Spain's Ramon Colillas defeated Julien Martini of France to grab the $5.1 million (rs 36 crore) top prize in the Pokerstars Caribbean Adventure here which ended on day five. Martini, who was the chip leader by a substantial amount during the final table game, got $2.97 million.
Pokerstars, the online site, had added $1 million to the top prize even before 1,039 players entered the $25,000 buy-in tournament with 181 players getting money in descending order -- the last 29 getting a little over the buy-in amount. At the end of day four, all but eight of the players busted out, with those eligible collecting their money from tournament officials.
Colillas had entered the tournament through a Pokerstars platinum pass, by winning a Spanish live tournament. Speaking in Spanish, he said he was excited by his win and was thoroughly enjoying his stay. He said he would advise youngsters wanting to be poker players to be patient, hardworking and not be disappointed by failures.
Martini busted out after his final hand of Jack-nine was defeated by Ace-five of Colillas when the flop opened with nine-eight-Ace to be followed by two on the turn and five on the river, thus giving the winner two pairs win over one pair by the runner up.
Although substantially ahead earlier in chip count of over $42 million, Martini gave away almost $23 million when his nine-six suited lost to queen-five with the flop opening with ace-four-queen to be followed by queen-five, giving the Spaniard a full house.
Each player started with $60,000 chips. Martini said he has no regrets, though he would have liked to have the top prize. But he says the money that he will get "will really not change anything".
The final day opened with eight players vying for the top prize but slowly, one by one six were eliminated, leaving the table to the last two. The first to go was Talal Shakerchi of the UK, followed by Farid Jattin of Colombia but who stays in Canada.
Jason Koonce of the US, who was the only amateur player among professionals, says tournaments are tough for him because of the time involved. His main occupation is a sports agency which sells sports memorabilia and also represents sports persons. For him this is the biggest one that he has entered.
His advice to youngsters getting into the game is to be patient. "Don't play bigger than you can afford. Build up a bank before you move on to bigger games," he says.
Poker, he says, is not only a mental game requiring calculating skills and some psychology, it also requires endurance. To be mentally fit after five days of play for nine to 10 hours is a challenge, he says. But he chooses to play regularly "because I love this game".
The exact opposite advice to youngsters is given by Jattin. He says he gives the same advice to his 22-year-old brother: Don't. His contention is that there is not enough money nowadays in poker and the competition is very tough.
"If you can play professional poker than you are very smart and would easily succeed at anything," he says stating that youngsters should give it a go by for seven to eight years before looking at it.
He said six to seven years ago he would have advised youngsters to get into it, not anymore. "But if you are bent on doing it, then give it all you have, because nothing less would help," he says.
Marc Rivera of the Philippines, who got his platinum pass -- the second one at final table -- by defeating an Indian player at a Manila tournament, says that he has been playing for twelve years and he feels he had got an edge at the Bahamas game because of his experience.
"I have played more hands and seen more hands than most players here. Of course mental calmness, number crunching and endurance also helps," say Rivera. He ended up winning the number three position, getting prize money of $2.16 million.
His advice to youngsters in India and elsewhere is that do not look upon poker as gambling. "It's a game of skill otherwise I, or other professional players, would not have got into tournaments," he says. It's not an easy game and one must be mentally and physically tough to make a mark, Rivera says.
Rivera also mentioned that there seems to be a fast growing interest in poker in India. According to Ankur Dewani, CEO of Sachiko Gaming Pvt Ltd, which operates Pokerstars India, it's not surprising to see Indians doing well in poker because of their high aptitude for maths and numbers.
"A lot of them prefer to test their skills against some of the most reputed professional players in the world," he said in an email to queries about poker interest in India.
Eight Indians had got the entry into the Bahamas tournament and several others - of Indian origin - too had come here to compete, though all of them got eliminated by the morning of fourth day.
Dewani says that owing to the popularity of poker, there were roughly around 5 million players in the country. He said the game is to be "considered a sport similar to cricket or football", but more on the mental level. Also, it's legal in India, he says.
(Hardev Sanotra is in Bahamas at the invitation of Pokerstars. He can be reached at email@example.com)
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