PCA 2015: The biggest spin up of them all
When John Dibella won the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in 2011, he had qualified for his seat at the Main Event in a live satellite at Atlantis that cost $1,000 to enter. He thereby recorded one of the great R.O.I. success stories of the modern era, the kind popularised by Chris Moneymaker, Greg Raymer and the other raft of PokerStars qualifiers who have translated relatively meagre buy-ins into enormous paydays.
Dibella is back at Atlantis this week and again qualified for the Main Event via a live satellite. But there are two other players on his table this afternoon who have the potential to make his nothing-to-something tale seem positively tame.
Laura "candylaustar" Garzon and Tomas Biliunas won their seats at the PCA in online satellites on PokerStars. But it's not even just that simple: they each qualified through the "FPP Mega-Path" route. Garzon began her journey in an online satellite costing six frequent player points, while Biliunas stumped up ten FPPs.
They are therefore entered into a real-life, live poker tournament, with a first prize likely to be more than $1.5 million, for a sum so small it can't even really be defined in monetary terms. FPPs are rather more like a key: essentially worthless in isolation unless you find the lock it can open. And Garzon and Biliunas may have found a key to a treasure chest packed with extraordinary riches.
"I feel a great responsibility now that I have the chance to play such an important tournament," Garzon, 21, said. "But I also feel very motivated and am taking it all calmly."
To get this far, Garzon, who is from Colombia, has already been through four rounds of qualifying. The first event, round one on the Mega Path, costs two FPPs, but she took a re-buy and an add-on -- essentially draining her FPP account in the process. "I actually only had seven FPPs in my account so I registered for the tournament and just counted on luck," she said.
By the time she had progressed through steps costing 100 FPPs and 2,500 FPPs she was suddenly joined by some of the game's biggest sharks also hunting down the ticket. In the final step, a qualifier costing 120,000 FPPs, Gaston was up against Mickey Petersen, Kenny Hicks, Chris Oliver, Elio Fox, Rupert Elder and John Shipley, among others.
"I was just motivated to succeed and thankfully things were going well," Garzon said. "The secret was to trust in myself - and when it came to the 120,000 FPP satellite, when I was down to two big blinds on the big blind and won an all-in on the bubble, I realised my dream was very close."
As a way to celebrate Garzon's success, PokerStars has also announced a special "candylaustar Caribbean Adventure" tournament, costing two FPPs to buy in. It's a virtual freeroll, in other words, but with $1,000 in the prize pool to kick off with, plus an extra $250 for every level Garzon remains in the Main Event.
The tournament takes place on January 16, and there will also be a $100 bounty on Garzon's head. Search for it in the PokerStars lobby and get registering.
Biliunas, who is from Lithuania, may have invested the extra four FPPs in his opening round, but is hardly going to have considered the bank to have been broken. It is nothing more than coincidence that the two of them have found themselves sitting alongside one another this afternoon, sandwiched between Dibella to their left and Antonio Matias, the former EPT Vilamoura champion, to their right.
Elsewhere in the field, Viktoras Keinichas, another Lithuanian, is also beginning his journey to potentially infinite ROI. He won a freeroll on PokerStars to get his seat to this event and is now looking to spin up his nothing into something.
Good luck to them all.
Follow all the action from the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure on PokerStars Blog. Everything from the Main Event is on the Main Event page, while the LAPT event has reached its final table. Full coverage is on the LAPT Bahamas page and on EPT Live.