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Even as the US begins to reopen its economy, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on plans for large gatherings worldwide.
Last week, PokerStars postponed the much-anticipated second run of its PokerStars Players Championship (PSPC).
The PSPC had been slated for August as part of this year’s European Poker Tour (EPT) Barcelona, traditionally one of the hottest stops on tour. Given the uncertainty surrounding live poker and international travel, however, PokerStars is pumping the brakes on the whole thing.
Neither EPT Barcelona nor the PSPC are entirely canceled. Both will run sometime in 2021, though PokerStars is still working on locking down the dates.
It is far from the only live poker tournament impacted by the global coronavirus outbreak.
Indeed, there’s almost no live poker of any significance happening anywhere in the world for the time being.
The announcement didn’t contain only bad news, however. PokerStars will make use of the delay to give away additional satellite packages known as Platinum Passes.
Unlike the first time around, PokerStars has yet to establish how many passes it plans on awarding for the next event. The general assumption, however, was that the number would be similar to the 320 it awarded for the inaugural event.
Along with the bad news about the delay, PokerStars revealed that it will award an additional 80 passes for a total of 400. It will also have to find new ways to award some passes it originally allotted to the Moneymaker’s Road to PSPC Tour. A few of those events have already been canceled due to the pandemic.
The extra Platinum Passes aren’t the only cause for excitement either.
EPT Barcelona tends to be the best-attended stop on the tour, including a record-setting 2019 Main Event with nearly 2,000 entries. Add to that the fact that players will be itching to return to the felt after many months without live poker, and there’s a good chance that the second PSPC will blow its predecessor out of the water.
The second PSPC has already been a long time coming.
The inaugural event took place in January 2019 at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas as part of an attempt to reboot the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA). It also served as an olive branch to professional players unhappy with the path PokerStars was taking with increased rake and scaled-back rewards.
The 2019 event carried a $25,000 buy-in and was meant to be the most accessible tournament in history for those stakes. In addition to making the event rake-free, PokerStars spent the entire year leading up to it awarding 320 Platinum Passes.
The result was a resounding success.
The tournament drew 1,039 entries between Platinum Pass winners and direct buy-ins, creating a $26 million prize pool. Ramon Colillas, a 30-year-old former fitness trainer from Spain, ultimately won the $5.1 million top prize after qualifying for free via one of those Platinum Passes.
While the PSPC was a hit, it failed to redeem the PCA. Players have voiced numerous complaints about Atlantis over the years, and PokerStars finally elected to discontinue the event in 2020.
The PSPC needed a new home.
PokerStars chose EPT Barcelona as another high-profile stop, but that meant hosting the PSPC in August instead of January — and therefore a 19-month wait between the first and second events. Now the wait will end up being over two years.
Given what a marketing coup that first PSPC was, the delay is doubly unfortunate for PokerStars.