Panama had never had a tournament with a prize pool that exceeded $1 million before the PokerStars Championship, now it's had three.
Just a few meters away from eachother, two different sets of players are playing for six-figure prizes in tournaments that each had prize pools in excess of $1 million dollars. The PokerStars Championship Main Event final table is playing out on the feature table, while the final two High Roller players battle for the title at another.
Panama's seen poker before, but it's never seen anything like the PokerStars Championship. Hundreds of the world's best poker players descended on this typically transitory transportation hub and turned it into the premier poker destination this March.
The hotel's pool, restaurants and elevator were consistently packed and one hotel employee said they were operating at 94 percent capacity. The city recently upgraded its airport to double its yearly capacity and the infamous canal just went through a multi-billion dollar expansion to double its capacity as well.
The Panamanian poker scene might be doing the same thing pretty soon.
Despite having hosted the Latin American Poker Tour for years, the PokerStars Championship Panama smashed all previous records held on this skinny squiggly country. Prior to the PokerStars Championship landing in Panama, the largest tournament held in the country was the LAPT8 Panama Main Event. That tournament drew 1,290 players and a $970,000 prize pool.
Carter Gill ended up taking down that event and the record-breaking prize pool remained undefeated for years. Then came the PokerStars Championship. The $50,000 Super High Roller kicked off on the second day of the championship and smashed the record with a $1.5 million prize pool.
While the previous record stayed in place for three years, the new one only lasted a few days. The $5,000 PSC Panama Main Event drew hundreds of players and over the course of two days and ended up with a prize pool of $1,775,100.
That's currently the record and it probably won't be broken until the next time the PokerStars Championship sets roots on Panamanian soil. But that doesn't mean the PSC was going to leave without another big prize pool. The High Roller event started towards the end of the championship and also broke the $1 million threshold.
The $10,000 event drew 110 entries for a total prize pool of $1,067,000. Over the course of 10 days, more than $8 million in prize pool money was collected and distributed among players.
Aside from attracting the top players from all across the world, the PokerStars Championship showcased a lot of the local talent that's sprouted up in the last few years.
Team PokerStars Pro Leo Fernandez remembers when they played with a 32-card deck in Argentina back in the 80s. He's seen the game grow and watched as talented players kept popping up all around the region. Now Argentina was one of the most represented countries in the High Roller.
Nearly a third of the players in the Main Event were from Latin America and a third of them cashed.
Main Event players by country
While players might have to wait until next year to get more PokerStars Championship action in Panama, they won't have to wait long at all to get it somewhere else.
The PokerStars Championship will be going to Macau at the end of this month and the championship will host more than 50 events. The PokerStars Live Room in Macau recently broke the record for largest freezeout tournament in Asia Pacific, and now it's going to be hosting its first PokerStars Championship event.
Want more after that? Well you're in luck, head on down to Monte Carlo at the end of April and follow that up with PokerStars Championship Sochi at the end of May. You can take a small break after that, but make sure to check out the PokerStars Championship season finale in Barcelona this August.
For live updates from the $10K High Roller, visit PokerNews.
Take a look at the official website of PokerStars LIVE, with tournament schedule, news, results and accommodation details for the PokerStars Championship Panama and all other Festival and Championship events.
Also all the information is on the PokerStars LIVE App, which is available on both Android or IOS.
Alexander Villegas is a freelance contributor to the PokerStars Blog.