PCA 2013: In the main event for the price of lunch

When you spend much time on Paradise Island, you begin to look for good bargains. It's a struggle to stretch the per diem through the meals when a container of mixed nuts can cost more than $20. As such, many members of the blog team today partook of the $10 lunch special in the hallway outside the Imperial Ballroom--a light sandwich, bag of chips, and a drink. It will provide us enough fuel to last until dinner without sucking on ketchup packets (again).

So, it is not without some measure of envy that we look about 25 feet ahead of us at two people sitting at Table 5. They are playing the PCA main event for the cost of our lunch or less. We have light indigestion. They have four levels of a top-tier poker tournament under their belt.

Twenty-nine year-old dental technician Stan Umerenko entered a $10 PCA qualifier back in November. When it was over, he was among the top ten players, and as near as he could tell, he had just won a full package to the PCA.

"I couldn't believe it at first. I had to check it and check again," he said today.

Even after the double-check, Umerenko thought it must not be true. Ten bucks for a package worth $16,000? There had to be some catch. There had to some other step he had to take.

As it happened, his brother had played here last year and was the de facto family expert. Umerenko put in a quick phone call.

"Yeah!" his brother said. "You won!"

Prior to today, the biggest event Umerenko had played had a buy-in of less than $40. Today, he has a chance to play for life-changing money.


Stan Umerenko

If Umerenko is looking for a championship, he's going to have to get past Nicky Walker. She's a mom of four, a research analyst for the Liberal Caucus in Alberta. She won her seat in a straight-up freeroll just a little more than a month ago.

"PokerStars has really gone out of its way," she said.


Nicky Walker

Today, Umerenko and Walker sit just a few seats apart and are among the first people we've met out of a crew of more than a 100 people who are virtually freerolling the PCA.

We hope to be meeting many more. If we meet the right one (that is, the one who wins) we're going to see about upgrading to the mixed nuts for the 2014 PCA.

Brad Willis is the PokerStars Head of Blogging