There’s something about Barcelona that makes it the perfect hub for high stakes poker. Call it the climate, the scenery, or just the warm welcome. But whatever it was there were more records broken this year at Casino Barcelona as the PokerStars Championship moved in for nine days.
Events on Las Ramblas, in the heart of Barcelona, put things very much into perspective as players began arriving at Casino Barcelona. News came of a terror attack that killed and injured hundreds of people left no one in any doubt where priorities were. It sent the city and the world into mourning, including everyone at PokerStars.
The Super High Rollers got the Championship up and running in the usual way. Some 67 players (19 of whom re-bought), among them Daniel Negreanu took their seats. Meanwhile the National Championship, which would go on to set a record for the number of players taking part, also got going, using up every available table and chair in the casino. Negreanu would go on to finish in ninth place, collecting €117,000.
As the Main Event got under way with the first of two Day 1 flights the Super High Rollers were wrapping things up. Igor Kurganov, who became a Team Pro earlier this year, recorded the biggest win of his career (worth €1,078,106) after a two-way deal with second placed Bartlomiej Machon.
With the Super High Roller finished all attention was on the Main Event and a Day 1B field of more than 1,200 players. Among the field that day was Anton Zaslavski, aka. Zedd, who had performed at the PokerStars Player Party the night before. Looking fresh despite the late night, Zedd crashed out of the Main Event, but days later finished third in a side event, collecting €44,000.
A year on from his win in the European Poker Tour Main Event Sebastian Malec still got a lot of attention with his appearance in the Main Event. Wearing the same yellow hoodie, he was never far from at least one camera, although he failed to go deep this time around.
The bubble came and went, but not without an extended period of wait and see. Bubbles in Barcelona have been lengthy affairs in years past and this one was no different. The best way to burst through one? With a big stack and completely relaxed, which happened to be the strategy adopted by Dario Sammartino.
It would prove another great event for Team Pro Andre Akkari, who bagged up the chip lead at the end of Day 4. Akkari fell short of a first Championship title but came close, surviving a difficult day 5 to reach the final table, finishing in fifth place for €317,960.
The High Roller event would attract an enormous field of 557 entries. It used a shot clock format, which means one things for the players, but also something to the dealers, who need to know how the clocks work, and when they apply. Here dealers gather around a short video explaining the system. It worked. Errors were practically non-existent.
Sebastian Sorensson had spent most of the week behind a Miami Dolphins scarf. Playing only his second live event he had quickly mastered the live game, reaching the final table as one of the chip leader before he turned that into a PokerStars Championship title and a first prize (after a three-way deal) of €987,043.
The conclusion of the Main Event left just the High Roller to find a winner, which it did in Ronnie Kaiser. The former EPT winner chopped it three ways with Markus Durnegger and Ben Pollak, taking €735,000 for the win and bringing the curtain down on another year in Barcelona.
Our thanks to official photographers Neil Stoddart, Rene Velli, and Carlos Monti for the images used above.