Thursday, 29th February 2024 16:27
Home / Poker / 2023 Review: A year in PokerStars Live events

Another year is now complete in the continuing success story that is PokerStars Live events.

The European Poker Tour visited five destinations, including two that were new to all of us, and the PSPC returned — at last!

Meanwhile, regional tours headed hither and thither across the globe, introducing a new generation of poker players to the best organised, best attended and most fun live tournament festivals on the planet.

Let’s take a look back at 2023 in PokerStars Live Events.

PSPC / PCA

The PokerStars live poker year of 2023 began with an enormous bang: the return to the Bahamas after a four-year absence, and the return of two all-time favourite events. First up, the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) came back. And then a second running of the PokerStars Players No Limit Hold’em Championship (PSPC), raising the bar yet again for a high-stakes poker tournament.

The venue this time was the luxurious Baha Mar Resort, Nassau, just down the road from the Atlantis of Paradise Island, but a world apart in terms of service and opulence. The magnificent and vast ballroom hosted a 512-entry field for the $10,000 PCA Main Event, which ended in an all-Portuguese heads-up battle pitting newcomer Pedro Neves with long-time grinder Michel Dattani.

While Neves is a hot tip for future glory, Dattani ground this one out for his first major title. He banked $1.3 million. Neves took $1.2 million after a heads-up deal.

Michel Dattani started 2023 with a bang

PSPC

As amazing as it was, that huge event served only as a prelude to the PSPC, which offered another chance for hundreds of mainly recreational or low-stakes players to cross swords with the top pros in a sensational $25K buy-in tournament.

Once again, the lesser-known players were offered the chance to win a Platinum Pass to the tournament, which offered a buy-in as well as a full hospitality package in the Bahamas. The pandemic delayed the tournament for more than two years, raising the excitement to beyond fever pitch for when the event could finally take place.

Eventually, the tournament attracted 1,014 entries and the expected mix of leading pros and Platinum Pass holders assembled around the final table. The German duo of Niclas Thumm and Max Menzel turned their lucky tickets into $1 million and $2.9 million, respectively, as they finished sixth and second.

Alexander Shylko emerged from the competition as a previously unheralded superstar in the making. He took $3.1 million back to Belarus and followed Ramon Colillas as PSPC champion.

The emerging superstar Alexander Shylko

In what was a typically buzzing festival, Sam Greenwood, Jonathan Jaffe, Connor Beresford, Justin Bonomo and Isaac Haxton (twice) were among the big buy-in winners, while Ognjan Dimov banked the “regular” $25K High Roller title.

There were also wins for Team Pro’s Georgina James and chess star Alexandra Botez. All in all, the trip to the Caribbean laid an incredible foundation for a brilliant year of live poker.

Full PCA festival coverage
Full PCA festival results

EPT Paris

The EPT landed back in France for the first time since its last trip to Deauville in 2015 — but this time we went to the capital. Yes, shortly after Valentine’s Day, the City of Love hosted an enormous event — the biggest EPT debut ever — as the world’s poker players descended on Paris.

Alan Goasdoue took down the massive FPS Main Event, besting a 2,014-entry field to win €287,830, before Chris Brewer began an incredible year for him with victory in both the €50K Super High Roller and a €25K single-day event.

When attention shifted to the EPT Main Event, Razvan Belea landed a first win for Romania on Europe’s flagship tour, earning the online pro a sensational €1.17 million first prize from 1 1,606-entry tournament.

Razvan Belea gets Romania started

Full EPT Paris coverage
Full EPT Paris results

EPT Monte Carlo

Once again, the most breathtaking tournament room in the world game, Monaco’s Salle des Etoiles, played host to EPT Monte Carlo at the end of April/beginning of May. And once again, the best of the best rose to the top.

Canada’s Mike Watson, a leading tournament grinder from the very earliest days of PokerStars events, became only the third player to win a second live EPT Main Event title. Watson beat a record-equalling Monte Carlo field, banking €749,425 after a heads-up deal with Leonard Maue. He added it to his PCA triumph from 2016.

Mike Watson bagged EPT title No 2

The trip to the exclusive principality was notable also for the first major win for a Japanese player, Daisuke Ogita, who won the FPS Main Event, and for the emergence as a Super High Roller force of Alex Kulev.

The EPT was also delighted to welcome Magnus Carlsen, who opted to spend the first day of his life as a former world chess champion playing poker. We caught up with him.

Welcome to the poker world, Magnus Carlsen

Full EPT Monte Carlo coverage
Full EPT Monte Carlo results

EPT Barcelona

It’s tough to hold on to a chip lead in poker. At least that’s the conventional wisdom. However, French pro Simon Wiciak made light work of the supposed burden in Barcelona, converting the lead he took on Day 4 into an EPT Main Event title.

Simon Wiciak was unbeatable in Barcelona

It was worth $1.13 million to the 30-year-old from La Rochelle, who managed to capture the title from a Brazil-dominated final table, which included Team PokerStars Ambassador Andre Akkari and eventual runner up Joao Sydenstricker.

As ever, EPT Barcelona was enormous, with the Estrellas Main Event becoming PokerStars’ largest ever live tournament. France’s Lucien Cohen, the infamous Ratman, beat the incredible 7,398-entry field to win €880,000.

Elsewhere, Kayhan Mokri landed his first Super High Roller title, while PokerStars Power Path winners started making a splash. They included the new EPT power (path) couple, Andy and Jenny Steele, who are beating empty-nest syndrome in a unique way.

Jenny Steele, one half of the Power Path power couple

Full EPT Barcelona coverage
Full EPT Barcelona results

EPT Cyprus

For the second time in a busy year, the EPT broke new ground when it visited the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. The venue was the incredible Merit Diamond Hotel Spa and Resort, which boasted everything one could possibly want in a poker destination — as well as a turtle rehabilitation centre.

As always, there was trepidation. How many people would come to play? But as with Paris, there was no need for any concern: the tournament fields were massive and the location became an immediate hit.

Ex PokerStars employee Ankit Ahuja got the festival off to a flying start with victory in a record-setting Eureka Main Event, beating a field of 1,146 entries. It was sweet redemption for Ahuja, who was unfortunate to finish only fifth in another massive $1K event in Barcelona a couple of months prior.

Ankit Ahuja: From PokerStars desk to PokerStars champion

Juan Pardo then continued his brilliant string of results by taking down the Super High Roller event, pipping his countryman Vicente Delgado. Pardo won $688K for that one, and then followed up with a third and a fourth place in two other $25K events.

It was all about the Main Event though, with the hugely popular Gilles Simon scoring a breakthrough victory and a fantastic $1.04 million first prize. Simon was a former Platinum Pass winner, earned through PokerStars “Dare To Stream” promotion. But he’d given up Twitch to focus more on his game, and this victory over an 896-entry field proved his mettle.

Gilles “Ghilley” Simon: Famous champion

Full EPT Cyprus coverage
Full EPT Cyprus results

EPT Prague

The European Poker Tour returned to Prague for its regular pre-Christmas shindig, but there were question marks over the potential field sizes owing to other high-profile events taking place at the same time.

But there was nothing to worry about.

The €1,100 Eureka Poker Tour Main Event smashed its previous record field with 4,403 entries. And then the €5,300 EPT Main Event did exactly the same thing, welcoming 1,285 entries. Previous highest counts of 4,017 and 1,267, respectively, were comfortably surpassed.

These were thrilling tournaments too, with Austria’s Alexander Tkatschew landing victory in the Eureka and banking €511,710 — his second major win of the year, after a €25K success in Cyprus.

But then Padraig O’Neill claimed victory in an absolute humdinger of an EPT Main Event.

Padraig O’Neill v Jon Kyte was a battle for the ages

Norwegian pro Jon Kyte destroyed the opening days of the tournament, coming to the five-handed finale with more than 60 percent of the total chips in play. It was the biggest lead of any player ever heading to the last day.

However, O’Neill played superbly to rebuild his stack from 12 big blinds and actually take the lead into a heads-up shootout against Kyte. These two titans then went back and forth in one of the swingiest battles in memory.

But O’Neill eventually prevailed giving Ireland only its second EPT champion in a near 20-year history.

Full EPT Prague coverage
Full EPT Prague results

UKIPT

The ever-popular United Kingdom and Ireland Poker Tour (UKIPT) has historically been the breeding ground for many of Europe’s future stars. But the 2023 tour, which snaked through Blackpool, Brighton, London, Edinburgh and Nottingham, was mostly about established players stamping their authority on the live arena.

How else to explain victories for both Ben “Spraggy” Spragg and Fintan Hand, friends, Team PokerStars colleagues, and renowned Twitch streamers?

Ben Spragg picked up a first UKIPT win…

…and was followed by Fintan Hand

Spragg and Hand landed victories in Brighton and Edinburgh, for £69,120 and £44,200, respectively. Two of the UK and Ireland’s finest really came of age.

Tuan Le (Blackpool), Dylan Bradley (London) and Vincent Meli (Nottingham) won the three other UKIPT titles that did not go to anyone wearing the red spade. Meanwhile, the Summer Festival Malta and Irish Open in Dublin were at least UKIPT-adjacent this year, and ended in titles for Simone Andrian and David Docherty.

Docherty landed the UKIPT leader board as a result of a brilliant year.

A brilliant year for David Docherty

NAPT

Huge fanfare greeted the return to the poker calendar of the North American Poker Tour (NAPT), PokerStars’ first return to American soil since 2011.

The setting was Resorts World, Las Vegas, for a fantastic festival of the usual poker action before the Formula 1 Grand Prix.

Suffice to say, the poker players of the United States welcomed the return in their droves, with 1,095 entries into the $1,650 Main Event and solid numbers in all the side events too.

A terrific win for Sami Bechahed

Former dealer Sami Bechahed landed a breakout triumph in the Main Event, picking up $268,945. Nine out of the top 10 players were Americans, demonstrating the continuing health of poker in its spiritual home. We hope and expect to be back soon.

Samuel Laskowitz won the $5,300 High Roller and Jesse Lonis won the $10,000 Super High Roller.

Full NAPT coverage

LOOK FORWARD TO 2024 LIVE EVENTS

The EPT was such a success in 2023 that tournament organisers have arranged a virtual repeat for 2024. Yep, we’ll be heading to Paris, Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Cyprus and Prague once again. Check out the official EPT page for more.

Of course, the regional tours will also be back, with announcements of destinations expected to be confirmed in January.

In the meantime, we wish you a happy holiday season for all — and a prosperous New Year Series as well.

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