The 10 best hands in PCA history
The 2016 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure is just around the corner and, with a record-breaking 104 events on the schedule, this is set to be the biggest and best festival yet. The PokerStars Blog will be out in force on Paradise Island in The Bahamas to bring you all the action, including regular live updates and exclusive interviews.
To whet your appetite for the world-class poker - and our brilliant live coverage - we're taking a step back in time to look at the best moments in PCA history. We start with ten of the most incredible hands that have ever been dealt out at the iconic Atlantis Resort. Do you agree with our list? Let us know on Twitter @PokerStarsBlog.
10. Michael McDonald vs Dominik Panka, 2014 PCA Main Event
When Mike McDonald reached heads-up against 22-year-old Polish qualifier Dominik Panka, all eyes were on the formidable 'Timex'. The Canadian was just one elimination away from achieving his second EPT Main Event title, a staggering feat that had evaded all other players at that time.
However, nobody told Panka the script. The two players went back and forth in one of the most memorable heads-up matches in EPT history. They battled for over three and a half hours, captivating thousands and thousands of viewers on EPTLive, with a brilliant standard of poker. Eventually, it would be Panka's day, denying McDonald a slice of history and kick-starting his own poker career in dramatic fashion. There were many classic hands played between the two but this laydown from Panka was the best - start watching from 8mins, 28sec...
9. Kevin Schulz vs Diego Ventura, 2015 PCA Main Event
It always feels great to win $1.5m (we imagine!), but if you can do it in style with a great hero call on the river then it feels even better. That's exactly what American Kevin Schulz did in the 2015 PCA Main Event when his opponent Diego Ventura attempted an audacious bluff with bottom pair. After weighing up the evidence Schulz concluded: "I didn't really think he had it so I clicked the call button and threw it in."
It was a good decision, as you can see...
8. Eugenio Mattar vs Ronaldo, 2015 PCA Main Event
Compared to the other hands on this list, you may think this one lacks many of the key elements of a classic poker hand; there is little skill on show, no crazy bluffs or heroic calls. However, for unique drama, this hand is hard to beat.
Legendary Brazilian footballer Ronaldo Nazário is a keen amateur poker player but, when he entered the PCA Main Event against the best players in the world, nobody expected he would be able to compete at their level. However, with just 26 players remaining he was still there. A record-setting audience tuned into EPTLive to cheer on the sporting hero but, sadly, the poker Gods didn't decide to play ball. Watch to see how Ronaldo Nazário navigates his way through the PCA Main Event - and how he sadly hits the exit just shy of the final table. Watch from 44mins, 30secs...
7. Harrison Gimbel vs Tyler Reiman, 2010 PCA Main Event
It's the height of the poker boom and two young Americans, Harrison Gimbel and Tyler Reiman, are heads-up for a $2.2m first prize at the 2010 PCA Main Event. However, 19-year-old Gimbel has a problem when Reiman flops the nut straight and a big pot develops.
The 5♦6♥4♥ flop doesn't hit Gimbel's A♥4♠ hard but he calls a continuation bet, and another bet on the T♣ turn. The 7♥ hits the river and that's where things get interesting, as a mundane heads-up hand evolves into one of the most memorable of all time. Would you have the guts to pull the trigger like Gimbel?
6. Dan Shak vs Vanessa Selbst, 2014 PCA Super High Roller
When it comes to Super High Rollers, there is no more heated rivalry than Dan Shak versus Vanessa Selbst. The two are polar opposites at the table - Shak is a slick, genial amateur whilst Selbst has a fierce competitiveness that has made her one of the most celebrated poker players of this generation. Whether it's just coincidence or intentional, the two seem to clash constantly on the EPT circuit.
The first major collision was at EPT Barcelona in season 11 when Shak flopped a set whilst Selbst had top two pair. A few bets later and Selbst was leaving the tournament area €100,000 out of pocket. As spectacular as that hand was, it was just a prelude to the high drama that occurred at the 2014 PCA Super High Roller.
Nine players remain but only eight will get paid. Selbst and Shak are the two big stacks at the table, while four other players all have less than 10 big blinds. It makes sense to wait for at least one of them to bust before playing a big pot - especially when the minimum payout is a huge €217k. But that's not the way these two play poker. A huge hand develops as Shak goes crazy with a big draw and Vanessa refuses to back down. Watch to find out who is left seething at the end.
5. Alex Gomes vs Kevin Saul, 2009 PCA Main Event
Just a few tables remain in the 2009 PCA Main Event when Brazilian pro Alex Gomes picks up pocket aces and finds a willing customer in online poker legend Kevin Saul. The flop is 2-6-6 and it's at this point that Saul decides he's going to run a very audacious bluff, as he calls the flop bet of Gomes with just King-high. The remainder of the hand is a masterclass in poker from Gomes, who brilliantly checks the turn and allows Saul to bluff when he is drawing dead. Gomes does the same on the queen river (ironically giving Saul a strong hand!) and gets his reward when all the chips end up in the middle in an eight-million chip pot. Suddenly, Gomes is the chip leader in the Main Event and looks primed to go on and win it all. However, he didn't count on clashing with the brilliant German Benny Spindler - but that's a story for another hand...
4. Benny Spindler vs Alex Gomes, 2009 PCA Main Event
Four players remain in the Main Event and Alex Gomes is still riding high from the huge pot he won versus Kevin Saul with pocket aces. The Brazilian thinks his luck is in when he picks up pocket aces again and makes a standard raise. Benny Spindler, one of the most fearless and aggressive players in the world, calls on the button with K-J. It's not looking good for the German until the flop comes J-J-J, giving him quads!
After flying high and looking like a certain winner Gomes's tournament life is suddenly in jeopardy. Can he get away from his aces? Or will Spindler win the biggest pot of the tournament so far and knock out the Brazilian?
3. Isaac Haxton vs Ryan Daut, 2007 PCA Main Event
In 2007 the PCA took the brave decision to play the final table of the Main Event outdoors. While the windy conditions may not have been a big hit with the players, it did create the indelible image of Isaac Haxton's long hair swaying in the wind like a rock star while he pulled off arguably the greatest bluff in PCA history.
Playing heads-up versus Ryan Daut, Haxton is dealt 3-2 suited while his opponent has a slightly better 7-5 offsuit. The A-Q-4 flop misses both, but that doesn't stop Daut from betting and Haxton from calling. A king on the turn prompts both to check, as the dealer puts down a second queen on the river. It's now that Haxton springs his assault, betting 700,000 with a hand so bad he is playing the board. Daut is no slouch either though, and makes a brilliant re-raise to 2,000,000. Both have absolute air, and somehow Haxton knows it. He shoves all-in and triumphantly slams the 3-2 on the table once Daut folds.
It's a spectacular play from Haxton, who has gone on to prove himself one of the best cash game players in the world. However, even this huge pot couldn't win him the PCA Main Event title, as Ryan Daut would go on to take it down for over $1.5m.
2. Robert Mizrachi vs Jake Cody, 2013 PCA Main Event
Sometimes the best bluffs are the ones that go wrong. They leave their opponents in agony, replaying the action over and over in their minds as they decide whether to call or fold. Pain is etched in their faces - whatever they decide will surely be the opposite of what they should do. That's the exact torment that Team PokerStars Pro Jake Cody puts Robert Mizrachi through in this nail-biting hand from the 2013 PCA Main Event.
Cody moves all-in on the river and Mizrachi is completely befuddled. He plays with his chips, he stares at Cody, stares at the board. Plays with his chips some more, and then starts mumbling to nobody in particular. All the while Cody sits there, confident and calm. After an agonising eight and a half minutes in the tank Mizrachi finally makes his decision. Watch from 15 minutes in...
1. Galen Hall vs Chris Oliver, 2011 PCA Main Event
To be the greatest hand in PCA history there must be certain elements in play; world-class poker, high stakes and a lot of drama. This hand, during the Galen Hall vs Chris Oliver heads-up battle at the 2011 PCA Main Event, ticks all of those boxes and many more.
Oliver entered the final table as the chip leader and looked a dead cert to win the $2.3m first prize when he hits a lucky river card in a big pot. Oliver holds A-2 and makes a full house on the 5-3-2-2-A board. If that wasn't enough, Hall holds 8-4, meaning that the ace on the river gave him a meaningless straight, too! It should be academic from here but Galen Hall knows something that we don't and, faced with an all-in shove from Oliver, pulls off one of the most incredible laydowns in poker history...