How time flies!  I cannot believe it is once again the start of a new year.  It seems like just yesterday that we rang in the new millennium.  In 2009, we begin a new era with the inauguration of our 44th President, Barack Obama.  I am hopeful that the new administration will bring positive changes in the future for the United States of America.  We all should wish him the best over the next four years.  At the beginning of his term, President Obama obviously has a lot more pressing issues, but I do hope that he, a well-documented poker player, revisits poker legislation and sides with the poker playing populace.

On the poker tournament trail, the start of the year always brings lots of action from multiple events from all over the world.  Here were some of the events held in the month of January:

Pokerstars Caribbean Adventure
(January 5-10):  Originally a World Poker Tour (WPT) event, the PCA is currently part of the European Poker Tour (EPT).  As a poker player who suffers through cold winters, my entire family (especially my kids) eagerly anticipates this event every year.  The PCA is held at one of the best resort destinations in the world: the Atlantis Resort and Casino on Paradise Island in the Bahamas.  This year, the Main Event attracted 1,347 players, over 200 more than last year.  This event continues to grow every year with the largest field outside of the World Series of Poker (WSOP).

In 2009, the PCA Main Event was won by a relatively unknown Canadian player, Poorya Nazari, who took home $3 million for first place.  This year, there was also a $2,000 event, $5,000 event, and $25,000 High Roller event.  Each of these additional events was won by a well-known poker professional: Hevad Khan, the sixth place finisher at the 2007 World Series of Poker Main Event, took down the $2,000 event, while Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier won a PCA event for the second consecutive year (he won the Main Event last year) by capturing the $25,000 High Roller event.  However, the most notable victory was by Peter Eastgate, the 2008 WSOP Main Event Champion.  Eastgate wasted little time proving to the poker world that his WSOP title was no fluke by capturing the PCA’s $5,000 event.

Southern Poker Championship (January 2-19):  During the PCA, the WPT Southern Poker Championship (originally called the Gulf Coast Poker Championship back in 2007) had preliminary events running at the elegant Beau Rivage Resort and Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi (this casino is truly a true hidden gem).  However, four days after the PCA Main Event ended, the WPT Southern Poker Championship Main Event began with 283 players.  The tournament was just short of the 288 players needed for a first prize of $1 million.  However, the Beau Rivage kicked in the extra money to even out the top prize.  Eventually, Allen Carter (AawwNutz) from Brownsville, Texas outlasted the field to take home his first WPT Main Event title, the $1 million first place prize money, and a $25,000 seat into the 2009 WPT Championship, held at the Bellagio in Las Vegas this coming April.

Aussie Millions (January 5–20):  Another January event held at a beautiful location, albeit halfway around the world, is the Aussie Millions.  Held at the Crown Casino in Melbourne, Australia (which is the hometown of 2005 WSOP Champion Joseph Hachem), this tournament has become a desired destination for many players over the past few years.  Once again, this tournament held a $100,000 preliminary event which was won by David Steicke from Hong Kong.  In the $10,000 Main Event, Australian Stewart Scott outlasted 680 other competitors, collecting almost $1.4 million for his victory.

WSOP Circuit in Tunica (January 20-February 4):  After the WPT Southern Poker Championship, many players drove north on US 49 and Interstate 55 instead of flying Down Under to play more poker.  At Harrah’s in Tunica, Mississippi, the WSOP Circuit made its latest stop, holding 25 events ranging from No Limit Hold’em to HORSE, culminating in a $5,000 No Limit Hold’em Main Event.  Last year, unknown Bart Tichelman from Atlanta, Georgia won $415,595 and a WSOP Circuit ring.

Borgata Winter Poker Open (January 15-31):  Previously, a WPT event, the Borgata Hotel and Casino has scaled down its Main Event to a $3,000 buy-in; however, the casino is guaranteeing a prize pool of $2 million, or 667 players.  Held at one of the true gems of Atlantic City, players can experience multi-day, deep stack tournament poker for a discounted price, but still potentially earn a huge first prize.  Last year, poker professional Gavin Griffin won the WPT Main Event title to make poker history – becoming the first winner of the triple crown of poker: a WPT title, an EPT title, and a WSOP bracelet.

Pokerstars EPT Deauville, France (January 20-24) and LAPT Vina del Mar, Chile (January 20-22):  If your home is in Europe or Latin America or you enjoy travelling around the world to exciting new locales, the EPT Deauville and LAPT Vina del Mar, Chile are sponsored by Pokerstars.  Moritz Alexander Kranich from Denmark won EPT Deauville’s Main Event for a little over $1.1 million, while Fabian Ortiz, from Argentina, became the first Latin American to win an LAPT event by capturing Vina del Mar’s crown and $141,426.

As for me, after taking an extended break in December to recharge my batteries, I am looking forward to a successful 2009 campaign.  So far, so good, as I recently made a deep run in Biloxi.  After playing in the PCA, I registered for the Southern Poker Championship.  I played well on both Day 1 and Day 2, ending both days in the top 12 in chips.  For a time during Day 2, I was even the chip leader.  Unfortunately, I finished a disappointing 23rd place on Day 3 when my 9-9 lost a race to A-K after a king hit the flop.  Nevertheless, I am looking forward to my next event at the Borgata and beyond.

Good luck to everyone in 2009!

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