The name was changed to PokerStars Championship Bahamas. One of poker’s most unique and successful events was altered to conform with the rest of the company’s live event schedule. Now, PokerStars wants to turn back time and return the PCA to its former glory.
It’s clear PokerStars understands more than just the need to change marketing material and signage. In fact, the PCA Main Event buy-in will return to the $10,300 price point of its glory years. That’s when prize pools reached more than $15 million and the number of entries over 1,500. They’ve also dropped the number of events and reduced the rake in an effort to make the PCA what it once was.
“We’re reviewing our live events and incorporating player feedback to ensure we’re delivering the highest quality experience and exceeding player expectations whenever possible,” PokerStars’ Director of Corporate Communications Eric Hollreiser said. “This feedback included suggestions that we restore the PCA name and improve the quality of that event to reflect the great heritage and unique experience that made PCA one of the most-anticipated poker events of the year. We’re restoring the name and reinvigorating the event to ensure it remains a premier poker festival.”
PokerStars Championship Bahamas fails
In 2017, the PCA was caught up in PokerStars’ effort to fix what wasn’t really broken. The company tossed 13 seasons of good will and positive marketing impressions created by the European Poker Tour on the trash heap. Instead, they chose global expansion, and a plan to put all its live events under the PokerStars Championship or PokerStars Festival banners.
For the most part, this resulted in lower prize pools across the board. Unfortunately, it also added to a growing feeling the company that once fostered poker’s growth omnipotently, was quickly becoming a vapid corporate entity that cared more about shareholders than customers.
For the PCA, which saw its Main Event price tag dropped to $5,300 in 2016 to shoehorn it in with the other PokerStars live events, the results were pretty dramatic. Once the name changed to PokerStars Championship for 2017, the Main Event prize pool dropped to $3,376,712. This marked the smallest prize pool since the inaugural PCA’s $1,657,500 in 2004. Plus, the number of entries dropped to 738. This was the worst turnout since the 724 recorded in 2006.
Americans love the PCA
Over the years, PCA Main Event fields have been about one-third American. January weather in the Bahamas has always made for a nice escape from the Winters of the heavily populated Northeast. Plus, the flight from New York to Nassau is less than three hours.
Back when they could play online satellites, American players certainly did. The PCA prize pools and number of entrants of the past reflected that. The three largest PCA Main Events were recorded in 2009 (1,347 entries, $12,674,000 prize pool), 2010 (1,529 entries, $14,831,300 prize pool), and 2011 (1,560 entries, $15,132,000 prize pool). That was all before the US Department of Justice effectively shut down online poker in America in the Spring of 2011.
Outside of New Jersey, Americans are still unable to play on PokerStars. In fact, even in New Jersey, the PokerStars experience is just a shade of what it once was. This mostly because player pools are made up only of those currently located inside state lines.
The Road to the Bahamas in 2018
However, PokerStars is still planning an extensive “Road to Bahamas” PCA satellite schedule outside of the US. The goal is qualifying as many as 400 players for the 2018 PCA Main Event.
They’re going to throw a massive player party. They’ll give away the once very popular player bags, full of swag worth $200 a piece. Plus, they’re even promising to make improvements to the food and beverage options players have been complaining about for years.
Add in invites for the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt, and funny man Kevin Hart – The latest celebrities draining PokerStars marketing budget – And Americans may have good reason to start vacationing in the Bahamas again this January 6-14.