After receiving feedback from the players regarding their inaugural event in the Bahamas, officials with PokerStars and Amaya Gaming have made some adjustments to their upcoming stop in Panama. Of interest to most players will be the more than $ 600,000 in guarantees to the tournament schedule, but other factors may drive player interest to head for Central America.
Most of the guaranteed money will be going to one tournament. The PokerStars National Championship – the organization that took over many of the national tours that PokerStars used to operate, including the Latin American Poker Tour – now will have a $ 400,000 guaranteed prize pool for its contestants. With a $ 1100 buy in, it is obvious that PokerStars is trying to drive some interest in this tournament, which replaced the LAPT Main Event.
Three other lower buy-in tournaments will have guarantees placed on them. The PokerStars Cup, a $ 440 buy in event, will have a $ 150,000 guaranteed prize pool. The $ 220 PokerStars Open will have a $ 50,000 guaranteed tournament, while a $ 120 buy in event on the schedule will feature a $ 20,000 guarantee. There are also two $ 120 super satellites for the National Championship that guarantee ten seats and two “freebuy” (no buy-in) satellites for the PokerStars Cup that will guarantee ten seats to the event (the “freebuy” tournaments will feature $ 20 rebuys).
Other aspects of the PokerStars Championship Panama have been adjusted by Amaya Gaming and PokerStars to be more player-friendly. The exhausting 90-plus tournament schedule that was run at the PokerStars Championship Bahamas has been scaled down for Panama, going from the originally scheduled 56 tournaments (that will run from March 10-20 in Panama City at the Casino Sortis Hotel, Spa & Casino) to a more realistic 46 events. The High Roller events will get some special treatment in the form of a “shot clock” – a clock to enforce quicker action – for both the $ 25K High Roller and the $ 50K Super High Roller. Finally, for almost every tournament late registration will be allowed until after Level 8 of the tournament.
The PokerStars Championship Bahamas – the renamed PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, for all intents, for a brand-new tour that used to be the European Poker Tour – suffered a bit under its new auspices. The 92-tournament schedule over a nine-day period was deemed to be far too many by both the players and the staff. Additionally, the expanded payout system, which saw 20% of the field paid instead of the usual 10-15% (the World Series of Poker instituted a 15% payout system last summer), was something that players grumbled over. The total numbers that attended in the Bahamas suffered as a result.
For the $ 5000 PokerStars Championship Bahamas Main Event, a 738-player field was in attendance. While that may sound good for a $ 5000 tournament, this was actually a massive drop from the 928 players that showed up for the tournament just last year (a 20.5% drop in attendance, to be exact) and a far cry from the “glory days” of the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, when 1529 players attended the 2010 PCA (won by Harrison Gimbel). Both High Roller events saw reductions in the number of players (121 with 38 rebuys in 2017 for the $ 25K High Roller versus 173 and 52 in 2016; 41 and 13 in the $ 50K Super High Roller in 2017 versus 44 and 14 just a year earlier), and side events were reportedly sparsely attended.
The first leg of the new tour was the “familiar” part of the schedule and the traditional Bahamas start wasn’t immediately viewed as a bellwether for the new PokerStars Championship. The true indicator of the potential success of the new tour was always going to be the Panama stop (and its next stop in the Asian gaming capital of Macau). With the changes that they have implemented, Amaya and PokerStars officials hope they have now created a tournament stop that will demonstrate the validity of their logic to change from the EPT (and their relevant national tours) to the PokerStars Championship with the true indicator – massive player numbers.