle always had the potential to be over very swiftly. And so it proved as after just four hands, Nazari eliminated his opponent to claim the title. With Gregg pocketing $1,700,000 for his efforts, the American wasn’t too disheartened with his runner-up finish. “I’m pretty happy,” he said. “It hasn’t set in yet, but I’m not really disappointed at all. We played three-handed forever so I’m kind of happy it’s over and I’m ready to have a good night!”

Final Table Pay-Outs:

1. Poorya Nazari - $3,000,000
2. Tony Gregg - $1,700,000
3. Benny Spindler - $1,100,000
4. Alexandre Gomes - $750,000
5. Pieter Tielen -$550,000
6. Dustin Dirksen - $400,000
7. Daniel Heimiller - $300,000
8. Kevin Saul - $234,000

PCA: The High Roller Event

In other news from the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, the irrepressible Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier added a further triumph to his increasingly impressive résumé by taking down the prestigious $25,000 High Roller event.

The Team PokerStars Pro finished top of the heap after beating an all-star cast on his way to the $433,500 first prize. And although the mercurial Frenchman is no stranger to victory on Paradise Island, having won the main event last year, ElkY was certainly delighted to prove his ability against some of the best players in the world.

“It feels great,” he said after the dust settled. “Last year’s main event was bigger, but this means a lot. The field was so prestigious and I played very well against good players—this will be a great memory for me.”

Despite pocketing less than a quarter of the $2 million he earned for winning the 2008 PCA, the prestige of the tournament and the calibre of player it attracts will ensure that ElkY bolsters his reputation among his peers after he put in a commanding performance on a final table with World Series bracelet winners Eli Elezra, Humberto Brenes, Scott Seiver and Daniel Alaei to take down the title.

Final Table Pay-Outs

1. Bertrand “ElkY” - France - $433,500
2. Will Molson - Canada - $228,000
3. Scott Seiver - United States - $137,000
4. Liya Gerasimova - Russia - $91,300
5. Humberto Brenes - Costa Rica - $70,800
6. Eli Elezra - United States - $68,500
7. Daniel Alaei - United States - $57,000
8. Nick Schulman - United States - $45,700
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