After taking a break for this summer’s World Series of Poker, the PokerStars Championships have come back with a bang. After Day 3 at the Casino Barcelona in Spain, Benjamin Richardson is holding down the top slot on the leaderboard with 2.804 million in chips.
There were going to be some unhappy campers who came back to the felt on Thursday. 287 players remained from the sizeable 1682 player field, but only 247 of those players would partake of a piece of the €8,157,700 prize pool that was built. At the start of the day, Mauricio Salazar Sanchez was the chip leader with 507,000 in chips, but he faced challenges from such pros as WSOP bracelet winner Asi Moshe (411,500), Patrick Leonard (394,000), Kyle Bowker (392,500), Dario Sammartino (355,500) and Juha Helppi (335,000), just to name a few.
With 40 players to eliminate, it was natural that the play was deliberate. It took more than 90 minutes to work down to 250 players, at which point the tournament went into hand-for-hand mode. Although 2017 WSOP bracelet winner Upsheka De Silva was quickly dispatched from the festivities (after getting his final chips in good with pocket Aces only to see Ramon Miguel Munoz call with pocket nines and flop a set), it was a grind to find the other two unfortunate souls who would depart with nothing to show for their efforts. After another 90 minutes of action, Roi Pereira Conde found himself drawing thin with his 10♠ 7♠ against Alexandros Papadopoulos’ A♠ 3♠ on a J♦ J♠ 4♠ board. It went from thin to out by the river once a K♠ hit the river, giving Papadopoulos an unnecessary nut flush to send Conde to the rail in 248th place (€0).
Once the remaining 247 players were guaranteed the minimum payday of €9400 (for a €5000 buy in tournament), the cash out cage became a busy place. Paul Newey, Adrian Mateos, Thomas Muehloecker, Saar Wilf, and Sammartino all collecting their own pieces of the prize pool prior to the dinner break. After the sustenance Moshe, Maksim Prokhorov, and Helppi would hit the rail. By the time the final elimination was made on Thursday night, only 70 players remained:
1. Benjamin Richardson, 2.804 million
2. Tsugunari Toma, 2.448 million
3. Scott Wellenbach, 2.032 million
4. Aleksandr Gofman, 1.915 million
5. Patrick Leonard, 1.785 million
6. Nadia Wanzi, 1.657 million
7. Mesbah Guerfi, 1.552 million
8. Brian Kaufman Esposito, 1.465 million
9. Albert Daher, 1.381 million
10. Aeragan Arunan, 1.345 million
The plan for Friday is for the remaining 70 players to battle through another five levels of play (90-minute levels) and try to reduce the field to a manageable number. The final table is set for Sunday, meaning that bringing the field to roughly four eight-handed tables (32 players) by the end of play on Friday would leave a manageable number for Saturday’s efforts. It is also possible that, if the players are particularly itchy to get their gamble on, that the day on Friday could end earlier if the field is culled quickly.
The PokerStars Championship Barcelona is the biggest yet for what used to be called the European Poker Tour and it remains to be seen if this is a trend that will continue. For now, officials with PokerStars are pleased and the players are quite happy as well, having the opportunity to play for a €1,410,000 first place prize (and a final table where each participant will receive a six-figure payday) and, at least for a moment, rekindle the past greatness of the European circuit.