COVID-19 continues to have a say

Major live poker tournaments have started returning to casinos, particularly in the United States, but we now have the first significant, confirmed casualty of 2021. On Wednesday, PokerStars announced that the PokerStars Players No Limit Hold’em Championship (PSPC) has been canceled. Technically, it is “postponed,” but seeing as it is not going to run this calendar year, I think we can call the 2021 PSPC canceled.

“We know that this further news will come as a disappointment to many hoping the PSPC would take place this year,” wrote PokerStars both in an e-mail to the media and on its blog, “but our priority is the safety and good health of all our players and staff, as well as the communities that host such large events.”

It was this month last year that live poker tournaments – and in-person events around the world, for that matter – began to be canceled because of the growing COVID-19 pandemic. PokerStars waited until May to finally postpone the PSPC and EPT Barcelona, both to be held at Casino Barcelona in Spain, would be postponed until 2021.

PokerStars still had some time, as the PSPC wasn’t scheduled until the summer, but likely made the decision now because, as it said, there is “ongoing uncertainty” in regards to the COVID-19 virus. Though Spain’s case and death numbers are significantly down from a few months ago, there is inconsistency across Europe and the world. Brazil, in particular, is back in the midst of another horrible wave. With players traveling from around the globe, PokerStars likely felt uncomfortable about the prospects of a safe poker tournament.

First PSPC was a smash hit

The PSPC has run just once, in January 2019. The idea behind the live event, organized by an online poker room, was that it was a large buy-in tournament ($25,000), but players of all bankrolls would have opportunities to win their way in throughout the year. PokerStars spent the bulk of 2018 awarding “Platinum Passes” to players, which consisted of the event’s buy-in, about a week’s accommodation in a nice hotel, money for expenses, and PSPC merchandise.

PokerStars wanted the tournament to be accessible to everyone and for it to be one of the biggest live events on the poker calendar. And to the latter point, it certainly was. The field of 1,039 made it the largest $25,000 buy-in tournament of all time, generating a prize pool of $26.4 million.

The poker room awarded 320 Platinum Passes that year and 43 of those players made the money. One of those Platinum Pass winners was Ramon Colillas, who took the PSPC crown and the incredible $5.1 million first prize.

PokerStars has assured players that anyone who has won a Platinum Pass for what was to be the 2021 PSPC – there are 400 of them – will not lose it and should plan to play in the PSPC on PokerStars’ dime next year.

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