PokerStars withholding US plans for Platinum Passes

PokerStars Awarding Platinum Passes For 2020 PSPC; Online Paths In US Under Construction

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PokerStars announced at the end of August that the PokerStars Poker Players Championship (PSPC) is returning in 2020.

The coveted Platinum Passes are back along with it, but details on how many will be given out and how to get them have been sparse.

That’s especially true when it comes to options for US online poker players — or lack thereof so far.

Starting with a bang

The inaugural PSPC was held in January this year as part of the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas.

The event was announced back in December 2017 and promoted heavily, in part to convey the message that the company was redistributing the money it saved from the changes to its rewards program.

That first time around, PokerStars announced upfront that it would distribute a total of 320 passes over the course of the year, each valued at $30,000. Those coveted golden tickets included a $25,000 buy-in to the tournament plus $5,000 in travel, accommodations, and spending money.

The 2019 event was a rousing success thanks to the qualifiers and its lack of rake, drawing a field of 1,039 players for a prize pool of almost $26 million.

Conveniently for PokerStars’ marketing, it was won by one of the Platinum Pass holders, Ramón Colillas of Spain.

Slower on the second go-round

Despite the success, PokerStars didn’t announce an encore right away. It seems that the company was rethinking its choice of venue.

According to spokesman Eric Hollreiser in fact, the PCA will be entirely discontinued next year amid complaints about the player experience at Atlantis.

The 2020 PSPC will instead be held in Barcelona, a natural enough choice given that it’s the hometown of Colillas. The Mediterranean city has also emerged as one of the modern capitals of the live poker scene in Europe.

The change of venue was likely a factor in the delayed announcement, and January is not exactly an ideal time for an event in Spain. The 2020 PSPC will instead be held in August, with the announcement coming just about a year in advance — as it did the first time.

The 2020 Platinum Pass is worth €26,000 and includes:

  • Buy-in to the €22,500 PSPC 2020 event
  • Six nights’ hotel accommodation in a 5-star hotel
  • Airport transfers
  • Bespoke PSPC merchandise
  • €1,250 in spending money
  • Platinum Pass winner experiences during the event

Where last year’s Platinum Passes went

Here’s how last year’s 320 passes were awarded:

  • 131 via live events
  • 121 via online tournaments and promotions
  • 68 via contests

The latter group included things like podcast promotions, cracking a coded message in the PokerStars blog, and various challenges set by members of PokerStars Team Pro.

Although PokerStars hasn’t said how many passes it will give out this year, it’s probably a good guess that it will employ all of these channels once again (and perhaps with a similar distribution).

Moneymaker PSPC Tour 2020

So far, the only way we’ve been told with certainty that US players will be able to qualify is via live stops on the Moneymaker PSPC Tour.

It accounted for 11 passes last year, with the events in question each having a mere $86 buy-in — equal to the amount Moneymaker himself paid for the satellite entry which ultimately resulted in his 2003 WSOP Main Event win.

Moneymaker PSPC Tour is expanding beyond the US this year, but the $86 buy-in has been well, eighty-sixed. The buy-ins will vary depending on the stop, partially because of currency differences, but the norm seems to be around $175.

PokerStars has only announced eight stops so far, and only three of them are in the US. The last of these is in early February, though, so there are likely more to come in the future.

The US stops so far are:

  • Run It Up Reno (at Reno Peppermill): Oct. 16; $175
  • Seminole Hard Rock, Hollywood, Florida: Dec. 11-15; buy-in TBD
  • Stones Gambling Hall, Citrus Heights, California: Jan. 31-Feb. 9; buy-in TBD

That last one was announced before the recent cheating allegations involving the Sacramento card room came to light.

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Online passes might wait for spring

In terms of online options, there will surely be at least a few special tournaments awarding Platinum Passes to the winners. Again, though, none have been announced yet in the US.

Last year’s NJCOOP awarded a total of three passes, but there are none attached to this year’s series (which begins this weekend). Perhaps PokerStars decided that it fell too close to the PSPC announcement, and there hasn’t yet been enough time for the hype to build.

It seems likely it will award passes during the spring NJSCOOP once again, as the two series tend to be similar in size.

The other major online avenue available to players on and PokerStars Europe has not been extended to New Jersey players. Mega Path is a three-stage satellite in which $2 on-demand sit and gos award entry to a twice-weekly MTT. That qualifier, in turn, grants entry to a monthly direct satellite.

As for other types of contests, the only giveaways announced so far relate to the PokerStars Twitch stream. The exact nature hasn’t been disclosed, however. Players have to watch and wait for an announcement for the chance to win one of those passes.

Pennsylvania holding things up?

Odds that some other ways to win a pass will become available to US players once PokerStars PA goes live. It wouldn’t be surprising if a Platinum Pass giveaway accompanied the launch in some fashion for that matter, as the rollout provides a clear marketing opportunity.

Indeed, since PokerStars is not yet live in Pennsylvania is presumably another reason that there aren’t any passes up for grabs in this year’s NJCOOP — to give PA players the same chance as their peers in New Jersey.

Expect to hear more details about the PSPC and Platinum Passes for US players once the Keystone State comes online, possibly as soon as this month.

- Alex is a journalist from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada. Now site runner for Online Poker Report, he has been writing about poker and the online gambling industry in various capacities since 2014.
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