PokerStars Festival Marbella: The man who beat 14,000 people to get here
For the Lex Veldhuises and Fatima Moreira de Melos of the poker world, this €1,100 PokerStars Festival Marbella Main Event will be just another day (albeit an exciting one) in the 'office'. Just another chance to ply the trade they've been working on for years.
But for many players here on the shores of sunny Marbella, including the UK's Daniel Williams, playing in this event is a dream come true. And it didn't come easy.
Williams, a 22-year-old technician from North Wales, has a day job working for an optical manufacturing company. He was watching Veldhuis on Twitch a couple of weeks ago when he heard about a freeroll bounty taking place on PokerStars. The first place prize was a package to Marbella, including Main Event entry, hotel and travel.
"I might as well play it," thought Williams, whose biggest career cash to date came online in the Big $5.50, when he cashed for $500. After all, in the four years since he'd discovered poker, Williams hadn't had much opportunity to play the game he loved in a live arena.
When he was at university, he was able to play some small live games in the casinos in Liverpool, where he studied. But now that he was back living in North Wales, the chance to ruffle chips, peel cards, read reads and stack stacks outside of home games was gone.
So this freeroll really meant something; not just to Williams, but to all of the other 14,175 players who were hoping to win their way to the south of Spain.
Anyone who has played an online tournament that big knows how difficult it can be to bob and weave your way through the enormous field. But as the hours go by, the field starts to dwindle; flips are won and lost, bad beats are handed out left and right, and stacks begin to build.
Something incredible was happening for the young Welshman. His tournament was going well, so well he made it to the final table. And just like that, Williams found himself heads up for the package. You know what happened next...
...He lost, finishing in second, with no package. The Marbella dream had died.
But like all good stories, there's a twist in the tale. Williams received a call from PokerStars telling him that the original winner of the package had been disqualified, for reasons we won't go into here (mainly because we don't know them). That meant the prize of the Marbella package went to the next man in line.
As the runner up, that meant Williams. He was heading to Marbs.
He couldn't believe it. In a whirlwind of excitement, he rang his closest friend to tell him the good news. This was the guy he had first started playing poker with, so the news of his success was particularly poignant. Of course, if he hadn't then invited his friend to join him on the trip, it might have been a bit of nose-rubbing.
"Winning this Marbella package and being at the festival is the highlight of my year," he said. "I've never been there before, so I'm really looking forward to the weather and rubbing elbows with some great players."
Fast forward to today, and it's Day 1A of the PokerStars Festival Marbella Main Event. Williams is currently in the field, alongside the Lex Veldhuises and Fatima Moreira de Melos of the poker world. He's playing in a €700,000-guaranteed tournament, which usually hands out first-place prizes in the region of €150,000. And last night, he enjoyed a meal with his friend, alongside Team PokerStars Pro Marcin Horecki and snooker legend Stephen Hendry, during which they enjoyed great food and exchanged some poker tips.
Williams told us he doesn't usually play satellites on PokerStars, but he says he'll certainly start playing more now. We'll be following Williams' progress throughout the event, and will report back as and when.
This is the dream come true.
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Jack Stanton is a freelance contributor to the PokerStars Blog.