PCA 2012: Bilokur wins $1.1 million high roller, Duhamel second
It was a final table perfect as a send-off for the 2012 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. There were no weak links, no one out of place, no anomalies in ability. Just eight great players in peak form meeting for one last day to decide the winner of the $25,000 High Roller.
As the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure was winding down around it; the last of the side events playing out, the cash games drying up and players packed and ready for flights home tomorrow, a glance through the line-up left little need to convince anyone that what we were going to get would be worth sticking around just a few hours longer for.
The High Roller final
There was chip leader Jason Koon, a bright talent with ambition in his soul; high roller extraordinaire Isaac Haxton with millions to his name; Team PokerStars Pro Jonathan Duhamel, in the form of his life; World Record holder Randy Lew, the short-stacked wonder; Michael Telker the young unknown; and Govert Metaal, the crafty veteran.
Team PokerStars Online's Randy Lew
But there was also Alex Bilokur, the poker-faced Ukrainian, who would quietly defy them all, taking down the high roller title, the trophy, Shamballa Jewels bracelet, everything; and that first prize of $1,134,930.
Bilokur outdid all expectation today to topple the seemingly unstoppable Duhamel. It's the first major title for Bilokur since he won a side event at EPT Germany in 2010. He has already shown flashes of talent and panache and today proved a worthy winner.
Bilokur moves his chips in
The heads-up session proved a tortuous struggle for supremacy. Duhamel started with a more than two-to-one chip lead which seemed like the prelude to his elevation to High Roller champion. But Bilokur doesn't look the type to throw in the towel. Instead he wound it tight and started flicking it at his opponent, taking small pots, then a big one, taking the advantage and pushing it home to win.
Heads-up at the final table
There's no denying though that the romantics were looking for a Duhamel double.
We may only be two weeks into the New Year but for Duhamel this can already go down as yet another career high. For the 24 year old, 2010 was his time. But with feet firmly on the ground, he made 2011 outstanding (see Deauville High Roller, London and Marrakech). Now 2012, just two weeks old, looks to be a continuation.
The in-form Jonathan Duhamel
First there was the $100,000 Super High Roller which started this year's PCA. Duhamel was eliminated from the event, but with the courage of his convictions quickly re-bought, going on to finish fourth to earn $313,600. A few days later he finished fifth in the $5,000 Turbo event for $17,990 (loose change for tips and gum) before going all the way in the $5,000 no-limit event, good for another $239,830.
Second placed Duhamel ends memorable PCA
Now he adds today's haul to that, making his earnings since Thursday last $1,205,370. If World Champions need vindication for their exploits Duhamel already had it.
It's also worth remembering the story behind Duhamel's arrival at the PCA. Just days before Christmas he was victim to a home invasion, being badly beaten and fearing for his life while money, and his prized World Series bracelet, was stolen. It was an event that put poker into trivial perspective, but poker may also have been a useful antidote. His recovery has been exemplary. His bracelet may be gone, but the talent that earns one is very much alive for all to see.
But today the plaudits are for Bilokur, who after hours of straight-faced concentration finally broke into a smile as his friends rushed the stage to congratulate him.
He had steered past some solid opposition; the likes of Koon, Haxton and Lew, eliminated across eight hours of play, all worthy of the highest accolades, and all would have been worthy winners of this, one of poker's most prestigious titles. The story of their day, and their departure, can be found in our live coverage page, as can their pay-outs.
That brings the 2012 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure which now foregoes poker for a celebratory party to see the festivities off for another year. It proved as successful as it always was, appealing to the best nature of the game and to its best players, providing poker players, and fans, with the experience of a lifetime, one that we'll have another go at in 12 months from now.
Thanks to you everyone who has read the blog this week, for your support and your comments. The action stops here but starts again in two weeks when the European Poker Tour rolls into Deauville, France, for good food and temperatures that will suck the tan off your skin. It's going to be great.
The Atlantis Resort
Now we're going to try catch the last few minutes of the free bar, toasting another successful PCA.
For 2012, it's goodnight and goodbye from Paradise Island.
All photography copyright Neil Stoddart.