The PokerStars Championships have made their inaugural swing to the Sortis Hotel, Spa and Casino in Panama City, Panama. The $ 3500 Main Event has booked its two-Day Ones at this point, but it is arguable that the overall numbers might be a bit low for the side tournaments and the Main Event.
On Day 1A, slightly more than 100 players would answer the bell for action, with a noted fighter emerging at the top of the standings. While Igor Yaroshevskyy reigned supreme over the Day 1A survivors with his 219,300 in chips, it was retired MMA champion Tito Ortiz who was drawing the lion’s share of attention. Ortiz, who has fought and won championships in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and most recently fought for Bellator MMA, was in second place behind Yaroshevskyy with his 182,000 in chips, setting himself up for Day Two well. Along with Jason Koon (175,500), Steve O’Dwyer (117,000) and former World Champion Ryan Riess (77,300), the day was replete with notables among the survivors.
Day 1B was expected to bring out a throng of players and it didn’t disappoint. 259 players came to the tables on Wednesday to bring the total number for the tournament to roughly 360 players. Of that number, 128 survived the minefields of Day 1B to join with their 43 counterparts from Day 1A to bring 171 players back to the fray on Day 2 Thursday. With his 154,300 in chips, Jiachen Gong emerged as the chip leader from Day 1B, but he will be down a bit in the overall standings.
1. Igor Yaroshevskyy, 219,600
2. Tito Ortiz, 182,000
3. Jason Koon, 175,500
4. Jiachen Gong, 154,300
5. Caufman Talley, 150,300
6. Martin Kus, 146,800
7. Kamal Abdel Bittar, 146,700
8. Luke Graham, 140,300
9. Vincente Delgado, 138,000
10. Pablo Fernandez, 133,700
What has been the bigger story of the PokerStars Championship Panama is the player numbers that have shown for the preliminary tournaments. Perhaps it is unfair to compare the player response to the Panama event against the PokerStars Championship Bahamas, but it is the only comparison that can be made currently for the “new” tour (the PokerStars Championships have taken over for the European Poker Tour and the “regional” tours that were once part of the PokerStars family). In looking at the comparison, it could be said that the Panama event isn’t drawing as hoped.
The Main Event of the PokerStars Championship Bahamas (itself formerly the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure) saw a respectable crowd of 738 players turn out for the $ 5000 buy in tournament (and that was a low mark for the event – in 2016, 928 players came to the line). Although more than 350 players for a first-time event would be nice for most, for a PokerStars branded event it has to be considered a bit of a disappointment. If that doesn’t do it, then a look at some of the preliminary events – and a comparison to their counterparts in the Bahamas – might paint another picture.
For a $ 1000 “Win the Button” No Limit Hold’em Turbo tournament at the Atlantis event, 68 entries were received in the tournament; at the Panama event, only four entries were received. Another Turbo event, this one for $ 2000, only drew 19 entries from those amassed in Panama City. The $ 50,000 Super High Roller tournament, a staple of the old EPT, brought in only 21 players in Panama, very different from the 68 entries that came in for the Bahamas tournament. The “name” tournaments on the PokerStars schedule – such as their PokerStars Open (a $ 220 buy in tournament) – did draw equivalent numbers, but the PokerStars National Championship was different – a $ 1000 buy in event with re-entry for Panama, a $ 2000 single entry tournament for the Bahamas. Those tournaments saw roughly equivalent prize pools.
These numbers might not be quite as worrisome as it appears, however. The Panama stop is a first-time event, as will be the next stop on the PokerStars Championship circuit in Macau. It won’t be until May, when the PokerStars Championships head to Monte Carlo, where there can be comparisons made to tournaments that existed on the old EPT circuit. But it might be a bit concerning that player numbers are low as it might indicate players aren’t warming to the new “international” PokerStars Championship circuit.
The PokerStars Championship Panama Main Event will continue through the weekend. On Monday, the next champion will be crowned as the PokerStars Championships experiment continues onward.