In addition to the usual online tournament mayhem, it was a busy weekend for live events staff at PokerStars — particularly those departments that deal with the allocations of Platinum Passes to the PokerStars Players NL Hold’em Championship (PSPC). There were events in both Le Havre, France, and Barcelona, Spain, which bolstered their prize pools with a sliver of platinum, and both attracted significant fields and crowned worthy champions.

In Le Havre, the Brittany resort in northern France not so far from the EPT’s old stomping ground of Deauville, 883 players payed €175 apiece for the Road to PSPC tournament there. It meant that 107 players would be in the money, with the first prize set at €20,292 — plus the Platinum Pass worth a little bit more than that.

All of the familiar faces were in attendance, representing the new French poker guard as well as the old. That meant appearances from Kalidou Sow as well as Julien Brecard and Benjamin Bruneteaux, among others, although their commitments on the final day were confined solely to the commentary box as another family took control of proceedings.

Julien Brecard and Benjamin Bruneteaux

Remarkably, the heads-up battle ended up being between Amine Loueslati and Nizar Anafal, who had travelled to the tournament together. Loueslati is Anfal’s wife’s cousin — and the third member of their travelling crew, Nafis Dundar, burst the bubble the day before. Anafal estimated the chances of getting heads up against his friend at 778,000 to one.

Nizar Anafal celebrates his victory with Amine Loueslati, left, who finished second and bubble boy Nafis Dundar

Anafal, who is a real estate dealer and amateur poker player, had an overwhelming chip lead in the late stages and made short work of the heads-up duel, eventually winning with A♦10♥ against Loueslati’s K♠8♣. The two friends stood with arms around each other’s shoulders as the dealer dealt out the final board, then congratulated with one another when the ace-high remained good. One suspects Loueslati will make his way to Barcelona in August, even if it’s just to support Anafal.

“Already I am dreaming about this tournament,” Anafal said. “It’s extraordinary the kind of players in a 25K. I go to the United States for the WSOP and I will prepare myself mentally [for the PSPC]. I will do something. I don’t know what, but I will do something.”


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Earlier in the weekend, another Frenchman Emmanuel Briquet booked his seat at the big one after winning the random draw among PokerStars qualifiers for a Platinum Pass. Briquet was in the event after winning a €3 satellite on PokerStars, qualifying him for the “all-in shootout” (or flip-out) that was held among the 29 PokerStars qualifiers.

About 1,250 kilometres away, down in northern Spain, a field of 613 players amassed for a similar event. This time the venue was Casino Barcelona itself, which will host the PSPC as part of the enormous EPT Barcelona festival in August.

The buy-in for this one was a mere €200, less than 1 percent of what it’s going to cost to play the PSPC, and the scheduled first-place prize was €20,000. However, the players were incredibly shallow at the final table and when the field trimmed to the last three, they opted to make a deal. Romania’s Gabriel Podovei locked up €15,700, Lebanon’s Patrick El Kallas took €15,150 and Jesper Hansen, of Denmark, took €14,150.

That left the Platinum Pass to play for and its destination was quickly decided. Podovei hit the skids first, then El Kallas and Hansen flipped for it all with El Kallas shoving for around 5.5 million with Q♠7♠. Hansen called with 5♥5♣ and survived all the way through a board that brought a flush draw on the flop, to add to the over-cards.

Jesper Hansen became the first Danish Platinum Pass winner

Hansen, who has close to $250,000 in live earnings, becomes the first player from Denmark to win a Platinum Pass to this year’s PSPC.

The fourth and final Pass of the weekend giveaways went to Cesar Esteban Romero, who was the lucky PokerStars qualifier coming out on top in the flipout in Barcelona. Ramon Colillas, who knows a thing or two about winning a Platinum Pass, was on hand to hand the pass over.

Cesar Esteban Romero gets his Platinum Pass from Ramon Colillas

We’ll have more details about all the winners on the PSPC page as and when we know more.


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