A field of 1,072 gathered in the Bahamas to compete for their share of the one of the largest prize pools of the year. The majority of the field consisted of professionals -- both live and online -- who spent their tenure in paradise not at the pools or beach, but inside at one of the many poker tables that filled one of the convention halls. The players at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure are some of the most dedicated individuals you'll find in their craft, spending hours on end perfecting strategies and game play. Youth dominates the PCA and walking the halls of the Atlantis Resort is similar to hanging out in one massive dorm room. This is the festival for those ready to begin their ascent to greatness in poker, and that stereotype made the fact that a 43-year-old amateur won the biggest title of all even more surprising.
John Dibella, 43, didn't even come to the PCA to play in the main event. The stock trader from Westchester, NY attended PCA in the past and earned some small cashes, but in 2012, a $1,000 satellite into the main event would change everything. After earning his seat, Dibella worked his way through a tough field and final table to take home the $1.7 million top prize.
"I make more money at poker than as a day trader, but I'm not going to call myself a professional just yet," he said after the win. "I'm a recreational player, but maybe I'll take it a bit more seriously from now on. It's definitely much safer than my day job!"
Instead of the $2 million top prize as initially announced based on the number of entries, Dibella chopped during heads-up play with Kyle Julius to award the champion the $1.7 million. Julius, who cashed in the main event a year ago, earned a career-best $1.5 million for second. Dibella eliminated Julius when he rivered a flush and enticed a bluff all-in.
Perhaps the most well-known player at the table, Faraz Jaka, entered the final table with the chip lead and finished in third for $755,000. It was the second-largest tournament cash of his career.
Xuan Liu (fourth) and Anthony Gregg (sixth) also made history at the final table. Liu became the first woman to make the PCA main event final table while Gregg became the first player to make a second appearance at the final table of this event. In 2009, Gregg finished in second.
Here are the results from the 2012 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure main event final table:
1. John Dibella ($1,775,000)
2. Kyle Julius ($1,500,000)
3. Faraz Jaka ( $755,000)
4. Xuan Liu ($600,000)
5. Mark Drover ($468,000)
6. Anthony Gregg ($364,000)
7. David Bernstein ($260,000)
8. Ruben Visser ($156,400)
$25,000 PCA High Roller
Fresh off Viktor Blom's $100,000 buy-in victory, PCA offered its final trademark event, a $25,000 buy-in high roller. In 2011, a surprisingly large field of 151 participated and the 150 eliminated watched as Will Molson earned the elusive high roller victory after two years of runner-up fame. After the actions of Black Friday, many doubted the turnout this year would even come close to that of 2011. Backers have dried up or closed up shop, endorsement deals are limited and worth less to the players and finding others to buy pieces in a high-risk event is tougher than ever. Steadily the number of entries began to rise and despite the doubts, 141 players managed to find the scratch and produce seven rebuys to create a top prize worth $1.1 million.
Ukrainian Leonid Bilokur last tasted European Poker Tour success in 2010 with a victory in a 2,000 euro side event in Berlin. Since that time, he's traveled the world and earned a few small cashes in smaller buy-in events. Based on his past, the $25,000 price tag in this event seemed out of his reach, but sure enough, Bilokur was the one holding the championship trophy as he earned the largest cash of his life.
According to PokerStars, Bilokur, 37, entered the final table fourth in chips, but by the first break, he was well-positioned in second. After the eliminations of Randy Lew (eighth) and Michael Telker (seventh), Bilokur doubled through Jason Koon holding J-J to Koon's A-K to become the chip leader. He would extend his lead even further when only five remained after the elimination of Govert Metaal.
The short stack of the final five was 2010 WSOP main event champion Jonathan Duhamel. Already securing three previous final tables and a victory at PCA, Duhamel was looking for another win and doubled through Isaac Haxton to move into second. Haxton bounced back up in the chip counts after his elimination of Nicolas Fierro in fifth.
Koon, the one-time overwhelming chip leader, was eliminated in fourth after making an ill-timed five-bet all-in with A-4 against Duhamel's K-K. Duhamel eliminated Haxton in third (A-J over K-Q) and had more than a 2:1 chip lead over Bilokur to begin heads-up play. Bilokur completely turned the tables in less than two hours and eliminated the former world champ after making a brilliant call on Duhamel's four-bet all-in with A-7. Up against K-4, the board ran out A-J-9-J-A and holding the full house, Bilokur claimed the top spot.
Duhamel earned $634,550 for second and his four final tables during the nine day tournament series were worth a total of $1.1 million.
1. Leonid Bilokur ($1,134,930)
2. Jonathan Duhamel ($634,550)
3. Isaac Haxton ($380,730)
4. Jason Koon ($271,950)
5. Nicolas Fierro ($217,560)
6. Govert Metaal ($181,300)
7. Michael Telker ($145,040)
8. Randy Lew ($108,780)
Small blinds: Scott Seiver, Shawn Buchanan, Kathy Saraf and Mike Gorodinsky also won side events at PCA. Gorodinsky won the $5,000 8-game championship for the second time. He won in 2010, finished second in 2011 and won again in 2012. ... Brendon Rubie won the first event at the 2012 Aussie Millions. He earned 200,000 AU$. Dan Kelly won the second event (1,100 AU$ pot-limit Omaha). The biggest event on the Aussie Millions schedule is the 250,000 AU$ buy-in that takes place on January 27. ... Sponsorship opportunities are not very common these days, but Melanie Weisner managed to score a nice one. The poker pro has joined Team LockPRO ELITE. ... Congrats to all the winners of the Bluff Readers Choice Awards. ... PokerStars releases a statement that Gabi Campos is stepping down as CEO effective Feb. 1 to "pursue other opportunities." ... For those of you anxiously awaiting "Rounders 2", the movie now has a release date of 2012 according to IMDB. ... A number of professional poker players have filed a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act lawsuit against Excapsa Software, Inc.