PCA 2016: Mike "SirWatts" Watson leads final six in Main Event
If you, like many, wonder whatever happened to poker of yesteryear, the kind with trash-talking, ridiculously bloated over-bet pots, and happy-to-cash amateurs, this was a day to watch the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. Maybe it was the reduced Main Event buy-in. Maybe it was simply the fates granting us a nostalgic throwback to the old days. It's hard to say. Regardless, from the bet-sizing to the banter, today's PCA felt a bit like 2005 all over again.
It ends, however, back on 2016 form with four of poker's best-known pros in the final six headed into the last day of the Main Event. Topping them all is Mike "SirWatts" Watson.
Here's the final six, where they are seated, and how they stack up for Thursday's final.
Seat 1: Mike Watson (Canada) 6,585,000
Seat 2: Vladimir Troyanovskiy (Russia) 5,025,000
Seat 3: Randy Kritzer (USA) 2,565,000
Seat 4: Tony Gregg (USA) 5,690,000
Seat 5: Phillip McAllister (UK) 3,040,000
Seat 6: Toby Lewis (UK) 4,665,000
Watson, Troyanovskiy, Gregg, and Lewis need no introduction to poker players. Gregg has made two previous PCA Main Event final tables. Lewis is an EPT champion. Watson is an WPT champion with millions in winnings and two SCOOP titles. Troyanovskiy is an EPT regular and one of Russia's biggest poker winners. Any of them could win this and it would surprise no one.
Meanwhile, Phillip McAllister is a 22-year-old grinder from the UK known as Grindnation on PokerStars with more than a million bucks in combined live and online winnings. He and Randy Kritzer, a neurosurgeon and recreational player from North Carolina, will have their hands full against the four pros on Thursday.
For all those who won't see tomorrow, the game of What Might Have Been will go on playing for some time. For one-time Main Event final tablist Fabian Ortiz, that game may go on forever.
Today, Ortiz started third in chips but couldn't beat overnight chip leader Pires in any pot of significance. If Ortiz had a hand, Pires was bigger. If Pires was bluffing, he got there anyway. For Ortiz, it was a slow-motion horror show that ended with him getting disemboweled when Pires held an overpair of kings to his own flopped top pair of queens.
Ortiz's 17th place finish was not the first of the day (Taylor Paur and Fedor Holz went first), but it set off a series of bust-outs that went so fast, everyone thought we might be finished by dinner. Fabian Chauriye, Ami Barer, and Stephen Chidwick went one by one. (You can see all the payouts here on our 2016 PCA Main Event results page.)
After that, the Brazilians had reason to believe they had a lock on the final table. Pires, the man folks started calling the Brazilian Jamie Gold, had run roughshod over the field on last three days of play. Until today, every night since Day 2 had finished with Pires in the lead.
That ended today when Pires imploded over the course of a couple of hours. After extending his lead to a point where he had more than 25% of the chips in play, Pires lost pot after pot. He didn't play small ball. He made big bets and bigger bluffs. It ended when Pires bluffed all-in over and a raise and a call with 4♣3♥ and ran into Mike Watson's pair of tens. So it goes.
Paul Gooley departed in the time it took people to stop marveling at Pires' meltdown, one that wouldn't be the end of the big blow-ups. Martin McCormick, the day-drinking, hard talking amateur was a polarizing figure at the table.
After five days of warnings, penalties, and needling, McCormick spent an hour of Day 5 in a spat with Matt Waxman. It hadn't ended when McCormick played a blind-vs-blind hand, indeed blind, to the flop with Ken Demlakian. They checked it through to the turn where Demlakian hit his ace and bet out. McCormick bluffed all in with only a flush draw. He missed, and he was gone.
"I used up all my good luck," McCormick said.
After that came the slow game of making it to the final table. It finally happened when Matt Waxman shoved A♠7♥ into Mike Watson's A♦Q♥. Watson flopped two queens, made queens full of aces on the turn, and avoided the chopped pot on the river. Waxman was gone in tenth, and the field consolidated to the unofficial final table.
To come so close to PCA title and fall...that may be the toughest beat of all. It happened first to David Eldridge, who managed to double once through Toby Lewis, before losing the next two all-ins against the same man.
After that it, we lost Timothy Ulmer in 8th, and Aussie Ken Demlakian in seventh to make the final table of six. We can't fail to note, Demlakian made it this far after quadrupling up a few nights ago after getting his last chips in blind--it was either go big or make his flight the next morning. He now has more than enough winnings to pay for that airfare change.
If you need more action before the night ends, we still have ongoing $25,000 High Roller live updates as that tourney winds its way toward a third day. Both it and the Main Event will crown champions on Thursday. Join us then for live updates from beginning to end.
Until then, goodnight from the Bahamas.
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Brad Willis is the PokerStars Head of Blogging.