PCA 2012: Main event final table players ready for their close-up
It all comes down to this: eight players, several million dollars, one table, and a giant satellite television truck. After a year of waiting, a week of playing, and the eliminations of a thousand other people, we are ready to crown a new PokerStars Caribbean Adventure champion.
The final eight players of the 2012 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event will face off against each other in just about half an hour in the fight for the $2 million first prize.
As we watch it happen here, you can watch it happen at home. The final table will be streamed live on PokerStars.tv. You can watch it happen by clicking this: PCA main event live stream.
At 1pm today, the following eight players will sit down. Here's how they'll line up:
Seat 1: Mark Drover, 24, Newfoundland, Canada - PokerStars qualifier - 1,430,000 chips
Mark Drover, who is taking a Masters in political science at Memorial University in St John's, Newfoundland, qualified for the PCA on PokerStars after reaching stage five in the Steps programme and joining the $700 qualifier. Two of his friends from St John's also qualified for the PCA on PokerStars, and have been railing Drover as he reached the final.
Drover, 24, is normally a mid-stakes online tournament player, but has made four Venetian Deepstack finals in Las Vegas, as well as recording a WSOP cash, giving him total live tournament earnings of $34,497. That figure will be eclipsed once the final table is complete.
Seat 2: Anthony Gregg, 25, Maryland, USA - 1,160,000 chips
Anthony Gregg began playing poker at age 18. At the time an online cash game specialist and mid-stakes regular, Gregg, from Maryland, made his biggest live poker score here at the PCA, aged 22.
In 2009, Gregg finished second in the main event to Poorya Nazari. At the time, Gregg was freerolling after cashing-in 800,000 of his Frequent Player Points for a main event seat. This he turned into a score worth $1.7million.
Gregg's appearance at the 2012 final table will be the first time anyone has made two PCA main event final tables. Now 25, Gregg has been focusing on playing live games in the Washington D.C. area.
"It's really cool making the PCA final again," said Gregg. "I don't think anyone has ever done that. I'm the short stack for tomorrow so not really under any pressure."
Seat 3: David Bernstein, 30, Canada - 1,960,000 chips
David Bernstein is the only PCA finalist who got to the Bahamas for nothing at all. Back in December the 30-year-old took part in a special PokerStars promotion for Canadian players which involved nothing more strenuous than depositing money on PokerStars via the online payment company Ukash. Everyone who took part in the "Ukash Ultimate Experience" was entered into a draw - and David Bernstein was the player selected at random just three days after Christmas.
The prize included free flights to the Bahamas, nine nights' accommodation, a live tutorial, a meet-and-greet with a member of Team PokerStars Pro and - most importantly - a seat in the Main Event. A week ago he told the PokerStars blog: "The feeling of winning the competition was surreal. It felt like a dream. Now I am going to try and win the tournament and take the money home to my family."
Seat 4: Ruben Visser, 22, Rotterdam, Netherlands - 4,400,000 chips
Visser took up online poker while studying business and marketing at college. He is still at college but now combines studying for a Masters in entrepreneurship with playing poker. His first live cash finish came in 2008 when he reached the final of a €500 event in Prague. At the time his online career was also hotting-up and results included a PokerStars Sunday Warm-up title worth $113,000.
In 2009, Visser finished 20th in a PCA side event and in June came 11th in the WPT Barcelona Main Event. A few days later h then won a €400 side event.
Visser's biggest cash to date was when he finished runner-up in a €5,000 side event during the EPT Grand Final in Season 6, for €171,450. Last summer he finished 44th in the WSOP Main Event to collect $196,174 and only a month ago he took down a €1,000 event in Venlo, Holland, for a further €42,000.
Visser has made more than $600k so far in live tournament winnings - and considerably more in online poker tournaments.
Seat 5: Faraz Jaka, 26, Chicago/Las Vegas/Europe - 6,470,000 chips
Jaka is a poker professional, entrepreneur and sometime fashion figure, has at times dominated this tournament having built a huge stack early on Day 2. He has relinquished the chip lead at times, but only briefly and claimed it back heading into the final.
"I've been playing professionally for around three years but I'm going to slow things down to focus more on www.axiscasterboarding.com, which I'm really pushing as a sport," said Jaka.
Jaka has racked up $2,394,969 in live tournament winnings over the past five years with his largest single cash being $774,780. To make a career high score the American will have to get heads-up. "Only the top two will do it," said Jaka.
Seat 6: John Dibella, 43, New York, USA - 3,465,000 chips
John Dibella is a 43-year-old stock trader from Westchester, New York. He qualified for the Main Event in a $1,000 satellite earlier in the week and has parlayed that into a seat at the final table worth at least $156,400.
This is his third time at the PCA. Dibella previously cashed in the Main Event in 2008, finishing 60th for $16,000 (his largest cash on record).
Seat 7: Xuan Liu, 25, Toronto, Canada - 6,355,000 chips
Xuan Liu is the first woman to ever reach the PCA Main Event final table. Her breakthrough came when she won PokerStars' Italian Poker Tour San Remo €1,000 side event in December 2010, earning €48,000. Then, only a few months later, Liu finished third at EPT San Remo for $524,705, a superlative result that took her career earnings to $655,886.
Liu has always been fascinated by games of skill and chance, and used to play hands of poker against herself from the age of six. But it was at Waterloo University in Ontario, where she started playing regularly. The school has proven to be a poker hotbed, home to the likes of Mike 'Timex' McDonald, former EPT Grand Final winner Glen Chorny, Michael Watts and Steve Paul.
Seat 8: Kyle Julius, 25, Chicago, Illinois, USA - 6,450,000
The PCA Main Event final table is guaranteed to be a career-high result for Illinois native Kyle Julius, but the poker pro has plenty of experience on his side, not to mention a big stack, heading into the final.
Julius, who made a name for himself online under the screen name "KJulius10", has more than $1 million in winnings on PokerStars, including a victory in the Sunday 500 in January of 2011, worth around $87,000.
Julius's previous best live score was a third-place finish in a 2010 Venetian Deep Stack event worth $65,861. He also made a deep run at last month's Five Diamond Main Event at Bellagio, finishing in 12th place.
Julius first learned to play poker when his older brother Ryan came home from his freshman year of college and told the younger Julius he should take up the game. Little brother listened to big brother and, after a brief stint studying at Northern Kentucky University, Kyle started playing poker full time.
Kyle says Ryan, who was playing in the PCA $25k High Roller today, is the better player of the two, but both are well known in online poker circles as tough competitors.