PokerStars Championship Bahamas: Spin & Go winner gets trip of a lifetime & another down memory lane
Growing up, I had an uncle who was heavily into poker. Back then though, I had no idea what poker was.
Whenever we'd visit, his dimly-lit study room had a large round table with what looked like snooker felt ironed over it. There were round coins resembling Pogs (how great were Pogs?), ashtrays waiting patiently to be prodded, and the same decks of cards we'd play gin rummy with scattered across the green. "It's his weekly poker game tonight," my parents would tell me.
"Whatever, let's play gin rummy," is what I imagine my eight-year-old response was.
Six or seven years later, I had both discovered the game myself, and developed a love of writing. A whole lot of luck later and I now get to combine the two. But sadly my uncle - who probably would have got the biggest kick out of me being in the Bahamas to write about poker for the second year running - wasn't around long enough to see it.
Of course, this isn't a story unique to me. Far from it. Many professional poker players, members of the poker media, and amateur players who play for fun, will have similar family memories of the game growing up.
Benjamin Wittams-Smith, one of over a hundred players who won a $10 Spin & Go on PokerStars to qualify for the first ever PokerStars Championship Bahamas Main Event, falls under the latter category: an amateur player who plays for fun. He also remembers a family member loving poker growing up.
"My Granddad was very big on poker. There have been quite a few mad gambling wins in my family!" the young Brit told me.
He too would eventually discover the game on his own, and play online on PokerStars whenever he had a few spare hours. Firing up some Spin & Gos was a fun way to pass the time.
"I used to play a lot a while ago. Spin & Gos have been out for a while in the UK," he said, and one night he decided to fire up a few $10 ones. Little did he know his plans for January 2017 were about change completely.
"I wasn't expecting it, y'know? I was just playing some Spin & Gos, as you do. And yeah...I won the package!"
That package included entry into the $5K PSC Championship Bahamas Main Event, accommodation at the incredible Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island, and money for travel and expenses. But unfortunately for Wittams-Smith, his amazing win was bittersweet.
"My Granddad died two days prior to this happening. So when that came up [that he'd won the package] it was quite shocking."
While his Grandad was sadly no longer with him to see him win the trip of a lifetime for any poker player, Wittams-Smith showed up here in the Bahamas ready to play.
It wasn't until Day 3 of the Main Event that he showed up on the PokerStars Blog radar, and it was mainly due to 2013 WSOP champ Ryan Riess. The man known as 'the beast' had been sitting next to Wittams-Smith for most of the day, and first informed us of his story. Even after Wittams-Smith had been moved to a different table, Riess would get out of his seat and rail him whenever he was involved in a significant hand.
"Yeah, Ryan was a nice guy. A great guy," Wittams-Smith says. "I'm glad to have met him."
But the dream story didn't quite work out the way Wittams-Smith was hoping.
"Unfortunately, I just made a bad call," he says. "I was aiming for a higher cash, but I couldn't hang around for too long."
Wittams-Smith was short with just 36,000 and the blinds at 2K/5K when he'd meet his end. He opened to 12,000 and when it folded to Nenad Medic in the small blind he put him all-in. He thought for a minute or so, before deciding to call off his 36,000 with the K♦Q♠. Wittams-Smith explains the hand:
"I'd just spoken to Nenad, the guy who eventually took me out. I'd just spoke to him outside. I raised him in position just before the break, he went all in, and I folded. I spoke to him outside and asked him what he had. He told me he had ace-king off-suit.
"He then did it again, and I thought "he's just expecting me to fold here."
Surely Medic couldn't have ace-king again right?
He did. Medic showed the A♦K♥ and the big slick held up. Wittams-Smith rode that $10 Spin & Go Caribbean wave all the way to a 95th place finish and $9,120. Luckily there's plenty to do here in Atlantis.
"I'm probably going to do some diving, then who knows? I'm just going to enjoy the sun! I've been inside most of the time."
A subtle brag there; if you're inside a lot, that means the poker is going well!
"I'm here on my own, but I've made a few friends. It's been a great experience, and I'd love to do it again."
As I said earlier, Wittams-Smith wasn't the only $10 Spin & Go winner here in the Bahamas. This lot also won the dream package and turned $10 into thousands:
Massimo De Mario - 22nd for $24,640
Stig Moen - 43rd for $14,760
Lucian Voigt - 57th for $11,560
Jan Kralik - 68th for $11,560
Mattias Priolo - 77th for $9,120
Thomas Muehlemann - 106th for $7,260
Jeremey Grayson - 125th for $7,260
Maybe next time it could be you who spins and goes somewhere exciting...
For players like Ben Wittams-Smith, and writers like me, these poker trips allow you to create memories that will last a lifetime. In the future, they'll sit happily alongside those memories of your granddad or uncle. And eventually, who knows? Maybe they'll all blend into one.
Take a look at the official website of PokerStars LIVE, with tournament schedule, news, results and accommodation details for the PokerStars Championship Bahamas 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.
Jack Stanton is a freelance contributor to the Pokerstars Blog.