The PokerStars‘ Players Championship concluded this week at the Atlantis Resort and Casino in the Bahamas. During the tournament, US Poker had a chance to sit down with PokerStars’ site ambassador and poker superstar Daniel Negreanu.
Due to PokerStars’ ambitious Platinum Pass program, the tournament seated many less-experienced players against some of the best in the world. According to Negreanu, company officials didn’t quite know what to expect, with initial guesses among 700 to 800 players.
“I told them this could be a thousand (players in the field) because we’re putting so much money into this thing,” Negreanu said.
As it turned out, the event easily surpassed Negreanu’s estimate this week when it attracted 1,039 entries and created a prize pool of $26.5 million.
“We wanted to elevate the entire PCA this year with a real bang,” said Negreanu. “It’s been a smashing success on every measure. We exceeded the numbers, (and) we had some fun celebrities here.
Negreanu said this tournament was different for everyone
PokerStars spent $9 million on producing and marketing the tournament. Negreanu believes the efforts show the site’s commitment to the game.
“Is the payoff equal to $9 million?” he said. “Probably not. (But), it’s good for the players.”
Negreanu was not sure if the PSPC would return in 2020. But, the tournament received plenty of attention and acclaim from players.
“Everybody would love to see it continue, whether it’s an annual thing or even semi-annual,” he said. “Obviously, internally I know people are very, very happy with it. Maybe they’ll do something similar and unique in the future, but I don’t know if it’s going to be this every year. (W)e’ll see.”
Along with a massive prize pool and payout, Negreanu believes the enthusiasm and dynamics in the tournament room itself were unique and made for a great vibe among players.
“First of all, you’ve got a $25,000 buy-in event, which is huge and breaking records,” he said. “You’ve got people that have never played a $150 tournament that were in this event. They’ve never put up 150 bucks, and now they’re in a $25K. So there’s a lot more nervousness, but a lot also much more enthusiasm.”
He also said that the novice players’ attitudes were a refreshing change.
“At the player party before (the tournament), I met with all the Platinum Pass winners, and it was cool to see how excited they were just to be a part of it,” Negreanu said.
“When you’re a pro, and you just travel a lot you can be jaded. (T)hese guys are like, ‘I’m playing a $25K tomorrow. I’m actually in this thing. Holy crap.’ So there was a lot more awe and kind of pizzazz in that regard.”
Sports betting is nothing for poker to fear
The conversation then shifted to the future of online poker in America. To some, sports betting seems a possible competitor for Americans’ gambling dollars.
“Obviously, in New Jersey, poker went in, and it was good, it was okay,” he said. “Sports crushed. Sports is a lot more accessible. It’s bigger. There’s just a lot more people that do sports gambling.
He went on to express his belief that sports betting’s appeal is in its simplicity. However, Negreanu saw it as a complementary offering to poker, believed it carried with it the chance to vault online poker back into the limelight.
“I still don’t think that hurts poker really overall, because people, while they’re watching their bets or whatever, might just want to play a little poker,” Negreanu said.
“But, definitely the barrier for entry to bet on sports is as simple as picking or flipping a coin. For poker, you’ve got to know a little bit more. You have to be educated a little, or you’d get crushed.”
Sports betting may be the key to online poker
Negreanu believes that sports betting legalization is a positive sign for the industry. Online poker is moving slower in its legalization efforts. So, Kid Poker suggested that the poker boom could offer a glimpse of what may happen in the future.
“I don’t see a lot of movement at the federal level because it’s just not a priority at this point,” Negreanu said. “State to state, I think is going to be the play. Hopefully, they have shared liquidity pools as they grow, because realistically, if you get New York and California – that’s huge. Those are the two big prizes that you can get.
“Then, maybe others piggyback on that. Sports (betting) being introduced to all these places opens up opportunities for the sports sites wherever to possibly connect with something like a PokerStars or whatever, and use the software and integrate.”
Photo courtesy of PokerStars and Neil Stoddart.